Analysis

Sachsenring MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why The Sachsenring Was 2022 Condensed, Ride-Height Failures, Hot Hondas, And Events vs Races

With the Sachsenring done and dusted, we have reached the halfway point of the 2022 season. A quick dash from the east of Germany to the northeast of The Netherlands, and then MotoGP goes on a longer than scheduled summer break.

If the German Grand Prix marked the halfway point of the 2022 season – the median, if you will – then the result might be classified in statistical terms as the mode: the most frequently occurring value in a set of results. If you had to sum up the MotoGP season so far, this is what it would look like.

I have a long motorcycle journey on Monday, so below are a few quick notes after the German GP, and what precisely makes it the modal MotoGP race. But also, some of the factors which make it atypical. And a sign of hope for the future of the series.

In these notes:

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Sachsenring MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Preparing For Sweltering Sunday Slog

As a parade of MotoGP riders traipsed into the media center at the Sachsenring, we had time to reflect upon the fact that it is a good thing we did not have access to strong drink. For if we had decided to play the "30-lap drinking game" – taking a drink every time a rider says "tomorrow is going to be a long race", half of the MotoGP media would be spending Saturday night having their stomach pumped. Each rider we spoke to used it at least once, and some did so multiple times within the space of a couple of minutes.

What conclusions can we draw from this? That 30 laps are a lot around the Sachsenring's tight and tortuous ribbon of asphalt, where the bikes are spending most of their time on the left side of the tire. Especially in the middle of a heatwave, where temperatures are more like Sepang than Assen, despite the Sachsenring being situated in the temperate north of Europe, rather than the sweltering heat of the tropics. The Sachsenring was sweltering on Saturday, and will swelter even more come Sunday.

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Sachsenring Notes From Pit Lane - New Aero, Swingarm Analysis, And Ducati's Ride-Height Gubbins

A wander up pit lane at the Sachsenring shows teams and factories still hard at work trying to figure out ways of going faster. Here's a quick note of the things I have seen so far, with a few very poor photographs.

The Barcelona test proved to be a chance to try out new aerodynamic packages, and some of those have made an appearance at the Sachsenring. On Friday, Maverick Viñales spent most of the day on Aprilia's new fairing, with Aleix Espargaro following suit today.

As you can see, the lower part of the fairing is wider, creating a ledge around the middle of the bike. That should bring the side of the bike closer to the asphalt when the bike is leaned over and create something of a ground effect. It also provides a certain amount of downforce at a very useful point, close to the center of mass.

The fairing redesign does have a disadvantage, however: the neat sliding hatch on the standard fairing where the starter motor engages has been replaced with a latch.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Friday Round Up: Why Are Ducatis So Fast Around The 'Ring?

Conventional wisdom has it that the Sachsenring is a tight and twisty track. Slow, tortuous, and difficult. "It's like a riding on a Supermoto track!" Raul Fernandez said after his first experience riding a MotoGP bike around the German circuit. What had felt like a short straight between Turns 7 and 8 on a Moto2 bike was an entirely different experience on a MotoGP machine. "In MotoGP it's like super fast. It's like not a straight, like a corner."

As is usually the case, the conventional wisdom has only a passing acquaintance with the reality of the situation. Yes, the Sachsenring is tight and twisty. But as Tech3's Fernandez points out, it is also much faster than it seems. Jerez has a lower top speed, for example. And Jerez, Le Mans, Valencia all have slower average speeds.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Preview: Who Will Rule The Ring Now The King Is Gone?

The Sachsenring offers an opportunity to learn two things in 2022. Firstly, who is the second best rider around the tight and twisty German track, now that Marc Marquez, whose name is provisionally penciled into the winner's column when the calendar is announced, is absent. And secondly, will crowds return to pre-pandemic levels at MotoGP events?

To start with the second question first, perhaps it is best to rephrase it: will the Sachsenring be Mugello or Le Mans? That is a gross simplification of course, but gets to the root of some of the issues facing MotoGP, post-pandemic, post-Valentino Rossi. Mugello was a washout, with an official attendance of less than half pre-pandemic numbers. Le Mans was a sellout, a capacity 110,000 people turning up at sunny Le Mans.

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Are Yamaha Better Off Putting All Their Eggs In Fabio Quartararo's Basket?

Is the 2022 Yamaha M1 a good MotoGP bike? It is a simple question with a simple answer: it depends. If Fabio Quartararo is riding it, it is good enough to have won two races, get on the podium in three others, and lead the 2022 MotoGP championship by 22 points.

But if anyone other than Fabio Quartararo is riding it, it is not quite so good. The best result by the trio of Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso, and Darryn Binder is a seventh place, by Morbidelli at Mandalika. That seventh place is one of only two top tens for the other Yamahas, Darryn Binder being the other at the same race.

Together, Morbidelli, Dovizioso, and Binder have scored a grand total of 40 points. Fabio Quartararo has 147, over three times as many. And he has never finished behind any of the other Yamahas throughout the season. In fact, the closest any other Yamaha rider has gotten to Quartararo is Franco Morbidelli's eleventh place, two places behind his teammate, at the season opener at Qatar. Since then, Quartararo and the other Yamaha riders have been operating on different planets.

Facing the future

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Barcelona MotoGP Subscriber Notes: How Fabio Quartararo Was Able To Dominate, A Costly Crash, And How To Count Laps

There are some tracks that somehow always seem to manage to produce drama. Sometimes, drama which affects the trajectory of a championship. Barcelona would appear to be one of those tracks.

Take 2006, for example. Loris Capirossi came into the Barcelona leading the MotoGP championship, tied for points with Nicky Hayden. At the start, his Ducati teammate Sete Gibernau took a line crossing from left to right in an attempt to gain places. Gibernau clipped the rear of Capirossi's bike, jamming on his front brake and causing it to cartwheel end over end through the pack. Capirossi was forced into Marco Melandri to his right, the pair of them going down and resulting in a massive pile up and forcing a race restart.

There were a couple of consequences from that crash. Capirossi escaped injury, but was battered and bruised. Unable to take part in the race, the Italian lost 20 points to Nicky Hayden, and limped through the next couple of races, effectively ending his championship challenge. And it was the incident which started the discussion about making brake lever protectors mandatory, though it would take until 2011 to get the rules pushed through in all three grand prix classes.

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Barcelona MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Three-Way Battle Against Grip

On Friday, things looked pretty clear. Aleix Espargaro would walk away from his rivals at Barcelona, using the ability of the Aprilia to find grip where there is none – and at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the grip is absolutely terrible – to cruise to his second victory of the season, and of his MotoGP career.

On Saturday, things had changed. We are still on for a race of attrition, a desperate battle to keep your tires in good shape for as long as possible in the hope of wearing down your rivals. Or rather, convincing your rivals to wear down their tires, by pushing a fraction too hard, cracking the throttle a fraction too aggressively, spinning the rear just a tiny amount more than is absolutely necessary. This track eats tires, so the trick is to get your rivals to feed the circuit first.

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Barcelona MotoGP Notes From Pit Lane

A few thoughts on things I saw walking up and down pit lane.

First, it is clear that teams are worried about tire temperature. The factory Ducatis, the factory Yamahas, and even Andrea Dovizioso were using the silver wheels, using special paint to dissipate heat more effectively.

Aprilia appear to have the most sorted motorcycle, judging by the parts and tools in the garage. Where other teams and factories have shocks, fork springs, and even swingarm linkages (Suzuki) lying in the garage, Aprilia are just changing tires. That is ominous for the rest of the grid.

As one of the factory KTM riders left pit lane, a caught a glimpse behind the bottom of the fairing. It looked like they have a lot of hydraulics there, which are most likely used to control the ride-height device. Locating it under the bike is ideal in terms of weight distribution.

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Barcelona MotoGP Friday Round Up: How To Go Fast When There Is No Grip, And Why Aprilia are Favorites

Normally after the first day of practice for a MotoGP race, everyone says, "it's only Friday, you can't read too much into the times". But not here. At Barcelona, everyone is asking how they can stop the Aprilias. Aleix Espargaro was fastest on a soft tire and in race trim, and Maverick Viñales was quick over a single lap – his weakness so far with Aprilia - and managed a respectable race pace. If one or both qualify well on Saturday, nobody will see which way they went.

The gap over the rest is impressive. Aleix Espargaro was three tenth faster than his Aprilia teammate, while Viñales was two tenths quicker than Enea Bastianini in third. And that was with Viñales feeling he hadn't get everything possible out of the soft tire he put in at the end of FP2. "When I put the soft, the jump was huge so I didn’t take enough profit of the soft. The difference was very big," the Spaniard told us.

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