Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina

MotoGP Expands to 21 Rounds, Adds India And Kazakhstan, Drops Aragon

As predicted earlier this month, the MotoGP calendar is to expand even further for 2023. Next year, there are to be 21 races in total, with two new circuits being added to the calendar.

The news that Sokol in Kazakhstan is being added had been expected, given the announcement on Tuesday. The surprise is that India is to have a MotoGP round next year, with the expectation in the paddock that it would not happen until 2024. But MotoGP is to race at the Buddh International circuit at the end of September in 2023. There had been concerns over customs and tax issues importing equipment and bikes into India, but paddock sources indicate these issues have been settled.

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Paolo Ciabatti Interview: ‘It’s always difficult to improve an almost perfect bike’

The first five races of 2022 have been far from straightforward for Ducati. The factory that could claim it had the best bike on the MotoGP grid in the autumn of last year with some justification has struggled to get up and running since March, with fancied runners Francesco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin scoring just 31 and 28 points from a possible 125.

There has been much to ponder for Paolo Ciabatti, its MotoGP Project Director, in that time, be it rider performance, engine choices for the five riders running GP22s, or the decision to place a ban on front ride height devices, the most recent innovation from the Bologna factory that was in partly to blame for a disastrous first race of the season.

During the Friday of the Argentine Grand Prix, while the paddock waited anxiously for missing freight to be delivered, Ciabatti spoke to Motomatters on a range of issues, including a mixed start to the year for Ducati’s eight riders, the development of the front ride height device, his reaction to its ban, and how the MotoE project is being managed ahead of 2023.

Q: The start of 2022 has been a bit of a mixed bag, in that Enea has been exceptional but fancied names have struggled. How would you assess the start of Ducati’s season?

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Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola: We're Not Ready To Win, We're Ready To Be The Underdog

Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola and Antonio Jiménez, crew chief to Aleix Espargaro, speak of what the rest of the season holds for the Noale factory after a historic first MotoGP victory in Argentina.

Not for the first time Argentina was the scene of another wacky MotoGP weekend. There was a list of factors that could explain Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia’s maiden premier class triumph: A revamped schedule due to delays with the freight arriving. A bumpy, dirty track that had barely been used since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. And the absence of Marc Marquez, the winner of the 2019 event by a handsome 6s.

Even then, there was enough to suggest this won’t be a one off. Espargaro was bullish regarding their chances for the rest of 2022. And he has every reason to be, such is the strength of the RS-GP at each track we’ve visited since the beginning of preseason. Had it not rained before the Indonesian start, he could have been a podium contender at each outing so far. “If we don’t make any mistakes we will be in the mix for the victory and for the podium every weekend,” he said on Sunday.

Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola gave a more reserved assessment. Speaking to Motomatters outside the factory pit box on Sunday evening after the Argentina race, the Italian stopped just short of his rider’s enthusiasm. But the ’22 RS-GP is now a real all-round package, boasting great agility and genuine top speed (see Espargaro’s repeated overtaking of Jorge Martin on the back straight). With some justification, he suggested there could be rounds in the future when his rider is fighting at the very front.

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Method In The Madness - Why A Pattern Is About To Emerge In The MotoGP Championship

The start of the 2022 MotoGP season has been labeled chaotic. There have been nine different riders on the podium in the first three races, with nobody managing to get on the podium twice. There have been three different leaders in the teams championship, and two different leaders in the riders championship, with Aleix Espargaro taking over from Enea Bastianini, and Ducati and KTM have swapped the lead in the manufacturers championship. The winners of the first three races were three different riders on three different bikes. How are we expect to make sense of that?

At first, there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to the start of the season. Fans, pundits, and experts have racked their brains trying to make sense of 2022 so far. Every race seems to throw up new anomalies, every time a rider has a strong race, they seem to falter badly at the next race. Consistency appears to have gone out of style in a big way.

While it may look like chaos reigns in the premier class, that is not the full picture. The season is starting to take shape, but for most teams, the biggest issue is finding a base setting that works everywhere. At some tracks, the bikes work well. At others, a key piece of the puzzle is still missing.

Why the mess?

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Argentina MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Long And Winding Road To Success

In November 2014, at the Valencia post-race test, there was something of a buzz. Aprilia to make a return to MotoGP as a factory team for the 2015 season, albeit under the umbrella of the Gresini squad. Up until that point, Aprilias had been racing in MotoGP, but they were modified versions of the Noale factory's RSV-4 superbike, with a lot of chassis work and a much more powerful engine. They would be racing more or less the same bikes in 2015, but the ambition was to step up development and build a genuinely competitive motorcycle.

To do that, they had abandoned their factory entry in the WorldSBK championship – a championship which Sylvain Guintoli had won for them the previous year – and drafted in Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri. Bautista was keen to push the project forward, but from the very first moment he appeared in the MotoGP paddock again, Melandri made it glaringly obvious he did not want to be there.

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