MotoGP's Expanding Calendar - Why MotoGP Races Where, And How Dorna And Circuits Make Money

The expansion of the MotoGP calendar has met with resistance from a variety of quarters. While a section of MotoGP fans are enthusiastic about there being 21 races next year, up from 20 in 2022, and from 19 pre-pandemic, those inside the MotoGP paddock are largely opposed.

That includes at least some of the manufacturers. KTM bosses Hubert Trunkenpolz and Stefan Pierer were adamant that the ideal number of races on the MotoGP calendar was 18. "18 races would be ideal, 20 is the absolute maximum," Trunkenpolz told Speedweek's Günther Wiesinger.

Pierer agreed with his fellow KTM board member. "I made it very clear to Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta that we as a manufacturer want a maximum of 18 grand prix," Pierer told Speedweek.

Trunkenpolz was damning of the choice of Sokol International Racetrack as a venue. "Kazakhstan makes absolutely no sense, as far as we are concerned. The Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi was a better prospect, as India is an important market for the motorcycle manufacturers.

Making money going racing

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Valencia Test Deep Dive, Part 2: Ground Effect - KTM And Ducati Follow Aprilia's Lead

Maverick Viñales at Valencia aboard the Aprilia RS-GP. Photo: Cormac Ryan Meenan

For the past few years, Ducati have been the manufacturer pioneering the direction of development in MotoGP. Ducati will come up with a new idea, which the other manufacturers will hastily copy, with a greater or lesser degree of success. Holeshot devices, ride-height devices, winglets. The latest example of this are the tail fins, the four winglets sticking up from the tail of the Desmosedici, which have suddenly also sprouted from the tail of the Honda RC213V and the Yamaha M1.

(As an aside, what do these tail winglets do? Riders report they give better stability, especially under braking. They are too tall to be purely vortex generators – which would reduce drag by smoothing the boundary layer of air on the tail. A possible explanation is that they are directing the airflow coming off the rider, the least aerodynamic part of the motorcycle. But they could also be helping to keep the tail of the bike straight under braking once the load disappears from the rear wheel and shifts to the front. But I digress.)

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Valencia Test Deep Dive, Part 1: Honda - New Aero, Frame, Engine, And Clutch, But Little Improvement

Over the next week or so, I will be taking a deep dive into what I saw at the test, with the help of photos from Niki Kovács and having talked a few things over with Peter Bom. But examining all of the photos and thinking about what I saw has been an intensive affair, as I tried to figure out what was going on.

But we'll start off with Honda. For a lot of reasons. Not just because Marc Marquez expressed disappointment at what HRC had brought to the test, but also because two new riders switched to Honda, including the 2020 MotoGP champion Joan Mir and the winner of the Valencia MotoGP race Alex Rins.

I gave my first impressions from the test on Tuesday evening after the test, but the trouble with working quickly is that you don't notice what you have missed. There are so many small changes that you don't really have time to absorb them all. And sometimes, there are so many eye-catching changes that you miss out on other big changes, which is certainly the case with Honda.

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Crunching The Numbers: Predicting Race Outcomes - Which Session Matters Most?

It is no secret that FP4 is my favorite part of a MotoGP weekend. Every Saturday afternoon I watch the live timing carefully for signs of which MotoGP rider has the best race pace, usually pinging comments back and forth with Neil Morrison over WhatsApp. Once the results PDF is published, I pore over the Analysis timesheets, showing times and sector times for each lap, as well as which tires were used, and how fresh or used they were.

Based on that information, plus the outcome of qualifying, listening to what riders have to say and discussing the day with others, I try to make as informed a guess as possible of what might happen in the race. I try to estimate who looks to have the best race pace, based on lap times set in longer runs on very used tires. And if a rider hasn't used older tires – switching between two different rear tires, for example – I try to estimate whether their pace on used tires drops off more than the times in FP4 show.

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Valencia MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 2: Hot Tarmac, The Sad Loss Of Suzuki, Electronic Oddness, And Frustration For Aprilia And Honda

Going into the final MotoGP race of the year at Valencia, we were all expecting Ducati to dominate. After all, they had utterly dominated the 2022 season. Ducati had won 12 of the 19 races so far (7 by Pecco Bagnaia), had at least one rider on the podium for 25 consecutive races, taken 15 pole positions, and had at least one rider on the front row for 39 races. In 2021, Ducati had locked out both the front row of the grid, and the podium at at Valencia.

After qualifying, Ducati had increased their pole tally to 16 in 2022 and extended their streak of consecutive front row starts to 40. Jorge Martin started from pole, and Jack Miller qualified third. But that something had changed was clear from the rest of the grid. Marc Marquez was second on the Repsol Honda – a fit Marquez can use his genius to pull a fast lap out of the bag, but the Honda is in no shape to sustain that over race distance – while the second row consisted of Fabio Quartararo on the Yamaha, Alex Rins on the Suzuki, and Maverick Viñales on the Aprilia. Valencia was not looking like being a Ducati whitewash (redwash?) again.

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2022 Valencia MotoGP Test Notes: A Lot Of Work To Cram Into One Day

It has been a long year. 20 races is not 5% more than 19 races, that much is clear from the drawn faces in the paddock. The kind of intensity required to operate on a grand prix weekend means that the additional effort required for each race Dorna adds increases exponentially. We get through each weekend clinging on by the skin of our teeth, and that skin gets thinner every weekend.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I am way behind on a lot of things, including additional notes from a fascinating final race of the year. And that weekend was topped off by one of the most interesting and important tests of the year, where factories had a mountain of new stuff to test.

That needs a deep dive to examine properly, with photos to accompany and explain what we are seeing. But before that, a few brief notes on what I saw, and what it might mean.

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Valencia MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Pecco Bagnaia And Gigi Dall'Igna - The Long Road to The Championship

Pecco Bagnaia celebrates in Parc Ferme with Ducati

Gigi Dall'Igna has done it at last. After nine seasons, the Italian engineer has achieved his dream, and done what Ducati hired him to do: win a MotoGP title. After 125 and 250 titles with Aprilia, he now has a MotoGP crown to add to his trophy cabinet.

Of course, it is Pecco Bagnaia who will actually hold the title. And it goes without saying that it was Bagnaia who did the hard work of winning out on track. Seven victories is the best total for a Ducati rider since Ducati's last world championship, Casey Stoner in 2007 (Stoner won 10 races), and the way he dominated the second half of the season was phenomenal. In the final ten races of 2022, Bagnaia was averaging 19 points a race, and missed out on the podium twice: a crash at Motegi, and that tense final race in Valencia.

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Valencia MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Closer Title Fight Than Anyone Expected

When I went for my motorcycle license nearly four decades ago in The Netherlands, I turned up for the test in the middle of January, in the pouring rain, and with a hangover after staying out the previous night. As I rode out of the test center to start the practical part of the test, feeling the odds stacked against me, I accepted I would fail and relaxed, riding around thinking I would try again a few months later. I passed first time.

The test for my car license in the UK, nearly a decade later, was much the same story. As I was about to drive off to start the test, the examiner asked me if I had perhaps forgotten something, pointing at the seatbelt I had not fastened. Failed at the first hurdle, I thought, and was surprised when I passed that as well.

What does a quaint tale of driving tests back in the Pleistocene era have to do with MotoGP? Quite a lot, as it turns out. I passed the tests because I had no nerves, having believed that all was already lost. I relaxed, focused on just riding or driving round, and forgot about the stakes.

Abandon hope, and prosper

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Valencia MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Importance Of Qualifying, Dealing With Nerves, And The Optics Of Nepotism

Conditions at Valencia were near ideal on Friday, promising a stable weekend of practice for the first time in what feels like forever, but is probably only since Aragon. Nobody is concerned about rain, and even the temperatures are not much of an issue. The only thing the riders are worried about is the wind, blowing down the straight and causing issues with the bikes' aero packages.

"We changed the fairing," Luca Marini, fastest man on the first day said. "The smaller fairing with so much wind, the bike is easier to ride but we lose in acceleration, wheelie and top speed. So I hope for less wind to use the standard fairing which is much better for me."

Jack Miller struggled with the wind as well, complicating the process of getting the right setup. "I had to understand first of all where the wind was coming from, what we needed to do to get the bike working better in the wind," the Ducati Lenovo rider said. "A couple of rogue gusts smashed me coming out of the last corner during one of my best laps of the morning. And as the bike started to wheelie, it disappeared from underneath me."

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Valencia MotoGP Thursday Round Up: A Title Lost, Or A Title Won?

And so the grand finale begins. Or perhaps the not-so-grand finale. For most of the paddock at Valencia, the MotoGP championship is pretty much foregone conclusion. "Fabio needs like a miracle to get the championship," Alex Rins said, summing up the sentiment in the paddock. He then went on to express another shared sentiment among the riders. "If I find them on race day, I will try to have a bit more respect. Because they are fighting, and they deserve this. That doesn't mean that I won't overtake them, but I will try to avoid dangerous movements."

The balance of power is evident among the title protagonists as well. "I only have one goal in my head," Fabio Quartararo told the special pre-event press conference featuring the two riders still in with a shot of the title. "Clearly, I have nothing to lose, so I will do my best to do it, fighting for the win. Of course, it’s not the best situation to fight for the Championship, but it’s a good situation to not care at all. Whatever happens, it will be a tough season but a good one, so it’s all in."

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