Sepang, Malaysia

Pandemic Fallout: Piero Taramasso Explains How MotoGP Bike Development Delayed Introduction Of New Front Tire To 2024

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner into the works for MotoGP in all sorts of ways. In response to the pandemic, the MSMA decided on an engine and aerodynamics freeze for 2020 and 2021, to limit costs in a time of uncertainty.

That went a long way to restraining costs, but as the world adapted to the pandemic, and it became clear that a global economic crisis had been averted, development budgets started to rise again. Even more so when people started using the money that travel restrictions prevented them from spending on vacations to buy new motorcycles and accessories.

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2022 MotoGP Testing Review: Suzuki – The Quiet Threat

The Yamaha M1 and the Suzuki GSX-RR have a lot in common. Both are inline four cylinder machines, and both rely more on corner speed and maneuverability than outright speed. And the riders of both machines have complained about a lack of speed at great length.

So great was Joan Mir's frustration with the Suzuki's lack of power in 2021 that he made a veiled threat to seek solace elsewhere. "A lot of people finish their contracts in 2022 and we are hoping to renew, or to take a different decision," the 2020 world champion said before the test at Sepang. "Honestly, the test will be important for me. It will be important to understand everything. As a Suzuki rider now, I feel great here, I feel like I am at home, but it's true that a change is something that in some moments can be good, also. But at the moment, I cannot speak more about it, because there is nothing decided. But let's see."

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2022 MotoGP Testing Review: Yamaha – Already Hitting The Limit Of Its Potential?

In 2021, the Yamaha M1 as the fastest motorcycle around a grand prix race track. The evidence for that is clear: 2021 MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo. Quartararo had five race victories, more than anyone else, and five race fastest laps. He also had five pole positions, one less than Pecco Bagnaia.

So the bike was good, despite the chaos elsewhere making it look otherwise. Quartararo was the only constant in 2021. Valentino Rossi never managed to get his head around the new construction rear Michelins, and despite his protestations, was never the same after he returned from his bout with Covid-19. Maverick Viñales won a race, got another podium and a pole, but also finished last, tried to sabotage his engine, and left Yamaha after Austria.

Franco Morbidelli snapped a knee ligament riding a flat track bike, missed much of the season, and was still not fully fit when he returned. And the Petronas team saw a veritable parade of characters taking Morbidelli's place, culminating with Andrea Dovizioso, who is still struggling to adapt to the Yamaha, and to the Michelin rear tire he has never liked.

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2022 MotoGP Testing Review: Ducati - Are They Really The Threat We Think They Are?

Leaving the Sepang MotoGP test, all eyes were on Ducati. In part, perhaps, because they had brought yet another technical innovation which is set to upset rival manufacturers, and captured the imagination of fans and media. We were all talking about Ducati's front ride-height device.

That enthusiasm was supported by the fact that there were two Ducatis in the top three after Sepang, and three Ducatis in the top six. Take away the Aprilias (who had had the benefit of extra days riding and testing during the shakedown test), and there were three Ducatis in the top four. Things were looking ominous.

Heading into the Mandalika test, we were expecting that Ducati dominance to continue. Luca Marini setting the fastest time on the second day on the Mooney VR46 Desmosedici GP22 reinforced that idea. And yet by the end of the three-day test, the idea that 2022 would be the year of the Ducati was far less obvious than it had been a week prior.

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Review Part 4: A Radical New Honda, And Careful Progress At KTM

It is always hard to decide which order to write about the manufacturers in after a MotoGP test. It is sometimes obvious, but at a test like Sepang, where there was a surprising amount going on, it is hard to rank the factories in order of importance or significance.

So leaving Honda and KTM until last should not be taken as indicative of anything other than authorial capriciousness. I had to pick an order. This is the order which I picked. It doesn't mean much. Because both Honda and KTM had a lot to test, though in slightly different areas. Honda continued work on their brand new RC213V prototype, which the public got its first glimpse of at Misano. KTM were focused more on the human side, with two rookies to get up to speed in the Tech3 team, and a new team manager brought in to smooth the running of the project.

Honda – Oh brave new world, that has such vehicles in it

The shock of the new is abating when it comes to Honda. We are slowly getting used to the idea that Honda has abandoned its previous design philosophy and has built a radically different machine. Yet the bike which appeared at Sepang had undergone yet more changes since its last outing at the Jerez test.

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Review, Part 3: Aprilia, Suzuki, Yamaha - A Question Of Progress

With Ducati hogging all of the technical limelight with their latest gadget, it is easy to overlook what was going on elsewhere in pit lane at the Sepang MotoGP test. Yet there was plenty of interesting tech on display, some of it working well, other parts not quite so much. So here's a look at what the other MotoGP manufacturers were up to in Malaysia.

Aprilia – lighter, slimmer, but more chatter

Aprilia face a major challenge in 2022. For the past two years, their rivals have been unable to develop their engines, engine design having been frozen during the pandemic. 2022 is the first season where the factories without concessions have been able to bring updated engines. So the Noale factory is about to find out whether it has done enough over the past two years to close the gap and be competitive.

The evidence so far points to them being successful. Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales topped the first day of the official test, and finished second and fifth respectively on the second day, Viñales just 0.130 behind Enea Bastianini, and on the same time as fourth-placed Alex Rins.

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Review, Part 2: Ducati's Box Of Tricks

In part one of the Sepang MotoGP test review, I went over some of the more general aspects of the test. The fact that it was difficult to draw hard conclusions from a test which was both short and disrupted by rain. The fact that most manufacturers had brought updated engines, which means there is still a lot of work ahead to calibrate them and extract maximum performance from them. The fact that testing cleans the track and lays a nice thick skin of rubber on the track, creating much more grip than on a race weekend.

That doesn't mean that the test is meaningless. If it was, the manufacturers wouldn't bother, of course. But to understand the state of MotoGP after the Sepang test, we have to take a close look at what each factory was testing in Malaysia, what the riders said worked, what they said didn't work, and what the factories weren't telling us about.

So in the next few articles, I will breakdown everything we learned and what we saw at the Sepang test from each factory. But we start with the factory which ended the test fastest, and which received the most attention.

Ducati – pushing the envelope, again

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Review, Part 1: Trying To Read The Testing Tea Leaves

With the bikes all crated up and shipped to Indonesia, and the entire paddock flown to Mandalika on the island of Lombok (bar those stuck in quarantine in Malaysia after testing positive for Covid-19), there is time to look back at the Sepang MotoGP test. Because this year is so different to previous years in a number of ways, I am breaking it down into two parts. First, some general points that apply to the test itself and across several or all manufacturers, and later in the week, a breakdown manufacturer by manufacturer.

The first and most obvious conclusion which can be drawn from the Sepang test is that it is hard to draw any clear and general conclusions from the Sepang test. There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, though the temptation is to look at the headline times, they are even more deceptive than ever.

That is in part because the simple classification, the best lap of each rider, ranked, makes for some juicy headlines. Enea Bastianini, a rider starting his second season, riding a bike from last year, slashes over a tenth of a second off the lap record. The Aprilias, long MotoGP's whipping boy, take a 1-2 on the first day, and end the session second and fifth overall, with everyone expressing their admiration for the speed of the RS-GP. The defending MotoGP champion Fabio Quartararo down in seventh. The top eight nearly within two tenths of a second of each other (eighth-placed Marc Marquez is 0.201 behind Bastianini), thirteen riders with half a second, eighteen within a second.

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Sunday Final Times: Bastianini Tops First Test Of Season

Enea Bastianini ended the second day of the test on top of the timesheets, the Gresini Ducati rider putting in a very fast time early in the day to dive under the lap record which Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro had taken 10 minutes earlier from Danilo Petrucci, set in 2019. With rain arriving just before 2pm, the track was never dry enough again to improve times, though several riders took the wet track to get a feel for wet conditions.

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