Analysis

Aragon MotoGP Thursday Preview - What Pecco Bagnaia Has To Worry About, Marc Marquez Makes A Return, And HRC's Secret Tryst With Kalex

With three races coming up in three weeks, confidence is key. The next couple of months are going to be grueling, with six races in eight weeks, and everything still to play for. Heading into the logistically nightmarish Aragon-Motegi-Buriram triple header is a lot easier if you have the feeling that you have the wind in your sails.

That puts Pecco Bagnaia in a very strong position, you would think. The Italian took his fourth victory in a row two weeks ago at Misano, the first rider to do that since Marc Marquez in 2019, and the first Ducati rider every to manage that.

He has closed the gap to championship leader and title rival Fabio Quartararo from 91 points to 30 points in those four races. And MotoGP arrives at a circuit where Bagnaia won last year in a scintillating battle with Marc Marquez, a track which Quartararo regards as a bogey track. Things are looking very good for Pecco Bagnaia.

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Misano MotoGP Test Analysis Part 3 - Marc Marquez On His Return, And Honda's Big Gamble On Kalex

In our review of the Misano MotoGP test, we come at last to Honda. Undoubtedly the team with the most work to do, and the most going on. And the most attention, too, but that was more down to personnel than hardware. Marc Marquez was back on a MotoGP bike for the first time since the fourth operation on his right arm, with the aim of solving the multiple issues he has suffered since his crash at Jerez in 2020 once and for all.

Naturally, journalists and fans wanted to know if Marquez would be able to ride again, and if he could ride, whether he would still be winged, as he was after previous operations, or have full use of his right arm and get back to his old self. So far, it looks like the answer is that he can ride, and will be back to his pre-Jerez crash form.

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Misano MotoGP Test Analysis Part 2 - KTM's Radically Revised RC16 Rear

The two factories which saw the biggest changes at the Misano test were KTM and Honda. Honda were at a disadvantage here: they had Marc Marquez back, which obviously brought with it a lot of attention; they had a widely publicized and visually conspicuous new aluminum swingarm from Kalex; and Marc Marquez was trying new aero. It was hard for HRC to hide what they were doing. Or some of it, at least.

KTM were flying under the radar a little, but they were also bringing some major updates. The bike Dani Pedrosa was testing had some major changes to it, though you had to look carefully to see them exactly. The fact that their riders spoke mostly about the work for this year, and avoided talking about the 2023 bike meant we really did learn very little about the bike.

KTM

But let's start with KTM. Brad Binder offered a good explanation of KTM's method of working compared with last year. "I think we needed to start at a point at the beginning of the season, so we locked in the chassis, we locked in the aero, we locked in a whole lot of things, and said, OK, that's our base, now, how do we make this better?"

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Misano MotoGP Test Analysis Part 1 - Aprilia And Ducati Make Subtle Changes, Yamaha Goes All In

What were the MotoGP factories testing at the two-day Misano test this Tuesday and Wednesday? That depends what day you asked, and which factories you looked at. Tuesday was the day most teams and factories spent on improvements to their 2022 setup – with 6 races left, there are meaningful gains to be made in the title race. On Wednesday, the focus mainly switched to 2023, with new frames, new engines, new aero, and more rolled out.

There was another reason to work on 2022 on Tuesday. The bane of all MotoGP tests is that they usually take place after a MotoGP weekend, so they start on a track which is nicely rubbered in from the Michelin tires used by MotoGP (and at Misano, also the MotoE Michelins), and then spend another day or (in the case of Misano) two laying down yet more Michelin rubber. By the end of the test, the riders have grip coming out of their ears, a very different proposition from the tricky conditions which prevail after a Moto2 race.

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Misano MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Bagnaia's Dovizioso Tribute Act, Fabio's Unfixable Problem, And Aprilia's Rising And Waning Stars

There were many, many tributes to Andrea Dovizioso on the day that he retired as a full-time MotoGP racer, but there was perhaps none so fitting as the winner of Sunday's MotoGP race at Misano. Pecco Bagnaia, riding the bike Dovizioso had a massive, massive part in developing in the eight years he was at Ducati, took two and a half laps to get to the front of the race and then controlled it right to the end.

It was the way Bagnaia managed the race that was so reminiscent of Andrea Dovizioso. The way you usually win a race from the front is by taking off at the front and trying to lay down a pace that no one else is able to follow. Once you've opened a gap, you can then manage the pace to keep the gap consistent right to the end. The benefit is that you don't have to worry about fending off attacks, and can just concentrate on your own riding.

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Misano MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Weather As A Wildcard, And The Return Of The Marc

There are two types of tires in MotoGP: wet tires for the rain, and slicks for the dry. The real world is not quite so binary, of course: the weather, and therefore the track, can be bone dry or having standing water on it, and anything in between. Damp patches. A thin sheen of water. A drying racing line. Cold but dry. Soaking, but very warm.

There may only be two types of tires in MotoGP, but that is enough to cover pretty much every kind of condition. Slicks are perfect in the dry and the soft wets are fantastic when there is water on the track, but the medium wets work well on a damp track, a drying track, and even on a track with next to no water on them. (True story: Michelin started off calling them hard wets, but then the teams and the riders were too scared to use them, and never fitted them. Michelin renamed them "medium", and hey presto, the riders were raring to give them a go. So much of motorcycle racing takes place between the ears.)

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Misano MotoGP Friday Round Up: Changing Conditions, Bagnaia's Rough Start, Viñales Velocity, And Making Sense Of The Fan Survey

Coming into the weekend, the weather was one of the biggest worries for the MotoGP paddock. At the start of the week, it seemed like we might be looking at a complete washout. The forecast has cleared up notably since then, but the weather still had a major effect on the start of the Misano Grand Prix. Heavy rain on Wednesday and Thursday left the track very green, and difficult to negotiate in the morning.

"This morning it was slick. FP1 especially, the first couple of runs it was really greasy," Brad Binder said on Friday afternoon. But a day of good weather and a very busy schedule – in addition to the three grand prix classes, there is also MotoE and the FIM Junior GP World Championship, or CEV Moto3 championship as was – meant conditions were much better in the afternoon. "In FP2 it was like another circuit. It's crazy how quickly the track can change, I didn't expect it," Binder said.

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Misano MotoGP Thursday Preview: A Yamaha In Ducati's Den, Why Team Orders Are Nonsense, And KTM's Troubling Attitude To Talent

With seven races left in the 2022 MotoGP season, we are approaching the final stretch. There are 175 points left to play for, and Fabio Quartararo has a lead of 32 points over Aleix Espargaro. That means that Espargaro still has his fate in his own hands: he can become 2022 MotoGP champion by the simple expedient of winning every MotoGP race left, and if Quartararo finishes second in all seven races, the Aprilia rider would take his first championship by a slim margin of 3 points.

Pecco Bagnaia has to rely on the help of others if he is to become champion. The Italian is 44 points behind Quartararo, which means he will need someone to get in between himself and Quartararo on more than one occasion.

So it's a good job MotoGP is at Misano this weekend. For Bagnaia, this is very much his home track, the Italian riding here regularly as part of the VR46 Academy on road bikes. And Bagnaia has help on his side: Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi are also VR46 Academy riders, and Ducati stablemates. (Franco Morbidelli, the fourth VR46 rider, will not be helping Bagnaia. But then, given his form this year, he is unlikely to be in a situation to help his Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Fabio Quartararo.)

Like the back of their hands

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Honda's Depths Of Despair - Why HRC Is So Far Behind, And How It Can Catch Up Again

In case you were wondering how things have been going at Honda, after 13 races Marc Marquez is currently the best-placed HRC rider in the 2022 MotoGP championship. Marc Marquez is in 15th place, with 60 points, Takaaki Nakagami is 16th, with 45 points, Pol Espargaro 17th, with 42 points, and Alex Marquez 18th, with 29 points. After the next race at Misano, the 14th race of 2022, Marc Marquez is still likely to be the best placed Honda rider.

And to refresh your memory, that is the same Marc Marquez who raced the season opener at Qatar, then highsided himself to the moon in Indonesia, and missed that race and Argentina, then competed from Portimão through to Mugello, where he revealed that the humerus in his right arm had healed with a 30° rotation in it, and he had to have a fourth (and almost certainly last, whichever way it turns out) operation on the arm to straighten it out before he can compete again.

So not only has Marc Marquez missed 7 of the 13 grand prix this year, but in the ones he did compete in, he was effectively riding with one arm. And yet he is still top Honda.

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Austria MotoGP Subscriber Notes: On Tires Front And Rear, How To Win A Championship, And Silly Season Nearing Its End

Does MotoGP need something like sprint races to pack out otherwise empty grandstands? It depends on which you ask that question. On the evidence of Silverstone, where just 41,000 people turned up on Sunday, you would say yes, we need a change. Judge by the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, where 92,000 – pretty much a packed house – turned up on a gray and overcast day, when it looked like it could rain at any moment, and you would say that MotoGP is doing OK.

I spent a lot of time over the weekend talking to a variety of people about the way the sprint races will (or may) affect each MotoGP weekend, and so will save that subject for an in-depth look later in the week. But first, a few quick notes on the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg, which featured a demonstration of the pointlessness of team orders in Moto2, a further settling out of the order in MotoGP, and saw the end of the 2023 silly season start to approach.

No such thing as team orders

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