World champion Marc Marquez confirmed his position as master of the Sachsenring with an eighth consecutive German Grand Prix this weekend.
The Spaniard has won from pole position at the tight and twisting track every year for the past eight years, extending back to his time in the 125cc class, although he was made to work hard for his 2017 success after being pushed all the way by local hero Jonas Folger.
No German rider had ever finished on the podium of their home Grand Prix in the premier class and MotoGP rookie Folger had the crowd in raptures when he hunted down and passed Marquez to take the lead on lap six of the 30 lap race. Riding his satellite specification Tech3 Yamaha, the 23-year-old headed the field until the 11th lap, when Marquez regained a lead he would not lose. Despite the world champion’s dominance at Sachsenring, Folger kept his rival honest throughout and only dropped back in the closing laps as he eased home for second place and his first ever podium in the top class.
Sachsenring is a circuit generally regarded as one of the strongest venues for Honda and rounding out the podium was Marquez’ Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who rode home to a lonely third place – eight second behind Folger and almost three seconds ahead of the battle for fourth.
In truth, the German Grand Prix was not a classic battle of overtaking but there was plenty of interest throughout the field. The Yamahas of Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi had struggled in wet qualifying and had no answer to the Hondas in the dry race but they were able to overcome the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso, championship leader coming to Germany, to keep a thrilling championship alive. Dovizioso had a tough weekend at Sachsenring but was his usual reliable self, racking up eight points for eighth place on a difficult weekend for the 2017 Ducati. Not only was he behind his main title rivals, he also spent the race looking up the exhaust pipes of Alvaro Baustista on last year’s Desmosedici, as well as Aleix Espargaro on an Aprilia.
It was a difficult day for the British contingent too. Cal Crutchlow was the top British challenger, albeit than a lower than expected 10th. Bradley Smith scored two points for 14th on the improving KTM, while Scott Redding had ‘the worst race of his career’ in 20th. Sam Lowes had another crash on the second Aprilia.
With MotoGP now taking its month long summer break, the points standings could barely be closer with 10 points separating the top four. Marquez moves on top, five ahead of Vinales, with Dovizioso slipping back to third and Rossi in fourth.
Speaking after the race, a beaming Marquez said: “I’m very, very happy. I knew before the weekend that this was an important moment in the championship and that the Sachsenring was an important circuit for us. It was the place to take a risk if necessary and to try to win. So I’m happy we took these 25 points and the lead in the championship before the summer break. I wish to dedicate this win to Nicky (Hayden) and his family. I had promised this to myself after his incident because we had some very good moments together and he was a friend. The race was very tight. Honestly, before the start I thought I would have to battle with Dani, but actually there was also another very fast opponent. I was very surprised at the beginning to see Jonas there, and I thought he might stay in between with the other riders, but he actually remained there! He was quite a tough opponent! The championship is very close with four riders within 10 points and with Dani also not far away. Everything is open, so we’ll keep the same mentality, the same positivity and hard work. Now we have a few days of holidays, but not too much to be ready for Brno test!”
A stunned Folger added: “I don’t really know what to say other than I am so happy and I still can’t quite believe what we achieved! I fought with Marc for the victory and we had a great performance. I especially showed that I can get on the podium, which is a super feeling and a big boost for my confidence. In the past, Johann (Zarco, team mate) had a lot of good races whereas I sometimes didn’t because I made some small mistakes, but today I finally feel like I showed my potential. I think that we have to enjoy this moment and take the positive points that we made here to Brno and into the rest of the season. Thanks to my team for their work and I am already looking forward to getting back on my Yamaha in the Czech Republic after the summer break.”
MotoGP resumes with the Czech Grand Prix, held on 6 August at the Brno circuit.