Europe MotoGP Subscriber Notes: A Champion In Waiting, A Base Setting, And Why Yamaha Isn't As Bad As You Think

For most of the 2020 Grand Prix season, nobody has wanted to win a championship. Every time someone has taken a lead at one race, they have found ever more creative ways to throw it away at the next. Fabio Quartararo got off to a lightning start, winning the first two races of the season. Then he let his lead slip away, Andrea Dovizioso making inroads into the Petronas Yamaha rider's advantage.

Behind the leaders, Maverick Viñales made a strong charge, then faded away, then came back again with a win at Misano 2. Jack Miller started off strong, had a DNF, then a run of good results and another DNF and has been up and down (literally, in a couple of cases) ever since. Takaaki Nakagami closed in relentlessly by finishing inside the top ten every race, until he crashed out of the lead at Aragon 2.

It was hard to see who was in the driving seat of the championship. Quartararo took back the lead at Barcelona, but hasn't finished any better than eighth since then. Dovizioso has slowly slipped further out of reach, while Maverick Viñales has barely stayed in touch with the top of the championship. Franco Morbidelli has won two races to close the gap, but had some poor finishes and a DNF as well.

Throwing it away

Much the same is true in the support classes as well. In the Moto2 championship, Luca Marini looked to have an iron grip on the title before injuring himself in Le Mans and passing the baton to Sam Lowes. In Moto3, the championship lead has seesawed between Albert Arenas and Ai Ogura, with neither managing to seize the advantage.

That pattern looked set to continue at the European Grand Prix, the first round of the two to be held at the Valencia circuit. An insane Moto3 race saw Albert Arenas black-flagged, Celestino Vietti highside himself out of third in the opening laps, John McPhee crash out, and Ai Ogura close the gap to Arenas again. In Moto2, Sam Lowes threw away his championship lead by crashing out, while Enea Bastianini couldn't capitalize after finishing in fourth.

After all this chaos – indeed, a whole season's worth in all three classes – the MotoGP race restored some sense of stability. In what was a race exemplary of what Valencia has to offer – the riders close enough to keep up the tension, but passing opportunities few and far between – Joan Mir repeated what he has been doing for most of the season: finish on the podium, score points, extend his lead.

This time, he did it with conviction, winning the race convincingly and ending the threat of repeating Emilio Alzamora's feat of winning a championship without taking a single victory. And he did it by beating his teammate Alex Rins while his main rivals struggled. With two races to go, it looks at last as if there is someone who wants to win the 2020 title after all. And there will be no asterisks or question marks over the legitimacy of his victory either.

A lot happened this weekend, but most of it has already been covered. So in these subscriber notes:

  • How Joan Mir finally triumphed
  • Did he win, or was he let through?
  • The importance of a good base setting
  • The advantage of private testing
  • The strength of the KTMs
  • Binder's astonishing race
  • Nakagami's fatal flaw
  • Why things aren't as bleak as they look for Yamaha
  • The incredible statistics of the 2020 season

But first, back to how Joan Mir won the European Grand Prix, where his victory leads the championship, and what he needs to do to wrap up the title.

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Why persist with saying that nobody wants to win the world championship? If you put this to any of the riders they would likely teach you some choice swear words in their home language. The last two paragraphs of this great summary reinforce what almost all the riders have said, that no matter how hard they have tried, the closeness of the field has made it almost impossible to be on top every race. This is the result of the level playing field rules for not just MotoGP but the "junior" classes that all the newer riders have come through. It makes for incredibly tight fields and great viewing and opinionating, and incredible frustration for riders and their teams. They absolutely want to win it.

Q: Zarco's big drop back, was that just the tire going off, or was something else going on?


Btw, not all criticism of Yamaha can be called recency bias. They crapped themselves recently, yes. But they crapped themselves even more last year designing such an underpowered and unreliable engine. Several soiled trousers between those, and they are the disappointment of the season after holding such promise a year ago.

... the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, and nine winners in 2016, it's never happened before. :-)

Because in the old days a decent percentage of the grid did not make it to the end of the season. There's brilliant riders never won anything; Saarinen. Comes easily to mind. 

It's an almost entirely different sport, on circuits at least. The attrition on road racing seems to be increasing and that makes me cry.

Shades of '06 for Yamaha this year. If it wasn't one thing it was another, but in their defence they had 10 or 12 pretty good years thereafter. They'll bounce back, just a bit unfortunate that any one of their four riders had the ability to take the title this year had things gone more their way.

We've had an amazing season up until now, one of the best ever...

...and then we go to Valencia for not one but two races.

I'm loathe to criticise Dorna too much as it's completely down to them that we've even had a championship at all, and that's before we take into account how Carmelo has turned MotoGP into pretty much the best sport in the world. But why do we always have to go to the worst track of the entire year at the most crucial moment?

I'm with you there. Even as a spectator it looks like a scratty little karting  track. The season should end at one of the grand cathedrals like Mugello, PI or Assen.

I'm pretty sure Valencia pays a substantial amount of money to be the final race of the year, just like Qatar pays a ridiculous amount of money to be the first race if the year.

... are truly remarkable. A championship where well over 2/3rds of the 22 competitors finish on the podium can only be called a great achievement. Well done Dorna.

I don't believe Yamaha's criticism is recency bias. Quartararo's season looks exactly like Vinales 2017 season while nothing in between has been much better for any Yamaha rider. 3 years and several riders a part and Yamaha seem stuck in the same cycle while all other manufacturers have improved or at least seem to know in which direction to go. And judging by comments made avfter the race, Maverick, Rossi and Quartararo are near complete revolt.

Everybody has had the same ingredients to cook a great meal with. Everyone knew, with Marc out.... Suzuki has cooked a 5-Star meal, while every other manufacturer has set up a fast food stand. Mir's interview, posted on GPOne (I think), regarding 'pressure' was timely, and, some might say, arrogant, BUT on Sunday he backed it up. Team Suzuki can not get enough CONGRATS for their year. 

Yamaha: can anyone explain FIM ruling on their 'cheating'? If Ducati would have done it, there'd be screaming/yelling on 'the fix is in'. I agree with what Ducati said: the penalty sets a bad precedence. 
Ducati: WTF? The wheels have totally come off and they seem totally lost.

KTM: Impressive! I think Pol has made a mistake changing teams.  
HRC: with Marc gone, KTM is kicking their butt. The engineering giant is getting their ass handed to them by a little company in Austria. 

......AND.....Marc will be back in '21. 

Maybe; hope so for his sake and Honda's. This long recuperation period seems rather ominous for a simple fracture. As someone noted recently, ask other riders who have had major upper arm/shoulder injuries -- Fogarty, Hodgson, etc.

Great report as always David, but I don't think this is right. These back-to-backs and late nights are definitely catching up with you! cheeky

If Mir doesn't score on Sunday (hypothetically, I hope he does!) then either Mav can stay in the hunt with a top three, or Frankie or Dovi with a top two. Unless my brain needs syringing...

just heard on the second best MotoGP podcast. If Yamaha only used "illegal" valves in the Jerez motors because they did't have enough to equip all 20 engines for this year, what valves are they putting in the 28 engines they'll need to supply next year?

I am so impressed with Team Suzuki! I was dissappointed in them when they let Vinales get away, but they found two new rock stars to continue their progress almost seamlessly. Everybody on that team is a good interview and so honest, including the boss. I've never been a Suzuki fan having fielded a GSX-R 600 for one of my sons one season. The bike was disposable... I am a fan now, though. In fact, all the young guys seem to be pretty entertaining. Moreso than in the past. Every KTM rider is a good watch and listen too. I think the sport is in the best shape ever! 

The bizzare part of Yamaha's story is the familiarity. 2017 is mentioned again as the point since which they have been 'lost'. Maverick's uncanny knack for being fast in practice but nowhere in the race. Rossi talking about this years bike not being much of a step up from last years bike, from last years bike, from last years bike. Riders and engineers struggling to understand why the bike, without much effort, works at one track but at the next cannot find anything that works. The last point being a very common experience in 2020 up and down the grid but Yamaha have had 2020 up and downs since 2017.

I dunno, it's obviously not a bad bike but everything just seems so familiar.


I am willing to place money down that Davide can give us both Yamaha's and Suzuki's timelines since the days of Lorenzo, Hamamatsu's return and just how things are currently where they are. That interview is the holy grail and of course it won't happen. I'm sure Honda & Yamaha didn't expect the Japanese Aprilia to sneak up and mug them in the alley, it's just that they took such a very long, thoughtful and methodical run up, they didn't see them coming...

And on that dark, misty night a swarthy latin looking chap was seen wiping down his weapon and slipping it back into his pants whilst having a quick forage around in the sponsorship trash cans before disappearing in Ecstarasy back into the gloom: yes it's the 'INVASION OF THE TITLE SNATCHERS' Directed by KAWAUCHI SAHARA who also brought you the SILENCE OF THE VALVES and NIGHTMARE ON HRC BORGO PANIGALE STREET.

A MIR-RINAMAX production.

That turned progressively more insane and hilarious toward the end. Thanks for a much needed laugh!

Olivera and at least a part of Quartararo's problems in this race could have been solved with an active suspension. Olivera would have benefitted from an active preload system that would maintain an optimum balance on his bike as the fuel load changed, and Quart would have benefitted from an active preload system that would squat and unsquat the bike in and out of acceleration. This is all technology homologated on road vehicles already so in partnership with Ohlins/WP I seriously doubt cost would be an issue. It's time for the FIM to unlock the technological potential of prototype bikes.

Why not remote control racing? Take that nasty human factor out completely

I'd suspect it's a healthy and understandable fear of sending MotoGP down the F1 path.  Technological creep can suck the life out of the racing.  The problem is always where do you draw the line.

Technological creep isn't what has killed F1. It's the feedback loop of the prize money cycle. The rich teams get richer and the poor teams get poorer. There's no such problem in MotoGP. Dorna have done a great job of limiting and managing costs and this tech would be no different.

Equipment wise we are not talking about anything crazy; it would basically be a quasi spec suspension from Ohlins (and WP for KTM) with some extra data points in the spec MM ECU. There are already Ohlins/WP/MM staff in the paddock and every team already has suspension/ECU/data personnel. All this would do for them is change how they tune and manage the suspension. 

MotoGP fans always hate change and in the MM era at least have always been wrong. We hated CRT bikes, which sucked but were necessary to fill the grid. We hated Open Class bikes, which were needed to accelerate and equalize development. We hated the move to spec ECUs and tires, yet with both racing is closer than ever. Etc. etc. I'm not going to buy into the typical FUD and orthodoxy MotoGP fans subscribe to.

As I read yet another quote from a rider saying he couldn't pass when following because his tire temperature had gotten too high, I thought, "Sounds like F1."

In addition to active suspension, or at least computer-controlled ride height adjustment, the bikes need a system to maintain optimum tire pressure throughout the race! Only half joking; anything that makes the racing less processional is a good thing, short of gimmicks like DRS.

All true in the in the world of 2020 MotoGP, but you have to wonder about the ifs and buts of how many of the 9 would've been robbed at the end of the race by Marquez the assassin IF he hadn't crashed himself out of 2020?

When Barry Sheene was commentating one of his pet hates was people talking about the want ifs and buts. He used to say if my uncle had tits he'd have been my auntie.