Buriram MotoGP Friday Round Up: Marquez' Intimidating Crash, And Quartararo's Newfound Speed

"I mean the championship is, we can say, over," Andrea Dovizioso told the pre-event press conference on Thursday in Buriram. With five races to go and a total of 125 points at stake, Marc Márquez leads Dovizioso by 98 points. Mathematically, the title is still open, but you would be not be wise to bet against Márquez winning the championship this season.

In FP1, Marc Márquez demonstrated both why he is leading the championship, and how the championship isn't over until it has been put beyond mathematical doubt. On his first run of the weekend, the Repsol Honda rider went out and posted a string of laps in the 1'31s, a second or more clear of his rivals. On his second run, he repeated that pace, becoming even more consistent.

On his third run, he exited with new soft tires, front and rear, with the intention of putting in a quick lap to secure a spot in Q2 on Saturday. It was the same strategy as in Aragon: go out in FP1, and if you feel good on the bike, post a lap good for Q2 at the end, so that you can spend all of FP2 working on race setup in conditions which will most closely resemble the race. With rain forecast for Sunday, it seemed like the right choice.

Error of judgment

But Márquez made a major miscalculation. He was slower on his out lap than he should have been, getting through Sector 2 around 6 or 7 seconds slower than usual. When he arrived at Turn 7, his tires were probably a little cooler than they should have been, and Márquez had moved a little off line to get past Pol Espargaro. As he entered, he shut off the throttle completely, instead of cracking the throttle a fraction. The engine brake kicked in, the rear slid out, then the tire gripped once again and it launched Márquez skyward.

It was a huge crash. Márquez was flung through the air and landed on his back. The bike spun end over end, destroying both the front and rear ends of the RC213V. So violent was the impact that it snapped the carbon-fiber swingarm when it landed, launching speculation that the swingarm had cracked to cause the crash. It was a demonstration of just how much stored energy is released in a highside, as the bike compressed first the rear shock, then the rear tire, pushing it off the rim, only for that energy to be released again.

Márquez was left doubled over in the gravel. An unusual sight, normally, the Spaniard is able to get up and walk away. After a few moments, he was helped up and walked off with the marshals, and then taken to the medical center for further evaluation. Though no fractures could be seen, there was heavy bruising and swelling on his back, hip, and knee, and the doctors were afraid the swelling was hiding serious injury. So Márquez was sent to the local hospital for an MRI for further checks.


He didn't go without putting up a fight, arguing with Dr Charte, who had ordered Márquez to have scans in hospital before declaring him fit. Looking back, Márquez understood their decision. "It was around five seconds that I couldn't breathe," was how he described what had happened after the crash. "For that reason, I was there on the floor, in the gravel. And it's only five seconds, but for me it was like twenty seconds there, because it was a big impact."

Having the wind knocked out of him had worried him initially, but once he recovered his breath, he was rearing to go again. That was why he had resisted going to the hospital. "It's true that then, step by step it was coming better and better, and when I arrived in the medical center, I was already OK. But then of course, I understand that the doctors tried to manage the situation in the best way, in a safe mode, and they preferred to have a deep scan to look at all these things."

MRI scans showed no fractures, though Márquez had heavy bruising on his back along the muscles which line his spine, and on his hip and knee, and so he returned to the circuit, where he was passed fit to take part in FP2.

A crash like that could have changed the course of the championship. It was a sign Márquez was mortal, like everyone else, and could make a mistake and crash, and be injured in the crash. So would he take time to recover and get back up to speed slowly?

What is best in life?

That is not how Marc Márquez operates in 2019. He is at the height of his powers, his goal not just to win, but to demoralize his rivals while doing so. His aim, to quote the cult 1982 B-movie Conan the Barbarian, is simple: "Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women."

Márquez looked decidedly second hand sitting in the garage at the start of FP2. Once he left pit lane, it took him three laps to go faster than Maverick Viñales' fastest time from FP1. He proceeded to follow the plan set out in the morning, working on race pace using old tires, his time from the third lap quick enough to put him sixth fastest overall. Only where almost everyone else had need a new soft tire to set their fastest time, Márquez kept the same set of tires all practice, his final lap a 1'31.083, on a soft rear with 23 laps, 3 laps shy of race distance.

That last lap was fast enough to put him straight through to Q2, faster than either Joan Mir or Alex Rins on fresh rubber, and just six hundredths of a second slower than Andrea Dovizioso on a new soft tire. If anyone had expected signs of weakness from Márquez, he was unwilling to oblige. After being highsided off the bike, Márquez returned to intimidate his rivals. It was a stunning performance.

Mr 100 percent

Andrea Dovizioso described Márquez' mindset at the end of Friday. "There are two types of riders," the Italian said. "Some riders stay behind a painful or bad situation. Most of the riders put the limit in front of everybody and play on that. So they speak always, ‘I have this, I have this, I have this.’ Some do the opposite – they don’t say the things, so they don’t show the limit. And they push 100 percent. Marc is one of them."

Dovizioso emphasized that some riders play up their injuries for the media, as a way of seeking an advantage. "There are some other riders doing that. Especially with the media a lot of riders complain about a lot of things but they are smaller than the reality. But for the media it’s nice to say that or push on that." But not Márquez, the Ducati rider insisted. "Marc is different for sure. But he’s not the only one."

So what happened? The immediate explanation after FP1 from Repsol Honda team boss Alberto Puig was that Márquez' highside had happened because he got off line and got some dirt on his tire. "On the back straight probably he was not on the correct line," Puig explained. "I mean he was on the outside line and looks like that area is a little bit dirty. The tire got some dust there and it's one possibility that the tire was not completely clean. That was probably the reason because he was not fast and the tire was up to temperature, so probably it was a matter of some dust or dirt on the tire."

Throttle, not dirt

Márquez' rivals offered a different perspective. "Dirt?" Jack Miller asked. "Nah. He just didn't scrub the tire in enough, just pushed it a little bit too hard too early, that's what that was. Honestly, every time you change direction there on a new tire it goes, whoosh, comes around. Like I said, I keep a little bit of partial throttle there just to sort of keep it sliding rather than have it come back."

Jack Miller had a keen eye. When asked about the crash, Marc Márquez acknowledged that part throttle had been to blame. "Of course the first thing I did after hospital is check why I crashed," Márquez said. "Then of course I was much slower than the normal laps, because I was exiting from the box. Of course it was new tires, of course maybe the track was not clean enough, this is normal. But the main difference is that normally in that corner, we don't close completely the gas. We close the gas a bit, but we don't close."

That had been his mistake, the rear locking up when the engine brake kicked in. "In that lap, I closed the gas. When you close the gas, the engine brake is going in, and then is when I locked the rear. So it's not a mechanical problem, it was more my mistake. But it was because I was riding slow. But for me more than this change on the riding, it was more maybe the tire was not ready or maybe I was a bit on the dirty part of the track. So it's difficult to understand."

Nature of the beast

Cal Crutchlow believed the nature of the Honda on new tires contributed to the crash. "It's not a dirty tire," the LCR Honda told the media. "I think he didn't lean enough in Turn 3, which is probably true, completely. But when you come through there and the tire – it's a very typical Honda thing – we have no grip in the out laps compared to the other bikes. If we follow another manufacturer in the out lap it's so difficult, because we don't load the tires the same way."

This was what had caused the crash, according to Crutchlow. "When we shut off the gas - he highsided off gas, and it's because the weight is not there to push it. I followed Morbidelli on an out lap in the second run this morning, and honestly it was embarrassing. I might as well have been on a wet track trying to go round the corner the same speed as him, because we need an extra lap. We need that extra lap to be able to make the tire work. In qualifying it's a little different, because we push so hard that we load the tire more."

Crutchlow had not been surprised that Márquez had returned to dominate after his crash. "If you look at the first run in FP2, I was talking to my crew chief Beefy, and he said, 'Aw, he looked a bit sore in sitting in the garage before he went out,' and I said, 'he'll do a 1'30 in a minute'. Five minutes later, he's doing 1'30s."

Corners count

It was a good day for Yamaha at Buriram. All four Yamahas finished in the top five, with only Jack Miller interposing himself on the Pramac Ducati, bumping Valentino Rossi down to fifth. A somewhat curious result, given that the Yamahas have one of the lowest top speeds at most tracks (at Buriram, they only have the KTMs behind them). But Buriram is not so much of a horsepower track as it looks on paper: once you get into Turn 5, the track becomes all about corner speed and the ability to turn. Two things the Yamaha M1 is particularly good at.

The M1 is quick in the third and fourth sectors of the track, stretching from the entrance to Turn 5 all the way back to the finish line, after Turn 12. "Well, there's a lot of corners!" Fabio Quartararo laughingly explained after FP2. "If you look, first and second sector is only three corners, so I think that's why the, let's say, powerful bikes are in front, but when you arrive to sector three and four, there are much more corners, and I think our bike is, the really strong point of the Yamaha is the turning."

More revs, more speed

Quartararo had finished the day as fastest, proof that being fast in the corners helped a lot. But there are clues that the Frenchman has finally been given clearance to use the 500 RPM extra the other Yamahas have. Normally, Quartararo's Petronas Yamaha is down on speed compared to the other Yamahas, the two factory Monster Energy Yamaha machines of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, and the factory-spec M1 of Petronas Yamaha teammate Franco Morbidelli. But in Thailand, Quartararo is keeping step with them.

Compare Buriram to Aragon. In FP1 at Aragon, Quartararo was the slowest Yamaha, posting a top speed of 327.3 km/h compared to the 331.3 km/h set by fastest Yamaha Maverick Viñales. In FP2, Quartararo was slowest again, with 323.4 km/h versus 331.3 km/h by Viñales again.

In Thailand, Quartararo was suddenly a fraction faster than his teammate Franco Morbidelli, and no longer the slowest Yamaha. His deficit to the fastest Yamaha was much smaller as well. In FP1, Quartararo posted a top speed of 326.2 km/h compared to Valentino Rossi's 327.2 km/h. In FP2, he followed it up with a 324.3 km/h to Rossi's 325.3 km/h.

Now or never

The deal, sources around Quartararo and the team will tell you, speaking on condition of not being quoted, was that Quartararo would end the season on the same spec bike as the other three Yamahas. And if the French youngster is to receive the full rev range of the engine, then Buriram, with three significant straights, is a track where it might be used. And with Motegi to follow, another stop-and-go track where the bike is revved through the gears, then it makes sense for Yamaha to ease the reins on Quartararo's engine here, rather than wait another couple of races.

It is worth pointing out that this doesn't require Quartararo to be given a different engine (which would be against the rules). The revs are controlled by the software in the ECU, a rev limit set by Yamaha engineers which Quartararo could not exceed. With a few clicks of a computer mouse, that limit has been raised by 500 RPM.

Making it last

Opinions are split between the Yamaha riders on whether their speed will translate into race pace. Valentino Rossi was most pessimistic. "It looks like we are very competitive, and especially in the time attack with the soft tire, all the Yamahas are good," the Italian said. "Like last year the feeling in this track is positive because the tires work well and the bike you can ride well. But for the pace we have some more problems so we need to work and to find the right tire for the rear and we need to find the way to remain constant for all the race because it will be very hot and very hard for the tires."

Maverick Viñales shared Rossi's concerns, but believed they could be overcome. "I worked with the medium tire quite a lot today, and we know the soft is very good but the hard we do not know yet," Viñales said. "I was working with the medium as I have good feeling on the medium. We will see. It is very difficult to see but also it is true that we have to be a little more aggressive under acceleration because we lose out on top speed. Anyway, we have to work to see the tire degradation after the race. Here normally it is quite okay, it is not a big drama so we will see."

Quartararo, on the other hand, was unconcerned. "The normal run was really good," the Frenchman said. "Honestly, I didn't expect to ride this fast, and we have something to improve on the bike that maybe can give us one or two tenths. So if we achieve what we really think about this setting, we will be really happy."

Whether Yamaha will have much time to work on race setup on Saturday remains to be seen. The forecast was for heavy rain in the morning and afternoon, but the chances of a downpour have diminished as the morning draws near. It could well be an almost dry day, with showers now looking more likely after qualifying is finished. But with Marc Márquez in his current mood, it would be hard to bet against him grabbing pole, whatever the weather.

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"After being highsided off the bike, Márquez returned to intimate his rivals."

i think you meant intimidate, yet "intimate" is a more real description of what marquez is doing to his rivals.

Brilliant mate!

But I am sure he was just helping them over a fence. Cheers.

Is Dovi throwing shade at Lorenzo here?  Seems to be the case.  Kudo's to Marc for getting right out there and posting quick times right away in FP2.  It would be nice to know what is needed to get that bike back ready to race (vital if it turns into a Flag to Flag race) as from the pictures and video it looks like nothing much was left to salvage except maybe the most important part the engine.

That was my first thought also because if not, he's simply stating the obvious. There always has been and always will be racers, no check that, atheletes, who play up their injuries so they have an excuse to fall back on when their performance is not up to snuff. Just as there will be those who play down their injuries because they do not want their competition to feel they have any extra advantage against them.   

The way bad bruising/inflammation goes, Marc may be worse off tomorrow. Very sore and swollen. Bunch of Advil, and off he goes.

"Quartararo had finished the day as fastest, proof that being fast in the corners helped a lot. But there are clues that the Frenchman has finally been given clearance to use the 500 RPM extra the other Yamahas have. Normally, Quartararo's Petronas Yamaha is down on speed compared to the other Yamahas, the two factory Monster Energy Yamaha machines of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, and the factory-spec M1 of Petronas Yamaha teammate Franco Morbidelli. But in Thailand, Quartararo is keeping step with them."

Heh. This is awesome. Satellite rider unleashed. This is where the tuning fork guys are placing their future (post-Rossi) bets.

"...Did Fabio Q get the 500 revs? or is he just rapid?"

Yes...and Yes.

Top speed is almost always (at least at the Iwata end of the spectrum) a result of better acceleration off the previous corner than the result of some demonic top-end lunge in power near the Redline. And the 500 RPM delta is just generally misunderstood. The great Simon Crafar extracted an illuminating answer from Yamaha on the subject, with the main points being:

  • RPM limits are programed by each individual gear selected. There is not a universal RPM limit for all gears (but there is a never exceed maximum for the entire system).
  • Most of the RPM limits are applied to the overrun when downshifting, not as a restriction on when you upshift (mostly*). The engine is probably not pulling any better with the higher RPM shift point than the lower one, due to the inherent power band of the Iwata product.

There can be a real advantage in the lower gears to allowing another 500 RPM when downshifting (to those same lower gears). The advantage is only there if certain corners allow you to brake into the turn in a lower gear by screaming the engine a bit on overrun (before the apex), whereas a restriction on overrun RPM would necessitate entering the corner in a higher cog/lower RPM. This Lower Gear/Higher RPM puts you in a meatier part of the power band exiting the corner after the apex (but still below the next shift point), which of course allows better acceleration...which then yields a higher top speed...which makes Fabio, well... mas rapido (or is that plus rapide?). And here we are, back where we started. Again, kudos to Mr. Crafar for his continued great work. Cheers.

*The "mostly" can be useful at the end of a straight where it is quicker to turn the engine 500 RPM higher to avoid a final upshift, which of course would then be followed by almost immediately downshifting (for the following curve). Useful, but it only helps on a very few sections during the MotoGP season (usually caused by a change in wind direction or strength, or a bit of drafting madness in the heat of things). The helpfulness of additional overrun RPM is far more prevalent. But both cases only apply when gearbox/final drive ratios cannot otherwise manage the issues. So the Phantom 500 RPM was never really the same as bolting a small anvil to FQ20's M1 before he exits the box, which some of the more dramatic reporting (from other sites) would have us all believe. Cheers.

PS - Certain Moto2 riders abusing the hell out of the spec engine's rpm limits while downshifting has become the bain of Triumph Racing. Evidently the Moto2 software/hardware does a pretty good job at limiting RPM while shifting up, but is not nearly as clever as the MotoGP bits for policing rampant abuse going down through the gears. It has gotten to the point where if you snuff your spec motor, Triumph pulls the recorded operational history of that unit, and if you were exceeding redline limits (going down through the gears) the offending Team gets a hefty bill for the replacement motor.

^ Great Jinx, thanks!

Note the 2020 Moto2 Triumph Daytona 765 special bike's redline? LOW. I wondered about that, it isn't needed, the 675 was perfectly reliable outside of the early shift fork fails in the transmission. They were unusually conservative.

We know Fabio Quartararo is mighty rapid. I think MM93 recognizes that fact as well.

Pole position proves his 1 lap pace. Winning races against Marc Marquez would prove FabQ20 is a very special rider.

Better corner speed also makes a difference in speed on the next straight, but the Yamaha riders are fairly close there.

Thanks for your insight Jinx, much appreciated