Analysis

Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Marquez As Scapegoat, The Danger Of Ride-Height Devices, And How Ducati Made Tire Management Irrelevant

Marc Marquez was hoping to make an impact on his return to MotoGP at the Motorland Aragon circuit. He made an impact alright, but not quite the one he was intending. A lightning start, collisions with Fabio Quartararo and Takaaki Nakagami – much, much more on that later – and a withdrawal due to having a chunk of Quartararo's fairing stuck in the back of his bike. Marquez had come up short on his objective: "Try to get kilometers, try to finish the race, and we didn't get the target. I just did one lap," he said after the race.

We will come to apportioning blame for the Quartararo-Marquez crash later, and how Enea Bastianini came to the championship leader's aid at the end of the race. The race itself was in some ways a repeat of last year: a waiting game, with a burst of excitement settling the outcome in the last couple of laps.

Bastianini's victory wrapped up the manufacturers championship for Ducati again with five races to go. There is no doubt that the Ducati is now the best bike on the MotoGP grid. But the halfhearted celebrations in the factory Ducati Lenovo garage betrayed just how much more the riders championship matters to Ducati.

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Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Best Bike On The Grid, And Pit Lane Mayhem

For the past few seasons, there has been a fierce debate over what is the best bike on the grid. In 2021, we thought it might have been the Yamaha, given just how good Fabio Quartararo has been. In 2020, the Suzuki looked to be a pretty complete package, though that was a little distorted by the pandemic-hit season. In 2019, with Marc Marquez' dominance, there were those who claimed the Honda was the best bike, though the difference in performance between Marquez and the other Honda riders was rather stark.

The common thread across all these years was the Ducati. Was it perhaps the Desmosedici, born in Bologna, which was the best bike? And was it the riders on the other machines that was making the difference? In 2019, the Ducati was faster than the Honda, but not fast enough to get enough of a gap until Marc Marquez threw the RC213V underneath Andrea Dovizioso on the brakes in the next corner. In 2020 and 2021, Ducati improved the turning of the bike, but it was still no match for the corner speed of the Suzuki GSX-RR and the Yamaha M1.

Even at the start of the 2022 season we wondered whether the Ducati was really the best bike on the grid. After Aleix Espargaro won Aprilia's first MotoGP race in Argentina, we started to think that perhaps the RS-GP was the best bike on the grid, an impression strengthened by Maverick Viñales' increasing competitiveness. Espargaro was turning into a podium regular, and at the front of the championship.

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Aragon MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Tough Track For Tires, A Rider Returns, And New Parts Shenanigans

By now, you will have heard the MotoGP mantra a thousand times. "It's only Friday," everyone says after the first day of practice. "It's only Friday, but for sure it's better to first than to be fifteenth," was Jorge Martin's addendum, after ending the first day at the top of the timesheets.

It may only be Friday, but we still learned plenty, though maybe not about who is going to win the race on Sunday. A lot can still happen between then and now. But the riders and teams now have a better idea of what they are facing.

The biggest challenge this weekend is going to be the tires. The asphalt at the Motorland Aragon Circuit is probably the oldest on the calendar, having not been resurfaced since the circuit was built back in 2009. Asphalt changes with age: the bitumen which binds the aggregate together evaporates very slowly, eventually leaving sizable gaps between the stones.

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Aragon MotoGP Thursday Preview - What Pecco Bagnaia Has To Worry About, Marc Marquez Makes A Return, And HRC's Secret Tryst With Kalex

With three races coming up in three weeks, confidence is key. The next couple of months are going to be grueling, with six races in eight weeks, and everything still to play for. Heading into the logistically nightmarish Aragon-Motegi-Buriram triple header is a lot easier if you have the feeling that you have the wind in your sails.

That puts Pecco Bagnaia in a very strong position, you would think. The Italian took his fourth victory in a row two weeks ago at Misano, the first rider to do that since Marc Marquez in 2019, and the first Ducati rider every to manage that.

He has closed the gap to championship leader and title rival Fabio Quartararo from 91 points to 30 points in those four races. And MotoGP arrives at a circuit where Bagnaia won last year in a scintillating battle with Marc Marquez, a track which Quartararo regards as a bogey track. Things are looking very good for Pecco Bagnaia.

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Misano MotoGP Test Analysis Part 3 - Marc Marquez On His Return, And Honda's Big Gamble On Kalex

In our review of the Misano MotoGP test, we come at last to Honda. Undoubtedly the team with the most work to do, and the most going on. And the most attention, too, but that was more down to personnel than hardware. Marc Marquez was back on a MotoGP bike for the first time since the fourth operation on his right arm, with the aim of solving the multiple issues he has suffered since his crash at Jerez in 2020 once and for all.

Naturally, journalists and fans wanted to know if Marquez would be able to ride again, and if he could ride, whether he would still be winged, as he was after previous operations, or have full use of his right arm and get back to his old self. So far, it looks like the answer is that he can ride, and will be back to his pre-Jerez crash form.

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Misano MotoGP Test Analysis Part 2 - KTM's Radically Revised RC16 Rear

The two factories which saw the biggest changes at the Misano test were KTM and Honda. Honda were at a disadvantage here: they had Marc Marquez back, which obviously brought with it a lot of attention; they had a widely publicized and visually conspicuous new aluminum swingarm from Kalex; and Marc Marquez was trying new aero. It was hard for HRC to hide what they were doing. Or some of it, at least.

KTM were flying under the radar a little, but they were also bringing some major updates. The bike Dani Pedrosa was testing had some major changes to it, though you had to look carefully to see them exactly. The fact that their riders spoke mostly about the work for this year, and avoided talking about the 2023 bike meant we really did learn very little about the bike.

KTM

But let's start with KTM. Brad Binder offered a good explanation of KTM's method of working compared with last year. "I think we needed to start at a point at the beginning of the season, so we locked in the chassis, we locked in the aero, we locked in a whole lot of things, and said, OK, that's our base, now, how do we make this better?"

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Misano MotoGP Test Analysis Part 1 - Aprilia And Ducati Make Subtle Changes, Yamaha Goes All In

What were the MotoGP factories testing at the two-day Misano test this Tuesday and Wednesday? That depends what day you asked, and which factories you looked at. Tuesday was the day most teams and factories spent on improvements to their 2022 setup – with 6 races left, there are meaningful gains to be made in the title race. On Wednesday, the focus mainly switched to 2023, with new frames, new engines, new aero, and more rolled out.

There was another reason to work on 2022 on Tuesday. The bane of all MotoGP tests is that they usually take place after a MotoGP weekend, so they start on a track which is nicely rubbered in from the Michelin tires used by MotoGP (and at Misano, also the MotoE Michelins), and then spend another day or (in the case of Misano) two laying down yet more Michelin rubber. By the end of the test, the riders have grip coming out of their ears, a very different proposition from the tricky conditions which prevail after a Moto2 race.

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Misano MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Bagnaia's Dovizioso Tribute Act, Fabio's Unfixable Problem, And Aprilia's Rising And Waning Stars

There were many, many tributes to Andrea Dovizioso on the day that he retired as a full-time MotoGP racer, but there was perhaps none so fitting as the winner of Sunday's MotoGP race at Misano. Pecco Bagnaia, riding the bike Dovizioso had a massive, massive part in developing in the eight years he was at Ducati, took two and a half laps to get to the front of the race and then controlled it right to the end.

It was the way Bagnaia managed the race that was so reminiscent of Andrea Dovizioso. The way you usually win a race from the front is by taking off at the front and trying to lay down a pace that no one else is able to follow. Once you've opened a gap, you can then manage the pace to keep the gap consistent right to the end. The benefit is that you don't have to worry about fending off attacks, and can just concentrate on your own riding.

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Misano MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Weather As A Wildcard, And The Return Of The Marc

There are two types of tires in MotoGP: wet tires for the rain, and slicks for the dry. The real world is not quite so binary, of course: the weather, and therefore the track, can be bone dry or having standing water on it, and anything in between. Damp patches. A thin sheen of water. A drying racing line. Cold but dry. Soaking, but very warm.

There may only be two types of tires in MotoGP, but that is enough to cover pretty much every kind of condition. Slicks are perfect in the dry and the soft wets are fantastic when there is water on the track, but the medium wets work well on a damp track, a drying track, and even on a track with next to no water on them. (True story: Michelin started off calling them hard wets, but then the teams and the riders were too scared to use them, and never fitted them. Michelin renamed them "medium", and hey presto, the riders were raring to give them a go. So much of motorcycle racing takes place between the ears.)

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Misano MotoGP Friday Round Up: Changing Conditions, Bagnaia's Rough Start, Viñales Velocity, And Making Sense Of The Fan Survey

Coming into the weekend, the weather was one of the biggest worries for the MotoGP paddock. At the start of the week, it seemed like we might be looking at a complete washout. The forecast has cleared up notably since then, but the weather still had a major effect on the start of the Misano Grand Prix. Heavy rain on Wednesday and Thursday left the track very green, and difficult to negotiate in the morning.

"This morning it was slick. FP1 especially, the first couple of runs it was really greasy," Brad Binder said on Friday afternoon. But a day of good weather and a very busy schedule – in addition to the three grand prix classes, there is also MotoE and the FIM Junior GP World Championship, or CEV Moto3 championship as was – meant conditions were much better in the afternoon. "In FP2 it was like another circuit. It's crazy how quickly the track can change, I didn't expect it," Binder said.

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