Analysis

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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2022 MotoGP Testing Review: Yamaha – Already Hitting The Limit Of Its Potential?

In 2021, the Yamaha M1 as the fastest motorcycle around a grand prix race track. The evidence for that is clear: 2021 MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo. Quartararo had five race victories, more than anyone else, and five race fastest laps. He also had five pole positions, one less than Pecco Bagnaia.

So the bike was good, despite the chaos elsewhere making it look otherwise. Quartararo was the only constant in 2021. Valentino Rossi never managed to get his head around the new construction rear Michelins, and despite his protestations, was never the same after he returned from his bout with Covid-19. Maverick Viñales won a race, got another podium and a pole, but also finished last, tried to sabotage his engine, and left Yamaha after Austria.

Franco Morbidelli snapped a knee ligament riding a flat track bike, missed much of the season, and was still not fully fit when he returned. And the Petronas team saw a veritable parade of characters taking Morbidelli's place, culminating with Andrea Dovizioso, who is still struggling to adapt to the Yamaha, and to the Michelin rear tire he has never liked.

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2022 MotoGP Testing Review: Ducati - Are They Really The Threat We Think They Are?

Leaving the Sepang MotoGP test, all eyes were on Ducati. In part, perhaps, because they had brought yet another technical innovation which is set to upset rival manufacturers, and captured the imagination of fans and media. We were all talking about Ducati's front ride-height device.

That enthusiasm was supported by the fact that there were two Ducatis in the top three after Sepang, and three Ducatis in the top six. Take away the Aprilias (who had had the benefit of extra days riding and testing during the shakedown test), and there were three Ducatis in the top four. Things were looking ominous.

Heading into the Mandalika test, we were expecting that Ducati dominance to continue. Luca Marini setting the fastest time on the second day on the Mooney VR46 Desmosedici GP22 reinforced that idea. And yet by the end of the three-day test, the idea that 2022 would be the year of the Ducati was far less obvious than it had been a week prior.

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Portimão Moto2 & Moto3 Test Notes: Development Returns, A Full Calendar Expected, And Acosta's Meteoric Rise

After three days of testing for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes at Portimão, the 2022 preseason is officially over. It was pretty much over by about 4pm on Monday, with just 10 riders out in the Moto3 class, and even fewer in the Moto2 class. I went for a quick walk around the service road at 5:30pm, and was too late to see the last bike circulate.

That is in itself a sign of how successful this test was for the lightweight and intermediate classes. Three days of outstanding weather, with the wind the biggest issue on the first day, and no disruption for the rest of the test. The teams got pretty much all of the testing done that they needed to.

Unlike a MotoGP test, the amount of technical material to test is limited. In Moto3, engine development is still frozen for another couple of years, although both Honda and KTM had new exhausts obviously aimed at improving engine character. In Moto2, Triumph had brought a new gearbox, which is more race-focused, with a longer first gear and shorter fifth and sixth, making it more of a close-ratio box.

New bits

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Mandalika MotoGP Testing Round - How Honda's Radical Redesign Reshapes 2022

What did we learn from the Mandalika test? First of all, we learned that building a circuit is hard, and every aspect of it needs to be carefully monitored. Because using the wrong stones in the aggregate for the asphalt can mean you have to resurface the track just a few weeks before the race is due to be held.

Despite the state of the asphalt, once the track cleaned up – something the riders had to be bullied into to doing, even though it was for their own good – the riders put in a lot of laps, the reward for effort going to Takaaki Nakagami, who racked up a grand total of 91 laps on the final day, or over 390km. Spend 390km on a motorcycle at road legal(ish) speeds, and you'll know about it. Spend the same distance on a MotoGP bike, pushing at the effort and intensity levels required for testing to be useful, and you enter a very different level of pain and discomfort. As made plain by LCR Honda team boss Lucio Cecchinello's photo of Nakagami's blistered hands on Instagram.

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Mandalika MotoGP Test Saturday Round Up: Real Work Starts And The Cream Rises To The Top

You could tell testing was underway in earnest at Mandalika on Saturday by the fact that for most of the day, Brad Binder's name was stuck at the top of the timesheets. The time Binder set was already well under Pol Espargaro's best time from Friday, hitting a 1'31.814 on his third exit from the pits. But nobody followed suit until the final hour or so of the test, with Luca Marini eventually ending up fastest with a lap of 1'31.289. The teams and riders were too busy with the hard graft of testing, optimizing parts and refining setup, figuring out the best base with which to launch their assault on the 2022 MotoGP championship at Qatar in three weeks' time.

A day of riding had made a huge difference to the track surface, with a clean line with high grip appearing. Off line, the track was still filthy, and quite dangerous – Raul Fernandez took a very big tumble and was wandering round on Saturday afternoon with bruises on his face from the impact, and one of Marc Marquez' practice starts ended in a massive fishtail with a lot of sideways motion and not much forward momentum.

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Mandalika MotoGP Test Friday Round Up: Sweeping The Circuit To Start

It was a good day for attention-grabbing headlines at Mandalika. Pol Espargaro ended the day with a scorching lap which took him under the WorldSBK Superpole by four tenths of a second. There were six different manufacturers in the top six. The lead on the first day changed hands time after time in the last couple of hours.

But the headlines don't really mean very much. Times were dropping because the track started off filthy and only really started to clean up in the last hour or so of the day. This is the first outing at Mandalika for MotoGP, so the teams and factories have very little data to go on, with teams working on such basics as figuring out the best gearing for the track.

The track was incredibly dirty, because it is still in the middle of a building site and has not been used since WorldSBK left the circuit back in November of last year. There has been plenty of building work done, the pit complex is much closer to completion than November, but the combination of building work and torrential tropical rains left a lot of dirt and mud on the track.

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Review Part 4: A Radical New Honda, And Careful Progress At KTM

It is always hard to decide which order to write about the manufacturers in after a MotoGP test. It is sometimes obvious, but at a test like Sepang, where there was a surprising amount going on, it is hard to rank the factories in order of importance or significance.

So leaving Honda and KTM until last should not be taken as indicative of anything other than authorial capriciousness. I had to pick an order. This is the order which I picked. It doesn't mean much. Because both Honda and KTM had a lot to test, though in slightly different areas. Honda continued work on their brand new RC213V prototype, which the public got its first glimpse of at Misano. KTM were focused more on the human side, with two rookies to get up to speed in the Tech3 team, and a new team manager brought in to smooth the running of the project.

Honda – Oh brave new world, that has such vehicles in it

The shock of the new is abating when it comes to Honda. We are slowly getting used to the idea that Honda has abandoned its previous design philosophy and has built a radically different machine. Yet the bike which appeared at Sepang had undergone yet more changes since its last outing at the Jerez test.

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Review, Part 3: Aprilia, Suzuki, Yamaha - A Question Of Progress

With Ducati hogging all of the technical limelight with their latest gadget, it is easy to overlook what was going on elsewhere in pit lane at the Sepang MotoGP test. Yet there was plenty of interesting tech on display, some of it working well, other parts not quite so much. So here's a look at what the other MotoGP manufacturers were up to in Malaysia.

Aprilia – lighter, slimmer, but more chatter

Aprilia face a major challenge in 2022. For the past two years, their rivals have been unable to develop their engines, engine design having been frozen during the pandemic. 2022 is the first season where the factories without concessions have been able to bring updated engines. So the Noale factory is about to find out whether it has done enough over the past two years to close the gap and be competitive.

The evidence so far points to them being successful. Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales topped the first day of the official test, and finished second and fifth respectively on the second day, Viñales just 0.130 behind Enea Bastianini, and on the same time as fourth-placed Alex Rins.

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