The King of the Ring. The reigning Champion on a roll. Binder looking to make up ground… and Martin making his presence felt. Here comes part two of the triple header!
Here we go! We’ve packed up and headed north for the Liqui Moly Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, and what a race weekend we have ahead. There are few venues more different to each other than Mugello and the Sachsenring, and there are few riders who have a record like one does on this turf. But King of the Ring Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), with 11 wins at the track across all classes, arrives from a crash out in Italy that left him frustrated, and with no points yet scored in a Grand Prix race in 2023. His speed, however… we’ve still seen plenty of that. So we have to start there.
THE RETURN OF THE KING?
On pole in Portugal, just missing out at Le Mans and then again in Mugello, with plenty of on-track discussions with his rivals along the way, is some record considering the last few weeks, months and years of Marc Marquez’ life. And he was on the podium in the first ever Tissot Sprint. Does that, and his undefeated record every time he’s raced at the Sachsenring since he won the 125cc race in 2010 by 17 seconds, say the most? Or is the mountain just a little too high in 2023 as we watch both a legendary rider and, crucially, factory pushing to get back to the top? We’re about to find out, and with more than just a sneak peek in the Sprint on Saturday. His “first” comeback saw him take back this crown. His second sees him as ready as ever to put his elbows out and try to repeat the feat.
THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION
12 months on, it’s quite something to look at Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) then and now. Pecco arrives in Germany with a 21-point lead in 2023, having just reigned his home Grand Prix, which is a far, far cry from that record 91-point deficit he faced on Sunday evening at the Sacshenring last season. Then, he crashed out and Quartararo won… and it remains the Frenchman’s most recent victory as 2023 proves a tough season. Can this venue start some sparks of a turnaround for him and Yamaha? And what of teammate Franco Morbidelli, who had some Sunday sass of his own, as he beat El Diablo at Mugello?
But back to Bagnaia. It was some performance on home turf and he added another full house weekend – pole, Sprint win and GP win – to create that gap at the top. Can that form continue at the Sachsenring, a venue with some very different characteristics and, in the era before this, a tougher track for Ducati?
MORE, MORE, MORE
Some left Mugello wanting a whole lot more, and no one more so than Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team). It wasn’t a terrible weekend, with a Sprint podium in second, but it was an expensive one in the standings as he’s now 20 points further back after a tougher Sunday. But despite not quite being able to get in the battle, he kept it calm for some points that may well prove valuable. Can he come out swinging at the Sachsenring?
Meanwhile at KTM, it was a mixed bag at Mugello but the Austrian factory left with some solid points. The kind of points that, in pre-season, looked dreamy, and now seem a little disappointing as Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) gets stuck in near the top of the standings and new teammate Jack Miller continues to show some serious speed only six races in on the RC16. So what have they got for Germany? KTM have a podium at the track and Miller too on different machinery, and he and Binder have solid records here… all of which says they’ll likely be in contention again.
ON THE MOVE
Some big winners at Mugello, even if they might not have quite made it to the top step, were Prima Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco. Both on the GP podium and Martin also visiting the Sprint rostrum, it was a good haul of points and an impressive show of speed. Having also previously been a tough track for Martin, the turnaround is notable – and it’s bumped him up to third in the standings. Zarco, meanwhile, is the only MotoGP™ rider not called Marc Marquez to have started from pole in Germany when the number 93 was on the grid. So that’s a feather in the cap of the Frenchman as he continues gaining some momentum this season too.
Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) also impressed at Mugello. Despite his injured hand, he held on for a solid Sprint result and fought Zarco nearly to the end of the GP race for that podium on Sunday. With a few more days to recover, can he stay in that fight? And it’s a similar question for Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) as he rode through the pain barrier to a more than solid sixth place, and Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) as he returned from injury but is still on the road to full fitness. Still, he was straight back into the top ten.
LOOKING FOR SOME MOMENTUM
Top of the pile here must surely be Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™). He crashed out in the Sprint in a controversial clash with Binder and probably made the biggest splash with that needle-threading Turn 1 encounter on Sunday, but the number 73 actually also deserves a better headline: he’s the only rider who matched Bagnaia on speed as the two set identical fastest laps. The story of Alex Marquez’s year so far is serious pace, a couple of mistakes and a large dash of bad luck, but the latter two don’t cancel out the first and he can’t be counted out of the fight at the front.
Next up? Someone who fought for the podium at the Sachsenring last year: Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing). He just missed out on Q2 on Friday in Italy and it didn’t get better from there, but it most definitely has the potential to. Then there’s Miguel Oliveira (CryptoData RNF MotoGP™ Team), who crashed out in Mugello and will want some solid points despite that shoulder still bothering him, and teammate Raul Fernandez wants to find that Friday form after a tougher time once the lights went out.
Rookie Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) retains his record of points every Sunday alongside only Quartararo and Morbidelli, but after that fourth in France, P15 wasn’t the aim in Mugello so he’ll want more. So too will Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), who slipped backwards a little last time out.
Meanwhile, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) took some points on Sunday but only had Marquez as a reference at Honda, and that will continue in Germany – no mean benchmark. Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) will sit the race weekend out and won’t be replaced, and Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) will be sidelined for some time after breaking his leg. LCR also won’t replace him. Jonas Folger, meanwhile, will continue on duty for GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 at the venue where he took his premier class podium.
So that’s the grid. Bagnaia is in the hot seat, Bezzecchi and Binder want to gain some ground back, Martin is on a roll… and still, when you’ve won 11 times at the track and have eight World Championships, Marc Marquez is there to steal a huge chunk of the headlines as we head to the Sachsenring. Previously, the number 93’s longest win drought was the 581 days between Valencia in 2019 and the 2021 German Grand Prix. Since his most recent win in Emilia-Romagna in 2021, it will now be 602. You don’t want to miss this.
Friday’s practice sessions decide the automatic entrants to Q2, before the MotoGP™ grid qualify on Saturday morning. The Tissot Sprint is set for lights out at 15:00 on Saturday as ever, and the Grand Prix gets going at 14:00 CEST!
Tissot Sprint: Saturday 15:00 (GMT +2)
Grand Prix Race: Sunday 14:00 (GMT +2)
MotoGP Top 4 Championship Points after Main Race – Italian GP
1. Francesco BAGNAIA – ITA – Ducati Lenovo Team – 131pts
2. Marco BEZZECCHI – ITA – Mooney VR46 Team – 110pts
3. Jorge MARTIN – SPA – Prima Pramac Racing – 107pts
4. Brad BINDER – RSA – Red Bull KTM Factory – 92pts
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