Rider insight: Sachsenring

by Freddie Spencer on 20th July 2018

Freddie Spencer's latest rider insight from the Sachsenring, in which he talks about the history of the German MotoGP Grand Prix, why Márquez is so dominant, Pedrosa's retirement, and more

MotoGP Sachsenring 2018 start

The Sachsenring is a very unusual place because it has such amazing but unexpected history. When it was in East Germany, it drew incredible crowds. The great Dieter Braun, the German racer who took the 1970 125cc championship and the 1973 250cc championship, won here in 1971 and the story goes that they played the West German anthem. The crowds began singing the anthem, much to the chagrin of the East German political establishment.

To be part of an incredible history not only exhibits the human condition but also the incredible passion and support in that part of the world.

We do a classic event there a few weeks before the German GP and that's an amazing experience. Thirty years after I won the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, people still show me letters, signed posters and handwritten notes that they'd received after sending me something in the mail from East Germany all the way to Shreveport, Louisiana.

Fans are incredibly appreciative of anything they get, such as a signed poster or a sticker, and they'd even put money in there. Sometimes a letter would arrive with the outline of the state of Louisiana and a star marking out Shreveport's location. Thirty years later, doing the classic event at the Sachsenring, they're still so grateful.

In that environment, being thankful for the smallest things is really something that is easy to dismiss and easy to overlook, so I'm very thankful when I get to go back and travel and see things that make me understand how fortunate I've been but, more importantly, what we all share.


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So, onto the weekend, and the news that Dani Pedrosa is going to retire at the end of the season. Pedrosa is an amazing rider: a world champion in 125cc and 250cc racing. He showed how quickly he could adapt to MotoGP bikes and, after his first win at the Chinese Grand Prix in 2006, you would certainly expect him to go on and win a MotoGP world championship.

But the great MotoGP journalist Nick Harris wrote something interesting, where he said that the bad luck that Dani has had dashed his chances at winning the crown. Whenever he came close, something unlucky would happen. An example came at Misano in 2012 when he was almost tied for the championship lead with Jorge Lorenzo but couldn't get past the first lap due to a locked wheel. There are unbelievable situations like that.

The main thing is that he's done an incredible job for a rider who hasn't won a world championship. He's very similar to Stirling Moss, who did everything but win a Formula 1 world championship; Pedrosa is held in such high esteem. The main thing is that he really went about it correctly, as a gentleman and a professional, and he did that week in and week out. I respect him for that.

In qualifying, the Yamahas really struggled but Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales seemed to have figured things out. After the race, Viñales said that the power delivery of the Yamaha was brutal. However, in years gone by, the power delivery has been much smoother and one of the team's great strengths. It also shows that they're really trying to get the power out of it. Maybe the electronics aren't working as well as Yamaha would like them to, so there are things to figure out.

The World SuperBike team seems to have the power delivery issue under control. The Yamaha support has really been a great benefit for Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark. I was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend and chatted to van der Mark, and he said that the consistency of Yamaha's electronics has been so good that it allows their WSBK riders to ride right on the edge – that's something that the MotoGP team still has to work on.

Marc Márquez has qualified on pole here six years in a row and has won the race on each of those occasions. Why is that? What is it that Márquez has that is different to everyone else?

Part of what makes Márquez successful at the Sachsenring is his dirt-tracking skills. I've ridden the Sachsenring on a 250cc motorbike and a 500cc 'bike and it seems like a small track on those 'bikes, but on a modern MotoGP machine, you spend so much time on the edge of the tyre that your strength has to be in drifting the motorcycle. After you get through Turns 1-3, it's all about carrying speed and using as much of the track as you possibly can. And that's where Márquez is strong. He showed it on Sunday, opening the gap to a few seconds late in the race. The track isn't about speed, it's about momentum and doing a lot with the motorcycle on the edge and having little spurts of speed up to the 'Waterfall' and down the hill. That next left turn is so fast and then the last corner leads onto the front straight.

The Ducatis were surprisingly good this weekend, and Lorenzo mentioned that. I thought Andrea Dovizioso would be up there, a little stronger than he proved to be. Lorenzo, I thought he'd be OK, but it wasn't a track that benefited his type of riding, because he relies on precision rather than drifting the bike. But in the race, he really showed that he had the speed and he was right up there. It was Dovizioso who didn't do as good as a job, but he still finished seventh behind his team-mate.

In fourth, Danilo Petrucci did a great job, and he showed his strength at the Sachsenring on Sunday.

Back to Rossi, who was right up there in second, as was Viñales in third. Viñales mentioned that the power delivery needed work, but we'll have to wait and see what Yamaha is able to do. They're going to need to come back stronger after the mini-break before the next round in the Czech Republic.

Brno is quite a different circuit to the Sachsenring, and it's part of a great championship that we have this year. Márquez is showing his strength in so many areas: that ride at Assen, picking people off towards the end; and the one he put on at the Sachsenring on Sunday. That's why I'm excited about the next rounds, and I hope that you are too.

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