Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain
Mugello and Barcelona are widely regarded as very similar circuits. Both have a long, fast straight approached from a fast, sweeping corner. Both have long corners, where the ability to carry corner speed counts. There are differences too: Barcelona does not have as many left-right combination corners, where riders have to choose which corner to take perfectly and which corner to leave themselves open to attack.
But the biggest difference between Mugello and Barcelona is in the asphalt. Mugello is pretty tough on tires, mainly because of the high speeds involved. But Barcelona is a grueling assault on Michelin's race rubber, the circuit featuring the deadly combination of high speeds, long corners, an abrasive surface, and scorching track temperatures.
That makes the race a war of attrition. Do not push too early, or you burn up your tires and will struggle to reach the finish line. But be too gentle, and you risk losing touch with the leaders, and are left to hope they will use up their tires before the end of the race. It is a game of patience.
Hot and cold
Fabio Quartararo has signed on for two more years with Yamaha. The Frenchman will be racing in the factory Monster Energy Yamaha team for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
The move had been long expected. Despite early rumors that Quartararo was disappointed with the offer Yamaha had made, the two sides were destined to end up together. Quartararo has a very strong understanding of the Yamaha M1, and is able to use the bike to be extremely competitive. And as Quartararo is the only rider capable of being competitive, Yamaha had no option but to do what they needed to keep Quartararo.
Quartararo's renewal is also a sign of faith in Yamaha's ability to build him a competitive bike. The factory had brought a new, more powerful engine for the 2022 season, but could not make it reliable enough, and so switched back to the previous generation of engine. Work is continuing on the engine they rejected to make it more reliable, and improve the Yamaha M1's top speed.
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has extended its contract with Dorna for another five years. However, like the contract signed last year with the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, the contract does not guarantee a round of MotoGP for every year of the contract.
Instead, both Barcelona and Valencia have signed up to host three races between 2022 and 2026. With both circuits on the provisional 2022 calendar, that means that they will get two more races between 2023 and 2026. In addition, Barcelona will hold at least two rounds of WorldSBK between 2023 and 2026.
The WorldSBK championship is to look a little different in 2022. Though the length will stay the same as in 2021 - 13 rounds - the order is to be reshuffled a little, with the intriguing prospect of a possible race at Istanbul Park in Turkey during the season.
The season kicks off later than usual, with Phillip Island likely to be moved to the end of the year, possibly as the season finale held after the Indonesian round at Mandalika Circuit. Racing starts at the Motorland Aragon circuit, before heading north to Assen for the Dutch round of WorldSBK, which returns to its more normal date. After a four-week break, the series reconvences in Portugal for a race at Estoril.
The WorldSBK calendar heads east to Italy after that, for a race at Misano in June, before having a month off between the UK round at Donington Park. Two weeks later, the series travels to the Czech Republic to visit Most for the second time.
The 2022 MotoGP calendar will feature a total of 21 races, starting in Qatar on March 6th and finishing exactly 8 months later in Valencia. The 2022 calendar sees further expansion of the number of races, as Dorna add new circuits and new countries to the schedule. For the Kymiring in Finland, that had originally been planned for 2020, but the pandemic put paid to that happening, either in 2020 or 2021. And the Mandalika Resort circuit on Lombok in Indonesia had been added to 2021 as a reserve circuit, but will now be raced on at the start of next season.
I guess it is a credit to modern motorcycle engineering that so few bikes that get looked after properly in racing break down in actual races any more. With major parts of most WorldSBK machines coming from a production line somewhere, along with the rest of the bikes destined for the street, that’s remarkable in itself. Given that they all have upper rev limits and just a little bit of something in reserve on the computer design screen simply because you have a very limited engine allowance through the racing year, overstraining even your purpose-built racing components is a risky business nowadays.
Especially as in all but a few straights, the electronics spend a lot of the time attenuating the power you already have. Most of these bikes make too much power now, so the way it makes it matters more.
The reason I mention this potential race bike breakdown thing is that as I am clattering the keyboard in a hotel in Murcia, halfway between Barcelona and Jerez, the championship lead is a mere point, with Toprak Razgatlioglu just one ahead of Jonathan Rea. But, without an unfortunate front-running breakdown, due to an electrical charging system and voltage drop problem in Race One in Catalunya, Razgatlioglu would be leading by quite a few more points. He’s running away with this championship, if only he didn’t keep losing points.
World Superbike standings after race 2 at Barcelona:
World Superbike race two took place with temperatures of 26ºC air and a 44ºC track, missing last year's winner Chaz Davies due to his crash in the Superpole race. Two bad crashes at turn one brought out the red flags to reset the race to a nineteen lap race with he same starting grid.