The VROOM Blog #GermanGP – Joy for Jorge Martin as he masters the Sachsenring

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This weekend MotoGP was in Germany at the Sachsenring for the second of 3 European rounds on the bounce before a five-week summer break.

As expected, a great deal of the talk over the weekend was about Marc Marquez. That talk though wasn’t for the reasons I expected everyone to be talking about him – his absolute domination of this circuit – and was instead about how his performance this weekend was the opposite of what he has achieved here in the past. And the fact that he inexplicably put the blame for what was a racing incident at the feet of another rider, but I’ll get to that later…

On Sunday in Italy Marc held talks with Shinji Aoyama (Senior Managing Executive Officer at Honda Motor Co.) and Koji Watanabe (President of HRC) to discuss the future of the HRC project. Marc told the media on Thursday that it had been a productive meeting and that now they need to see some progress going forward. He also said that he told them that he is fully committed to using the next races to try and improve the project and for the bike to be in a better shape for the future for all Honda riders.

Honda arrived in Germany with only two riders – Marc, and LCR rider Taka Nakagami – as their respective team mates Joan Mir and Alex Rins remain on the sidelines due to injury. Neither would be replaced for Germany, but we do know that Iker Lecuona who subbed for Marc earlier in the season, will get to make use of his Repsol leathers once more as he steps in for Joan Mir next weekend at Assen.

Jonas Folger remains at Tech3 in place of Pol Espargaro, and it is sounding as though Pol will wait until after the summer break to make his return to action, which makes sense to me – I don’t see the point in returning for Assen when he could give himself another six weeks to get back to strength. As team boss Herve Poncharal pointed out this weekend, it isn’t as though he is fighting for the championship.

Pol’s big brother Aleix rocked up to his media sessions on Thursday with a set of crutches and a moonboot as scans had revealed fractures in his foot following his cycling accident in Italy.

Following on from his comments last week about his potential future at Yamaha, this weekend Franky spoke about having a Plan B and C for MotoGP should he not remain with Yamaha. While Franky wouldn’t get into specifics, there have been suggestions that should Marco Bezzecchi move on from the VR46 Ducati team then Franky could move there, although his manager did play down those rumours when talking to Jack Appleyard and said that the priority for both Franky and Yamaha is to remain together, with a decision expected to be made before the summer break.

Yamaha Team Boss Maio Meregalli said that Franky is performing better than he did last season, and that he is one of the riders they are talking to.

It’s not just Franky who is the subject of speculation at the moment – it’s that time of year where silly season is in full swing. There have been stories linking Marco Bezzecchi with a move to Pramac Ducati, but Bezzecchi said that while the potential interest from Pramac is flattering, if he was leaving the VR46 team he would rather it be for a Factory team rather than to another satellite team. He said his current goal is to remain with the VR46 squad but with factory machinery.

VR46 Boss Pablo Nieto explained that the team are very happy with their riders and that their plan is to continue with both Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini. When asked about the rumours linking Franky with the team, Pablo said that he thought Franky would fit in well with the team, and that he is on their minds should a space become available, but it sounded more like Marco and Luca would remain where they are.

There are of course riders in Moto2 who are also looking to make the move to the premier class, but it isn’t clear where they would be able to slot in. Current Moto2 Championship contender Pedro Acosta is one rider who is keen to make the step up next year, and although he is contracted to KTM, there is a clause in that contract which means that if KTM haven’t offered him a place in MotoGP by a certain date (thought to be the end of this month), then he will be able to start looking elsewhere.

It sounds as though KTM are keen for Pedro to stay in Moto2 for another season, which means that they would be able to give both Pol Espargaro and Augusto Fernandez another season in the Tech3 squad, with Jack Miller and Brad Binder both already contracted to the Factory team for 2024. Pedro being able to look elsewhere puts KTM in a difficult position, because if he wants to be in MotoGP next year will KTM risk losing him to another manufacturer? If they don’t wish to lose him to a rival, that leaves them with the choice between getting rid of rookie Augusto Fernandez who is putting together a solid season so far, or Pol Espargaro who is yet to race this season having been injured at the first round of the season.

Another Moto2 rider who may move to MotoGP next year is Acosta’s current sparring partner – and Championship leader – Tony Arbolino. Tony said that he hasn’t been speaking to his manager about the discussions regarding his future as he doesn’t want to be distracted from his current battle in Moto2, but that he will sit down with him during the summer break and see what his options are before deciding. He wants to be in MotoGP soon though…

Anyway, it’s all speculation for now, and whether we get answers at Assen or during the summer break, things will start to fall into place soon enough!

On track, Aleix started his weekend with a crash 10 minutes into the P1 session – not an ideal start for a man already carrying an injury, but he was back on his feet quickly. The weather took a turn with light rain starting to fall during the session, which meant that most riders spent a chunk of time in the pits waiting for the rain to either stop so that the track would dry, or to get heavier and make the track wet.

Maverick Viñales was the first rider to attempt going back out once the rain had stopped, but he cruised round for a couple of laps before being called back in by his team. With 10 minutes to go most riders were back out on track, and there were some serious movers in terms of lap times with Pecco Bagnaia and Aleix jumping 15 places to 2nd and 1st respectively.

As is becoming usual at the end of sessions on Fridays, there was a lot of activity in the final 5-10 minutes as riders battled to set lap times that would see them through to Q2. The top spot was held by Aleix, Fabio Di Giannantonio, Bagnaia and Johann Zarco in the final minutes of the session, which also saw crashes for both Yamaha riders – Franky Morbidelli crashed at turn 11 while team mate Fabio Quartararo crashed at turn 1.

It was Johann Zarco who topped the session ahead of Marc Marquez and Aleix, with Alex Marquez, Jorge Martin, Fabio, Binder, Bagnaia, Di Giannantonio and Marco Bezzecchi rounding out the top 10 heading into P2.

The hour-long P2 session kicked off with some damp patches around the track following some rain at the end of the Moto2 session, but most of the track was dry, meaning that there would still be the opportunity for those outside of the top 10 to improve their positions ahead of qualifying.

Less than 10 minutes into the session, Taka Nakagami had a massive crash at turn 11. Both he and his LCR Honda were sent barrelling through the gravel trap, and while Taka was thankfully able to get back to his feet, his Honda looked to be ready for the scrap heap! The session was briefly red-flagged to allow marshals to clear away a wing from Taka’s bike that was lying on the racing line.

By the mid-point of the session the only people who had improved their lap times were Miguel Oliveira who had fired himself into the top 10 in 3rd place, and Augusto Fernandez who was up to 18th. Raul Fernandez crashed at turn 11, but while those who had crashed there before him ended up in the gravel, Raul slid all the way down the hill on the track. Raul was up on his feet and walking away but the yellow flags remained out for some time as the marshals moved his bike to safety.

Raul’s team mate Miguel crashed not long after, but this time at turn 10, before Marc Marquez had a huge tank-slapping moment on his Honda. In case anyone watching was unsure about Marc’s feelings about the incident (and perhaps his bike) the onboard camera caught him flipping his middle finger at the bike!

Once again in the final 15 minutes riders were starting time attacks, and Jorge Martin jumped to the top of the times while Augusto moved himself up to 4th place. Enea Bastianini moved up to 2nd place before Jack Miller demoted him. Most riders headed into the pits, and were heading back out again with 6 minutes remaining to secure passage to Q2. Fabio headed out and pulled himself up to 4th place before Maverick crashed at turn 1.

With just 3 minutes to go, Marc Marquez crashed at turn 1 and we saw a pretty scary incident as his bike slid across the track and skittled Johann Zarco’s Ducati as the Frenchman exited pit lane. Marc’s bike hit Zarco’s with such a force and at such an angle that it basically tore the front from the Ducati and sent Zarco crashing to the ground.

It was a horrible incident to see, but what followed next from Marc was appalling. He got up and ran back to pit lane without any apparent concern for Zarco who was still lying at the side of the track. The session was red-flagged again and Zarco was able to stand up and return to pit lane as the marshals cleared away the two bikes.

The session was restarted with 3 minutes left on the clock, and Di Giannantonio joined the list of names to have crashed at turn 11. Marc was able to get back out on his second bike, but not with enough time left to set another lap time, meaning that he would be going through Q1.

As the chequered flag came out, it was Marco Bezzecchi who had climbed to the top of the times as Alex Marquez ended the session in the gravel. Joining Marco in heading straight through to Q2 would be Martin, Aleix, Bagnaia, Miller, Quartararo, Marini, Enea, Alex Marquez and Zarco.

If I thought that Marc running off without checking on Zarco was bad, I don’t know why I was so surprised to hear what he said about the incident to Natalie Quirk. He basically laid the blame at Zarco’s door saying “if somebody can avoid that situation, it was Zarco.” He went on to say that Zarco should have stopped in the pit exit and allowed him to pass before joining the track. To be fair to Zarco, he was looking behind him and was able to sit up and slow the bike as Marc slid towards him, meaning that the impact was much less than it could have been.

I don’t understand how Marc thinks it’s acceptable to blame Zarco. It was a racing incident – a freak accident – and if anything was to blame it is the track layout. Marc says that Zarco should’ve stopped in the pit exit to allow him to pass, which is something that we saw Bagnaia and Martin do on Saturday as Bezzecchi came through, but in all honesty if Bez had crashed a smidge earlier than Marc did, he’d have wiped both of them out too!

In fact, there was a similar incident in the same session as Marc’s crash when Maverick Viñales crashed a minute before Marc at the same spot and missed the rider exiting pit lane – Marc’s brother Alex – by inches. Would Marc still have been saying it was the rider exiting pit lane who was at fault if Maverick had wiped Alex out?!

It was really disappointing from Marc – he’s an 8-time World Champion and held up as a hero by many, but he let himself down on Friday.

The FP session on Saturday morning started with a wet track following earlier rain. The rain had stopped falling but the track was still wet enough for wet tyres. Early in the session Marco Bezzecchi slowed on the racing line causing Marc to clip the back of his Ducati. I was sure that there would be a penalty coming Marco’s way, but all he got was a “conduct warning” on his dash.

By the mid-point of the session, there was a slight drying line forming, but much of the track was still wet. The session was topped by the Marquez brothers, with Marc leading Alex ahead of Zarco, Bezzecchi, and Miller.

Q1 got underway with sketchy track conditions – the drying line was still forming, but it was still too wet in places for slicks. The riders headed out on wet tyres, but we could see that Marc’s second bike was waiting in pit lane with slicks on should he think the conditions were good enough.

After the first runs, it was Marc leading Miguel at the top of the times, and as Marc returned to the pits, his team looked to be getting his second bike ready to go, but he gestured at them to wait. With 8 minutes remaining, Marc headed back out on wets, and with 6 minutes to go, he crashed at turn 13 while on a fast lap. He ran straight across the live track to get back to pit lane for his second bike.

He headed back out on slicks – as did Brad Binder – as Franky Morbidelli jumped to 2nd on wets. With 2 minutes to go, Miguel Oliveira leapt to 2nd place only to be demoted by Augusto Fernandez who had followed him round. Maverick set the fastest time so far with 1 minute remaining, but his wet tyre time was no match for Marc and Binder on slicks. Binder topped the session from Marc as the pair headed through to Q2.

Q2 saw all riders head out on slicks having seen what Marc and Brad were able to do in Q1, and they were quickly lapping faster than Binder had done in the earlier session as the track conditions continued to improve. Marc Marquez crashed again at turn 13, and had to be held up by marshals to walk away from the incident. He must’ve recovered quickly though as he returned to the pits with his bike a few minutes later.

Marco Bezzecchi also crashed at turn 13 and despite taking his time to get up, he was able to run back to pits for his second bike. As Marc’s team scrambled to fix his bike to get him back out on track, it looked as though they took a wing from Joan Mir’s unused bike to replace the one missing from Marc’s.

Marc headed back out with 5 minutes to go. There was lots of changing of positions as riders continued to improve their lap times, but crashes from Zarco and Marc – his third crash in 25 minutes – in the final minute of the session saw personal best lap times for Bezzecchi and Quartararo cancelled due to yellow flags.

In the end, it was Bagnaia who took pole position ahead of Luca Marini and Jack Miller. Zarco, Bezzecchi and Martin would make up row 2 on the grid, while rows 3 and 4 would be filled by Marc, Alex Marquez, Binder, Aleix, Enea, and Fabio.

As the riders lined up on the grid for the Sprint, the conditions had cleared and the track was dry. Jack Miller shot off the line to lead into turn 1, and Pecco Bagnaia took the lead into turn 2, with Luca Marini, Jorge Martin, and Marc Marquez all lined up behind Miller. Aleix Espargaro made a move off the line that sent Enea Bastianini across the path of Quartararo, leaving them much further back than they’d have hoped.

Jack made a move back into the lead, but Bagnaia was straight back past him, with Jorge further demoting Jack to 3rd place. Going into turn 1 on the second lap, Bagnaia ran wide, taking Jorge with him and allowing Jack to re-take the lead. Before we had even finished lap 2, Marc had been given a track limits warning.

Bagnaia took the lead back from Miller, only for Miller to take it back again before Jorge sailed past the pair of them to lead. He wasn’t just leading either; he was pulling away. Bagnaia made his way back into 2nd past Jack, and Jack then found that he had Luca Marini all over the rear of his KTM.

By lap 7 Martin had pulled out a lead of over 1 second from Bagnaia and Miller, while Bastianini had passed Marc Marquez for 9th place, putting Marc out of a point scoring position. Jonas Folger retired into the pits at the end of lap 7.

Marc and Aleix were battling, and Aleix passed Marc to take 10th place as further forward Brad Binder was trying to pass Luca Marini, but Luca held strong and out-braked Binder to hold 4th place. Maverick Viñales crashed out of the race on lap 12, as Binder continued to apply pressure to Marini for 4th place. Binder then ran wide while trying to pass Marini which invited Zarco to play.

As they started the final lap of the race Zarco made his move on Binder and they came together with Binder being shoved way wide. The incident was investigated but no further action was taken, which I think was correct – I don’t think it deserved a penalty – but once again I am left asking where the consistency is from Race Direction!

Jorge wheelied across the line to take his second Sprint victory of the season, with Bagnaia and Miller rounding out the top 3. Finishing behind the top 3, but still in the points were Marini, Zarco, Binder, Bezzecchi, Alex Marquez, and Aleix.

Warm up on Sunday morning saw a fifth crash of the weekend for Marc Marquez. He crashed at turn 7, and he looked hurt, taking his time to get to his feet. This time there was no running off to try and get back for his second bike, he just walked very slowly to the marshal post where he sat down on a chair for the rest of the session.

As the chequered flag flew and the session was topped by Bezzecchi from Jorge and Bagnaia, Marc was standing leaning on the barrier and he looked more dejected than I think we’ve ever seen him. He went to the medical centre and was declared fit, but he withdrew from the race.

The team statement simply said that Marc had “elected to miss the German Grand Prix after suffering a crash” during warm up. They have since announced that he will be back for Assen.

The temperature had soared on Sunday afternoon and the MotoGP riders lined up on the grid with the weather hotter than it had been all weekend. Jack Miller once again made a great start to lead into turn 1, closely followed by Marini and Bagnaia. Bagnaia quickly moved ahead of Marini, with Martin in 4th ahead of Binder, Bezzecchi and Zarco.

Miller had a huge moment where he nearly high-sided himself off his KTM – he somehow stayed on board, but he quickly dropped to 4th place with Bagnaia, Martin and Marini quick to pounce on his misfortune. As Aleix and Binder battled for 5th place, Jorge Martin passed Bagnaia for the lead and like he had in the Sprint, he immediately started to pull away.

Aleix was being pushed backwards as Binder and Zarco both made their way past the Aprilia man, and Binder moved into 4th place ahead of team mate Miller on lap 4. Zarco moved Miller back to 6th place a lap later. Enea Bastianini and Fabio Quartararo were having a back and forth over 10th place, as Bezzecchi passed Miller only for Miller to barge his way back through to hold on to 6th place.

On lap 8 Maverick Viñales rolled his smoking Aprilia into the pit lane, as Brad Binder started to close in on Luca Marini. As Bezzecchi passed Miller once more, Binder passed Marini for 3rd place before Zarco passed Luca on lap 12. In the battle of the Fabios, Di Giannantonio passed Quartararo for 11th place.

VR46 team mates Bezzecchi and Marini spent laps 17 and 18 switching places, with Bezzecchi eventually getting the better of Marini and holding 5th place, as Oliveira demoted Quartararo to 13th. Brad Binder crashed out of 3rd place on lap 19, promoting Zarco into the final podium position. Augusto Fernandez became the latest rider to pass Quartararo on lap 20, before Franky Morbidelli passed him a lap later.

Out front, Bagnaia passed Martin to re-take the lead of the race on lap 21. Martin bided his time and sliced his way back into the lead three laps later. Bagnaia spent the last few laps of the race swarming all over the back of Martin, but Martin was making his Ducati as wide as possible and there was no way through for the reigning world champion. As they came around the final corner on the penultimate lap, Bagnaia got a bit close for comfort and there was contact between the pair. Jorge said post-race he didn’t even realise Bagnaia had hit him – he just thought he’d had a bit of a slide!

Bagnaia put in a strong final lap, and was almost side by side with Jorge as the Spaniard crossed the line to take his first win since the Styrian GP back in 2021. Johann Zarco finished in 3rd place with Bezzecchi, Marini, Miller, Alex Marquez, Bastianini, Di Giannantonio, and Oliveira rounding out the top 10. Augusto Fernandez was 11th, while Franky Morbidelli finished in 12th, and one place ahead of his team mate for the second GP in a row.

Franky, Fabio, and Augusto remain the only riders to have scored points in every GP so far this season, while Martin and Zarco have secured 3 double podiums in a row for the Pramac team.

As the Japanese manufacturers (Yamaha and Honda) had their first GP race since 1969 with no bike in the top 10, Ducati had all 8 of their bikes in the top 9 with Jack Miller the only non-Ducati in 6th place. Jorge’s win was also Ducati’s first win at this circuit in 15 years, with Casey Stoner the last Ducati winner here in 2008. The tide certainly does seem to be turning in MotoGP.

Pecco Bagnaia still sits at the top of the championship, but it is now Jorge Martin who is in 2nd place, 16 points behind. Bezzecchi and Zarco are in 3rd and 4th place, with Binder the first non-Ducati in 5th.

Next up is the final round of this triple-header as the MotoGP paddock rolls into Assen this weekend for the last race before the summer break.

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