Alex Marquez returns to home territory

The Spaniard took victory at the Catalan GP in 2017, who will be his main challengers this year?

After a spectacular intermediate class race at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, where we witnessed Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) take his and KTM’s first win of the season, will we see another rider stand on the top step of the podium for the first time in 2018 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?

Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was in a class of his own at the Catalan GP in 2017. The rider from Cervera, 100km inland from Barcelona, finished 4.452 seconds clear of second place Tom Lüthi in a dominant display. This was the younger Marquez brother’s second Grand Prix victory at the circuit, with the 22-year-old also claiming victory in his Moto3™ title winning year by 3.236 seconds. So, with the number 73 having a habit of convincingly beating the rest of the field in Barcelona, can he repeat his success for a third time in 2018.

One rider who will have something to say about it is Mugello winner Oliveira, who joined Marquez on the podium at the Catalan GP last season, while currently sitting 20 points ahead of him in this season’s Championship. The Portuguese rider came from P11 on the grid at the Italian GP to claim victory by 0.184 seconds, progressing ten places in the race. This takes his accumulative tally from qualifying position to race finish position to +38 in the six rounds so far this season, proving the 23-year-old’s Sunday pace is super impressive.

The rider to just lose out to Oliveira in Italy was Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40), who secured his third podium of the season in front of his home fans. The Italian was fourth at the Catalan GP last year, his best result at the circuit in his Grand Prix career. Meanwhile, 2017 Moto3™ World Champion Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) finished just behind Baldassarri in the Tuscan hills and will be out to try and achieve his third straight podium in Barcelona. The Spaniard took the honours at this track in the lightweight class last year, can he take the fight to his teammate on home soil this year?

Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) saw his lead in the standings cut to 13 points after finishing fourth on home turf, crossing the line just over a tenth back from Mir. The Italian finished P13 here in 2017, and has never stood on the podium at the Catalan GP – his top priority will be changing that statistic.

Meanwhile Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) will be out to get his Championship challenge back on track after crashing out of the lead at Mugello, and Dynavolt Intact GP’s Xavi Vierge will be searching for his second podium of the season at his home Grand Prix – if not the win. After a stunning ride from the back in Le Mans, the local hero will want to play a big role in this race – likewise teammate Marcel Schrötter, who took a front row start and then sadly crashed out early in Italy.

Elsewhere, Brad Binder’s (Red Bull KTM Ajo) outstanding ride from P19 to P6 in Mugello will give the South African confidence he can challenge for his first podium of the season. Binder finished second here in the Moto3™ race in 2016, behind race winner Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2).

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has been Marquez territory recently, will it continue to be in 2018?