This week sees the year’s biggest single motorcycle race in the United Kingdom take place, when the British round of the MotoGP world championship heads to the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire.
After the disappointment of last year’s event, when all Grand Prix racing was cancelled due to the combination of torrential rain and a poorly resurfaced track, the venue is optimistic this year’s race.
Silverstone acted immediately to ensure that the embarrassing rain off won’t happen again. Despite having gone through a multi-million pound resurface in 2018, the circuit brought in Italian consultants Dromo and expert asphalt layers Tarmac to completely rip up the old surface and start again. The new asphalt was given the thumbs up at last month’s British Formula One race and reports from various track days held in the rain say suggest that drainage is no longer an issue on the fast former airfield circuit.
So even if it rains, the 2019 British Grand Prix promises to be one of the best years yet.
In the championship, it’s Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez who leads the way once again. With five titles in six seasons of MotoGP, there’s nothing to suggest that the 26-year-old Spaniard won’t be making that six out of seven this year. Silverstone hasn’t been the happiest of hunting ground for Marquez though. His sole British MotoGP win came in 2014 and since then his record reads two retirements and a fourth place.
“Hopefully we can enjoy a great race in Silverstone,” said Marquez. “We have certainly had some bad luck in the past, but this year we are showing that we are much stronger at circuits where in the past we haven’t been so I am feeling good for the weekend. We will see what the new surface is like because in the past Silverstone has been quite bumpy and of course we’ll see what the weather does.”
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso was the winner last time out, at Austria’s Red Bull Ring, and was the last winner of the British Grand Prix, narrowly beating the Yamahas of Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi to the flag in the 2017 edition.
“Nothing gives you more satisfaction and confidence than a victory, and so we come to Silverstone with our morale sky high,” says ‘Dovi’. “Our result at the Red Bull Ring didn’t come about by chance, because we worked really well over the two successive race weekends and the results proved us to be right. Even though the characteristics of the British track are not as favourable to us as Brno and Zeltweg, we have already shown that we can also be quick at Silverstone, like in 2017 when we won the race. As always, the weather will play an important part and we have to be ready to adapt to any circumstances.”
No manufacturer can claim to be the dominant force around Silverstone, with Ducati, Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda sharing the spoils in the last four runnings of the race. Rossi was a hugely popular winner in 2016, while Vinales gave Suzuki their first win of the current MotoGP era 12 months earlier.
“I love Silverstone, it‘s in my top five of favourite tracks,” says Rossi. “I like it a lot because it‘s an old-style track. It‘s very long, riding a lap is like taking a trip from one place to another, and it‘s technical – it has everything. When you‘re fast, it‘s a great pleasure to ride there. I have good memories of this circuit, but everything depends on the weather. Riding at Silverstone in difficult weather is scary because you‘re going so fast, so we‘re hoping for similar weather to what we had in 2017, when we had a good weekend. To be fast here you need a good feeling and stability. Even in the hairpins you have fast points and there are also a lot of long turns, so it‘s a track where usually Yamaha is fast. We hope for good weather because last year was a nightmare, so we hope that this year it will be a good weekend, also for the fans.”
There will also be a great deal of attention around Jorge Lorenzo’s return to action at Silverstone. The three-time champion has won the British GP three times during his time as a Yamaha rider but has endured a tough season since joining the Repsol Honda squad as Marquez’ team-mate. He’s back after missing the last four races, the result of a back injury sustained at Assen, and commented: “It is very good to be back with the Repsol Honda Team, it has been a long time since Assen. I would have liked to have been back sooner, but the nature of the injury meant I had to take my time. While away from the track, I have been working hard to be as ready as possible for Silverstone but I know it will take some time to get back up to speed. I am pleased and ready to be back with the team so we can keep improving and get the results we know we can achieve.”
Britain’s great hope in the race is Cal Crutchlow. The 33-year-old from Coventry has shown plenty of pace on his LCR Honda and is one of the few riders capable of taking the fight to Marquez and Dovizioso on his day. He says: “As always, I’m really looking forward to my home GP. I will try to give my best for a great result at a track where we’ve had some great races in the past. The circuit has been fully resurfaced, so I think Silverstone has done a good job to recover from last year’s unfortunate situation on race day. Like always, your home GP is a very busy weekend, so I’m looking forward to it being busy and successful!”
In Moto2, there’s sure to be at least one British winner thanks to the new Triumph 765cc engine that has been introduced as the class’ control powerplant this year. The British triple has been smashing the old Honda powered lap records everywhere this season, thanks to the extra power and torque of the unit. The three-cylinder soundtrack has been welcomed too!
Alex Marquez, younger brother of Marc, is the man to beat in Moto2 this year, having won five of the 11 races so far. He has a 43 point advantage over the consistent Swiss rider Thomas Luthi, while Italian rider Lorenzo Baldassarri, who had had an apparent meltdown after winning three out of the first four races, could be another one to watch at Silverstone.
It hasn’t been a great year for Brits in Moto2 this year. Former world supersport champion Sam Lowes was one of the pre-season favourites but has so far struggled this year and lies 15th, with a best result of sixth. Lowes enjoyed a good test after the last race in Austria though, so Silverstone could be where the Brit turns it around though. He added: “I’m obviously charged up because we’re heading to my home track, where I’ve already been on pole position twice. The Austrian test – on a track which is among the most challenging ones for my riding style – has brought some good ideas especially with regards to the front-end of the bike. I will also count on the support of my home fans and I will give my best to give them – and the team – a great result.”
Making his Moto2 debut this year, it was always going to be a tough season for fellow Brit Jake Dixon. Having finished second to Leon Haslam in British Superbikes (BSB) last year, the 23-year-old signed for the Angel Nieto Team in the intermediate class. It’s been a baptism of fire for Dixon, son of former world champion Darren Dixon, and that’s not been helped by the team running the unfancied KTM chassis. His only points so far have come at Assen, a circuit he knows well from BSB, and he’ll be hoping that local knowledge will count again at Silverstone.
There will be a third Brit to cheer on in the Moto2 class too, after Bradley Smith signed up as a replacement rider in the front running Petronas squad. After six years as a full-time MotoGP rider, the Oxfordshire star lost his ride with KTM at the end of last year and is currently working as a test rider with Aprilia, for whom he has raced three Grands Prix this year. Smith last rode on a Moto2 machine in 2012 and, like Lowes, he’ll be on the class leading Kalex chassis. How he’ll go is anyone’s guess, but he’s experienced and a class act. We’d be surprised if he’s not mixing it up front.
In Moto3, Britain has a potential race winner in John McPhee. At 25, the Scot is a positive veteran in the junior class and that experience should count at Silverstone. Riding for the same Petronas team as Smith, he’s lying sixth in the championship and has a win to his name at another classic circuit, Le Mans, earlier this year. Consistency has been the big issue for McPhee, but his speed is not in doubt. Joining McPhee on the grid is former British champion Tom Booth-Amos. A number of people raised their eyebrows when the 23-year-old was parachuted into Grands Prix this year and so far he’s found it a real struggle. His only points came in a race of attrition in Catalunya, however he knows Silverstone well and has form there – so hopefully a good performance will raise his confidence for the rest of the season.
There have been nine different winners in 11 Moto3 races this year, so predicting a winner will be tough. Italy’s Lorenzo Dalla Porta leads Spain’s Aron Canet by just one point, and the racing between the little bikes is always top class around the fast Silverstone circuit. If you’re going along, make sure you get there early to see how the action unfolds.
Hoping to join the Moto3 grid in the coming years will be the British Talent Cup boys, who end their second season at Silverstone. The BTC was the only race to take place at Silverstone last year, with eventual champion Rory Skinner winning a thrilling race on the Saturday afternoon. There’s been plenty of controversy regarding the series after Skinner was overlooked for a place in the British Talent Team in 2019 and the Cup will end in its current form after this weekend, being dovetailed into the British championships next year. There are two races scheduled for Silverstone, and the title fight is between Cameron Horsman and Scott Ogden, with 15-year-old Ogden holding a 16 point advantage.
In addition to all the on track action, there’s plenty to see and do off it to, with lively campsites, large trade areas and entertainment zones that include award winning band Clean Bandit playing on Saturday night, with Toploader, famous for their 2000 hit Dancing in the Moonlight, playing after the racing on Sunday evening