The 2018 German Moto3 Grand Prix could well be the final lightweight class GP to be held at the Sachsenring, as the tight, eastern German circuit looks set to be replaced by the Nurburgring from 2019 onwards, although how long that will be for is yet to be seen – currently the promoters have a contract with Dorna until 2021. Many issues surround the Sachsenring, not least that part of it is owned privately, and part of it is owned by the ADAC; primarily the circuit is a road safety facility, not a race track. Another is one similar to Brands Hatch, as there are many nearby residents who are not the biggest fans of the noise created in the track, no doubt especially on MotoGP weekend. But this merely begs the question: why, if you like peace and quiet, would you decide to live in close proximity to something which, by definition, creates a lot of noise? Anyway, for the Sachsenring, the end of its time on the MotoGP calendar seems to be coming, and just two years after the circuit was completely resurfaced.
Moto3 is about the only GP category which actually fits Sachsenring, the tight, twisty layout lending itself handsomely to the lightweight, nimble, 250cc, four stroke, single cylinder machines.
Last year, the German track was best mastered by Joan Mir, who took the victory from Romano Fenati and Marcos Ramirez, all three fighting until the final corner for the victory. Of course, 2018 Moto2 graduates, Fenati and Mir, will not be on the Moto3 podium, and with the current form of Marcos Ramirez, it is unlikely that any of last year’s top three will be returning to the German lightweight class podium.
It’s also predictable – on the surface, before a wheel has turned in the weekend – that no KTM will be able to match the leading Hondas this weekend. This is because of the characteristics of the KTM compared to the Honda – the Austrian bike having a strong engine but suffering quite significantly in the corners and the NSF250 having a seemingly far superior cornering performance and with little deficiency in the motor department. Theoretically, the Japanese machine should excel on such an awkward circuit with such a small percentage on the lap with full throttle. That said, Marco Bezzecchi has not been averse to a surprise or two this season.
In his first year at the front – his second in Grand Prix racing – Bezzecchi has been superbly consistent (he has finished on the podium in each of the races he has finished) and infectiously calm, and those two qualities pulled him a nineteen-point championship lead going into the previous round at Assen. However, a crash on the final lap for the Italian, and a win for the fastest man on a Moto3 bike in 2018, Jorge Martin, saw Bezzecchi’s championship advantage transform into a deficit and he now lies two points behind the Spaniard. A response will be important for Bezzecchi this weekend, and the unpredictable German weather could bring him into victory contention, like it did in Argentina.
As for Martin, his points lead comes as little surprise. His speed this year has been rarely matched, bad luck being the largest factor in preventing the number 88 from steaming away with this championship. Of course, a crash out of the lead in Barcelona did little for his championship too, but had he taken the fifty points he likely would have from the two races he was taken out of earlier in the season – Jerez and Le Mans – his position would be a lot more secure. Maybe the recapturing of the title lead will lead to greater consistency from the Spaniard, although for the sake of his rivals, and the championship battle, hopefully that will not be the case.
Nicolo Bulega enjoyed his strongest race of 2017 in Sachsenring last year, and in 2016 it was the first race where he showed his ability in the wet, when he was one of the fastest riders on the track before he made a common mistake in the monsoon conditions that day. The recent form of Bulega has been promising; fighting for the win in Montmelo before being taken out, and scoring his first front row and first points of the season in Assen last time out. After a shocking start to the season, it seems like Nicolo Bulega is back, and this weekend could provide a good opportunity for him to score a second career podium.
The recent form of
and Aron Canet has also been promising. Both still within reach of the championship lead, and coming back into podium-contending/race-winning form their title chances are not over. You might have expected them to be further back in the championship considering their respectively inconsistent starts to the season, but the similar inconsistency of Martin and Bezzecchi have kept them within reach.
Last year this race was a difficult one for Canet, dropping through the pack after qualifying on the front row, before crashing out of the race at turn twelve. In the case of Bastianini, he was sixth, over thirteen seconds off the win.
In wildcard/replacement news, Darryn Binder has been ruled out of this weekend after a training crash last week. He will be replaced by Moto3 Junior World Championship points leader, Raul Fernandez, who will be racing his second GP of 2018 after wildcarding in Barcelona earlier in the season.
Additionally, Livio Loi has been dropped by the Reale Avintia Academy team, and will be replaced until the end of the season by Avintia’s CEV rider, Vicente Perez.
Also, Ai Ogura will make his third wildcard appearance of the season, again in the Asia Talent Team, after riding in Jerez and Assen already, and acquitting himself rather well, scoring a point in Jerez and taking 23rd on his first visit to Assen.
Finally, World Supersport 300 rider, Luca Grunwald, will be making a return to Grand Prix racing. The German rider has a total of 23 GP starts between 2011 and 2014, scoring all eight of his points in 2012 when he rode a Kalex KTM. He has scored one win this season in the SSP300 World Championship, which is also his only podium. Despite this, he is second in the championship and only sixteen points off Ana Carrasco at the top of the championship.