Located 26km from the bustling city of Barcelona, Circuit Barcelona-Catalonia is hosting the ninth race of the 2022 MotoGP World Championship in 20 rounds during a very busy period with four races taking place over five weeks.
This weekend is very special for three members of Honda’s MotoGP contingent. Espargaro was born in the nearby town of Granollers and grew up within earshot of the track. Meanwhile, Marquez’s hometown of Cervera is just over an hour away.
Even Japanese star Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) regards this weekend’s event as a second home race, as he spends much of the season in Barcelona. All three riders have intimate knowledge of the thrilling 4.7 km/2.89 mile course.
The Repsol Honda team will be without Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) for a few months as the 29-year-old Spaniard undergoes surgery in the United States to correct the humerus in his right upper arm, which he fractured in a fall at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix. It is still too early to estimate when he will return to action.
HRC test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) will replace Marquez, alongside regular works rider Espargaro. This weekend will be the experienced German’s third race of the 2022 campaign, after a 19th-place finish in Argentina, where he replaced Marquez, and a DNF at Jerez, where he raced as a wild-card.
There have been signs in recent races that Honda’s all-new RC213V is gaining in competitiveness. Last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix saw the eighth closest finish to the top ten in the 74-year history of premier class motorcycle racing. Both Nakagami and older brother Marquez were part of that story, finishing 10 and 11 seconds behind the race winner.
Espargaro and Bradl are looking forward to the Barcelona-Catalonia one-day test which will follow the Catalunya GP. The current format of the MotoGP race weekend, with the first three free practice sessions counting as pre-qualifying outings for the Q1 and Q2 qualifying sessions, leaves little opportunity to test different technical solutions, so one day dedicated to testing is vitally important.
Espargaro has a solid record at his home track. He has scored two podiums in the 125cc class, a victory in Moto2 and so far a best result of fifth in MotoGP.
Barcelona-Catalonia also have fond memories for Bradl, who made his GP debut on the track in 2005. The German took a memorable victory on the circuit in the Honda-powered Moto2 race in 2011, as well as three fifths places in MotoGP with Honda between 2012 and 2014.
Nakagami has been in good form lately, finishing in the top eight in the last three races. He was the best Honda rider at Mugello last Sunday and wants to extend that race this weekend.
The 30-year-old from Chiba has enjoyed some success at Barcelona-Catalonia in the past, stepping onto the podium after the 2016 Moto2 race. In Nakagami’s previous four MotoGP outings at the venue, he scored the best of seven , in 2020.
LCR Honda teammate Alex Marquez hits his track after four straight points as he continues to fine-tune the settings of his RC213V.
The 26-year-old former Moto2 and Moto3 world champion has already thrived in front of his home crowd. He won the 2014 Moto3 race in Barcelona-Catalonia, as well as the 2017 and 2019 Moto2 races. In his previous two races in MotoGP, he scored solid points, in 13th and 11th.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a favorite of drivers and engineers alike, with a challenging mix of intense braking zones and fast, flowing corners that are attacked with plenty of lean angle.
Honda achieved remarkable first-class success at the track, which hosted its first Grand Prix in 1992.
Honda scored the first of the company’s 11 wins at the track in October 1995, when local hero Alex Criville led home an all-Honda top four, including Shinichi Ito, Loris Capirossi and Mick Doohan. It was the first of five straight victories for Honda’s brilliant NSR500 on the track, followed by Carlos Checa in 1996, Doohan in 1997 and 1998 and Criville again in 1999.
Valentino Rossi took Honda’s last two-stroke win at Barcelona in 2001. Since then, Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez have all won MotoGP four-stroke races with the Honda RC211V, RC212V and RC213V machines at the circuit.
The 2022 MotoGP tour continues in Northern Europe, with the German and Dutch rounds on June 19 and 26.