Round Seven – Catalunya
A four-way fight on the final lap, a freight train battle of the ages before that… Mugello showcased the best of MotoGP. And when all was said and done, Danilo Petrucci may have been the man making the history, but Marc Marquez was the man making the gains.
A P2 for the points leader, ahead of closest rival Andrea Dovizioso despite the defeat, means he’s 12 points clear heading into the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya and however much a win in enemy territory means, a win on home turf is something different. The number 93 will be gunning for glory and revenge all at the same time at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and on a very special occasion: the 70th anniversary of the Championship.
“We arrive in good form after Mugello. The bike and I are in a very good position now, I was able to rest a little between races and I’m back to full strength. There’s always a bit more excitement heading into a home GP and it’s always a great pleasure to ride in front of all the fans. I’m hopeful of another strong result here in Catalunya to continue the work we’ve been doing.”
This modern facility is regarded as one of the best designed tracks of recent times and has become a favourite for all, due to its elevation changes, fast and sweeping corners and a straight over a kilometre long, all linked together over the 4,627m length. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was resurfaced and reconfigured in 2018, as well as having the race distance altered. These significant changes meant that all track records were reset, leaving Michelin in the position of chasing its own targets this weekend, all of which were set last year.
Despite its favourable climate at this time of the year, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya can still suffer with some inclement weather.
Situated just outside the lively city of Barcelona, the track in the town of Montmeló is one which regularly provides excitement, close racing and thrilling overtaking manoeuvres to keep the crowds – which are in excess of 100,000 – that pack the hillsides and huge grandstands around the circuit, enthralled throughout raceday.
The good news for the competition is Ducati were back on the top step in Mugello and last year a win in Tuscany preceded one next time out. In addition, Catalunya isn’t a track where the number 93 has been imperious to the point of competitors needing to start the Jaws music.
Even more good news is that some serious smart racing in the front group at Mugello – with Alex Rins and Jack Miller in the mix – made it hard work for Marquez at the front and gave him no chance to escape. Can the likes of Miller, Rins, Dovizioso, Petrucci take on the reigning Champion once again this weekend? Rins and Dovizioso in particular will be focused on better grid positions to try and do just that.
The man who made the most famous move in the history of the circuit in Montmelo, meanwhile, has a top record at the track and he’ll need to add to it. For Valentino Rossi it was a nightmare home weekend, but the ‘Doctor’ has been a master of the comeback on many given Sundays and he’s now the one with that extra incentive of winning in ‘enemy’ territory.
Team-mate Maverick Viñales has that home venue extra motivation, however, and so the battle between the two should be a highlight. And, as always, there will likely be Iwata marque Independent Team runners Fabio Quartararo and teammate Franco Morbidelli to contend with. Quartararo may have had surgery for arm pump before Barcelona, but he’s also a record-breaker despite being a rookie and has form at the track.
“The Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit is a track that I like. Last year I felt good there in my rookie season in MotoGP and I managed to be fast, finishing inside the points. It was a good weekend for me. Now we come to Barcelona with mixed feelings: We are positive about the work we did throughout the weekend in Italy but sad about the final results. I am really keen to have a good race and keep taking important points for the overall standings.”
“We come into this race off the back of me having undergone surgery in Barcelona last week. Everything looks good with the arm so far and I feel good. Now I just need to pass the medical examination at the circuit on Thursday and then get back on my bike. Barcelona is one of my favourite circuits. I’m looking forward to riding there with a MotoGP bike. It’s a fast and long track, which is something that I like. It brings back some very good memories, because last season I earned my first World Championship victory there. I can’t wait to return and have a good race.”
Speaking of form, Pol Espargaro is another man of the moment. Impressive in Italy – as ever – and taking the fight forward for the Austrian factory, Pol Espargaro – along with brother Aleix Espargaro – is a true home hero. The two are from just up the road and that adds something extra special to the Catalan Grand Prix. Add to that the battle between KTM and Aprilia in the standings and it’s a fight with a lot on the line.
For Jorge Lorenzo that’s also true as the number 99 continues to struggle on the Honda, but with injuries now playing much less of a role in his races and his record in Barcelona a shining one, a turning point could be just around the corner.
“After a mixed weekend in Mugello, I am hoping that we can do good work this weekend in Barcelona. We will keep working at our maximum to close the gap to the front. We also have a test after the race, which I am looking forward to as well. I had a very interesting trip to Japan and we were able to work on many things, some which will help this weekend and some for the future.”
Cal Crutchlow also wants a turnaround of sorts after a tougher run, and he’ll want to hit back against sophomore teammate Takaaki Nakagami after the Japanese rider was top Independent Team rider at Mugello and took his best premier class finish yet in fifth.
So many questions remain ahead of Barcelona. Can Marquez strike back? Did Petrucci begin to turn the tide? Can Dovi capitalise in the title fight? Will Rins be an even bigger threat if he gets a better Saturday under his belt? Can Quartararo last the distance? And can Rossi and Viñales, two of the fastest men in the world, come out swinging in Catalunya?
Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin are eager to arrive in Montmeló for the Catalan Grand Prix this weekend following a tough event at the ultra-demanding Mugello circuit some days ago. MotoGP rookie Oliveira missed the points scoring positions narrowly last time out and aims to be back inside the top 15 for the seventh round of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.
Meanwhile, Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Syahrin, who lives close to the Catalan capital during the European period of the season, can’t wait to ride his KTM RC16 at one of his favorite track in just a few days, after he showed some great progress last week in Italy but was unfortunately unable to finish the race.
“Barcelona is a great Grand Prix, I like the track a lot, so I aim to continue on the line from Mugello. I hope to be more competitive since Friday, which is the target and be much closer to the top 15, from what I have been the past few races. Therefore, I definitely look forward to turn around the result a little bit this weekend and I can’t wait to be rejoined with the team again and to work hard.”
“I’m really looking forward to Barcelona and at the same time, I still feel sorry for the last race, which I couldn’t finish. I had a really good pace and believed that we could score points in Mugello and finally I was truly disappointed. Yet, Barcelona is like my second home GP, because I have my European base there and also this track is my second favorite. Last year, we had a great feeling in Montmeló, but obviously, I know, that it’s going to be tough this weekend. I try to do my best, try to score points and give everything I have. Let’s work hard together with the team!”
Mugello showed it’s far from a done deal in 2019, no matter what script was written the race before. This weekend everything could change again – so be ready when the lights go out at 14:00 local time (GMT +2) on Sunday.
2019 MotoGP Championship standings
Le Mans was an impressive victory for Alex Marquez, but a few weeks and a follow up demolition job at Mugello later it’s time to ask whether it was a little more than simply a first win of the season. Was Le Mans the point at which Marquez’ full hand was played, and Mugello proof he’s the new man to beat?
If we rewind to Jerez and play a little game of what if with what seemed like bad luck at the time, the Championship could look pretty different. Marquez has form in Spain and destroyed the opposition in 2017, and what we’ve seen since Jerez this season has been more than mere ‘form’.
That’s enough to merit some questions about the standings: Marquez is two points off the top as it stands, and a win or podium at Jerez would have put him 14 to 23 points clear. And, if one Marquez looking imperious wasn’t enough, the last time Alex Marquez took back to back wins was in 2014 and they came at Catalunya and Assen – the next two tracks on the calendar. Barcelona and home turf will be a test for the EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider, but expect him to come out swinging.
Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri will be the first of those aiming to stand in his way. After a ‘win or bin’ beginning to the season, he’s hanging on to the top and Mugello was a big positive despite the number 7 not taking a podium at home – he didn’t crash out and rode back from P15 on the grid to an impressive P4. Those points were valuable, as a single position lower would see him equal on points with Marquez.
And then there’s Tom Lüthi, who is only four points off the top and the third of the three men to have shared the wins so far this year. The Swiss veteran didn’t have the pace at Mugello for the win but he kept it on the podium and consistency is key. After a tricky Le Mans, that’s a good sign and he will surely be a threat again at Catalunya.
Jorge Navarro, meanwhile, remains a threat as well. Mugello saw his podium run come to an end, but let’s not forget that next up is the venue Speed Up dominated last year with Fabio Quartararo. And then Marcel Schrötter is another who, like Navarro, has hit the ground running this season – and he took pole in Italy.
Unfortunately the German is also recovering from having injured his foot in training, but every day that passes means that progresses. And Luca Marini took his first podium last time out, citing a much better feeling – the same he had when he went on a podium spree and took his first win last season…
The trio of riders at the top of the Championship are the only three men to have won so far this year, and they’ll all three be aiming to make sure that remains true in Barcelona. Can the likes of Navarro, Schrötter or Marini get in the mix?
Will another new name take to the top? And what can Jonas Folger do, replacing injured Khairul Idham Pawi and with experience of the new machines? Tune in from the 14th to 16th June for the Gran Premi Monster Energy Catalunya to find out.
Moto2 Championship standings
|4||Jorge Navarro||Speed Up||SPA||73|
|15||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Speed Up||ITA||19|
|22||Dominique Aegerter||MV Agusta||SWI||5|
|23||Khairul Idham Pawi||Kalex||MAL||3|
|27||Stefano Manzi||MV Agusta||ITA||1|
Championship leader Aron Canet isn’t on the roll of form that saw key rival Lorenzo Dalla Porta move within three points of the top at Mugello, but he’s been a consistent points-scorer this season and already has one win to his name. Now it’s his home turf, he’ll be gunning to make that two and put Dalla Porta back on the back foot. Can Canet pull the pin now it’s his home turf?
So far Moto3 has been anything but predictable though, and that’s borne out in 11 different winners in a row stretching back into the latter half of last season. So will it even be Canet and Dalla Porta warring over the win?
Or Tony Arbolino, John McPhee, Niccolo Antonelli, Jaume Masia or Kaito Toba? Or will it be another name entirely on the top step once again this season?
If it is, two big candidates are Gabriel Rodrigo, a man with both podium form at Catalunya and pace in 2019, and Tatsuki Suzuki, who so far has remained the bridesmaid.
But there are plenty of fast riders in the lightweight class, and plenty of riders who could mix it up in that classic Moto3 freight train at the front. But Catalunya has also been a track where a rider has managed to escape the melee and take a commanding 25 points – so there’s always a chance at that if someone can pull the pin.
Moto3 Championship Standings
|2||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Honda||ITA||80|
Catalunya MotoGP AEST Schedule