KTM

Qatar MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes: A Much Faster Race Brings Emotion And Surprise, But Does It Mean Anything?

It was good to get racing underway again in 2022, given everything that has happened over the past couple of years, and what is going on right now in a corner of Europe. If racing is escapism, we had some of best stories of recent years, with plenty to talk about. So here are some initial thoughts after the opening round of the season, before taking a deeper dive later this week.

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Qatar MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Yellow Flags, Managing Tires, And Surprising Youngsters

If it has felt like a long wait for the season to get underway again. And Saturday at Qatar showed us just what we have been missing. A surprising FP3, where eight riders managed to improve their lap times, despite the session taking place in the heat of the day, and the wind having picked up and bringing a dusting of sand to the track. Among those who improved were Enea Bastianini, who jumped up to fifth, threatening Pol Espargaro, Pecco Bagnaia, and Fabio Quartararo. Espargaro and Bagnaia bettered their times, Quartararo did not, setting up another thrilling contest to get out of Q1 and into Q2. If you were looking for drama, you got everything you could have hoped for, and more.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why MotoGP may become a drag for Suzuki and Yamaha

Downforce aerodynamics is increasingly important in MotoGP but more downforce means more drag, which is a problem for the less powerful inline-four machines used by Suzuki and Yamaha

Eagle-eyed fans may have observed something strange afoot during pre-season testing at Sepang and Mandalika…

Aprilia, Ducati, Honda and KTM all had big aero on their bikes: large top wings, plus fairing sidepods, except the Aprilia which ran without sidepods. But Suzuki didn’t and when Yamaha tried a big wing and tiny sidepods at Sepang, its world champion Fabio Quartararo complained that the increased drag made the sluggish YZR-M1 even slower on top speed.

Why is this? And does it matter?

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Portimão Moto2 & Moto3 Test Notes: Development Returns, A Full Calendar Expected, And Acosta's Meteoric Rise

After three days of testing for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes at Portimão, the 2022 preseason is officially over. It was pretty much over by about 4pm on Monday, with just 10 riders out in the Moto3 class, and even fewer in the Moto2 class. I went for a quick walk around the service road at 5:30pm, and was too late to see the last bike circulate.

That is in itself a sign of how successful this test was for the lightweight and intermediate classes. Three days of outstanding weather, with the wind the biggest issue on the first day, and no disruption for the rest of the test. The teams got pretty much all of the testing done that they needed to.

Unlike a MotoGP test, the amount of technical material to test is limited. In Moto3, engine development is still frozen for another couple of years, although both Honda and KTM had new exhausts obviously aimed at improving engine character. In Moto2, Triumph had brought a new gearbox, which is more race-focused, with a longer first gear and shorter fifth and sixth, making it more of a close-ratio box.

New bits

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Mandalika MotoGP Test Saturday Round Up: Real Work Starts And The Cream Rises To The Top

You could tell testing was underway in earnest at Mandalika on Saturday by the fact that for most of the day, Brad Binder's name was stuck at the top of the timesheets. The time Binder set was already well under Pol Espargaro's best time from Friday, hitting a 1'31.814 on his third exit from the pits. But nobody followed suit until the final hour or so of the test, with Luca Marini eventually ending up fastest with a lap of 1'31.289. The teams and riders were too busy with the hard graft of testing, optimizing parts and refining setup, figuring out the best base with which to launch their assault on the 2022 MotoGP championship at Qatar in three weeks' time.

A day of riding had made a huge difference to the track surface, with a clean line with high grip appearing. Off line, the track was still filthy, and quite dangerous – Raul Fernandez took a very big tumble and was wandering round on Saturday afternoon with bruises on his face from the impact, and one of Marc Marquez' practice starts ended in a massive fishtail with a lot of sideways motion and not much forward momentum.

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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 Saturday Notes: Aero, Engines, And A Mountain Of Work

Shall we declare Aprilia 2022 MotoGP champions, now that Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales ended the first day of the Sepang MotoGP test in the top two positions? Obviously not. The Aprilias have already had extra time around Sepang, Maverick Viñales spending two days on track during the shakedown test, Aleix Espargaro one day extra. So they were already up to speed and used to riding a MotoGP bike again.

That doesn't mean that Aprilia's speed isn't real. The 2022 bike is a step forward, in part a result of Aprilia changing course after a disappointing Jerez test back in November. A new chassis improved the handling of the bike, the engine is more refined, and the whole is a lot narrower. "It felt like a Moto2 bike," Espargaro said after he had sat on it for the first time at the Aprilia factory. He had spent a long time in the garage after his team had rebuilt the bike after the shakedown test, where he had been alternating between the old and the new bike.

Making the bike narrower was quite an achievement, with a lot of parts to pack into a small area, but the effort had paid off, Espargaro said. "The difference is huge in last year’s bike in this area. From lap one it helps a lot to throw the bike into the corner. The strongest thing of the bike, the best thing is the turning," he told us.

Back to speed

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Preview: Making Sense Of All The Changes


Marc Marquez' Honda RC213V at the 2014 Sepang 1 MotoGP test

It is dangerous to draw too many lessons from the results of the Sepang test. In the ten years between 2011 and 2020, the rider who set the fastest time at Sepang has only gone on to win the MotoGP title twice: Casey Stoner in 2011, and Marc Marquez in 2014. (That stat is complicated by the fact that between 2011 and 2015, there used to be two Sepang tests – I've taken the fastest time from both tests in those years.)

Casey Stoner was fastest in 2012 as well, but ended up losing to Jorge Lorenzo that year, after smashing his foot at Indianapolis. Dani Pedrosa was quickest in 2013, but was overshadowed by his rookie teammate Marc Marquez who took the crown at the first attempt. After his dominant year in 2014, Marc Marquez was quickest at both tests in 2015, but notoriously ended up finishing behind the two Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

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