Analysis

Jerez MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Two Champions Emerge, The Trouble With Front Tyres, And Marc Marquez Is Back Again.

We have spent a lot of time saying that the 2022 MotoGP season starts at Jerez, and it really felt like it on Sunday. Driving into the track on Sunday morning I was surrounded by motorcycles – if you get a chance to go to a MotoGP race on a bike, you should, it is a wonderful experience – all of whom I did my very best not to run into, whatever their antics. The grandstands were full and attendance was nearly back to pre-pandemic levels – over 58,000 on Sunday, about 10,000 shy of a normal Jerez Sunday, or at least, the 'unskewed' numbers which suddenly appeared at the 2016 race, down from double that the previous years.

More importantly, normal order has been restored. There were two riders head and shoulders above the rest, finishing 10 seconds ahead of the battle for third. Marc Marquez showed a lot of his old form, the Repsol Honda rider looking like Marc Marquez on a bike again, not an impostor who sneaked into his truck and stole his leathers for a glorified track day. And all six MotoGP manufacturers are racing under the same rules again, after the last factory lost its concessions. This was a good weekend of racing.

In these notes:

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Jerez MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Lead Duo Gets Stronger, And The Marc Marquez' Conundrum

Saturday at Jerez was a sign that things are getting back to normal in MotoGP. Though the drive into the track in the morning was still pretty smooth – old paddock hands are still traumatized by memories of coming to the track in the '90s, when a single-lane road led to the circuit and you needed to start out almost as soon as you had finished dinner on Saturday night to make it into the track for warm up on Sunday morning – with minimal traffic on the way to the circuit. But the stadium section got fuller as the day went on, and for the first time in three years, the roar of the crowd drowned out the sound of the 130dB MotoGP bikes going at full pelt.

There was a sense of normality on track as well. A second day of near-normal running (only the occasional damp patch, especially around Turn 8, ruining the fun) meant riders arrived in qualifying well prepared to fight for pole. The names at the front of the grid have a more familiar ring to them. The chaos and unpredictability of the start of the season is beginning to dissipate. It is getting easier to pick potential podium candidates, as the main cast of characters is looking similar to those at Portimão. The season is starting to take shape.

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Jerez MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Cursed Calendar, Damp Crashes, Honda's Testing Program, And Silly Season Kicks Off

I am starting to suspect that the 2022 MotoGP season might be cursed. The Sepang test happened, and was relatively incident free, but it's all been downhill from there. The track coming apart at the Mandalika test, an almost normal Qatar, the track coming apart at the Mandalika race, freight problems in Argentina, an almost normal Austin (or as normal as Austin can be, the same going for Qatar), and then rained out practice at Portimão.

So we arrived in Jerez with the weather forecast looking promising. Some rain on Thursday night, but all dry for practice and throughout the test. Friday night dawned sunny and bright as promised, but nobody had told the track. Though the surface was mostly dry, a few persistent damp patches remained throughout the day, stubbornly resisting all attempts to remove them. When I left the track at 10:30pm, circuit staff were still out with special blowers trying to dispel the remaining water.

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Jerez MotoGP Preview: Who Can Beat Fast Fabio?

We are just over a quarter of the way into the 2022 MotoGP season. And yet Jerez is the sixth race of the 21 to be held this year. "Only a quarter done?" Joan Mir recoiled in horror when apprised of this fact by On Track Off Road's Adam Wheeler. That sentiment is almost universally shared throughout the paddock, given the expansion of the calendar this year.

It may also explain why rumors were circulating so widely about a supposed cancellation of the Finnish GP at the Kymiring in July. It turned out to be entirely wishful thinking, the race set to go ahead, the organization receiving a cash injection to make the race happen, marshals already being recruited and trained. Nobody can face the prospect of 21 races, and so they are inventing reasons for the calendar to be curtailed.

It is odd for Jerez to be the sixth race on the calendar. For many years, Jerez was the place the grand prix season started. It was only the arrival of Qatar, and the switch from a day race in the summer to a night race in spring that cost Jerez its place as season opener. Once Qatar had a foot in the door, that opened a path for others to be jammed into the start of the year. Austin, Argentina, now Mandalika and Portimão.

It starts here

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Portimão Moto2 Chaos: Could The Red Flags Have Come Out Earlier?

It is the sight every MotoGP fan fears. At the start of lap 9 of the Moto2 race in Portimão, bike after bike went down, bikes firing through the gravel at stricken riders like unguided projectiles. We sat holding our breath until the crashing had stopped, and miraculously, no one had been struck by a bike, the MV Agusta of Simone Corsi having gone up in flames after hitting the Kalex of Zonta van den Goorbergh.

After the race, there was a great deal of debate about the crash. Ten riders had gone down at Turn 2, the leaders of the race the first to go. There was anger in some quarters at how slowly Race Direction appeared to bring out the red flags after the race. With so many bikes ending up in the gravel, and at high speed, it should have been stopped earlier, the critics said.

Should Race Direction have ordered a red flag earlier? To test that assertion, I went back and watched the incident several times, and dived into the analysis timesheet on the results page of the MotoGP.com website. Taking the timestamp from the video of the race on MotoGP.com, I timed how long it took for the red flags to come out.

A matter of seconds

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Portimão MotoGP Subscriber Notes: When The Rider Makes The Difference, And A Dash Of Normality Returning

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. It is a painfully trite cliché, and yet like most clichés, it gets used so often because it generalizes a truth. You may not always have the best tools at your disposal for the job at hand, so you just have to find a way to make the best of what you do have.

The current MotoGP elite know this lesson all too well. Marc Marquez won his Moto2 championship on a Suter against superior Kalexes. Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin came up through Moto3 riding Mahindra, a competent but underpowered motorcycle. Fabio Quartararo found himself on a Speed Up in Moto2, and found a way to win on a finicky but fast Moto2 bike. They didn't have what they wanted, but they found a way to make it work anyway.

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Portimão MotoGP Saturday Round Up: When Is The Risk Not Worth The Reward?

Motorcycle racing is always a question of balancing risk against reward. Knowing how much to lay on the table and how much is at stake is an inexact science at best, and yet a fundamental key to success in all forms of racing. Opportunities have to be seized, but first they have to present themselves, and secondly, you have to recognize them. Finally, you have to understand just how much there is to lose if you attempt to seize an opportunity, and miss.

This complex interplay of risk and reward was front and center at the Algarve International Circuit on Saturday, primarily as a result of the conditions. Where Friday had been fully wet, the rain falling sometimes lightly, sometimes more heavily, but never really easing up completely, Saturday saw the rain fall on and off, and eventually stop. Track conditions on Friday were either wet or very wet, on Saturday they ran the gamut from very wet to approaching fully dry.

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Portimão MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Wasted Day, An Improved Honda, And What The Yamaha Is Really Missing

If anyone was holding out the forlorn hope of a return to normality now that MotoGP is back in Europe, they were to be bitterly disappointed the way the first day of practice played out at Portimão. It rained all day, occasionally easing up, only for the rain to hammer down again. The track surface varied from wet to absolutely soaking, a rivulet of water running across the apex of Turn 5, a corner which is tricky enough in the dry.

Remarkably, nobody crashed there, despite it being notorious for catching out the unwary. There was plenty of crashing elsewhere: a grand total of 41 on the first day across all three classes, one shy of three-day total of last October's Algarve Grand Prix, and six short of the total accrued in the race here last April. The vast majority fell at Turn 4, the first left hander after the main straight, and nearly half the track from the previous left. In the cold, wet, and miserable conditions, the left side of the tire was losing a lot of heat, and it was easy to crash.

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Portimão MotoGP Thursday Preview: How The Factories Fare At A Fast And Flowing Track

Traditionally, we say that the MotoGP season only starts properly once it reaches European soil. The overseas races which kick off the year are always held in rather unusual circumstances, or unique tracks, and with so little preseason testing, the bikes still have so many bugs and details to iron out before they really start to show what they are capable of.

The start of 2022 has been even less useful than other years. A day and a half of testing in Sepang before the rain came. A new track at Mandalika, which needed a day to clean and then started coming part. The race at Qatar was moved earlier, putting practice into a much hotter part of the day compared to the race. Freight delays to Argentina, which meant that Friday was canceled and two days of practice and qualifying were compressed into the Saturday. And Austin, the nearest thing to normality, remains a strange and unique circuit.

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Why Is MotoGP So Unpredictable? How New Technologies Have Changed The Face Of The Sport

It has been hard to make sense of the start of the 2022 MotoGP season. In the first three races, nine different riders filled the nine podium positions. In Texas, we had our first repeat winner in Enea Bastianini, and Alex Rins repeated his podium from Argentina, while Jack Miller became the tenth rider to stand on the podium in four races.

In one respect, the 2022 season is picking up where 2021 left off. In 2021, MotoGP had eight different winners in 18 races, and 15 different riders on the podium. The 2020 season before it had nine winners and 15 different riders on the podium from just 14 races, the season drastically shortened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Much of that variation can surely be ascribed to the absence of Marc Marquez as a competitive factor. The eight-time world champion missed all of 2020 and was only really getting up to speed toward the end of 2021. Without Marquez consistently at the front, there was more room for others on the podium.

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