Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) goes into this weekend’s British Grand Prix at the top of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, aiming for another victory. So far this year the 25-year-old has taken five wins, three second-place finishes and one third-place result as he works towards winning a fifth MotoGP crown in six years.
If Marquez attains that achievement he will be the youngest rider in the history of motorcycle Grand Prix racing to win five premier-class World Championships.
This is a good year to make history because 2018 is the 70th season of Grand Prix racing, which makes Sunday’s British Grand Prix an historic occasion because the very first World Championship got under way in June 1949 with Britain’s round of the World Championships on the Isle of Man. In 1977 Britain’s world round moved to Silverstone because the Isle of Man’s public-roads circuit had been deemed unsafe for Grand Prix competition. In 1987 the British Grand Prix switched to Donington Park before reverting to Silverstone in 2010.
Marquez and his fellow MotoGP riders look forward to Silverstone because the old airfield circuit is one of the fastest and most challenging venues of the 19-race championship. The former Moto2 and 125cc World Champion has stood on the Silverstone podium in all three classes since winning the 125cc race in 2010, his first visit to the track. In 2012 he finished third in the Moto2 race and in 2014 he won the MotoGP race. This year he will surely be in the battle for the podium once again. He currently leads the title chase by 59 points from veteran Valentino Rossi, with 11 races done and eight to go.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) has also enjoyed great success in Britain during his long and glittering Grand Prix career which comes to an end in November when he will retire from racing.
The 32-year-old former 125cc and twice 250cc World Champion took his first podium finish in Britain with second place in the 2002 125cc British GP. In 2004 he won the 250cc British GP and two years later the British round of the MotoGP championship, his second victory in the premier class. All these successes were secured at Donington Park. He has yet to win a MotoGP race at Silverstone, but he has twice finished on the podium, in 2012 and again in 2013, when he set the fastest lap.
Pedrosa is having a challenging 2018 season, which got off to an unlucky start with injuries sustained in the Argentine and Spanish GPs, where he was taken out by other riders. Since then he has recovered physically and is now working hard to continue rewriting his own piece of history. Pedrosa is currently the only rider in seven decades of Grand Prix racing to have scored at least one GP victory per season over 16 consecutive seasons. If he does better his own record with his 55th win across all classes he will become the most successful Honda rider of all time, taking over from Mick Doohan, who won five consecutive 500cc world titles with Honda between 1994 and 1998.
While British fans watch Marquez and Pedrosa trying to rewrite the record books they will be hoping that Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) can write his own chapter in the history books on Sunday.
No British rider has won the country’s round of the premier-class World Championship since the event moved to the mainland. The late Barry Sheene came closest, coming up 0.03 seconds short in 1979, when he chased home Kenny Roberts. Over the past few years Crutchlow has made a habit of taking Sheene’s place in the history books. In 2016 he became the first Briton to win a premier-class Grand Prix since Sheene’s last victory in 1981, while earlier this year he became the first rider since Sheene to lead the World Championship, following his victory in the Argentine GP. That success was also Honda’s 750th Grand Prix victory, extending the company’s all-time record.
The Coventry-born 32-year-old has great form at Silverstone. In 2016 he started from pole position and finished second after a thrilling battle with Marquez and Rossi. Last season he was again in the fight for victory, finally finishing fourth, less than two seconds off the podium.
MotoGP rookie and reigning Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) looks forward to the challenges of Silverstone as he battles with Malaysian rival Hafizh Syahrin for the title of Rookie of the Year. Morbidelli will find it a huge thrill riding an RC213V around the track for the first time and he does know the fast way around, because he finished on the podium after his last two races at the track: third last year and second in 2016. The 23-year-Italian tested at Misano, Italy, before traveling to Britain, which helped him learn more about his MotoGP machine.
Like Morbidelli, Japanese star Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) will also ride a MotoGP bike around Silverstone for the first time this weekend. The 26-year-old from Chiba has high hopes of a great race on Sunday because he really enjoys the British venue – he won last year’s Silverstone Moto2 race, beating Morbidelli into third, and also finished on the podium in 2016 and 2013. Nakagami comes to Britain after spending last weekend dirt-track training with Marquez in Spain.
Last year’s Moto2 series runner-up Thomas Luthi (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) also has a great record at Silverstone – he won the 2016 British Moto2 round and finished on the lower steps of the podium in 2013 and 2010. The 31-year-old Swiss MotoGP rookie is still chasing his first points in the premier class. Luthi also tested at Misano, which should help him move forward this weekend.
With Morbidelli, Nakagami and Luthi graduating to MotoGP this year, the battle for the Honda CBR600-powered Moto2 World Championship is as hectic as ever, with Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) leading Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM) by just three points.
The 21-year-old Italian and 23-year-old Portuguese have traded victories and the title lead at the last two races, with Oliveira winning at Brno to take the points advantage and Bagnaia beating his rival by 0.264 seconds at the Red Bull Ring to retake the series lead. Last year at Silverstone Bagnaia finished fifth and Oliveira eighth, the pair separated by less than a second at the finish.
Although the Moto2 title fight looks likely to be a straightforward duel over the last eight races, Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM) still have a slim chance of getting involved. Marquez needs to get his season back on track after crashing out of the last two races, while Binder has found form, with a win and two sixth-place finishes at the last three events. The third- and fourth-placed pair are currently separated by just two points, with Jerez winner Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40 Kalex) and top rookie Joan Mir (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) just behind them.
The Moto2 top ten is completed by Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP Suter), Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP Suter), Catalan GP winner Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up Racing Speed Up) and Argentine GP winner Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex).
The battle for the Moto3 World Championship took a dramatic twist at the last two races with points-leader Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) breaking his left forearm during Czech GP practice, losing the points lead to Marco Bezzecchi, then returning to action the following weekend in Austria, where he rode to a heroic third-place finish, a fraction of a second behind Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) and winner Bezzecchi.
Martin will be a lot closer to full strength at Silverstone, where he will do everything in his power to close the 12-point gap on Italian Bezzecchi. Last year at Silverstone the 20-year-old Spaniard finished third in an all-Honda top three, just a fraction of a second behind Bastianini and winner Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW), who is currently fourth in the current standings, just one point ahead of Bastianini and three points behind Italian teenager Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW), who won his first Grand Prix victory at Brno there weeks ago.
That makes it four NSF250RW riders in the top five of the championship, with Martin so far the fastest of them all, with five race victories already this season. At Silverstone he will use his Honda’s sweet-handling chassis to try and find the advantage through the track’s high-speed twists and turns.
Twenty-one-year-old Italian Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) is also in the championship top ten after lifting himself to ninth overall with a strong ride to fifth place in Austria two weeks ago, his best result since he finished on the podium at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix.
Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) currently stands 14th in the points chase, just ahead of Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW), Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW) and Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW). In Austria 17-year-old Sasaki from Yokusuka scored his best result of the year, taking seventh place, just ahead of Arbolino and Canet.
The current Silverstone circuit features a more complex layout than the original, which was first used for motorcycle racing in October 1948. Today’s track features a dizzying mix of very fast and very slow corners which regularly create some of the closest racing of the season. Engineers need to create a machine that has stability for the fast sections and agility for the slower sections, two features that are mutually exclusive, which is why this is a real rider’s track, where the person working the throttle can make the difference. The circuit has been completely resurfaced for 2018.
After Sunday’s racing MotoGP moves to Misano in Italy and Aragon in Spain before embarking on its traditional three-race Asian/Australian jaunt, which precedes the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix on November 18.