Round Nine Sachsenring
Nine in a row is how Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) arrives into one of his best venues: the Sachsenring. A region that has a long racing history, it’s been reigned by Marquez in every class he’s competed in since 2010, with his success there often a pivotal part of his own history. Leading ahead of the summer break is a good prize and, although Marquez can’t cede the lead in the HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, he can extend it and head into the break with a firmer hold on the top.
One venue earlier this season had hosted Marquez supremacy before 2019, however…and then everything went wrong. The Circuit of the Americas and Marquez’ crash out the lead show he’s not infallible, although the factors contributing to that crash, he says, are understood and overcome. So can it happen again? Or can he be beaten?
“The first back to back race of the season, I am excited. We had a good weekend in Assen and I am motivated as we now arrive at one of my favourites tracks. Of course, past results don’t mean a lot once we start on Friday so we have to keep working hard with the Repsol Honda Team to stay in front. Everyone says I am the favourite because I won in the past few years, but this sport is unpredictable and everyone said the same in Austin and I crashed. Then we will start just thinking about the weekend as every race.”
Two of the key challengers last season could prove true again. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) arrives flying high from his stunning win at the TT Circuit Assen, and the Sachsenring saw him take a podium last year.
Yamaha have also come closest to deposing Marquez recently when Jonas Folger also took the fight to the reigning Champion in an incredible rookie ride in 2017. And Viñales’ team-mate Valentino Rossi beat him to second in 2018 and has winning form there, as he does everywhere. Despite a recent tough run for the ‘Doctor’, it was a sublime roll of form earlier in the year and everything can switch again in an instant.
That’s certainly proved true for Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) since his heartbreak in Jerez, and the French rookie now has two premier class podiums to his name despite still recovering from arm pump surgery.
“Sachsenring is a circuit that can be really good for us. It’ll be positive to arrive there because in Assen I was able to rest my arm injury in the left corners and Sachsenring has a lot of left corners! I can’t wait for a few days of rest before starting the weekend strongly. It isn’t my favourite circuit, but with the physical condition that I’m in it can be a good track for us – and it’s also been a good circuit for the Yamaha YZR-M1 too.”
Team-mate Franco Morbidelli has also been impressing and took a top five in Assen, splitting the Ducati Team duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci, who had a more difficult weekend seemingly exacerbated by the heat. The field is so tight, those needing to gain points on Marquez or put in some solid damage control face far more than an easy ride to the podium.
“I’m not sure what to expect at Sachsenring, but it’s a circuit that I really like. I’ve always been fast there on a Moto2 bike, but I didn’t ride last year on the MotoGP bike because I was injured. Let’s see what happens, but we’re going in with a clean sheet of paper and with a really good feeling in the last ten laps of the race at Assen that we can build on. The team and I have a really great working method now, it’s a narrow track with flowing corners that will suit the bike, and I feel confident going there on a Yamaha.”
Dovizioso is that man more than any other as it stands, as he remains the man closest to Marquez in the Championship. In the Dutch TT, however, the gap increased once again as he missed out on the podium. Can Germany see him close in a little? Traditionally it’s a tougher track for the red machines, but anything can happen in such close racing…and the weather can throw up some surprises too, traditionally a strong point for both ‘DesmoDovi’ AND Petrucci.
One man who could be a very interesting question mark is Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Qualifying woes were nowhere to be found at Assen, and the Spaniard got a great start to lead the way…and then crashed.
But before the blip Rins’ points scoring run has been impeccable and previously it was Germany last season the Suzuki rider last failed to score. What does that mean? It means we don’t have a good reference for his speed at the track, which has sky-rocketed everywhere in 2019 anyway, and that combined with the sweet-handling Suzuki could make an interesting addition to the stakes at one of the tightest and twistiest venues of the year.
Rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) got back on form at Assen too, and although he trails Quartararo by a margin in the fight for Rookie of the Year, he joined the Frenchman in leading a premier class race for the first time, albeit briefly.
There’s another interesting addition in the battle in Germany, too. Jorge Lorenzo remains sadly sidelined at the Repsol Honda Team, and it’s a home hero taking his place: test rider Stefan Bradl. The German has podium form in the premier class and even in wildcard appearances since, he’s impressed to bother the tight fight for Q2 and the big points finishes. What can he do on home turf?
“I’m very excited to join the Repsol Honda Team in Germany. It’s a special race for me as my home race, obviously I am very sorry for Lorenzo and I wish him the fastest recovery possible and to come back strong. I am glad to be able to help the team and HRC, let’s see what this weekend brings. We have been working well with Honda and I am grateful to them for this opportunity.”
KTM are eager to make further steps forward. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) suffered with some pain from a crash in the Barcelona test last time out so he’ll be hoping to be back up to full speed, and team-mate Johann Zarco also suffered in Assen. KTM will be hoping for more in Germany.
The fight for top Independent Team rider is also tight. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) leads the way despite a tougher Assen, but Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) isn’t far behind.
Crutchlow’s team-mate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) had some awful luck last time out as Rossi skittled him out of contention, but he’s been on some serious form and has recently beaten Crutchlow a few times.
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini could also make some bigger steps forward in Germany, with Aleix Espargaro having a few more days to recover and Andrea Iannone making some solid progress for his first top ten of the season last week in the Netherlands.
Germany’s Sachsenring is a 3,671m anti-clockwise circuit which places huge stresses on the left-hand-side of the tyre. The 10 left and 3 right turns, with just a 700m straight, equates to the tyre spending more time on a left lean angle than upright and with this replicated over the 30-laps of the MotoGP race it means the Michelin Power Slicks have a specific and demanding requirement placed upon them. The allocation sees the first time this season when the whole range will be asymmetric, with all front tyres and all rears featuring a hard left, with the right being a much softer compound to warm up quickly when the rider needs the grip in one of the three right turns.
MotoGP Championship Points Standings