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The 2021 Monster Energy British Grand Prix was a historical weekend. Aleix Espargaro handed Aprilia their first podium since returning to the class, Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) competed in his last British GP, and Silverstone's faithful saw Cal Crutchlow (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and debutant Jake Dixon (Petronas Yamaha SRT) make their final and maiden appearances respectively in the premier class on home soil.
But something else significant happened. For the first time since the 1972 Yugoslavian GP, six manufacturers finished in the top six positions of a premier class race. It was MV Agusta, Yamaha, Koenig, Suzuki, Husqvarna and Kawasaki who occupied the top six 48 years ago, while at Silverstone it was Yamaha, Suzuki, Aprilia, Ducati, Honda and KTM.
Every MotoGP™ factory claiming a top six place after 20 laps of the world-famous Northamptonshire layout goes to show how unbelievably competitive MotoGP™ is in 2021, with Aprilia’s relentless hard work now reaping rewards as they go toe-to-toe with the top factories.
The record-breaking result comes just a couple of weeks after we witnessed five factories claim a top five for just the third time in MotoGP™ at the Styrian GP. At the end of the piece we wrote after that memorable day, we asked if we’d see six in the top six soon. Two races later, we did. It’s remarkable how closely matched each factory is today.
The much-adored Silverstone always produces great racing, thanks to its array of fast and flowing corners, coupled with some technical sections and long straights, where the MotoGP™ thoroughbreds can really stretch their legs. It’s a circuit that has a little bit of everything, and a little bit of everything means factories can take advantage of their strengths somewhere around the course.
But on Sunday, World Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was operating at a level above the rest – as he has done for a lot of 2021. El Diablo utilised the YZR-M1s superior corner speed and agility to his advantage, as did second place finisher Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) on his similarly designed inline-four GSX-RR. As we know, Yamaha and Suzuki enjoy Silverstone’s fast and flowing nature.
Elsewhere, Aprilia’s step up in 2021 has been phenomenal. Aleix Espargaro has been agonisingly close to a podium on numerous occasions this season, but he and Aprilia finally banished those demons at the British GP. Coming out on top of a last lap battle with Ducati Lenovo Team’s Jack Miller made the rostrum even more impressive, the Australian showing patience and great late-race pace to claw himself back into the podium frame after dropping back in the opening half of the contest. Miller’s P4 was a needed boost of confidence after a difficult spell.
Honda’s struggles this season are no secret. Pol Espargaro has endured a tough start to life as a Repsol Honda Team rider, but the Spaniard showed more than a glimpse of the Pol Espargaro we know, and exactly why HRC picked him to be Marc Marquez' teammate. Pole position on Saturday was converted into a fantastic P5 on Sunday, as light appears at the end of the tunnel for HRC.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had a quiet weekend compared to his heroics at the Austrian GP, but it was another Sunday comeback ride from the South African. He and KTM had been struggling with a lack of rear grip all weekend but managed to come strong in the latter half of the race to earn P6 from P12 on the grid.
The six manufacturers have all had varied fortunes so far in 2021. Yamaha, in the hands of Quartararo at least, have been pretty much unstoppable. Hence the 65-point cushion he has at the top of the standings. For the Frenchman, it’s all been about consistency. Somewhat reminiscent of Joan Mir’s (Team Suzuki Ecstar) 2020 title-winning campaign. The other factories haven’t quite had the regularity of Yamaha and Quartararo in 2021, but they’re all in the mix.
Aprilia’s Espargaro summed up seeing six manufacturers finish in the top six very well on Sunday afternoon after the race:
“For me it’s unbelievable. It’s fantastic. It’s crazy. The level of riders in MotoGP now is the highest I’ve ever seen. It’s unbelievable how many fast riders we have on the grid. It’s not just a rider Championship, it’s also manufacturers Championship. I know how important it is for every manufacturer when they have a new device, when they need to develop something new.
“So, it is fantastic. It’s great because in the past, as Fabio said, if you want to win you just can win with Yamaha or Honda. Now still all bikes are not the same, but all bikes are competitive so you can do a good job with six manufacturers and this is unbelievable. It’s crazy.”
Harking back a few years, Yamaha and Honda dominated proceedings. Ducati were the only ones to really take it to the two Japanese giants on a regular basis before Suzuki then came on strong. Aprilia, until this year, struggled to get good results in MotoGP™’s most competitive era, but the Noale factory are now there. And as for KTM, their 2020 rise was sensational. They’ve won three times in 2021 and are going nowhere.
Six factories, six different bikes, six types of machinery all capable of fighting for the podium places every weekend. MotoGP™ is better than ever, long may it continue.
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