Le Mans, France
There is a MotoGP race at Le Mans this weekend, but to be honest, it is hard to concentrate on the race. A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks, which has shaken up MotoGP to a degree we hadn't expected even as late as two weeks ago. Suzuki's withdrawal blows the MotoGP silly season right open, with not just rider seats up in the air, but grid slots and bikes too. Then there's the controversy over tire pressures being routinely under the minimum allowed, and whether that is even an issue or not, given the MSMA have agreed not to do anything about it.
But first, to the track, perhaps. The Le Mans circuit lies just south of the charming eponymous town in the Sarthe region of France. For much of the year, when there isn't a race on, the town is quiet and rather lovely, the central square surrounded by 18th and 19th Century buildings a very pleasant place to be. The circuit, too, is rather charming, situated between the industrial outskirts of the town and the woods which frame the 24 hour car racing circuit.
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.
The rear brake has become one of the most important tools on a MotoGP bike. Tech 3 KTM rider Danilo Petrucci explains why
Most road riders use a lot more front brake, while MotoGP riders use the rear brake much more. This is just one example of how the art and science of riding a MotoGP bike has very little to do with everyday motorcycling.
The rear brake is now one of the most important tools on a MotoGP machine, which is why riders use it through 70% of the lap, while they use the front brake half as much (but with a lot more braking force and stopping power).
Neither race was a classic in France, but Moto2 and Moto3 still produced plenty to talk about last weekend. Here, we’ll dive into some of the more pressing matters in both classes.
Fernandez’s star rises
Anything Pedro can do, Raul can do better. All weekend long 20-year old Raul Fernandez demonstrated once again why his future is among the paddock’s big talking points. The rookie was untouchable in France, scoring a maiden Moto2 pole position before maintaining his cool in the opening laps when those around him lost theirs.
In a frenzied opening, when riders navigated a dry but patchy track on slick tyres, a number of podium contenders crashed out between laps one to four, Aron Canet, Augusto Fernandez, Joe Roberts, Sam Lowes and Xavi Vierge among them. A lap later and Fernandez coolly slotted by early leader Marco Bezzecchi to assume control. And from there, he held firm, even when team-mate Remy Gardner advanced to second and attempted to reel him in. There were no signs of the arm-pump issues that slowed him in the closing laps of the Spanish Grand Prix. As Bezzecchi said post-race with a shrug, “he was just faster.”
Marc Marquez’s right arm is still weak, which is why the first anti-clockwise race of the season will be the first time we see him close to 100%
Yesterday’s French Grand Prix could’ve been a fairy-tale for Marc Márquez but it wasn’t.
That’s motorcycle racing – harsh reality nearly always wins. As Valentino Rossi said after his Valencia 2006 disaster, “Unbeatable superheroes only exist in movies, real life is different”.
It was inevitable really. The weather over the first two days of the Le Mans Grand Prix had been chaotic, so why would Sunday be any different? The skies were predictably unpredictable, the weather managing to provide different conditions for all three Grand Prix classes, in itself quite an achievement. We kicked the day off with a wet Moto3 race, the rain stopping early on to allow the Moto2 race to be dry. And to round things off, MotoGP started dry, then the drops of rain that started falling on lap 3 turned into a downpour on lap 4, triggering the first flag-to-flag race in MotoGP since Brno in 2017.
Chaos was unleashed, and a new Prince of Chaos crowned, the former prince brutally dethroned, betrayed by the conditions, and by the lack of strength in his right arm. Such is chaos, and such is the way of a flag-to-flag race. It was fascinating and terrifying to watch, and like all flag-to-flag races, immediately raised a host of questions over rules and safety. And reminded us once again that leads are meaningless early in the race. It's about the full 27 laps.
MotoGP standings after Le Mans:
MotoE standings after Le Mans: