Misano Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On That MotoE Controversy, New Dunlops, Mental Coaches, And Nurturing Talent In Moto2

Ding ding: Torres v Aegerter in incredible MotoE finale

Even the most ardent opponent of electric mobility would need a heart of stone to remain unmoved by the finale of the 2021 MotoE World Cup. The double-header at Misano had everything you’d want in a championship showdown: three of the four title contenders challenging for victory in race one, before two of them faced off in race two. It also included that crucial ingredient which is so crucial in gaining wider recognition: controversy.

There was plenty of that on Sunday, as Dominique Aegerter’s last lap move on Jordi Torres took the Catalan down and, for a few minutes at least, handed the Swiss rider the title, sending Spanish fans and members of the media to collect their pitchforks and demand a penalty. The FIM Stewards came to a swift conclusion: Aegerter was handed a 38-second penalty for the move – the equivalent of a ride-through penalty – demoting him to twelfth, handing Torres the crown by seven points.

Was this right? Clearly Aegerter had to make the move, with the championship on the line. He was in front of Torres when contact was made, and he didn’t technically run off track. As he explained, “He knew I'd be coming from the inside just like in the previous laps and that I would brake later than him. He kept his line which resulted in touching my rear wheel and him crashing out of the race.”

However, having watched the incident multiple times, it’s clear Aegerter was close to being out of control when making the pass. It was a last-gasp lunge and his rear wheel was sliding and was crucially out of line when it clipped Torres’ front wheel. “Maybe he tried some different strategy to make me fall,” said the Catalan after it was confirmed he was champion. “I don’t think that was his idea but he was very aggressive when overtaking me.” Those claiming Torres should have sat up miss that he was already committed to the corner. Picking up 260kg in an instant is no small matter. The severity of the penalty seemed harsh, but it would have been a minor scandal had Torres lost in this manner.

Whether you agree with the decision or not, the rarest of things occurred on Sunday evening: MotoE was one of the weekend’s big talking points, a first over the past two years. Ahead of the news the series is expanding to 14 races next year, this was a shot in the arm, in terms of exposure and interest, the series badly needs.

Raul’s mental training

14 races in and we’re running low on superlatives to describe the near super-human feats of Raul Fernandez. The rookie was the standout name in Moto2 once more, claiming a sixth victory of the season and showing he could challenge Remy Gardner until the very end. And all when managing the after effects of a broken fifth metacarpal, fractured seven days before the Aragon GP. Here, the toll of the injury was clear in the final laps. “I have suffered a lot in my physical condition, I’m not training at all, I am just having physio on the hand. This race has been much more difficult to manage. Three laps from the end I started to make a lot of mistakes, I couldn't stop the bike and the front closed a couple of times. Remy almost passed me ..., but in the end I got the victory and I'm very happy.”

And after the race he revealed work with renowned Catalan sports psychologist Pep Font has helped him control the high-adrenaline situations in races in a more mature manner. Fernandez gave a special mention to Font, who had worked alongside Spanish off-road giants like Nani Roma and Marc Coma in the past. “We are taking steps forward, even if I don't sleep very well at night, especially from Saturday to Sunday, but I manage to be very competitive, leave everything behind and focus on the race. Pep helps me with my emotions on the bike. At the end of the day we are still young, and there are many things that we do not know how to manage, we need help. And he's helping me a lot. When you have a coach, he helps you train physically and when you have a person like that, he helps you manage your emotions in difficult moments.”

Canet learning from Remy

A brief glance at the championship in June showed Aron Canet had nearly two settings: podium or crash. The Valencian rider was tipped to challenge for this year’s title but was frustrated by the inconsistencies of the Boscoscuro chassis. He racked up four crashes in the first nine races, while a thirteenth, ninth and eleventh further offset his three podiums.

But working with his mental trainer over the summer holiday, Canet set himself a goal for the final nine races: finish all of them as close as possible to the winner to build momentum for a championship push in 2022. “After the first half of the season I finished one race on the podium, then in the next crashed,” he said after finishing third at Misano. “(It was) Podium, crash, podium, crash. That’s bad for you. If you finish all the races in the top five you have the support of the team. Finally, I changed something with my mental trainer for the second half of the season to finish all the races as close to the front as possible. That’s the change after the first half of the season.

“The second half of the season is really good. I haven’t crashed. I finished all the races in the top eight, which is very important for next year when I’ll try to fight for the championship.” The end of Gardner’s 2020 campaign is living proof of the importance of building momentum.

Dunlop giving chassis manufacturers much to ponder

Another weekend and another change in Dunlop’s Moto2 tyre allocation. For the first time in Moto2 history, the British firm brought three front tyres for riders. One was a dual compound with a harder centre, and softer edges – again, a first for the Moto2 class. While rain disrupted plans to test the tyre extensively throughout the weekend, it still showed the change in approach of the British firm. At the Austrian and Aragon GPs, the ‘0’ – a pretty soft rear tyre – was the race option. At Silverstone, it had its softest ever front in the class available.

And that is not only welcomed by chassis manufacturers; it is forcing them to contemplate how to adapt their product to the added grip on offer in the future. On whether Dunlop’s innovation is welcome, Alex Baumgaertel – chief designer of Kalex – said, “Absolutely. It makes it more interesting. Also, for our competitors, there is a chance to find the way. On the other side, maybe it can help some riders in the riding style. That’s opening the door a bit wider for some heads to peak through and say, ‘I want to knock on the podium.’ That’s a good sign from Dunlop to come with front tyre with a different solution.”

On how that focuses work toward 2022, he said, “We cross fingers the stiffness target I want for next year is working with the tyres that are coming. Tyre development is always after you finish the job. That’s a bit of roulette. You can be lucky or unlucky. It’s one or two tenths in average that can make you strong or weak. When you smell they are experimenting with the softer rear tyre, you are forced to make it work, that’s something I was missing for a while. It was clear (in the past) the tyre would always last. (The options) were ‘stone 1’ and ‘stone 2’. Now we are coming to an area like in the past times, when you need to make the (soft) race tyre work.”

Getting overseas riders up to speed

Last weekend the American Racing Team announced last announced Sean Dylan Kelly will line up alongside Cameron Beaubier in the Moto2 class next year having signed a two-year deal. The 19-year old has long been spoken of as the next big American talent. His record in this year’s MotoAmerica Supersport series certainly suggests as much, where he won 12 of 18 races. But as Beaubier can attest, that counts for little when coming to Europe.

And a conversation with the American Racing Team’s owner Eitan Butbul showed the planning required for rider from outside Europe to make a success of the switch. As witnessed with Hiroshi Aoyama’s changes to the Honda Team Asia set-up, where riders must move to Barcelona to live and train there during the season, it is no longer enough

“We as the American Racing Academy have to give him all the tools to be ready. We don’t want to just bring him here because he’s American and wait two years to see some progress. That’s why we have Moto2 bikes in California so they can understand the electronics, chassis and everything to be ready. We need to do something in the US to be much more competitive before coming here, to give them as much coaching to be at a level that it won’t take forever.”

The Academy will find Kelly a place to live just south of Barcelona and provide different bikes on which he can train. Oh, and they won’t charge him for the seat – a common occurrence in Moto2 and Moto3 these days. “The riders coming to ride for us don’t pay to ride. If you need to come and pay for the ride, then the relocation, it’s almost impossible. If I take Sean for example, there is no way in the world he could come with €350,000 to ride. We support them to give them a ride, and help them with living expenses while living in Europe. It’s the entire package.”

Yamaha presence in Moto2

Having witnessed the success of KTM’s youth set-up in the MotoGP paddock, Yamaha will grow its presence into the Moto2 category in 2022 in a bid to find and then foster new talents before they are ready to move up to the premier class. Yamaha spent months pursuing Moto2 title contender Raul Fernandez this year only to be frustrated by KTM’s insistence on the Spaniard staying in orange. As Managing Director Lin Jarvis told this website in August, “Chapeau to KTM for having such a strong package. I've offered to take some of their excess talent off them if they find it's too much of a burden, but so far they haven't accepted...”

Missing out on Fernandez spurred the factory into creating a similar presence in Moto2, as KTM has in the junior categories with Aki Ajo’s team. The Yamaha Mastercamp team that runs in the European Moto2 Championship will move to the world stage next year, with Valentino Rossi’s right-hand man Uccio Salucci running the set-up, alongside Pablo Nieto, current team boss of the Sky Racing VR46 Moto2 team. Yamaha will have control over the rider line-up and will run one European rider alongside one rider from Asia next year. Perhaps we’ll see Ducati and Aprilia soon follow suit.

Foggia back from the brink

Even by Moto3 standards, the last month of Dennis Foggia’s life has been a rollercoaster ride. After the Austrian Grand Prix, he spoke out on his Leopard Racing Team’s decision to expel his father, Fabio, from the paddock. “I don’t want to stay in this class with this team,” he railed. The team then issued a press release during the British Grand Prix refuting his previous claims and insisting Dennis’ father’s “attitude had affected the harmony of the team.”

Yet in this time the 20-year has pieced together a run of seriously impressive results. A fourth victory of the season at Misano brought him right back into the title fight. And the news that he will remain in Leopard colours for 2022 was an even greater surprise. It was clear Foggia was weary of speaking on this topic when asked about it on Sunday. “Austria, some mistakes,” he said. “But now all the things are OK. Next year I’ll be with Team Leopard. I’m happy.” The fact he couldn’t find a seat in Moto2 was key. As was the realisation – personal issues or no personal issues – remaining with the team with whom he has found the best, most consistent form of his career represents his best option in Moto3 next year.

What’s going on, Pedro?

As someone who talked up the talents of Pedro Acosta on numerous occasions in the season’s first half, it has been hard to ignore the 17-year old’s recent slump. In the past four outings Acosta has lost the Midas touch which graced the majority of his encounters in the first ten bouts. He lost out in a last-lap duel for the win in Austria, eventually finishing fourth. Acosta was off-colour at Silverstone, finishing eleventh before a clumsy crash put him out of the running at Aragon. And here he was seventh, losing 16 points to Foggia.

Time to panic? Team boss Aki Ajo certainly doesn’t think so. “As we’ve said on previous occasions, Moto3 is a challenging class for getting consistent results.” These are simply the challenges that a world championship rookie will face, no matter the talent. Plus, going off former racer Jaime Alguersuari’s tweet, which featured a photo of Acosta’s right boot that is basically worn through at the toes and base of the foot, it appears Acosta was having serious issues with tyres during the race. Such was the wear on his boot, the ‘Tiburon de Mazarron’ was using his right foot to slow down ahead of corners. With that in mind, leading the group for seventh wasn’t a bad effort after all.

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