Enea Bastianini

Mugello MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Cream Of MotoGP, Why The Ducati Is Best, Mugello Makes Passing Possible, And The New Marc Marquez

Mugello is a real motorcycle racing track. And on Sunday, it served up a real motorcycle race. After close games of follow-my-leader at Jerez and Le Mans, we had battles, we had passing, we had riders attacking and counterattacking, lining people up to dive underneath, or sweeping out of the slipstream to dive under the rider ahead at Turn 1.

Does this mean MotoGP's overtaking problem has been fixed? Only if we hold an entire season's worth of racing at Mugello and Phillip Island (which doesn't sound like such a terrible idea, to be honest). But it offers hope that when conditions are right, we can see the kind of spectacle which we have come to expect from MotoGP.

Even the atmosphere was good. Sure, the crowd was much thinner on the ground than in previous years – roughly half of what you might expect, making the drive into the track smooth and easy – but they brought the smoke bombs, the passion, the cheering, helped in no small part by the fact that there was an all-Italian front row, and an Italian rider won the Italian Grand Prix on an Italian bike.

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Jerez Test: Close Up Photos Of Yamaha's Swingarm And Fender, Honda's Exhausts, And Ducati's Ride-Height Devices

The Monday after Jerez was the first chance that the teams and factories got to work on their bikes since the entire design was homologated ahead of the MotoGP season opener at Qatar. Given the oft-discussed weird start to the 2022 season, where the teams never seemed to have more than 5 minutes of normal or consistent conditions, having a whole day with a dry track allowed everyone some badly-needed time to work on some very basic stuff.

Of course, not everything was perfect. The weather was significantly cooler than it had been on Sunday, and the wind picked up considerably. There was also a nice thick layer of Michelin rubber, laid down in Sunday's race, the with the MotoE class, also Michelin-shod, adding yet more to the track surface. If anyone had hoped to work on low grip conditions, they would have to create them themselves by running very, very old tires.

Starting first with satellite riders – real satellite riders, that is, not the factory-backed riders in junior teams like Pramac – and rookies. When you have no new parts to test, then what you work on is setup, and especially the kind of setup changes that you don't have time to try during a race weekend.

Setup first

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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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The 2022 MotoGP Silly Season: The Slow Burn Starts

Despite the fact that almost the entire MotoGP grid started the year without a contract for 2023 and beyond, it has been extremely quiet on the contract front so far this year. The only new contract announced was the unsurprising news that Pecco Bagnaia is to stay in the factory Ducati team for the next two seasons, with that contract announced between the Mandalika test and the season opener at Qatar.

The general feeling seems to be one of wanting to wait and see. An informal poll of team managers at the Sepang test suggest that they expected to wait until Mugello at the earliest to start thinking about next year. At the moment, it seems likely that major moves will not be made until after the summer break.

But that doesn't mean there won't be any major moves made, however. There are growing rumors of talks having started behind the scenes among several key players. If these talks play out as expected, the grid could see look rather different in 2023.

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Austin MotoGP Subscriber Notes: A Satellite Challenger, What Went Wrong With Marquez, And Consistency Is Key

The Circuit of The Americas is an impressive venue set on the edge of a spectacular city, with much to commend it. Vast grounds to walk around, with plenty of grass banks overlooking large sections of track. And everywhere there is something to do, not necessarily racing related, with a large vendor area, a funfair, and more.

What COTA isn't known for is spectacular racing. As MotoGP commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast regular Neil Morrison likes to say, the usual sequence of events is, we spend Thursday speculating who might be able to beat Marc Marquez this year, spend Friday analyzing Marquez' pace, and wondering if he's lost his edge at the track, marvel at him grabbing pole on Saturday, then watch him disappear into the distance after the first lap or two, as the race turns into a procession.

Not in 2022, though. This year, the race brought spectacle, hard battles, and a much more open race than in the past. A new winner, and a rider who seems to have an edge. And yes, a spectacular ride by Marc Marquez demonstrating his superiority at COTA, though this time, forced into it by a problem on the grid that saw him enter the first corner dead last.

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Off To A Poor Start: Where It All Went Wrong For Ducati In Qatar

Fortunes in MotoGP can change fast. Before the opening weekend of the 2022 MotoGP season, Pecco Bagnaia was the most tipped rider to take the title, the Ducati GP22 was the hot bike to have. The question was not whether a Ducati would win one of the early races, but rather which one, and how many Ducatis would end up on the podium at them.

That prediction turned out to be accurate, but not in the way those making it expected. Enea Bastianini rode an outstanding race in Qatar to win the first race of 2022, and the first for the Gresini squad since Toni Elias back at Estoril in 2006. A Ducati stood on the top step of the podium, as expected. Only it was a satellite rider on a year-old bike, Bastianini riding a Ducati GP21.

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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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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 Provisional MotoGP Rider Line Up

The FIM today released the provisional entry lists for all three grand prix classes, which featured very few surprises. The biggest changes were among the riders who were forced to change numbers. Fabio Di Giannantonio switched from 21 (taken by Franco Morbidelli) to 49, while Marco Bezzecchi kept 72, Darryn Binder kept 40, and Raul Fernandez stuck with 25, the number abandoned by Maverick Viñales at the end of the 2018 season.

The most noteworthy, if not surprising, change came with the VR46 team. In previous lists of teams accepted to MotoGP and Moto2, the VR46 Racing Team were still using the name Aramco VR46, after the Saudi Arabian oil company. That deal has proved to be chimerical, and the team is now listed as VR46 Racing Team.

Provisional MotoGP line up for 2022:

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