Sachsenring: a blank slate or the return of the King?
Marc Marquez has won seven in a row at the track in the premier class. If he can’t challenge for an eighth, who’s going to end his reign?
Monday, 14 June 2021
After a dramatic Catalan GP, the Liqui Moly Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland beckons for the first race weekend in another back-to-back for the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship. The tight and twisty venue is a different challenge from most, and traditionally there has been a single King of the Sachsenring: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). With seven wins from seven in his time in MotoGP™ – and a few before that too – the number 93 has been almost unassailable at the track, but this time he arrives on the comeback from injury and the flashes of brilliance so far have been very much accompanied by some struggles for the eight-time World Champion. “Like the old Marc,” was his review of the laps he completed in Barcelona though, and on Monday in the post-race test he did more laps than anyone. So is it too soon to expect the King to return to the throne?
If he doesn’t, there’s a somewhat blank slate in his wake. Traditionally though, the next bike home after the winner has been a Yamaha in recent years. So will it be this time? Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) will be hoping so after a dramatic end to his race in Barcelona where race-winning pace translated into sixth in the final results after two penalties. He’ll want to gain that ground back, and teammate Maverick Viñales will want to gain ground full stop – something also true of Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi as some tougher times continue in their garage.
Also traditionally, another Honda has sometimes joined Marc Marquez on the podium. The top rider for the marque as it stands is Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and he’ll want that good form for the bike at the track to translate into a kinder weekend in Germany after a dip recently. He has, after all, already taken a fourth place in 2021, as difficult as the year has been at times. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) will likewise look to the past performance of the machine to give themselves a boost, too. And what did HRC find in the post-Catalan GP test?
The more unknown quantities, in terms of track records, go for the rest. Ducati, to start with the factory equal on points with Yamaha at the top of the Constructors’ Championship, have seemed to edge closer and closer to the front in Germany as their bike has been crafted to turn better and better. And this season, it’s seemingly better than ever. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) praised the machine after his podium in Catalunya and offered a quick “we’ll see” regarding the Sachsenring, but 2021 so far says there’s more to be optimistic about than ever before. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) will have a few eyes on him too, with the Italian’s riding style and corner speed a key talking point earlier in the year, but his Barcelona weekend a little more muted.
Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), however, got the better of both last time out. The Frenchman was top Independent Team rider and top Ducati – as he is in the standings, although Miller especially is gaining some traction – and cut his gap to the top quite a bit after Quartararo’s two penalties. What can he do? He had a tougher time of it at the track on the Yamaha, or more so in 2017 compared to then-teammate Jonas Folger’s heroics, but Zarco won the Moto2™ race at the track in 2016 and was only 0.083 off doing the same the year before. So he knows his way around… can he hook it up in the premier class?
Ahead of all the Borgo Panigale machinery in Barcelona, however, was Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). The Portuguese rider put in an outstanding push on Sunday – and a smart one – to leave the Catalan GP with his first victory in factory colours, and he’s another with some good stats in his past at the track, just 0.066 off the win in Moto2™ in 2017 behind only Morbidelli. Teammate Brad Binder won the Moto2™ race the year after. As this is a track where the Austrian factory have no 2020 data and a best result outside the top ten given the sheer speed of their ascendancy, will it be more of an uphill struggle at this particular – and in some ways peculiar – venue? Or are the riders, mileage so far and updates to the RC16 ready to carry on where they left off?
Suzuki, meanwhile, have a couple of highlights that lend themselves to optimism – in addition to a bike that handles exceedingly well. First is a fourth place for Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) on the grid in 2019, the last time we raced at the Sachsenring, although he didn’t finish the race and arrives fighting to be fit after a cycling accident ahead of Barcelona. But the other is his teammate – and the reigning Champion – Joan Mir’s seventh place in 2019. Looking back at the Majorcan’s record at the track in his short, sharp ascent to the top of the MotoGP™ world, it goes from Moto3™ win on the way to the title to best Moto2™ result at the time in 2018, a second place. And then straight to seventh as a MotoGP™ rookie – his second best premier class result at the time, behind only Barcelona where he took P6. Since then he’s become World Champion and Suzuki team Champions, so what can they do this time around at the Sachsenring now they’re established at the front?
Finally, for Aprilia the fight for the top five continues and will continue in Germany. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) has been close to it but ended up equalling their best result in the MotoGP™ era, sixth, which speaks to an impressive season but one that remains fixed on a firm goal: the top five, and the podium. Aleix Espargaro sat out the post-Catalan GP test after crashing out of the race but did get his arm, following arm pump surgery previously, checked out. All is ok, and the number 41 will be gunning for more glory in Germany… can he crack that top five this time around?
MotoGP™ take on the Sachsenring on Sunday the 20th of June at 14:00 (GMT +2), with another 25 points in play and even more eyes than normal on Marc Marquez. Is there a new King of the Sachsenring soon to be crowned? We’re about to find out…
MotoGP™ Championship top five:
1 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 115
2 Johann Zarco* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – 101
3 Jack Miller – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 90
4 Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati Lenovo Team – Ducati – 88
5 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – 78
*Independent Team rider
Double trouble: can Red Bull KTM Ajo continue their roll in Germany?
Gardner vs Fernandez has been the recent story. Will the Sachsenring write another chapter in their domination?
2021 is going pretty well for Red Bull KTM Ajo. In Moto2™, it’s a masterclass so far for both Championship leader Remy Gardner and his rookie sensation of a teammate Raul Fernandez, who remains a close second in the standings. The number 25 also been Gardner’s closest challenger on track as the two stamp some serious authority on the season: a 1-2 in the last three races, the latter two with Gardner out front, and the only single race in which neither have been on the podium is Jerez. That’s quite a record, and as we head into the Liqui Moly Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland the Jaws music has likely already started a faint crescendo for their rivals.
In terms of track records, Gardner has scored points on Moto2™’s last four visits to Saxony, a solid CV even for a rider in the form of his life as everything comes together, so there’s no reason to expect he’ll suddenly lose any speed. There is one added challenge for Raul Fernandez though: a little less experience. That didn’t make much difference at Mugello, however, and on his Moto3™ debut at the Sachsenring in 2018 as an injury replacement, the Spaniard very much showed he knew his way around. So who could challenge the duo?
So far this season it’s been a tale of five riders with the edge on the rest and the Red Bull KTM Ajo duo with a little more than that. Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) have both had wins marred by a few mistakes, so can they hit back? It’s starting to get more and more vital as the summer break approaches, with both seeing big points go begging of late but both already having taken to the top step.
The opposite is true of Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46), who has lacked the raw pace to take him to a first win of the season so far but put together an impeccable campaign of consistency in third overall. That’s paying dividends as he now enjoys a nice 26-point cushion ahead of Lowes on the chase. With the metronomic excellence of the Red Bull KTM Ajo duo ahead though, “points make prizes” will soon not be enough. Can the Italian find that step forward in Germany? And can Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing), who denied Bezzecchi the third step in Barcelona, keep his renewed form rolling?
Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) was back on song in Barcelona too, and he took a solid sixth last time Moto2™ raced in Germany. Bo Bendseyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) impressed last time out to beat Lowes to sixth at Catalunya as well. On German turf though, a few eyes will also be on Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) as he starts to rebuild some speed after a tougher start to 2021. The Bavarian has a good record at the Sachsenring too, including a podium the last time we raced there in 2019…
Finally, Fermin Aldeguer (+Ego Speed Up) could be one to watch for those keen on catching a rider on the ascent. The Spaniard, who has taken five wins from five in the Moto2™ European Championship, including an almost offensively quick double in Barcelona on the Sunday ahead of the Sachsenring, will be in on injury replacement for Yari Montella once again. First time out on the Triumph 765, the 16-year-old took 12th and was just half a tenth off top Boscocuro Aron Canet (Aspar Team Moto2). And this was at Mugello, where he’d never raced before. Can he make some more magic in Saxony?
Moto2™ go racing in Germany at 12:20 (GMT +2), with another 25 points on the table. Can Red Bull KTM Ajo keep delivering? Or will the Sachsenring see someone able to defeat the duo of the moment? Find out on Sunday in the Liqui Moly Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland.
Moto2™ Championship top five:
1 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 139
2 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 128
3 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – 101
4 Sam Lowes – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 75
5 Fabio Di Giannantonio – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – Kalex – 50
Moto3™: can Garcia keep it full GASGAS in Germany?
The Spaniard is officially on a charge… so can he continue to pull in Acosta’s lead at the Sachsenring?
Consistency has been hard to come by in the 2021 Moto3™ season. At first, rookie sensation – and still very much Championship leader – Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had it as those around him faltered, but now the momentum has moved once again and he’s been scoring good points, but not on the podium. Instead, it’s Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) who’s scored 57 points in the last three races, two of which he’s won to emerge as the closest challenger. One in the wet, one in the dry… and now we head to a venue where a few of his rivals lack some experience. And Garcia was in the lead group last time we raced in Germany.
First things first, Acosta has ridden the Sachsenring in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, and won a race. But will that experience count for a lot? He’ll hope so, with at least some track knowledge to help him on his quest to stem the tide of points. But Garcia isn’t the only rider looking to claw back some more ground…
Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who was just bumped off the podium in Barcelona by a track limits infraction, will be out for some revenge, and the likes of Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) will want to keep finishing ahead of Acosta as they did at Catalunya. Romano Fenati (Steilgarda Max Racing Team) remains fourth overall too and of those returning to race Moto3™ at the Sachsenring this year, the veteran Italian was also the top finisher in 2019 as he took fourth.
Experience is also a question for Catalan GP podium finishers Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) and Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3). Rookies in 2020 and therefore not racing the venue in Moto3™ yet, can they stay at the front? Alcoba hasn’t had any experience of the track and will be up against the clock to get up to speed, but Öncü has an impressive record at the place in the Rookies. He took his first victory in the Cup at the track in 2017, and in 2018 he took another win and a second place. Will that, plus the added confidence from an emotional first podium in Barcelona, translate into race day pace in 2021?
The tight, twisty Sachsenring may deliver a slightly different Moto3™ showdown to that of many tracks so far, and it’s a new challenge for a few key faces in the field. Who’ll come out on top? We’ll find out on Sunday as Moto3™ see the lights go out on the Liqui Moly Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland at 11:00 (GMT +2).
Moto3™ Championship top five:
1 Pedro Acosta – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 120
2 Sergio Garcia – Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team – GASGAS – 81
3 Jaume Masia – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 72
4 Romano Fenati – Sterilgarda Max Racing Team – Husqvarna – 61
5 Darryn Binder – Petronas Sprinta Racing – Honda – 58