Analysis

Mandalika MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Chaos Reigns, Honda Riders Moan At Michelin, And Ducatis Menace

The first Indonesian GP in 25 years has been a complicated affair. A new track, in the middle of a construction site where a new resort is being built. A track which was resurfaced after the test uncovered issues with the asphalt. The blistering tropical heat, capable of raising track temperatures to well over 60°. The swapping out of the rear tire used at the test for an older, safer tire used in Austria and Buriram to prevent the tire from blistering if track temperatures get that high. And the intense rains which leave the track wet for a long time, have eaten into setup time, and keep washing dirt onto the surface.

When working on a problem, such as the correct setup for a MotoGP bike, engineers like to change one variable at a time, to understand how it works. At Mandalika, that just hasn't been possible. The teams already had two new variables – a new track surface and different tires – thrown at them, and the weather is adding a third. It is making it almost impossible to figure out what needs to be changed to make the bikes go faster.

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Mandalika MotoGP Friday Round Up: How Low Grip Helps Yamaha, And Ducati Dropping Their Front Ride-Height Device

We say it pretty much every Friday of a MotoGP weekend: it's hard to draw conclusions from the first day of practice. The first day of practice is usually spent trying out different setups and then assessing which tires are the best compromise between performance and durability for the race, so just glancing at the timesheets doesn't tell you as much as you would like.

The first day of practice at Mandalika is even more complicated to unravel. First, there is the fact that it rained heavily on Friday morning, leaving the track damp at the start before drying out. Then there's the fact that nearly half the track has been resurfaced, the work finished not long before MotoGP arrived. Finally, Michelin changed the construction of the rear tire from the one used at the test, in response to the heat at the track, the new surface, and the data from the test.

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Mandalika MotoGP Preview: MotoGP Madness In The Heat Of The Tropics

If there is one country that deserves to have a MotoGP round, it is Indonesia. A country of over 270 million people, all of whom are absolutely mad about the sport. Anyone with a significant presence on Social Media knows about the passion the country has for MotoGP, as a large percentage of their followers will be from there. (In my own case, 12.5% of my 51,800 Twitter followers are from Indonesia, the third largest territory after the UK, 28.5%, and the US 14.4%. A remarkable number, given I am tweeting mainly in English, and not at all in Bahasa Indonesia.)

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Off To A Poor Start: Where It All Went Wrong For Ducati In Qatar

Fortunes in MotoGP can change fast. Before the opening weekend of the 2022 MotoGP season, Pecco Bagnaia was the most tipped rider to take the title, the Ducati GP22 was the hot bike to have. The question was not whether a Ducati would win one of the early races, but rather which one, and how many Ducatis would end up on the podium at them.

That prediction turned out to be accurate, but not in the way those making it expected. Enea Bastianini rode an outstanding race in Qatar to win the first race of 2022, and the first for the Gresini squad since Toni Elias back at Estoril in 2006. A Ducati stood on the top step of the podium, as expected. Only it was a satellite rider on a year-old bike, Bastianini riding a Ducati GP21.

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The Curious Case Of Marc Marquez' Preheated Front Tire In Qatar

After the first MotoGP race of 2022, the Qatar Grand Prix was over, an observant Twitter follower asked me why the symbol used for Marc Marquez' front tire choice was different to everyone else. Watching the replay and then consulting the analysis PDFs on MotoGP's new results section made clear what Marquez had done. He and his team and chosen to fit a soft front tire which had been scrubbed in, and consequently, had been used for 1 lap already.

Running through the data in the various sessions confirms this. During the heat of FP1, Marquez used a medium and a hard front, before using two soft fronts during FP2. He used a third soft front in FP3, before switching to a hard front. He did a single, slow lap on the soft front at the start of the session, then came in to switch front tires.

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Qatar MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes: A Much Faster Race Brings Emotion And Surprise, But Does It Mean Anything?

It was good to get racing underway again in 2022, given everything that has happened over the past couple of years, and what is going on right now in a corner of Europe. If racing is escapism, we had some of best stories of recent years, with plenty to talk about. So here are some initial thoughts after the opening round of the season, before taking a deeper dive later this week.

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Qatar MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Yellow Flags, Managing Tires, And Surprising Youngsters

If it has felt like a long wait for the season to get underway again. And Saturday at Qatar showed us just what we have been missing. A surprising FP3, where eight riders managed to improve their lap times, despite the session taking place in the heat of the day, and the wind having picked up and bringing a dusting of sand to the track. Among those who improved were Enea Bastianini, who jumped up to fifth, threatening Pol Espargaro, Pecco Bagnaia, and Fabio Quartararo. Espargaro and Bagnaia bettered their times, Quartararo did not, setting up another thrilling contest to get out of Q1 and into Q2. If you were looking for drama, you got everything you could have hoped for, and more.

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Qatar MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Clean Track, Suzuki's Speed, Tyre Coolers, Yamaha Pace, Ducati's Engines

Testing is all well and good, but at last, we have real, actual data from a race track on a bona fide race weekend. All 24 bikes on the track at the same time, trying to figure out as much as possible in two short 45 minute sessions. No running separately, or trying to figure out how the conditions for the 8-lap run done at 11am compare to the 12-lap run at 2pm, or the 7-lap run at 5pm.

The first day at Qatar may have been genuine competition, but the picture was also confused by the schedule. With FP1 at 1:40pm, in the heat of the day, and FP2 shortly after sunset, at 6pm, conditions were completely different, the air temperature 7°C lower, and the track a whole 16°C cooler.

"Well, for sure now it is hard to see who has the better pace than the other because we don’t have the normal day schedule," Miguel Oliveira reflected after the first day."The hour is not that different but for the temperature and the wind it changes quite a lot."

Sweeper

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Qatar MotoGP Thursday Preview: Politics, Track Time, And A Lack Of Setup

From time to time, when I stray from talking about motorcycle racing to share something political on Twitter, I am told by some random Twitter user to "stick to bikes". What they mean, of course, is that I should not share political opinions or articles they do not agree with, but that's a different question.

Talking about politics is, of course, still "sticking to bikes". Circuits have to be built somewhere. That requires obtaining permission to start construction from some level of government. They have to be funded, with money often being either supplied or backed by some level of government. They need roads to access them: built by government.

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2022 MotoGP Testing Review: Suzuki – The Quiet Threat

The Yamaha M1 and the Suzuki GSX-RR have a lot in common. Both are inline four cylinder machines, and both rely more on corner speed and maneuverability than outright speed. And the riders of both machines have complained about a lack of speed at great length.

So great was Joan Mir's frustration with the Suzuki's lack of power in 2021 that he made a veiled threat to seek solace elsewhere. "A lot of people finish their contracts in 2022 and we are hoping to renew, or to take a different decision," the 2020 world champion said before the test at Sepang. "Honestly, the test will be important for me. It will be important to understand everything. As a Suzuki rider now, I feel great here, I feel like I am at home, but it's true that a change is something that in some moments can be good, also. But at the moment, I cannot speak more about it, because there is nothing decided. But let's see."

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