Analysis

Why Did Ducati Move Its Front Holeshot Device?

MotoGP is always an arms race. A contest between manufacturers to try to make their bikes go faster. The trouble is, of course, that once you have made your own bike go faster, your rivals turn around and do exactly the same. You find yourself back where you started, or worse, the only difference being that everyone is another tenth of a second quicker, and finding the next tenth is now exponentially more difficult.

Ducati are the current masters of this, though it wasn't always this way. In the past, the Desmosedici was an intransigent beast that only a few riders – or rather, one rider – could wrangle into submission. Ducati have turned that around over the past decade, and now, where they lead, others follow.

So with two years of enforced inaction due to the restrictions imposed to keep costs down during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Jerez test saw Ducati unleash a pent-up torrent of new parts and ideas. Many of the new development parts have been discussed here already, including the new fairing, the new engine, and the extra long exhaust tried on the bike that might become the GP22. (For a full analysis, see my post-Jerez test round up).

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2021 Jerez MotoGP Test Deep Dive: What Makes Ducati The Big Winners At Jerez?

MotoGP got lucky at Jerez. Not perfectly lucky – strong winds made Turn 11 treacherous, and made it hard to assess some of the aerodynamics and chassis changes being tried. But for two days, the sun shone, and temperatures were high enough to ride for most of the day. November in Jerez can be hit and miss, but it was mostly hit, with little time lost to conditions.

With so much track time, it is instructive to note that very few riders actually went for a time attack. Most years, leaving the last test of the year with the fastest time, or at least, a very fast time, is a matter of pride, and of momentum. MotoGP riders want to go into next year having shown their rivals that they have something to worry about, to intimidate them going into the long winter break.

Not 2021, however. Riders were too busy actually testing new parts to waste time on braggadocio. That factories and teams were busy testing new parts suggests a number of things, and has a few possible explanations. Firstly, there has been a dearth of testing over the past two Covid-stricken years, with little winter testing between 2020 and 2021, and limited testing during the 2021 season.

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Valencia Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison Winners And Losers, At Cheste And In 2021

After a dramatic finale in Valencia, we look at the big winners and losers from the final race and indeed the 2021 season as a whole.

WINNERS

Aki Ajo

It’s quite the feat to manage two world champions in the same year. And quite another to have team-mates fighting for one of those gongs, as Aki Ajo did with Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez in the Moto2 class. But it wasn’t just about the Finn’s eye for rider selection. Up to the final round, the battling team-mates remained respectful without tensions ever bubbling over.

During the final round, Fernandez attempted to unsettle his elder team-mate. He hovered around Gardner in free practice, passing, sitting up, watching from behind. Even in the race, the Spaniard slowed the pace to make the Australian’s life difficult, back in the pack.

For this, Ajo has to take great credit. As Massimo Branchini, Gardner’s crew chief testified, “Inside of the box we don’t want fighting. Aki’s so strong about this. We have two riders that use their heads, and don’t create tension. We go to eat together. Everything is shared. Both guys are very clever about this.”

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2021 Jerez MotoGP Test Thursday Round Up: A Mountain Of Parts To Get Through

Testing at Jerez in November is always a little bit of a gamble, but not a shot in the dark. The weather is usually good, but not reliably so. It can be cold in the mornings and evenings, but the sun will warm the asphalt up enough to make testing worthwhile. The real enemy is the wind, which tends to be rather blustery at this time of the year.

The weather gods are looking relatively kindly on the MotoGP test this Thursday and Friday. It was warm and sunny on Thursday, with much the same expected for Friday. Cooler morning and evening temperatures meant nobody went out until well after 11am, and there wasn't much going on after 5pm, except for the practice starts at the end of the day.

A full analysis of the test will have to wait until it is over, and all the data is in. But there was plenty to see and hear on the first day of the test.

It being the first full test ahead of the winter break, there were a lot of new parts, but they were not evenly distributed. Riders across all factories were sharing parts to test, one getting parts on Thursday while another will get the same parts on Friday. After all, there is no point making enough new parts for all of the riders, if those parts are going to be discarded if they are found wanting.

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2022 Jerez Test Preview - A Lot Of Work Awaits In Andalusia

It is a slightly different run up to the start of winter testing for the 2022 season. For the past few decades, testing for the following season began a couple of days after the end of the current season, riders taking to the track on the Tuesday at Valencia after the final race. Dorna, the FIM, and IRTA had already decided to make a change before Covid-19 struck in 2020, but the global pandemic meant there was no testing at all at the end of last year.

So this year is the start of the new normal. The season ends at Valencia, everyone gets a few days off, and then the paddock heads south to Jerez for two days of testing. It's better all round for everyone: rider get a few days to recover from the final race weekend, teams get a chance to catch their breath again, and prepare for their new riders/bikes, and the factories have time to prepare the new bikes and parts to be tested ahead of the test.

Jerez is also a much better test track than Valencia. It has a bit of almost everything: slow corners, fast corners, hard acceleration in low gears, hard acceleration in high gears, etc. All that is missing is a very high speed back straight, but the Sepang test in February should soon put that right.

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Valencia MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Explaining Ducati's Superiority, The Risks Of Progress, And Goodbye To Two Legends

The 2021 MotoGP season is at an end. And so is the grand prix racing career of Valentino Rossi, the Italian inducted as a MotoGP Legend the same night. Legend is overused as a word to describe racers, but not in this case. Rossi changed the sport, both directly, by his success and the force of his personality, and indirectly, by forcing Dorna to act for fear of what would become of the sport once Rossi left. The technical rule changes they enacted in the wake of Rossi's switch to Ducati and the Global Financial Crisis have created a thrilling spectacle where any number of bikes or riders could win a race. So though Rossi's departure leaves a gaping hole, the sport itself is in excellent shape.

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Valencia MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Big Goodbye, Ducati's Advantage, And Managing Tires

There is a surprisingly celebratory atmosphere at Valencia for the final round of the 2021 MotoGP season. In part because it is a celebration of career for the greatest icon of motorcycle racing. But also because, unlike previous years, it really is the end of the season: we are not stuck in Valencia for another three days for test. That test always cast a pall over proceedings, no one daring to look beyond Sunday, for fear of encountering another three days of continuous grind, on top of the entire year which they had just passed.

Instead, on Sunday night, the season finishes. 2022 starts three days later, at a different track, giving us all room to catch our collective breath, relax for a moment, and start the new season with some semblance of renewed energy. That respite, brief as it is, lightens the mood considerably. It feels like a weekend where we can enjoy the racing.

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Valencia MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Weather Throws A Curveball, Known And Unknown Crash Causes, And The VR46 Mystery

The danger with making predictions is that it can go horribly wrong. Yesterday, I confidently predicted that it would remain dry all weekend. That prediction lasted until the end of Moto3 FP1. As the final minute approached, the dark clouds which had been slowly creeping up on the Circuito Ricardo Tormo started to sprinkle the track with rain. Just a little at first, then growing heavier once MotoGP got underway.

The rain stopped during the Moto2 session, leaving the track wet throughout (and giving Sam Lowes the opportunity to suffer a horrible highside and injure his right foot), the cool, overcast weather meaning the track dried out quite slowly. There were still a few damp patches by the time MotoGP FP2 started in the afternoon, though by the end, only Turn 1 and Turn 12 still had moisture in places.

Turn 1 was the last part of the track to be resurfaced, a whole stretch of new asphalt laid down from the start straight through to the exit of Turn 1 in 2016, after the whole track had been resurfaced in 2012. The Turn 1 resurfacing had vastly improved the grip into the first corner, the hardest braking zone on the track. But it had not helped the drainage, that spot taking a long time to dry out.

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Valencia MotoGP Thursday Round Up: The Last Chance, And The Fondest Of Farewells

It is a strange weekend, the last race of the season. For all intents and purposes the season is already over, the championship is done, officially in MotoGP and Moto3, and as good as in Moto2 – Raul Fernandez can't afford to throw in the towel, but he has to win the race, and the chances of Remy Gardner finishing lower than 13th are pretty small. But not zero, of course, which is why they will line up on Sunday.

The constructors' championship was settled at Portimão last week, and the odds of Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli outscoring Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller by a combined 28 points on Sunday is pretty low (but again, not zero), which will hand the team title to the factory Ducati Lenovo squad.

So why are we bothering to race at Valencia? Well, apart from the contractual obligation – Dorna has promised TV broadcasters 18 races, Valencia has a contract to host a grand prix, and sponsors have backed teams on the basis of a full season, not knocking off early just because the title is wrapped up.

Why are we here?

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Algarve Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Growing Pains, KTM Tyre Choice In Moto2, Darryn Binder, And Keeping Raul Fernandez Happy

Another dramatic day of Moto2 and Moto3 action at the Algarve GP saw one world champ crowned, while another man took a monumental step toward his.

Acosta champ despite growing pains

There was something approaching skepticism with regards to Pedro Acosta in the autumn of this year. The Tiburon de Mazarron’s incredible start to life in the Moto3 world championship had raised expectations to such an extent that a recent run of results in which he scored 7th, 8th and 3rd places in just his 14th, 15th and 16th GPs could be considered something of a crisis.

But this showing demonstrated he had lost none of that spark as he swept to his sixth win of the season to become the second youngest GP world champion in history at 17 years of 166 days old, just one day older than record holder Loris Capirossi, when he swept to the 1990 125cc title in Australia. When it really mattered, Acosta showed the mentality and the brass of a champion.

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