Get the hammer down: MotoGP™ races into Montmeló

2018-06-12 08:04
After Mugello made some history, it’s home sweet home time for many on the grid – including Marquez as he aims to bounce back

Mugello was another history-maker of a weekend, with Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) stunning the field to take his first win in red and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) becoming the first rider to hit the milestone of 5000 premier class points. It also made more waves in the title fight and it’s the ‘Doctor’ now the closest challenger to leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – but Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) also gained a full 20 points on the lead after the number 93’s crash. That hangs a lot in the balance at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, and at a venue where many of the key contenders have won.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is modified in the final sector and resurfaced, too, 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. Good numbers but for Lorenzo, likewise – and they both arrive with some good momentum.

The ‘Spartan’ 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. 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 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. 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. 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).

Mugello was one man’s masterclass, but Barcelona should see the battle back on. Make sure to catch everything from Montmelo from Friday 15th June, before the race on Sunday 17th at 14:00 (GMT +2).
Championship Standings
1 - Marc Marquez (SPA) HONDA 95 points
2 - Valentino Rossi (ITA) YAMAHA 72
3 - Maverick Viñales (SPA) YAMAHA 67
4 - Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) DUCATI 66
5 - Johann Zarco (FRA) YAMAHA 64
Alex Marquez returns to home territory
The Spaniard took victory at the Catalan GP in 2017, who will be his main challengers this year?

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?
Championship Standings
1 - Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) KALEX 111 points
2 - Miguel Oliveira (POR) KTM 98
3 - Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA) KALEX 84
4 - Alex Marquez (SPA) KALEX 78
5 - Joan Mir (SPA) KALEX 64
3 riders, 8 points: will the balance tip in Barcelona?
Bezzecchi, Martin and Di Giannantonio arrive at another classic track

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?

Find out from the 15th to 17th June.
Championship Standings
1 - Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) KTM 83 points
2 - Jorge Martin (SPA) HONDA 80
3 - Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) HONDA 75
4 - Aron Canet (SPA) HONDA 61
5 - Andrea Migno (ITA) KTM 56


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