For MotoGP devotees old enough to remember, the German round of the championship produced a never-ending supply of instant classics in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with riders like Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson and Christian Sarron to the fore.
The circuit? Hockenheim, which enjoyed the highest average speed on the calendar and was a slipstreamer’s paradise. It also provided some outstanding braking duels.
Halcyon days indeed and, although the home of the German MotoGP has now shifted to the much more compact 3.67km Sachsenring layout, it certainly isn’t a softer version – as the MotoGP caravan will find out at this weekend’s round 10 of the championship.
The counter-clockwise layout boasts some extremely tricky corners and elevation changes which have claimed some massive scalps over the years, including Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa. And that’s just the thin end of the wedge …
Sachsenring takes your breath away, especially as the tempo builds from ‘go-kart’-style tight lines to a spectacular chain of fast and undulating turns – and there’s one corner in particular which is such a doozy that it just might be the best in MotoGP.
It’s the blisteringly fast, blind, downhill right-hand off-camber Turn 11, which is now recognised by the more illuminating moniker of ‘Waterfall’ because it’s so steep.
Waterfall has a massive degree of difficulty, placing an absolute premium on front tyre grip as the prototype machines peel through at about 275km/h in sixth gear.
However, the complicating factor is that preceding Waterfall is a gaggle of left-handers, which gives tyres ample time to cool down on the right-hand side – and that can lead to disaster in the blink of an eye.
The spectre of supreme turn 11 action is anticipation enough, but on Sunday there will also be the small matter of crowning a winner at Sachsenring other than Marquez (Repsol Honda) for the first time since 2013.
Similar to Stoner and his absolute domination at Phillip Island, Marquez and Sachsenring share a special bond, and he even won in 2021 despite being clearly limited by his injured humerus. His absolute love of left-hand leaning circuits – 10 of Sachsenring’s 13 bends are of that persuasion – also helped …
Honda’s domination at Sachsenring has been profound, and we have to go all the way back to 2009 to find a non-Honda on the top step, when Rossi and Yamaha took victory.
Aussie legend Mick Doohan took victory in 1998, the first race at Sachsenring.
But back to the present and, with Marquez sitting out this year’s round while he convalesces from his latest bout of surgery, who will stand on top of the dais this time?
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) is the man of the moment after winning his 10th MotoGP race – and his second in 2022 – at the last round in Spain. He also finished third at Sachsenring in 2021 behind Marquez and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM), so he has the runs on the board.
Quartararo leads the championship on 147pts, ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing, 125), Enea Bastianini (Gresini Ducati, 94), Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Ducati, 91) and Francesco Bagnaia (Lenovo Ducati, 81). Aussie Jack Miller (Lenovo Ducati) is ninth on 65pts.
After being taken out by Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) in Spain alongside Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki), Bagnaia’s raw speed will have him back in the mix in Germany, while Bastianini has the most wins on the board in 2022 so he can never be discounted.
Rins’ participation will be subject to a medical clearance after he broke his wrist in the Spanish crash, while Miller begins his valedictory tour as a Ducati factory rider after it was announced last week that he’ll be switching to Red Bull KTM in 2023 – reuniting with a brand he last rode for in the Moto3 ranks.
“I’m happy to be back racing this weekend in Germany,” said Miller.
“After the last Grand Prix, I’m eager to get back on my Desmosedici GP and try to redeem myself.
“Sachsenring is a rather twisty and peculiar track, and it definitely won’t be an easy race, but, as always, I’ll give my best to try and get the best result.”
Miller has languished outside the top 10 in the last two rounds, and in Spain fellow Aussie – and rookie – Remy Gardner (Tech 3 KTM) finished three spots ahead.
Miller was sixth at Sachsenring last year, but during his Moto3 days was victorious in Germany – with the likes of Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Ducati) and Joan Mir (Ecstar Suzuki) also in the same boat.
Gardner took Moto2 victory at Sachsenring in 2021, while Alex Marquez (LCR Honda), Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha) and Zarco all did the same during successful intermediate class campaigns. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) also has a Moto2 win to his name at Sachsenring.
Oliveira, who Miller will replace at Red Bull KTM in 2023, will also be desperate to prove that his employer has made the wrong decision – and when the planets align the Portuguese rider can do anything.
Oliveira has a MotoGP win to his name in 2022, as well as Espargaro who’s still smarting from his howler in the last round when he slowed down and started celebrating at the end of the penultimate lap – slipping from a certain second to fifth.
Gardner is looking forward to making more inroads this weekend.
“I am looking forward to heading to Sachsenring where I had a lot of success last season,” said Gardner.
“We had a positive test day in Catalunya and it looks like we found better directions to take for the next couple of races. The target will be to score points again, so let’s see what we can do this week”.
Aussie Joel Kelso (CIP Green Power KTM) continues his Moto3 campaign in Germany, with the Darwin rider edging ever closer towards a top five finish.
2022 MotoGP standings (after nine of 20 rounds):
1. Fabio Quartararo – Yamaha – 147pts
2. Aleix Espargaro – Aprilia – 125pts
3. Enea Bastianini – Ducati – 94pts
4. Johann Zarco – Ducati – 91pts
5. Francesco Bagnaia – Ducati – 81pts
6. Brad Binder – KTM – 73pts
7. Alex Rins – Suzuki – 69pts
8. Joan Mir – Suzuki – 69pts
9. Jack Miller – Ducati – 65pts
10. Marc Marquez – Honda – 60pts
23. Remy Gardner – KTM – 8pts
Mark ‘Mav’ Fattore has been hanging around the motorcycle scene longer than he can remember, but still struggles to contain his two-wheel exuberance. He also eats like a bull-at-a-gate, which is why he once swallowed the prong off a plastic fork stuffing down Chinese takeaway during a frenetic magazine deadline. The digital space is a safer haven, and he’ll turn his writing hand to anything.