MotoGP German GP Preview: Honda’s Heaven

MotoGP arrives in Germany this weekend, for the ninth round of the championship, at the Sachsenring. Valentino Rossi reignited his championship hopes last weekend in The Netherleands, as he won at the Assen circuit for a 10th time, becoming the only rider to win 10 races across all classes at the circuit in Grand Prix. However, the Sachsenring is a happy hunting ground for Honda. They have won every race since 2010, with the last non-Honda win coming from Valentino Rossi in 2009. Marc Marquez is one to lookout for here, with his former flat-track experience coming in handy around a circuit which features seven consecutive left handers. He has won every race he’s been entered in at the circuit since 2010, making him a clear favourite to take honours once more.

As we approach the halfway point in the championship, Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati lead the championship standings. This is the first time since the 2009 Italian MotoGP that a Ducati has led the standings. It is also the first time ever that Andrea Dovizioso has led the championship in the premier class. His form around Germany isn’t anything too special, although a podium last year shows that perhaps he has found something at a circuit that is known for posing the threat of rain. Three podiums at the circuit since his career began in 2002 isn’t great but Dovizioso hasn’t finished outside of the top-five since we’ve been in Europe this season. Another solid result may sees him in proper title contention come the end of the ninth round.

Maverick Vinales comes to Germany off the back of a shambolic weekend at Assen, which saw the young Spaniard on the 4th row after qualifying, and on the floor during the race. He, like teammate Rossi, also suffered in Catalunya, making the previous two races his worst when you combine his points together. And if you’re expecting a Vinales victory in Germany, think again. He is yet to finish in the top 10 at the circuit in the premier class and hasn’t had a podium at the Sachsenring since his Moto3 championship year in 2013. Yamaha haven’t had a win since 2009 and with Vinales’ fragile state of mind following two awful events, he may be happier than others to reach the Summer break, to get his head together for the second half of the year.

Valentino Rossi showed us that there is life in the old dog just yet, with a superb victory at Assen. Using the ‘new’ Yamaha chassis has paid dividends to The Doctor, who slashed a 28-point deficit in the championship to just seven – three behind teammate Vinales. Rossi was only 8th at the track last year after the circuit dried out, with him ignoring his pit board. His most recent podium at the track came in 2015, when he was 3rd, making it the 11th podium for him at the circuit. Rossi hasn’t had back to back wins in MotoGP since 2009 at Catalunya and Assen, so he’ll be looking to update that particular statistic. Rossi’s last win at the Sachsenring was also the last time he qualified on pole at the track. If he does take back to back wins, he will be the second oldest rider to do so, after Les Graham in 1952, winning at Monza and Montjuic Park at the ripe old age of 41.

Reigning champion and Sachsenring specialist Marc Marquez slipped to 4th in the championship after Assen, despite finishing 3rd, achieving his 4th podium of the year. Marquez will be looking to surpass Valentino Rossi in premier class wins at Sachsenring, with both currently on four. He will also be hoping to become the first rider to take five straight wins at the German Grand Prix since Giacomo Agostini between 1967 and 1972 – although organisers were alternating the German Grand Prix between the Hockenheimring, Nurburgring Sudschleife and Nurburgring Nordschleife tracks. Marquez has not qualified on pole since the Americas Grand Prix five races ago. This is the first time since moving up to the premier class that he has gone five consecutive races without securing pole. Having said that, Marquez is yet to not start on pole at the German Grand Prix in the premier class.

Just when you thought Dani Pedrosa had rediscovered his old form and confidence, a 13th place at Assen suddenly questions it. He was 2nd in the series standings after Le Mans, but now finds himself 5th, although just 28 points off Dovizioso. The Spaniard is the only rider – other than Marquez – to win three or more consecutive races in the premier class at the track, and was the man who initiated Honda’s win streak at the venue. Pedrosa has seven premier class podiums at the track, although last year saw him yield just 6th. Dani Pedrosa’s 13th in the Dutch GP was only the 2nd time in his career that he’d finished in that position. The last time was at Welkom in 2001. The next race saw him finish 10th, at Jerez.

Revelation of 2017, Frenchman Johann Zarco will be seeking to repeat the feat he achieved last season, pinching the victory from home-hero Jonas Folger on the run to the line on the last lap. Although some may say that Zarco will not win a race, don’t be so sure. He’s led three races this season, the same as Valentino Rossi. Zarco has finished inside the top two in his last two Moto2 appearances, however, his only other podium comes from 2011 in the 125cc class. 14th at Assen was his worst finish of the year and the first time he had finished outside of the top 10. Zarco will be out to make amends in Germany.

The next two riders in the championship are Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, with Jorge Lorenzo in behind. Petrucci has shown some incredible pace in the run into the mid-season, with two podiums from the last three rounds. Jorge Lorenzo on the other hand finished just 15th at Assen and has one podium less than Petrucci. Lorenzo has never won at the Sachsenring and hasn’t been on the podium there since 2014. Petrucci crashed out whilst leading last year – his best result is 9th from 2015.

Cal Crutchlow’s late surge in the final few laps at Assen saw him finish 4th, moving to 9th in the championship. Seven points behind him is Jonas Folger, who suffered his first DNF of the season at Assen. Both riders finished 2nd in their respective races at the Sachsenring last year. Cal has finished every race he has entered in Germany during his MotoGP career, with his only non top-10 finish coming in his rookie year, with 14th in 2011. Folger on the other hand has only 1 podium to his name at the track, which was last year. A German rider hasn’t won the German Grand Prix in the premier class since Edmund Czihak in 1974. This was also the last time a German won a premier class Grand Prix.

Jack Miller and Alvaro Bautista are next along in the championship. Miller took his best result of the year last time out, with 6th. The Australian was also a race leader in last year’s German Grand Prix, before dropping to 7th. He won the Moto3 race there in 2014. Bautista was running strongly at Assen before crashing. It was the Spaniard’s 4th crash of the year during a race which has resulted in him retiring. Apart from his rookie MotoGP year, he has finished in every premier class German Grand Prix, with a best of 5th in 2013. He finished 10th last year, on an Aprilia.

Scott Redding and Loris Baz are separated by just two points coming into the ninth round of the championship. Redding was riding well until his penultimate lap crash at the chicane last weekend. Loris Baz however, took a hard-fought 8th place – his best finish of the year. Redding was marginally beaten to the podium at the German Grand Prix last year, finishing 4th, whereas Baz is yet to score points in the country in MotoGP. He has never had a top 4 in the country at any circuit throughout his racing career.

Andrea Iannone showed something of a return to form last time out at Assen, with 9th place, riding as high up as 6th at one point whilst also setting the fastest lap of the race until Redding bettered it. Iannone has been 5th at the Sachsenring for the previous three years and if it was to happen again this year, it would be his best result on the Suzuki. Former Suzuki rider Aleix Espargaro is right behind Iannone in the championship. A run of mechanical gremlins were discontinued at Assen, with the Aprilia ace taking his first top-10 since Jerez in early May. Since returning to the premier class in 2012, Aleix has scored points in every German GP.

Tito Rabat is level with Aleix Espargaro on points, however he is yet to have his first top 10 of the year. The Spaniard is improving, although the Sachsenring is a track which he has never had a podium at across his career. Hector Barbera is next up in the championship in 18th. He achieved his best result of the year as Catalunya but dropped to 16th at Assen last time out. This was the first time since last year’s Japanese GP that he has actually finished a race outside of the points. The Spaniard qualified a sensational 2nd last season at the track, finishing 9th in the race – equalling his career best at the circuit in the premier class.

Karel Abraham achieved his first top 10 in MotoGP since Valencia 2012 last time out, equalling a career best finish of 7th in the MotoGP category. He has finished every race he has started in Germany in the top class, with a 5th place in Moto2 in 2010. Pol Espargaro follows him in the championship in 20th, although he achieved his best result of the year at Assen last weekend. His best finish at the Sachsenring in MotoGP was a 7th in 2014, although he has 1 podium from Moto2 in 2013.

Alex Rins made a name for himself at Assen for all the wrong reasons, by getting in the way of Danilo Petrucci. Rins crashed out of 2nd place at the German GP last year in Moto2, but was 3rd the year previous. He has one win, back in 2013 in Moto3. Suzuki as manufacturer haven’t won at the circuit since Kenny Roberts JR in 1999, although that was prior to the current layout.

Brits Bradley Smith and Sam Lowes bring up the rear of the table as far as full time riders are concerned. Both failed to finish last time at Assen. Smith was 13th in last year’s race in Germany, whereas Lowes failed to finish his Moto2 race. The last British premier class winner at the German Grand Prix was Barry Sheene in 1977.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

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