German GP, Sachsenring: Preview – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
The Dutch GP was an unforgettable weekend for a number of riders, none more so than Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS). He mastered the wet conditions and took a sensational first win, returning Australia to the top step of the podium for the first time since 2012. Miller is now the tenth youngest winner in the class to win and is out for more consistent results having proved he’s ‘not an idiot,’ and Honda’s faith in him was justified.
Celebrations have died down and after two weeks away from the race track, riders and teams are refreshed and ready to go at the GoPro Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) will be the man to beat for a number of reasons, not only is he the championship leader but he has also taken pole, won the race and set the fastest lap on all three of his MotoGP™ World Championship visits to Germany. Assen could stand as the defining moment of the 2016 season, Marquez proving he has grown as a rider and is now able to see the championship as a bigger entity, not just 18 individual races.
You know it’s been a tough weekend when Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is satisfied with tenth place in a race. The reigning World Champion was unable to get to grips with the ever-changing conditions of Assen on race day and arrives at the Sachsenring 24 points behind Marquez. Lorenzo is no stranger to championship comebacks but needs a strong weekend at the classically Honda dominated track. Since joining the MotoGP™ class in 2008, Lorenzo has had five podium finishes in Germany, four second places but never a win.
One reason which led to Lorenzo not being devastated by tenth place was Valentino Rossi’s (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) failure to score, his third DNF of the season. This has given the Spaniard some breathing room but has left ‘The Doctor’ with quite a problem. Rossi heads to the Sachsenring 42 points behind Marquez and 18 behind Lorenzo, taking a tenth title looks to again be a tall order. Hope is not lost however; back in 1998 the great Mick Doohan took the title with three DNFs. Rossi’s last win in Germany came in 2009, taking two third places since. All he can do now is attack.
Like Rossi, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) is looking to put Assen behind him. The Spaniard has historically gone exceedingly well at the Sachsenring, taking a total of six wins, four in the MotoGP™ class. He’s still fourth in the championship but if his form from Assen continues he may soon find Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) nipping at his heels. The factory Suzuki rider is fifth overall with 79 points, only seven behind Pedrosa.
Both Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) have a point to prove after crashing in Assen. Iannone would go on to take fifth while Dovizioso failed to finish after a promising start. The pair attended World Ducati Week between the two GPs where Ducati’s goal of a winning a race was reaffirmed. Thanks to Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich), Ducati head to Germany looking for their 100th podium in the premier class.
Miller may have won the race, and thus the Independent Teams’ sub-battle, but it’s Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who is the top Independent Team rider in the championship. The Spaniard is sixth and with 72 points, he’s 14 clear of Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) who is seventh overall and second in the Independent Team battle.
The 2016 season has been one of massive improvements for both Aprilia and Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), the combination scoring points in all but one round and ending inside the top ten on four occasions. In 2015 Bradl was forced to miss his home round due to injury, but there are no such issues for the former Moto2™ World Champion in 2015. How will the only German in the premier class fare in front of his home crowd?
Recent years have seen the likes of Marc Marquez, Tito Rabat and Johann Zarco run away with the Moto2™ World Championship title, a clear favourite usually apparent by this time. But the middleweight class is back to its most exciting in 2016, five points splitting the top three on the eve of the GoPro Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland. Throw the likes of Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) into the mix and there’s no chance of the championship battle cooling off anytime soon.
Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) arrives in Germany as the championship leader. He and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) are tied on 126 points, the French rider leading thanks to three victories. The last three rounds have seen Zarco emerge as the strongest rider with two wins and a second; closing the 31-point gap he had to the championship leader after a tough weekend in France. The French rider has twice finished second at the Sachsenring, first in 2011 in the 125cc class and again in 2015 on his way to the Moto2™ World Championship title. Momentum is clearly on Zarco’s side, will he keep the ball rolling in Germany?
On four occasions in 2016 Rins has been unable to qualifying in the top five, only once able to recover for a podium finish. The German GP in 2015 saw Rins line up outside the top ten on the grid, going on to take third place. This stands as the only time he has achieved a podium from outside the top ten in the Moto2™ class. He’s never finished lower than eighth in 2016, but with Zarco back to his best the Spaniard is going to need to hit the top three consistently. He’s twice taken to the podium in Germany, his second Grand Prix victory coming at the Sachsenring in 2013, followed by his Moto2™ podium in 2015.
Five points back on the leading duo is Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), the Brit having taken the podium in fifty per cent of the races in 2016. Lowes will move up to the MotoGP™ World Championship in 2017 and got his first taste of the Aprilia RS-GP he will ride during a private test in Misano. The day went well but now it’s time to focus on the task at hand: taking the Moto2™ title. Even on bad weekends the Brit had been able to slide himself into the top six on most occasions.
One man who could potentially spoiler the championship leaders’ party is Takaaki Nakagami, fresh off his first win and a Suzuka 8 Hour test in Japan. The Japanese rider has a best finish of seventh at the German track but heads there with his first back-to-back podiums since 2013. Bad luck hindered the start of Nakagami’s 2016 campaign but he appears to be back in Lady Luck’s good books. As 2013 showed, Nakagami is a rider who can fly when he’s confident.
The Sachsenring has thrown up some surprises in the past and saw three first time Moto2™ winners between 2013 and 2015, Jordi Torres, Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten) and Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team) all taking their first, and so far only, Grand Prix wins. Neither Simeon nor Aegerter have been able to find that flash of speed since.
Not only is Moto2™ the tightest championship of all three classes, it also boasts the most German riders. Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) are all out for home glory. Of the three, Folger has had the most success in 2016, two podiums and 63 points putting him in seventh overall. But Cortese is the most successful at the Sachsenring, taking third in the 2010 125cc race and winning the inaugural Moto3™ race at the circuit in 2012. Expect a tough battle for top German honours.
History was made in Assen as Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) took Mahindra’s first ever World Championship victory, the Indian manufacturer breaking the domination of Honda and KTM in the Moto3™ class. The celebrations have ended and now it’s time for Mahindra, as well as the rest of the grid, to focus their attentions on the GoPro Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland. Has Bagnaia’s win opened the floodgates for Mahindra or will the usual suspects fight back?
Championship leader Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) is keener than anyone to get out on track at the Sachsenring after a disastrous, by his standards, race in Assen. The South African was punted off track and failed to finish on the podium for the first time in 2016. His championship lead remains more than stable at 48 points. Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0), his closest championship rival, will be trying to play catch up after missing Assen due to a broken leg. The Sachsenring holds a special place in Binder’s heart, as it is where he stepped onto the podium for the first time way back in 2014.
Before the German GP, KTM held a test at Misano with Binder running alongside the SKY Racing Team VR46. With Navarro’s title challenge rapidly fading, fellow KTM rider Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) stands as one of the few people able to stop Binder. The Italian lost out in the last lap madness of Assen, crossing the line in fourth but clawing back a few points on the South African. Fenati’s strongest finish in Germany came in 2015 when he was fourth, but he needs wins if he wants to challenge Binder.
The Dutch GP was a very Italian affair with Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3) filling the podium with the tricolore. Both riders have gotten stronger and stronger with each race of 2016 and a return to the podium in Germany wouldn’t be a shock. Di Giannantonio is just two-championship points behind his much more experienced teammate Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) as they battle for eighth.
Bagnaia’s victory moved him to fourth in the championship, now four points clear of Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46), who is leading the Rookie of the Year battle. Germany has always treated Mahindra well, Binder’s 2014 second their strongest result until Bagnaia’s win.
At the end of the Dutch TT, Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold) in sixth crossed the line just 0.161s behind Bagnaia, making for the closest top six finish of all-time. This took the record from the Australian Moto3™ race in 2014 when 0.242s covered the top six.
Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) will be in high demand as the only German rider in the lightweight class. He’s finished in the points twice at his home race and is a proven top ten finisher with a best result of fourth in 2016, achieved in Austin after a sensational pole.
As always the weather remains a concern in Germany, rain a real possibility. Rain had been predicted to come in Assen, but the track stayed dry and produced another exciting Moto3™ race.