Analysis

Algarve MotoGP Saturday Round Up – The Best Bike On The Grid, A Front Row Debut, And KTM Losing Lecuona

We like to talk about how the modern era of MotoGP is so diverse. Of how on any given Sunday, you are never quite sure who you are going to see on the podium. Sure, there have been two riders who have stood head and shoulders above the rest in the championship. But races have played out in myriad unexpected ways. A lot of things can happen. And surprisingly often, they do.

Yet Saturdays are surprisingly monotonous, at least in terms of qualifying. So far this year, two riders have taken 11 of the 17 poles handed out so far, with Fabio Quartararo taking 5 and Pecco Bagnaia now on 6. If it isn't one of the two men who fought for the 2021 MotoGP crown, it was either another Ducati, or in one case, another Yamaha. Jorge Martin has amassed 3 poles to his name, while Johann Zarco and Maverick Viñales have one each in 2021, on a Ducati and Yamaha respectively.

(Ironic, that Viñales should take pole on the weekend he informed Yamaha he would be leaving at the end of the year. Even more ironic that Viñales didn't even make it that far, getting himself fired after the first round in Austria.)

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Algarve Friday MotoGP Round Up: Same Old Rivals, Handling The Pressure, Honda Rising, KTM Falling, And Taillights For Safety

You would almost think that the championship hadn't been wrapped up at Misano 2. Friday at Portimão saw Fabio Quartararo and Pecco Bagnaia going head to head as if the title was still on the line. FP1? Fabio Quartararo beats Pecco Bagnaia, with the two separated by just 0.045. FP2? Fabio Quartararo and Pecco Bagnaia swap fastest laps, with the Frenchman snatching the best time in the dying moments, Pecco Bagnaia coming up just short on his final lap.

Dig deeper into the times and it's clear just how far ahead the two riders who fought for the championship all this year are. Both are capable of banging out long sequences of 1'40.4s on new and used tires. The title may have been settled two weeks ago at Misano, but the battle of egos will not be done until the checkered flag drops at Valencia. The fierce but friendly rivalry continues to go down to the line.

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Portimão MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Same Track, Different Season

We have been fortunate this year compared to 2020. Last year, we had repeat races at five circuits, making up ten of the fourteen MotoGP rounds held. In 2021, the situation with the Covid-19 pandemic has improved to the point that MotoGP managed to visit three different continents, needing to return to the same circuit only four times. Eight races out of eighteen is far from perfect, but much better than the situation in 2020.

Even the repeat races were better this year than last. 2020 saw all five of the repeat rounds at the same track held on consecutive weekends, as back-to-back rounds. 2021 started off that way, with the second round at Qatar held on the Sunday after the first race there. Austria followed suit in August. But the next repeat round wasn't until September and October, with Misano 2 taking place fully five weeks after Misano 1.

As the last of the double headers, Portimão is even more extreme. MotoGP has returned to the Portuguese circuit for the second time more nearly seven months after its first visit back in April. The reason for that massive gap is simple: the second round at Portimão was added in early July, after it became clear that Dorna would have to cancel the Australian round at Phillip Island.

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Moto3 Aerodynamics: How The Law Of Unexpected Consequences Produced Closed Rear Wheels

There was some consternation in Austria in August when KTM rolled out a wheel cover for the rear wheel of the KTM RC4 on the Red Bull KTM Ajo bikes of Pedro Acosta and Jaume Masia. Despite the strict technical rules in Moto3, the specter of aerodynamics has reared its ugly head.

Naturally, this advance could not go unanswered by KTM's only technical rival in Moto3. At Aragon, the Hondas of the Leopard squad – the most technically advanced of the Honda Moto3 teams – also sprouted a closed wheel cover, almost identical in design to that of the KTM.

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‘Humble, happy, polite’ – how Fabio Quartararo turned Yamaha into winners once more

Yamaha Managing Director Lin Jarvis and Team Manager Massimo Meregalli give their opinions on why Fabio Quartararo has been an immediate hit with the factory team.

As spectacular as he has been on track, a great deal of Fabio Quartararo’s success in 2021 is owed to how he has worked on himself off it. The Frenchman has been a man transformed this term, showcasing an unerring consistency and newfound aggression in a series of spectacular displays which won him the MotoGP title with two races to spare.

The same can be said for how he has handled himself in the garage. Some may feel a 21-year old – as Quartararo was when he first wore factory blue in March’s Qatar test – may be overawed by stepping into the surroundings Valentino Rossi had called home for a total of 15 seasons. But France’s first premier class champion took next to no time to establish himself, not only as a race winning force, but as the factory’s leading light.

The right attitude

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Emilia-Romagna Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Raul Fernandez' Crash, A Marc VDS 1-2, And How Foggia Turned His Season Around

Sunday’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix hosted three dramatic races which each had huge ramifications for each championship. Here, we take a look at the big talking points from the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.

Raul Tumbles…

For 14 laps on Sunday, this really looked like the race where Remy Gardner’s Moto2 title challenge would come apart. After title rival Raul Fernandez crashed out of qualifying, the Australian had a golden opportunity to gain a much-needed grid advantage. Instead, he changed front tyres mid-session, saw two of his late times chalked off because of yellow flags, and by the third his front had cooled down enough it lost optimum performance.

Sunday was looking much graver. Not only was he mired in the pack, facing a Long Lap Penalty for taking down Somkiat Chantra when contesting eighth place, Fernandez was putting in the kind of performance that confirms he is the next superstar of grand prix racing. Starting from ninth, he was on course for an eighth win of the season – a feat no rookie had achieved in the 72-year history of the intermediate class, never mind Moto2.

The Spaniard’s own weekend had been complicated. If one was to point to a weakness in his make up, Raul’s riding in wet and mixed conditions would probably be it. But he gave no ground away to Gardner all weekend. There was also the small matter of his feelings toward KTM. Veteran Spanish journalist Manuel Pecino had reported the rider from Madrid, who turned 21 on Saturday, was “angry” in the extreme at the Austrian factory’s decision to not find brother Adrian a permanent seat in the Moto3 class for 2022.

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes: How Fabio Quartararo Became Champion A Race Early

I learned a new Spanish expression today. "Hasta el rabo todo es toro", which translates roughly as "the bull goes all the way to the tail". It's an expression which comes from bullfighting (a misnomer: it is bullying, not fighting, with a large band of armed hooligans ganging up on a single bull, rather than a toreador going head to head with a single bull; for that reason, I am always, always Team Bull) which means you can't trust the bull until you are sure it is dead. It ain't over until it's over. And sometimes it is over before you realize.

Sunday at Misano 2 was the proof of that. It was a day of unexpected outcomes, of shock twists just when you thought everything was done and dusted. As the late, great Nicky Hayden said to me after I had asked a particularly stupid question at Indy many years ago, "that's why we line up on Sunday: you never know what's going to happen."

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Saturday Round Up: First vs Fifteenth, Getting Heat Into Tires, And Yellow Flag Rules

It has been (and probably will be) a very odd weekend. Normally, grand prix weekends have a narrative, a story that builds like a novel, or a compositional structure that grows and swells like a symphony or an opera. Each part leads to the next: test parts and setup in FP1, work on tires in FP2, chase a spot in Q2 in FP3, work on race pace and tire wear in FP4, go for grid positions during qualifying, all building toward the dramatic crescendo of the race. Race weekends tell a story, and like all good stories, they have an internal narrative logic.

Not Misano 2. This feels more like a series of one-act plays, with the same characters but a different storyline every day. Friday was mostly soaking wet, with riders looking at wet tires. Saturday was wet in the morning, and a drying track in the afternoon. Sunday will be dry, probably sunny, but very cold. Each day feels unconnected to the next.

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Friday Round Up: Lessons Not Learned, Yamaha vs Ducati In The Wet, And Making Racing Safer In The Future

It has been something of an irrelevant day at Misano. On Friday morning, the track was soaking, rain keeping it wet. In the afternoon, it started off wet but a dry line started to form. "At the end, the last 10 minutes to go, we had one dry line, but lap by lap it was getting wider," was how Takaaki Nakagami described it. With damp conditions expected on Saturday, and a cold and dry Sunday, nothing of importance was learned on Friday.

It was a wasted day in terms of finding race setup, perhaps, but it was still useful in overall terms. MotoGP is full of young riders who haven't had all that much time in the wet, and so Friday offered a chance to gain some valuable experience. "Not a wasted day because I don’t have so much experience in wet conditions, and a day like this is good for me," Suzuki's Joan Mir said. "I improved a lot and could understand. When I started in MotoGP, from then to now I ride in a different way and I am able to be a lot more strong."

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Managing The Title Fight, A Fond Farewell, And Ducati's Electric Future

Of necessity, the past two MotoGP seasons have seen races repeatedly run on the same race track. 2020 was a succession of back-to-back races at the same track: Jerez 1 and 2, Austria 1 and 2, Misano 1 and 2, Aragon 1 and 2, Valencia 1 and 2. With a better grip on the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 was much better: the first 15 races have been at 13 different tracks. So far we have only had Qatar 1 and 2 and Austria 1 and 2.

The next three rounds will see MotoGP visit just one new circuit. We have the Gran Premio Nolan del Made in Italy e dell'Emilia-Romagna, or Misano 2, the Grande Prémio do Algarve, or Portimão 2, and then Valencia. But where Misano 2 and Portimão 2 differ from, say, Qatar 2 and Austria 2, is that they are not being held the week after. Misano 2 is happening five weeks after Misano 1, and with a race in Austin having taken place. Portimão 2 is even more distant, with nearly seven months and 13 races between the two rounds in Portugal.

So the Misano 2 of 2021 will be very different to the Misano 2 of 2020. Last year, the weather was pretty much identical between the two races at the Italian round. This year, air temperature at Misano 2 could be as much as 11°C lower than it was when we raced here five weeks ago. That could have a massive impact on track temperatures too; the asphalt might be 20°C rather than 29°C.

A change is as good as a rest

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