Marquez leads Rossi & Vinales into Barcelona
Mugello saw the MotoGP season drastically shaken up as Marquez crashed, Jorge Lorenzo took his first race win with Ducati, and Valentino Rossi became the first rider to claim 5000 championship points in the premier class.
Making waves in the title fight, the ‘Doctor’ is now the closest challenger to leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – but Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) also gained a full 20 points on the leader after the number 93’s crash at Mugello.
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is modified in the final sector and has also been resurfaced, but it’s the same all-time classic at heart. Graced with one of the most spectacular stadium sections on the calendar and always packed full with fans, the track is a favourite on and off track – nestled just north of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
So who’s the man with the best numbers? Rossi, as with many venues that have been such a mainstay on the calendar. It’s been seven premier class wins for the number 46 at Montmeló, the most famous of which was his duel against Lorenzo to the line in 2009 and the most recent of which was taken in 2016.
Lorenzo will have the biggest swagger as the paddock arrives in Barcelona, with a victory in his pocket and a brand-new contract. He’s got four MotoGP wins at the track and has taken some dominant victories a la Mugello last time out. Could it be Lorenzo’s Land again this weekend?
Or can last year’s winner, his teammate Andrea Dovizioso, take his second victory of the season?
The man who didn’t feature at the finish line in Italy will have something to say about that. Marquez was well within the fight at the front when he crashed at Mugello, and it’s even more motivation for the reigning Champion to now be riding at home.
“I’m very happy any time we race at home, in front of our fans, and I hope to give them an exciting race on Sunday, as that special atmosphere always gives you extra energy. We had a good test in Catalunya a few weeks ago, when we also had the chance to check out the layout, in particular the final section, which has been revised. I think they also did a really good job with the resurfacing: the tarmac now has very good grip and is very nice to ride on, even if the F1 cars are already starting to affect it by creating bumps at some of the braking points. The kerbs are still one of the track’s most challenging aspects; the inside kerbs are very high, and it’s a bit difficult to adapt your riding style to that. That said, it’s a nice track and we’ll try to make the best of it and fight for the podium again.”
He won there in 2014 and although it’s not a signature venue for the number 93, three in a row before Mugello keep Marquez as a firm favourite. Teammate Dani Pedrosa has a great record at his home venue too, however – and with news from the ‘Little Samurai’ promised at Montmeló, how will that play out across the weekend?
“The Catalan GP is always a special race because all our family, fans, and friends are there. It always has a great atmosphere and a great feeling. The track itself is very nice, though demanding, especially for the tyres. You need to work a lot on the suspension and chassis setup to make sure you have good grip because you’re leaned over most of the time. Having partly returned to the original layout, we got back the final two downhill corners, which are really beautiful.”
The home heroes don’t stop there. Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is another who’ll have a fan club in the stands, and he wants to improve on his P8 from the front row in Italy.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) will be another wanting more with good form at the venue – including a previous pole – and he’s as close to a home rider as you can get, from Granollers just up the road.
“I really worked hard preparing for my home race in Barcelona. I am keen to do well. Unfortunately, the first part of the season did not go as we had hoped, but there are clear signs of our competitiveness. This will be my first weekend as a father. It is very emotional and extra motivation.”
Likewise his brother Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who took more solid points for the Austrian factory last time out.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) just lost out to teammate Andrea Iannone in Mugello, too – can he turn the tables as the home turf becomes his?
And what of the fight for top Independent Team rider? Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) took top honours last time out but will want to fight for the overall win, as will Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) after a quieter weekend in Italy.
Johann Zarco – 5th Overall – 64 points
“The Catalunya circuit is a great track and I’m happy to come back there. We had the test with the team and it was going pretty well. I hope to find this good feeling straight again and be strong all the weekend to fight for the podium or even the victory, if the dream would come true. After two difficult races, especially in Mugello, where I was struggling, I would truly enjoy to be back in a great place with the top guys.”
Aleix Espargaro will want a top result, and the battle for Rookie of the Year could get close once again as Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) takes on Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).
Hafizh Syahrin – 16th Overall – 17 points
“I’m looking forward to the Catalan GP, which is like my second home race, because I’m based in Spain for quite a long time already. The track is my favorite, too. We’ve already done the test here and after this and the race in Mugello, I have a really good feeling with the bike and understand the setup. I can’t wait for this round! I want to do a decent race again and fight for the top rookie spot. Physically I’m quite strong now, so I’m well prepared to arrive in Montmeló.”
“Montmelò is a nice track. The new asphalt is excellent, as we were able to test a couple of weeks ago. My goals for the rest of the season have not changed. We need to work hard, just as we have been until now, and achieve the best possible results.”
Mugello was one man’s masterclass, but Barcelona should see the battle back on in earnest…
MotoGP Championship Standings
- MARQUEZ Marc 95 Repsol Honda Team Honda
- ROSSI Valentino 72 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
- VINALES Maverick 67 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea 66 Ducati Team Ducati
- ZARCO Johann 64 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
- PETRUCCI Danilo 63 Alma Pramac Racing Ducati
- IANNONE Andrea 60 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
- CRUTCHLOW Cal 56 LCR Honda Honda
- MILLER Jack 49 Alma Pramac Racing Ducati
- LORENZO Jorge 41 Ducati Team Ducati
- RINS Alex 33 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
- PEDROSA Dani 29 Repsol Honda Team Honda
- RABAT Tito 27 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati
- ESPARGARO Pol 23 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
- BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 Angel Nieto Team Ducati
- SYAHRIN Hafizh 17 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
- MORBIDELLI Franco 17 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
- ESPARGARO Aleix 13 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
- NAKAGAMI Takaaki 10 LCR Honda Honda
- SMITH Bradley 7 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
- KALLIO Mika 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
- REDDING Scott 5 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
- ABRAHAM Karel 1 Angel Nieto Team Ducati
Michelin at Catalunya
The 4,627m circuit has undergone a complete resurfacing process since last season and a recent test at the track confirmed the tyre selection that Michelin will take to the event.
The pre-season information that the track was to be re-laid meant Michelin initially allocated a choice of four front and four rear MICHELIN Power Slicks for the race weekend, but the data gathered during the test last month meant that this was narrowed down to three of each, in-keeping with the usual allocation at other MotoGP events.
The three front slick tyres in a soft, medium and hard compound will all be symmetric in design, whilst the three rear slicks – also in soft, medium and hard – will feature a harder right-hand-side, giving them an asymmetric performance to cope with the eight right turns that the track possesses, in contrast to just five lefts.
Michelin’s range will be completed with a selection of MICHELIN Power Rain tyres which will be available at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya should wet weather prevail, these will be soft and medium compounds for both the front and rear, with the rears having and asymmetric design similar to the slicks.
Michelin will not only be confronted by a resurfaced track in Catalunya, but there is also a new configuration for this season. In the past two-years the layout has had to be changed during the race weekend for different reasons, but 2018 will see a revised layout, with increased safety areas, used for the first time in MotoGP.
This will mean that new two-wheel records will be set for the best race lap, fastest overall lap, top-speed and race duration. The race will also have a new distance, as it is one the seven events to have a reduction in laps this year, which will see it reduced to 24 circulations this season, from 25 in previous years.
About Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was built in 1991 and began hosting the Spanish Grand Prix that same year. Construction also coincided with the Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Barcelona the next year, where the circuit acted as the start and finish line for the road team time trial cycling event.
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya should not be confused with the Montjuïc circuit, which hosted the Spanish Grand Prix four times between 1969 and 1975 and, unlike the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, is actually located within the city of Barcelona.
The 2007 season saw the first of the two final sweepers replaced with a slow chicane in an effort to improve F1 overtaking opportunities. However, the redesign has not yet shown any effect. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya also plays host to many other racing series, including MotoGP.
The chicane which was put in the penultimate turn for Formula 1 does not play a part in the track layout for Moto GP, and there are at least five points on the track (turns 1, 2, 4, 10, 14) where riders are known to overtake. As in Formula 1, turn one is arguably the most popular place for overtaking. The circuit is not known to produce copious amounts of overtaking, despite the long straights.
After a spectacular intermediate class race at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, where we witnessed Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) take his and KTM’s first win of the season, will we see another rider stand on the top step of the podium for the first time in 2018 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?
Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was in a class of his own at the Catalan GP in 2017. The rider from Cervera, 100km inland from Barcelona, finished 4.452 seconds clear of second place Tom Lüthi in a dominant display. This was the younger Marquez brother’s second Grand Prix victory at the circuit, with the 22-year-old also claiming victory in his Moto3 title winning year by 3.236 seconds. So, with the number 73 having a habit of convincingly beating the rest of the field in Barcelona, can he repeat his success for a third time in 2018?
One rider who will have something to say about it is Mugello winner Oliveira, who joined Marquez on the podium at the Catalan GP last season, while currently sitting 20 points ahead of him in this season’s Championship.
The Portuguese rider came from P11 on the grid at the Italian GP to claim victory by 0.184 seconds, progressing ten places in the race. This takes his accumulative tally from qualifying position to race finish position to +38 in the six rounds so far this season, proving the 23-year-old’s Sunday pace is super impressive.
The rider to just lose out to Oliveira in Italy was Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40), who secured his third podium of the season in front of his home fans. The Italian was fourth at the Catalan GP last year, his best result at the circuit in his Grand Prix career.
Meanwhile, 2017 Moto3 World Champion Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) finished just behind Baldassarri in the Tuscan hills and will be out to try and achieve his third straight podium in Barcelona. The Spaniard took the honours at this track in the lightweight class last year, can he take the fight to his teammate on home soil this year?
Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) saw his lead in the standings cut to 13 points after finishing fourth on home turf, crossing the line just over a tenth back from Mir. The Italian finished P13 here in 2017, and has never stood on the podium at the Catalan GP – his top priority will be changing that statistic.
Meanwhile Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) will be out to get his Championship challenge back on track after crashing out of the lead at Mugello, and Dynavolt Intact GP’s Xavi Vierge will be searching for his second podium of the season at his home Grand Prix – if not the win. After a stunning ride from the back in Le Mans, the local hero will want to play a big role in this race – likewise teammate Marcel Schrötter, who took a front row start and then sadly crashed out early in Italy.
Elsewhere, Brad Binder’s (Red Bull KTM Ajo) outstanding ride from P19 to P6 in Mugello will give the South African confidence he can challenge for his first podium of the season. Binder finished second here in the Moto3 race in 2016, behind race winner Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2).
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has been Marquez territory recently, will it continue to be in 2018?
Moto2 Championship Standings – Top 15
- Francesco BAGNAIA Kalex ITA 111
- Miguel OLIVEIRA KTM POR 98
- Lorenzo BALDASSARRI Kalex ITA 84
- Alex MARQUEZ Kalex SPA 78
- Joan MIR Kalex SPA 64
- Xavi VIERGE Kalex SPA 59
- Mattia PASINI Kalex ITA 58
- Brad BINDER KTM RSA 47
- Marcel SCHROTTER Kalex GER 37
- Iker LECUONA KTM SPA 26
- Dominique AEGERTER KTM SWI 20
- Fabio QUARTARARO Speed Up FRA 20
- Luca MARINI Kalex ITA 19
- Simone CORSI Kalex ITA 18
- Andrea LOCATELLI Kalex ITA 16
- Remy GARDNER Tech 3 AUS 14
After a three-way battle for the win ending in a photo finish at Mugello, the title fight is closer than ever: second place finisher Marco Bezzecchi (Redox Prüstel GP) is now on 83 points, with Italian GP winner Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) trailing him by three and third place man, Martin’s teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio, on 75. It’s close, and that means everything hangs in the balance for Barcelona.
Aside from the three emerging as the men to beat, however, there are some key names looking to get back on top. After a solid sixth for Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) at Mugello, he’s lost some ground but the season is long, and that’s true of Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), who took P11 in Italy and wants to get back on the top step. It’s tough to escape the pack at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya but it can be done: Maverick Viñales and Alex Marquez have showed that.
The likes of Andrea Migno (Angel Nieto Team), his teammate and Le Mans winner Albert Arenas, Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Skull Rider) and Marcos Ramirez (Bester Capital Dubai) will be aiming to make that as difficult as possible, however – as will the rookies, who get back onto familiar turf at the track. A venue on the calendar of the FIM CEV Repsol, Catalunya is known to Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46), Makar Yurchenko (CIP – Green Power) and Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai).
It’s also a home race for many on the grid, as well as the closest to it for some – with a lot of riders resident in or around Barcelona. So the stakes are high, not least in the Championship – will Bezzecchi strike back, Martin keep his momentum or Di Giannantonio take his first win? Or will it be another name entirely crowning themselves the Moto3 king of Catalunya?
Moto3 Championship Standings – Top 10
- Marco BEZZECCHI KTM ITA 83
- Jorge MARTIN Honda SPA 80
- Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO Honda ITA 75
- Aron CANET Honda SPA 61
- Andrea MIGNO KTM ITA 56
- Niccolò ANTONELLI Honda ITA 44
- Enea BASTIANINI Honda ITA 43
- Gabriel RODRIGO KTM ARG 41
- Marcos RAMIREZ KTM SPA 38
- Philipp OETTL KTM GER 36