Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) started today’s 2022 grand finale at Valencia from second on the grid with the hope of ending the season with a podium at worst and a victory at best.
The 29-year-old Spaniard was in the lead battle from the start, completing the first lap in third place and staying inside the four-rider leading group for more than one third of the race, biding his time and saving his tyres for an end-of-race attack.
As the six-times MotoGP World Champion began the tenth of 27 laps around this tight and twisting circuit he was trying as hard as ever as he braked with a bit of lean angle into the Turn Eight hairpin. One moment he was in full-attack mode, the next he was down and tumbling through the gravel safety zone. He was unhurt in the tumble but extremely disappointed. Now his attention turns towards 2023, which begins with a one-day test here on Tuesday for the entire grid.
This has been a challenging and difficult season for Marquez and Honda. Marquez, who won the MotoGP crown six times with Honda between 2013 and 2019, had to miss six races to undergo a fourth operation on the troublesome right-arm injury he sustained at the first race of the 2020 season.
Understandably, Honda hasn’t had an easy time with its fastest rider often absent over much of the last three seasons, but since Marquez returned to action at September’s Aragon Grand Prix in Spain the company’s form has improved dramatically. Marquez qualified on pole position at the very next event, Honda’s home race at Mobility Resort Motegi, qualified second two weeks ago in Malaysia and here yesterday. After finishing fourth place in Japan, he came within 0.186 seconds of victory, taking second place in the Australian GP.
During all these races Marquez has been trying his best to get results but his primary objective has been to improve both his physical strength and find an excellent development direction for the RC213V as Honda go to work designing the 2023 iteration for what will be the biggest World Championship season in history. There will 21 rounds and 42 races (21 sprint races on Saturdays, a new feature, plus 21 Grand Prix races on Sundays).
Marquez’s fall from the leading group in today’s season finale completed another complicated weekend for Honda’s four MotoGP riders.
His team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) was the first to crash out of his last race with Honda race, after five laps. The 31-year-old Spaniard had started from 21st on the grid, so he always knew his race would be tricky. Espargaro was unhurt in the fall.
Two laps later the younger Marquez brother, Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) also slid off. The 26-year-old Spaniard, who had qualified in 15th remounted his RC213V, called into the pits due to machine damage, re-joining to finish 17th, two places away from a 14th points-scoring result this season. This was also the last race with Honda for the former Moto2 and Moto3 World Champion.
Honda’s top finisher therefore was Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V), who was coming back from a six-week absence following surgery to a right-hand injury, sustained at Aragon. The weekend wasn’t easy for the 30-year-old from Chiba, whose still-painful fourth and fifth fingers on his right hand didn’t make riding easy at all.
Nakagami started the race from 24th, after being relegated three places for a riding infringement in yesterday morning’s FP3 session. He therefore did well to complete the race in 14th position and claim two World Championship points.
Following Tuesday’s one-day test the MotoGP paddock gets more than two months away from the racetrack before reconvening for the first 2023 pre-season tests at Sepang, Malaysia, in early February. A second test follows at Algarve International Circuit in March, before the season-opening Portuguese GP on 26th March. The championship concludes once again at Valencia, on 26th November.