Cal Crutchlow

Lin Jarvis Interview: On Quartararo's Championship, Yamaha's Season, Satellite Teams, And Sprint Races in 2023

2022 has been a strange year for Yamaha. It started off on the wrong foot, when the Japanese factory was forced to give up on the more powerful engine they had intended to race this season and run a revised version of the 2021 engine (which, thanks to the Covid-19 engine freeze, was basically the 2020 engine) for this year.

Despite the obvious lack of engine performance, by the time MotoGP reached the summer break after Assen, Fabio Quartararo had a comfortable lead in the championship, sitting ahead of Aleix Espargaro by 21 points, and the man billed as his main title rival for 2022, Pecco Bagnaia, by 66 points.

Elsewhere, there were signs of trouble. While Quartararo was winning races and leading the championship, his Monster Energy Yamaha Franco Morbidelli was struggling just to score points. Over at the RNF team, Andrea Dovizioso jumped on a Yamaha only to find he had spent too long on a Ducati to be able to figure out how to ride it, and retired again after Misano. Darryn Binder had a big hill to climb going straight to MotoGP from Moto3, and found himself crashing along the way. And after the summer break, RNF announced they would be switching to Aprilia for the 2023 season.

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Buriram MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Rain Setups, Tire Pressures, And Team Orders

After a weekend of waiting, the rain finally came on Sunday. It had been forecast for Friday, but Friday stayed dry. It was forecast again on Saturday, but Saturday was dry as well. In the run up to the Grand Prix of Thailand, Sunday had looked like offering the best chance of remaining dry. But that forecast proved to be wrong as well.

The trouble started as the Moto2 race was about to get underway. A few raindrops on the grid quickly turned into a downpour. After a brief delay, the organizers started the race, but it would only last 8 laps before conditions forced Race Direction to red flag it, spray and standing water making it impossible to complete the race safely.

Several abortive attempts to restart the race followed, but when another downpour started as the Moto2 bikes got halfway round the track on the sighting lap to the grid, the red flag went out again and the race was called. With less than two-thirds distance completed, half points were awarded, much to the consternation of anti-decimal faction of the MotoGP paddock who abhor the ugliness of a points table which does not consist solely of integers.

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Buriram MotoGP Friday Round Up: Fast Ducatis, Miller's Improvement, Marquez' Poetry In Motion, And 21 Races In 2023

The MotoGP paddock had been looking fearfully at weather forecasts the entire week, and well into the night. Some of them drove through flooded roads to arrive at the Buriram circuit in Thailand, a week after losing Saturday to the rain at Motegi. MotoGP feared another washout.

Instead, they appear to have dodged a bullet. There were a couple of rain showers, and some half-wet, half-dry conditions for Moto3 and Moto2, but MotoGP had two sessions of pretty much completely dry practice. And looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow, there is every chance of it being dry again on Saturday. But also, every chance of rain.

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Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Marquez As Scapegoat, The Danger Of Ride-Height Devices, And How Ducati Made Tire Management Irrelevant

Marc Marquez was hoping to make an impact on his return to MotoGP at the Motorland Aragon circuit. He made an impact alright, but not quite the one he was intending. A lightning start, collisions with Fabio Quartararo and Takaaki Nakagami – much, much more on that later – and a withdrawal due to having a chunk of Quartararo's fairing stuck in the back of his bike. Marquez had come up short on his objective: "Try to get kilometers, try to finish the race, and we didn't get the target. I just did one lap," he said after the race.

We will come to apportioning blame for the Quartararo-Marquez crash later, and how Enea Bastianini came to the championship leader's aid at the end of the race. The race itself was in some ways a repeat of last year: a waiting game, with a burst of excitement settling the outcome in the last couple of laps.

Bastianini's victory wrapped up the manufacturers championship for Ducati again with five races to go. There is no doubt that the Ducati is now the best bike on the MotoGP grid. But the halfhearted celebrations in the factory Ducati Lenovo garage betrayed just how much more the riders championship matters to Ducati.

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Ramon Forcada Interview: On Dealing With 5 Different Riders, Rookies vs Veterans, Ride-Height and Michelins

It would probably be fair to describe the Petronas Yamaha SRT team's 2021 season as disappointing. After an exceptional year in 2020, they started 2021 with high hopes. Franco Morbidelli had finished 2020 as runner up to Joan Mir in the championship, and between them, Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo had won six races.

For 2021, Morbidelli was joined by MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, now back and fully fit after a period off with Covid-19. But their expectations were dashed in what would turn out to be a bizarre and unpredictable year. They managed just a single podium from Franco Morbidelli at Jerez, finished second to last in the team standings, lost their title sponsor at the end of the year, and then the team was disbanded and reformed as RNF Racing for 2022.

Nothing quite encapsulates how strange 2021 was for the Petronas Yamaha SRT team like the parade of riders which veteran Catalan crew chief Ramon Forcada had to work with through the season. He started at Qatar with Franco Morbidelli, who started to struggle after a training crash in which he damaged the ligaments in his knee before Le Mans. Morbidelli kept going with a very painful and weak knee through the Sachsenring race.

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Aragon MototGP Friday Round Up: Hidden Pace, Silly Crashes, Fast Ducatis, And Maverick's Debut

With 21 riders covered by less than 1.3 seconds at a track over 5 km long, it is hard to pick a winner after Friday. Take Jack Miller's stellar lap out of the equation, and it's even closer: the gap between Aleix Espargaro in second place and Joan Mir in 21st is precisely 1 second; Espargaro to Enea Bastianini in tenth is exactly two tenths of a second; Espargaro to Danilo Petrucci in fifteenth is half a second. If ever you needed an example of just how close the current era of MotoGP is, Friday at Aragon delivered.

Of course, Friday being Friday, it is a little early to be reading anything into the times. Especially at a track like Aragon, where the lap is 1'49 long. You don't get very many of them to the pound, as the saying has it, with riders doing 18 or 19 laps a session, rather than 22 or 23 laps at a track like the Red Bull Ring. Mess up a lap, or crash out, as Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Pecco Bagnaia, and Iker Lecuona did, and you can lose a lot of track time. And that, in turn can mess up your plan for the day.

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Austria MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Record-Breaking Pole, 7-Day Déjà Vu, Hard Fronts, And Viñales' Future

The thing about back-to-back races is that everyone gets faster. Or at least, that's the idea. With an extra weekend of data under their belts, the teams should have a pretty good idea about the ideal setting for the bike at a track, and returning to a circuit where they had raced a week before, the riders should be able to navigate every corner, bump, and braking zone with their eyes closed.

The track should be better too. With a weekend of motorcycle rubber on the track to replace the residue left by cars, there is more grip for the riders to exploit. The stars should all be aligned for everyone to be faster the second time around.

As it turns out, that is only partially true. Johann Zarco raised expectations in FP1, smashing the pole record set by Jorge Martin the previous week by over a tenth of a second. In FP3, both Pecco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo dived under Martin's previous record as well, though they were still a ways behind Zarco's time. So in qualifying, surely Zarco's record would fall, and half the grid or more would be into the 1'22s?

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