Le Mans MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Fickle Weather, A Wild 2020, Starting With No Electronics, A Popular Winner, And 2020's Mr Consistency

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that it is pointless to try to make sense of 2020. There is neither rhyme nor reason to this year; you just have to let it wash over you like an autumnal rain shower and hope to emerge on the other side, if not unscathed, then at least in some sort of shape to continue. It is impossible to make plans, impossible to predict what might happen next.

So it is in MotoGP too. After Barcelona, we started to believe that a shape was emerging to the 2020 MotoGP championship. That favorites were emerging who would do battle over the title for the remaining six races. Naturally enough, this turned out to be naively optimistic, reckoning without the weirdness which runs like a shimmering thread through this pandemic-blighted year. We really should have known better.

Le Mans confronted us once again with the reality of 2020. A rain shower as the bikes headed out for the sighting lap threw the race into disarray, reshuffling the cards once again. Teams had to gamble on whether the rain would persist, and if so, for how long, and make choices about tires and setup. Once the race started on a very obviously wet track, the rain came and went, ending any thoughts of pitting for slicks, leaving the riders to sink or swim by their tire choice, and how well they managed to preserve their tires to the end.

Even then the race wasn't that simple. There was chaos at the start, Valentino Rossi crashing out at the chicane, throwing another wildcard into the mid pack melee. Riders were shuffled toward the back, but then came through the field as a result of smart tire management and fortuitous tire choices. And perhaps just with getting lucky with conditions.

Where to begin? Here's a selection of subjects in these subscriber notes:

  • Jack Miller's cruel luck
  • how the weather made tire choice both crucial, and a lottery
  • Was this an inline 4 vs V4 race?
  • Maverick Viñales' decision to skip launch control and do it himself
  • why qualifying matters, and sometimes doesn't matter
  • a day that was simultaneously very good, very bad, and pretty insignificant for the championship contenders
  • a two-meatball race, something we haven't seen before
  • Danilo Petrucci and Alex Márquez, an unlikely podium and a chance to take aim at their critics
  • MotoGP's Mr Regularity

There is a lot to try to make sense of, though this time, that may be hard. But we have to begin with weather, and how the rain, and tire choices made, would have a profound impact on the outcome of the race. Though ironically, not so much on the championship.

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Great summary and analysis of an exciting race. Thanks David. As someone who generally reads about MotoGP more than watches it, I couldn't help noticing that both meatball incidents involved cameras on the bikes. 

There were some oddities, weren't there? Congruent with the season in general.

Poor Miller. Our motor allocation rules but him. He had already experienced troubles with that bike, so they chose to go with the other bike. Then the surprise rain stuck him on his B bike. Phooot! Poor guy. Very frustrating. 

Rins, it unfortunately didn't surprise me he went down then. It DID though that he had a turn worker's webbing on his camera. Had one staring to see if there were credentials on it from their neck. Goofy circus. 

Alex Marquez near the front? Also goofy. The wet rear doesn't push the front so much? 

The Yamaha just can't get heat into tires when temps are lower than normal. Dry? Win. Cold and wet? Finish upright. Quartararo did well. Maverick did not. Mercurial that fellow. He is capable of much that isn't manifesting, and when that happens he openly flails in our view. Hats off to his passionate efforts. He runs hot AND rich. Check the plugs. 

Petrucci is a fun character. Utterly demonstrative. What you see is him. 7th winner already? Huh! And we still have a few more potentials. Nice race Danilo. 

Oliveira was running quick on his KTM. Nice to see that they can do the business in varied conditions. Most improved bike award. Pedrosa has moved from bridesmaid to wedding planner and is getting lots of earned praise. 

Honda has made public their pursuit of Dovisioso as 2021 Test rider. Great move! Hoping you don't since you have The Marc, and it bugs me to have to see or hear The Puig more than necessary. Truth be told there is a little HRC #69 bike on a shelf here. 2005-2006 you had my heart. Then a 600RR and a 1000RR in the garage. Several vintage, Supermoto and dirt bikes. Even the lawnmower. Here's to hoping your 2022 bike is just like this one. 

So Cal to Aprilia, eh? Hmm. 

Next round, at Aragon, Ducati's again? What conditions are we in for this weekend? Please make it warmer...hate to see them outside of operating temp range, cruel affair that. Rins beats Quartararo. Bagnaia back in it? Miller will be. 

Btw, isn't it fun having all these sets of brothers? Aleix and Pol, Marc and Alex, Cal and Jack? And Uncle Vale of course, even more paddock family. Good to see all the camraderie of many colors.



Many thanks for a great article as usual.

I just want to tell you that please take care of your health condition. I am fine if it needs a few days before you can publish a write-up article.

We know how hard to make a high quality work like this. 

Thank you Kropotkin, I hope you have had enough sleep.

That was a race!

I've been riding and reading your marvelous round up at coffee stops. Bit by bit your words & my memories of the race mix. It's starting to gell while I've been enjoying the corners.

Would Jaques Miller be allowed to swap to his other bike with healthy engine if it has the same tyres, wets, as the bike with the sick donk? Hypothetically if JM43 had pitted a lap earlier. Or when he realized that GP20 wasn't going the distance? I have a recollection the rider is required to swap to a bike with different tyres.

"...Quartararo did well. Maverick did not..."

Sorry, 'Shrink, I don't think you can really say that when MV12 finished just behind FQ20.

Yes, MV12 is a bit of an enigma, and has been a bit of a whipping boy to the media lately. Perhaps even more deserved, seeing as how he turned off his launch control, at a wet race.

But for this race, I don't think you can say that one did well and another did poorly when mere tenths of a second separated them at the finish line. And where were the other Yamahas?

"...Truth be told there is a little HRC #69 bike on a shelf here. 2005-2006 you had my heart..." 

+1, sir!

Good point taken. My focus was on Vinales having had plenty of wet experience vs Quarty. You're right about that, thanks for keeping me considerate.

To see Dovizioso wildcarding on a Repsol Honda next year with the #1 plate would be priceless. For the winner of the 2020 Motogp season to not have a regular grid spot next year would make the weirdness complete.

Another intriguing race and for you David, this moveable feast must make these marathon reviews much easier to assemble, though the class and depth and perception will always be appreciated. 
Shrinkster, you do say some stuff that I struggle to decipher, others that are original gold, but even from you what I never thought I'd find myself reading anywhere was:

"Pedrosa has moved from bridesmaid to wedding planner"

Yes, we've known Dani as the bridesmaid for a while, so we're used to him in that blush pink dress, what you've done here sir is find the perfect context and role progression for the situation-only you!! The problem I now have is I'm tired, off to bed soon, with a long driving day tomorrow and I quite simply cannot get Dani the wedding planner out of my mind, moreover what kind of outfit he may wear for such a role, I fear a restless night ahead..
Last point, went to Le Mans in 2019, surprisingly for me, for the first time. It's a bit tatty around the edges, there's a lot of drunk indigenous folk staggering about, the campsites are bombsites, it's most certainly old school, nearest comparison being the old down at heel Donington. But I tell you what, like Donington was in its GP days, you can still wander around most of the track, see a lot of different angles and get surprisingly close to the MotoGP missiles, something that is becoming increasingly rare nowadays. 

Gosh, I'd have thought this year must be a complete nightmare for any bike journalist. Not only are the races packed so close they make a sardine tin look roomy, but (and to stay with the fishy metaphor), you never know from one session to another whether the shark will gobble up the herring or the herring turn out to have a bite of its own. That's a heck of a lot of twists and turns to have to make sense of and articulate to the readership.

Anyway - this year has forced me to give up any pretensions at being a fan boy, there'd be far too much heartbreak in it these days. Every race weekend is a mystery at the beginning and a surprise at the end. It's like the gods are playing with us, challenging every preconception we've ever held. How on earth does Marquez jnr go from being a tail ender to looking seriously good in the space of a couple of months? How does Quarty appear to lose all confidence a week after trouncing the field? They make movies with these kind of storylines. I think I know the underlying answer - that the field is now so close that any rider can win on their good day, or come near last on their bad one. The greatest mystery of them all will be what happens when Marquez snr comes back out to play. Will it all settle back into a more or less predictable pattern, or is this mayhem here to stay?

Its good though - by far the most enjoyable season for years at this end of the circus.

though in relative terms, it should be 'easier' to pick from the abundance of low hanging fruit that keeps falling on your head, than searching out a barren orchard for the odd piece of fruit. And good journalists like David can bring us that mixed fruit pie, baked to perfection. Putting the desperately clunky fruit-based metaphors aside I agree with the sheer fabulous-ness of 2020, and like everyone I am awaiting the return of the king but I'm also very nervous about it. Omnipresent in my mind is the MM93 bowling ball, still the same attitude and spirit that finished him at Jerez (1&2), but introducing that scenario into the roller coaster of, for example, Portimao when there could be a four way fight for the crown fills me with dread tbh. Mark will only find out he can't quite make that move after so long out when it starts to go wrong; still it would be another variable to a crazy year!, and I can't wait!

Respect to Vinales for trying to outperform the electronics,  If he kept doing the same thing as everyone else, he would get the same results.  I hope this is an outward signal that he is taking more responsibility for his own performances.  Stop talking about the bike, the tires, the data technician, and get on with it.

5 Races, 6 Weeks, 1 Champ

Here we go folks - Aragon x2, Valencia x2 and a bonus at Rollercoaster de Portugal. 

Late in the year temps have tires out of operating range. Opposite of rushing in tires for tomorrow, these were brought in last Winter. What to expect?!

Marc Marquez's return is awaited, ominously it seems. Not at Aragon, more likely Valencia. Wouldn't he want to get going before the end of the season, but at a track he knows? Valencia. Then does Portugal if he feels good. 

Now that we are staring at Aragon and Valencia, isn't it time for predictions finally? 

Aragon 1, Ducati runs well, and Mir beats Quartararo. The tension is up even higher, the Championship even closer.

Aragon 2 KTM takes a step forward and one of three Orange riders steps into the front mix. Mir and Quartararo have a battle royale. A third bike is in that mix, we have quite a gaggle to choose from.

Valencia 1...all hell breaks loose. Conditions and tires wobble. Marc returns. Free for all push and pressure, tensions rise several notches. Surprises. A Ducati rider is there.

Valencia 2 has a Binder or Nakagami type notably run way forward of last weekend. The battle between Quartararo and Mir sees one run off track pushed from the inside. We all watch that repeatedly and argue about it. Marc wins the race, Mir steps out ahead in the Championship. And it comes down to a new exciting circuit. 

Mir, Davide and Schwantz have quite a celebration after 20 yrs, KRJr via video chat ala 2020. 

The no Marc, new Michelin rear and covid-19 effect on the human psyche will continue to weird out the Motogp 2020 season results.

There has not been a Yamaha podium at Aragón since Lorenzo in '16. The back straight will shine a bright light on the Yamaha's weakest aspect. Recall Viñales last year shaking his head in disgust as he was passed by Ducatis. Rins and Mir finished 28 and 33 seconds off the race win last year and will need to make a huge year-on-year step to finish near the front. The Ducatis could be very strong and not necessarily the factory guys. And there is also Nakagami although Aragón is not really one of his best tracks for results. Orange bikes are an unknown but have improved at the second race of the double rounds. Which is the opposite pattern that Dovizioso has exhibited.

And yet, what the 2020 Motogp season has shown us is that old patterns are being destroyed. That happened emphatically at Jerez and Andalucía and has continued throughout the year.

I believe that it would be too perfect if events transpired that allowed Dovizioso to win the championship. He would be the oldest top class GP champ since Phil Read in 1974. He might beat Nicky Hayden for the least wins by a champion in the modern era. And he might not have a spot on the grid next year even though he wants to continue racing. All this while riding a bike that he has not truly gelled with the entire season due to the introduction of the new Michelin rear tire. That would pretty much bring to a conclusion the weirdness of the 2020 Motogp season.

I admire your determination to see a pattern in this season. The closest I'd go is to predict that it will be won by someone on a bike - though not necessarily a motorcycle, mind you. At this stage I'd barely raise an eyebrow, Roger Moore style, if one of the marshals pedalled over the portomao finish line by accident only to find himself garlanded and holding a bottle of bubbly within the hour.

On a slightly more serious note, I kind of hope Marc stays out of it for the remainder of this season. It's been a fabulous battle, race after race, and whoever comes out on top will probably have earned it whether they've got no wins of 5 wins. It might take the shine off it if Marc drops by and does his thing.


And, some other riders and bikes are "doing the Marc thing" more eh? How much? Quartararo had started to before at fairly Yam friendly tracks, arriving with The Marc last laps. Have we just had a few quickenings? What about the non Honda bikes in question, are they improved?

Has Marc lost any lustre in being roughly tossed and seriously injured? Being off the bike? 

The Honda, has it improved much for Marc? And how do conditions and the tires factor in? 

The Yamaha does not have more motor than it started the season with, and may have 500 less revs. Cold temps hinder it, can't get heat in like the point shoot bikes. Worse than the Suzuki. 

The Suzuki has helped well for Sunday. So has Mir. Rins is healing and struggling less w fitness, more able to ride his style. But it is Mir that has come into strength. And the bike, outside of Q. Not a top speed match for the V4's, but not getting trounced if in the slip stream. 

The KTM has improved the most, but it is race podiums and top 5s to shoot for for 2020, not the Championship. Ducati? Looking good this year, and will at Aragon. Miller has been in possible contention. Despite voicing struggle with the new rear tires, it is Dovi leading the flock of Ducs. He has his work cut out for him. Aragon? Could! 

Oddly, the poor conditions taketh away from Yamaha and giveth to... Honda. The bike puts heat in tires. The rear does not push so much in lower traction. If the front at entry is treated with care early in a race, their riders can get the bike on the pace relative to the others. Not easy or with much confidence perhaps, but no one is getting what they are used to there. 

Marc won't wait all Winter and let us conjecture about him. During Valencia?! He is going to ride. Being away from the bike will hinder him for three laps. But his tumble and struggles will have his exhuberance dialed from 12 to 10.5, which is actually bad news for the grid. He may win at Valencia. I don't think he will be out alone up there. This could be GOOD. 

Puig may be hedging his bets. It may be a prudent move to acquire the services of Dovizioso as a test rider. Puig's recent comments, and I'm paraphrasing, that Dovizioso is a very experienced rider that knows exactly what he needs in a bike to go fast, may be a dig at senior Ducati management and Dall'Igna, or an honest assessment of Dovi's skillset. Or both. 

Anyway, it may be true that everyone is in the dark concerning Marquez' recovery. Why not sign the one guy that has beaten Marquez in more last lap, last corner duels than any other rider in Motogp? Sounds like a sensible a safe bet. Plus, Dovizioso could use his analytical skills in tandem with engineers that may be a bit more open minded than those with his current employer. And if Marquez' slow recovery continues...  

One thing that i haven't seen discussed here about Dovi potentially doing test rider duties at HRC is the pride / ego aspect of that. I can't think of anything worse than becoming the donkey for the bloke who beat you 3 years in a row to the championship. Would you shine the shoes of the bloke who stole your wife? Surely must be better ways to spend your time.

The rumors surrounding Stoner's testing duties, where it was said that he was more interested in setting a fast lap time than testing all of the parts available vs the obvious work of Pedrosa who set his own self importance aside in order to focus on the job at hand, which was improving the package, so that he could bask in the afterglow of success by the team (as in podiums and wins) is a valid question.

What is Dovizioso's intention? He has made it clear that he still wants to race and feels he has something to offer and can be competitive. Surely, should he take on the duties of a tester, it would be with the openmindedness of possibly returning to the grid full time. Then the unfolding reality would make it clear if his intentions were at all possible. 

Would Dovizioso be able to accept the humility that Pedrosa so welcomed? Interesting question db.

From what's on the record, (my recollection...) Casey's view was the Ducati management would not listen to him about either set up or engineering evo of the platform. Now from whom exactly have we heard that recently - well apart from Messrs Dovi and Lorenzo. It seems to me that the Ducati pilots would generally forgo gadget level innovation for a bike that turns a little better and has better corner speed. Of course every rider wants a bike that is all strengths and no weaknesses but it seemed a lot like a year of not listening to Lorenzo was followed by a brief period of listening to him and he became very fast, and we could all see the too late difference that made! But to your broader point it seems to me that Dovi would be an absolutely outstanding development partner and is much like Dani in lacking an excessive ego.  Cheers.

This season i've seen several times on social media the idea that any discussion of how Marc Marquez may have faired in this season is somehow disrespectful to the other riders. It all started, maybe, when Alberto stated that the championship is of less value without Marc Marquez, that the eventual champion would be somewhat less of a champion because of Marc's absence.

In my opinion, absolute rubbish. Whoever wins the 2020 MotoGP title will be a champion and forever to be the 2020 MotoGP champion, finished, no discusion.

However, it is also true that they did not beat Marc Marquez. He was absent, through his own doing - yes, part of any sport - yes, but nevertheless, absent and in some way he remains unbeaten on track (over a season etc), since 2015.

I don't think it's disrespectful to think, mention or discuss this and what may have been if Marc had not been injured. It's a pointless exercise because it can never be known how Marc would have done (it is known how he did, he crashed) but i don't feel it's disrespectful. I think if anything, the apparent sensitivity some people feel for this is actually a confirmation of the fact.

Of slightly more or less interest, we can turn the whole thing on it's head! If Marc Marquez had vanished from 2019 at round 1, all other things being the same, there would have been 7 winners in 2019. It is reasonable to suggest that if Marc Marquez hadn't been at Phillip Island then Maverick would have won instead of crashing which drops the number of winners in the imaginary 2019 to 6. Sorry Cal, no disrespect intended.

DNF's in 2019 were quite harsh for some. Four DNF's for Maverick (or 3 if we are being mean to Cal), Fabio, Rossi and Jack. Three DNF's for Rins and a total of 6 DNF's each for Franco and Cal. It would seem that, with the exception of Dovi, 2019 was also a chaotic season for most riders after we remove Marc from the equation.

Every season has a unique story but maybe this year, held against recent years, without Marc and with Dovi having his issues, we get to enjoy what was always there but this time the whacky race gives gold instead of bronze as it's top prize.

Thanks for the article David