World MotoGP™ champion Marc Marquez and the Sachsenring circuit in Germany have a serious thing going on.
The Spanish firebrand has won every race he has contested at the 3.7km circuit – the shortest on the GP calendar – since 2010, from 125cc to MotoGP™.
That imperious form means he will be shooting for an eighth successive victory this weekend, as the fascinating 2017 MotoGP™ season reaches the halfway mark.
Marquez will be fast at Sachsenring, and the only possible X factor could be how well he adapts to the freshly resurfaced layout.
“I look forward to going to the Sachsenring, a circuit that has proven to be good for us in the past," said Marquez.
"Of course we’ll have to wait and see how things go, as the track has been resurfaced and we know it can be quite different, starting with the grip, which will probably be higher compared to recent years.
"We must concentrate in order to be able to manage every situation as well as possible, like we did in Assen. In any case, it’s a circuit that I like and where I’ll try to be stronger.
"We’re just 11pts from Dovizioso at the top, and that’s good. This Championship is really open, and we must keep calm and keep working hard to be better and better in the coming races.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) leads the championship after an enthralling round eight at Assen, won by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Ducati) and Marquez.
Dovizioso finished in fifth, one spot behind Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), but the DNF of previous championship leader Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) after a high-speed tumble saw Dovizioso take over the top spot – unchartered waters for Ducati since the halcyon days of Aussie Casey Stoner.
Dovizioso sits on 115pts, ahead of Vinales (111), Rossi (108), Marquez (104) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda, 87).
While it's a tiddler in terms of length, and the average speed is nearly 20km/h slower than the high-speed curves of Phillip Island, Sachsenring doesn't have much of a soft side. In fact, it's anything but a walk in the park with the anti-clockwise layout boasting some extremely tricky corners and elevation changes.
There's one corner in particular which is such a doozy that the late, great Nicky Hayden says was just about the best in MotoGP™. It's the blisteringly fast, blind, downhill right-hand off-camber turn 11, which is called the 'Waterfall' because it's so steep. It has a massive degree of difficulty, placing an absolute premium on front tyre grip as the MotoGP™ machines peel through there at about 275km in sixth gear.
Waterfall will be one to watch on Sunday, especially during the frenetic opening lap – while there will be plenty of intrigue elsewhere. Will Rossi continue his winning ways on a Yamaha he now feels more comfortable with? Will Vinales rediscover his early season form? Will Petrucci again be the leading Ducati rider?
As well, Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) will want to bounce back after languid round eight performances, as will fast rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) whose lack of pace wasn't the issue but instead a tactical move into the pits to swap bikes (after light rain began falling) that backfired.
The improving Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is another to factor into the fast pack, while the rider with the weight of the home hopes on his shoulders is Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). He has good form this year, and will be even more motivated to bounce back after his first DNF for the year at Assen.
Meanwhile, Aussie Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) was sixth at Assen in his best finish for the year, which has set him up for a real tilt at another big points haul in Germany.
Championship leader Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) extended his gap at the top over Tom Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten) at Assen with a stunning win.
However, his record at Sachsenring isn't remarkable – and that also holds for Luthi and Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). That could open the door for riders like 2014 Sachsenring winner Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing), the rejuvenated Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Japan's Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia).
Marquez and Morbidelli (both EG 0,0 Marc VDS) have won seven of the eight races so far this year, with the only man to have stopped the duo being Pasini at Mugello.
Aussie Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) will again be in the hunt for points after finishing 16th at Assen.
Joan Mir’s (Leopard Racing Honda) championship lead was cut in Assen to the smallest it’s been for some time – 30pts. That’s sure to breathe some new life into the rest of the field.
Sachsenring is a different track for Moto3™ than many on the calendar, with much less slipstreaming than other venues. But the layout lends itself to close racing – not that the class needs much prompting to make that happen!
Rain or shine could tip the scales once again, with Assen winner Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda) poised in second in the standings and only just ahead of Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda).
Other front runners are likely to include Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3 Honda) and John McPhee (British Talent Team Honda).
The three world championship races at Sachsenring will be held over the following distances and times:
- MotoGP™: 30 laps, 110.1km, starting at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST)
- Moto2™: 29 laps, 106.5km, starting a 12:20pm local time (8:20pm AEST)
- Moto3™: 27 laps, 99.1km, starting at 11:00am local time (7:00pm AEST)