Danilo Petrucci

MotoGP Mid-Season Review And Preview - The Lessons Of The First 5 Races For The Last 9 Races

The opening laps of the 2020 Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring - Photo Cormac Ryan Meenan

The 2020 MotoGP season is divided into two, uneven halves. The first five races were something of a warm up: a pair of races at Jerez, followed by a week off, then three races on consecutive weekends, one at Brno, two at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Those five races proved punishing for bikes, riders, teams.

Riders crashed and hurt themselves: Marc Márquez broke his right arm and put himself out of action and out of the championship; Alex Rins damaged ligaments in his shoulder and has been riding hurt since then; Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco broke scaphoids, and gritted their teeth to ride; Zarco and Franco Morbidelli had a horrifying high-speed crash which saw their bikes cross the track and come within centimeters of hitting the Monster Energy Yamaha team of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales.

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Styria MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Back To A Dangerous Track, Where Bad Blood Remains

A week later, and back in the same place. Plus ça change pas... The same riders are back at the same track, in the same situation. So we should have the same result, right?

That's not quite what the data from Jerez says. Sure, the first two places were the same in both races. But behind that, the results were completely different between the two races, a week apart on the same circuit. Only 9 of the 22 riders on the entry list of the first race finished both races, three of them ending up injured in the carnage of the two opening rounds.

Only Pol Espargaro crossed the line within one place of his finishing position in the second race, ending sixth in the first race, seventh in the second. Only Johann Zarco's finishing position varied by two places, crossing the line eleventh in the first race, ninth in the second. The rest of the field either finished three or more places out of position, or crashed out – and there were a lot of riders who didn't cross the line one way or another.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Fabio’s rear-brake trick

MotoGP riders use the rear rake more than ever – Quartararo is one of the best at loading the rear tyre so he can get more stopping power from the rear of the bike

The four main controls on a MotoGP bike – throttle, clutch, front brake and rear brake – are tools that can be used for jobs other than those originally intended. The throttle can be used to steer the bike, the clutch can be used for traction control (at least before electronics took that job) and so on.

The busiest tool of them all is the rear brake, which riders use to stop the bike, to steer the bike and to reduce wheelies. In other words, before the corner, through the corner and out of the corner.

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Brno MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Stolen Laps, Surprise Front Rows, And Why Old Is (Sometimes) Better Than New

If ever there were a day where qualifying and practice told two very different stories, it was Saturday at Brno. The tales were linked and related, interwoven in many ways, but the differences outweighed the common threads. The grid tells a tale of heroism, surprises, and the cruel application of sensible rules. Practice is a story of dark foreboding, of the grim war of attrition that awaits on Sunday afternoon. Qualifying was tough; the race is going to be much, much tougher.

Qualifying is always the highlight of Saturday afternoon, though the final free practice session, FP4, is what matters most. With nothing on the line but race setup, and conditions close to what they will face at race time on Sunday afternoon, teams and riders show what they are really capable of. Even then, the story told is not in the overall result, but tucked away in the analysis timesheets, where teams send out riders on old tires, to see how they hold up once they get a lot of laps on them. The secret code created by combining tire compound with tire age and run duration is almost impossible to decipher, but there are fragments of the real story of the weekend tucked away for the diligent student.

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Brno MotoGP Friday Round Up: Bumps, Grip, Crashes, And Ducati's Shapeshifter Device

What did we learn from the first day of practice at Brno? Not much, but that in itself is valuable. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that the Automotodrom Brno circuit has not seen much action, so there is very little rubber on the track. The circuit has always been fairly low grip, but it is much worse now than it has ever been. It needs rubber down on it before any conclusions can be drawn.

That makes figuring out what is going on rather tricky. The track is changing session to session, as bikes deposit a thin smear of Dunlop and Michelin rubber on the surface of the track and in the crevices between the grit particles used in the aggregate. That leads to big changes in grip levels: Fabio Quartararo's fastest time in FP2 was over eight tenths faster than the best lap set by Takaaki Nakagami in the morning session. Quartararo's best time from Friday was nearly three quarters of a second slower than the best time at the end of the first day in 2019.

With the times so far off the pace – Quartararo's time is two whole seconds off Marc Márquez' outright lap record, and half a second slower than the race lap record – and grip still changing, conditions were just to inscrutable to draw any conclusions from, or at least any conclusions which might last beyond Saturday morning. Trying to work out which tire will work best was almost possible on Friday. There are still too many unknowns.

Bump and grind

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Jerez MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Risk vs Reward, How to Handle Yellow Flags, And Three Clear Favorites

For a stunning and heartrending reminder of just how difficult and delicate the 2020 MotoGP season is going to be, see Alex Rins' huge crash at Turn 11 during qualifying on Saturday at Jerez. The Suzuki Ecstar rider lost the front at one of the fastest and most treacherous corners of the circuit, and was forced to pick the bike up to try and save it. But as he entered the gravel trap, he realized he was traveling too fast, and decided to drop the bike to avoid hitting the barrier on the outside of the corner.

That is never an easy maneuver at speeds well over 170 km/h, and Rins fell badly in the attempt. After examination in the medical center, he was transported to a local hospital, where an MRI scan revealed that he had dislocated his right shoulder, fracturing the head of the humerus, the bone in the upper arm. He also suffered a tear in one of the muscles of his rotator cuff. Though he has not been officially ruled unfit to race just yet, the chance of him actually lining up on the grid on Sunday is minuscule.

Rins' real worry is the fact that there is another race in 7 days. And then three more races on consecutive weekends, starting three weeks from now. If Rins can race, it will be punishing. If he can't, there is still very little time to recover before the next race, or between the races after that. Thirteen races in eighteen weekends is a tough schedule for the fully fit. For anyone carrying an injury, it is going to be brutal.

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MotoGP Silly Season Update: KTM Confirms Line Up, Stalemate At Ducati

KTM sporting director Pit Beirer (left) and Danilo Petrucci

That Danilo Petrucci was heading to KTM was an open secret, after the Italian and his manager, Alberto Vergani, visited the Austrian factory's race department in Mattighofen. That he would not be replacing Pol Espargaro in the factory Red Bull KTM team is a huge surprise. Instead, Petrucci is to switch to the Tech3 satellite team, and take the place of Miguel Oliveira, who is to be moved up to the factory squad.

According to Italian media, the reasons Petrucci is headed to the Tech3 team are twofold: firstly, as the KTM press release makes clear, because all four KTM RC16s will be full-factory spec, and with full factory support. And secondly, because Brad Binder had a clause in his contract stating he would be in the factory team in his second year.

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