Jack Miller

Austin MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Near Tragedy In Moto3, Marquez Still Fast Going Left, And Quartararo Tightens His Grip On The 2021 Crown

Sunday was a busy day for motorcycle racing fans. WorldSBK from Portimão, MXGP in Teutschenthal, Germany, BSB from Donington Park, and probably some more that went unnoticed in the hectic schedule. There was a lot of racing to take in, even for the most ardent and completist fan.

The action in Europe was thrilling, WorldSBK turning into the most exciting and tensest racing on the planet right at this moment, and then the racing world turned its attention to the United States of America, where the Grand Prix paddock had set up shop at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

The racing in Austin was a good deal less scintillating. With the exception of the terror and drama of Moto3 – more on that later – both the Moto2 and MotoGP races were, frankly, dull, decided in the first few corners. Not that there wasn't anything of interest that happened: in Moto3 and Moto2, the championship gaps closed, in Moto2 significantly after Remy Gardner crashed out, his first mistake of the season, while in MotoGP, Marc Marquez returned to winning ways while Fabio Quartararo put one hand on the title.

But the process by which we reached this point was not exciting, in any shape or form. The field was quickly strung out – even in Moto3, at least by its own standards – and the battles for position were few and far between. After the shocking crash in Moto3, the dullness of the Moto2 and MotoGP races was rather welcome.

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Austin MotoGP Saturday Round Up: New Surface Needed, More Speed Than Ever, And Predicting The Last Rider Standing

It has been four years since anyone lapped the Circuit of The Americas quite so rapidly. In 2018 and 2019, nobody, not even Marc Marquez, managed to get under the 2'03s. So it is a testament to how much faster the MotoGP riders are going that two riders managed it on Saturday in Austin. And this, despite the fact that the track has become so much more bumpy in the past couple of years.

So bumpy, in fact, that it appears as if the circuit has been issued an ultimatum: resurfaces the section from the exit of Turn 1 all the way through Turn 10, or MotoGP is not coming back. Though riders try not to talk to the media about what was discussed in the Safety Commission, the body in which the MotoGP riders can talk to Dorna and the FIM about safety issues, so that they can speak freely, it was obvious there was only one topic of discussion in the meeting: the bumps which have rendered the track so dangerous that there were calls by some riders not to race at all on Sunday.

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Austin MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Danger Of A Bumpy Track, Lasting 20 Laps, And Can Marc Marquez' Withstand Fabio Quartararo's Onslaught?

Pol Espargaro summed up the complex emotions of almost the entire grid (possibly bar Jack Miller, but more of that later) at the end of an eventful first day of practice at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. "First of all we need to say that it's super nice to come here to America, to be able to race here," the Repsol Honda rider said. "Already this is something super good after so long in Europe. And to see the American fans is super nice, they are super excited and it's nice. Saying that, I think we are in a professional MotoGP championship that, we need a minimum of quality in the tracks, about safety, run off area."

Then came the 'but'. "We must say that the track is not at the level of a MotoGP championship, sure. First of all, there are parts where the asphalt is super bad. Not about the bumps, it's just cracked everywhere, and the asphalt is super old, and it looks bad, and also it's bad grip. But then there are the bumps, and the bumps are not something that we can say it's better or it's worse. The bumps are super dangerous."

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Austin MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Riders Share Ideas For Making Racing Safer

It was inevitable that there would be a lot of talk at Austin of the events of a few days earlier, at Jerez. The death of Dean Berta Viñales in the first (and only) WorldSSP300 race at the Spanish track had once again raised the question of safety in motorcycle racing. Especially the safety in the support classes, where the technical rules had been set up to achieve as much parity as possible, creating very large groups on the race track. And especially in classes populated by sometimes very young riders.

How ironic, then, that some of such talk took place in the pre-event press conference in Austin, where a group of riders in the FIM MiniGP North America series were present. Kensei Matsudaira, age 10, Jesse Shedden, age 12, Jayden Fernandez, age 13, Kayla Yaakov, age 14, and Travis Horn, age 13, all got to sit and listen as the MotoGP riders were asked questions about how to prevent young kids from being killed in motorcycle races.

The FIM MiniGP series is one of the steps Dorna is putting in place in its Road to MotoGP initiative, aimed at stimulating racing talent at a regional and national level, before moving up on the path to World Championship level racing.

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Misano MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Bagnaia's Start, The One-Man Yamaha, Behold The Bestia, And What Honda Need To Fix

It is crunch time in the championships of all three Grand Prix classes. In Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP, the leader went into Misano with a comfortable lead: 46 points for Pedro Acosta over Sergio Garcia, 39 points for Remy Gardner over Raul Fernandez, and 53 points for Fabio Quartararo over Pecco Bagnaia. Enough of a lead not to have to win at all costs, but not so much that they could afford to throw away points.

If anything, that's more stressful than having a much smaller lead. With a gap of just a few points or so, your only option is to put your head down and try to win as many races as possible. You have to take risks if you have any hope of winning the championship; the choice is out of your hands. With a comfortable gap, you have to start thinking about how much to risk, and when and how many points you can afford to give away. You can't relax and ride freely, because you are still a long way from actually wrapping up the title. But you can't just ease off and ride for points, because if you lose a couple of places you can suddenly find your rivals have slashed large chunks out of your championship lead, making your job even harder.

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Misano MotoGP Saturday Round Up: How The Dry Saved Fabio's Bacon, What's Irking Marc Marquez, And Why All The Crashes?

It was supposed to rain, so of course it didn't, proving that the weather on Italy's Adriatic coast is just as fickle as any other place in the world at the moment. Instead, it was hot and humid, with the threat of rain looming in the distance, providing a brief shower during qualifying for the Moto2 class, but leaving the rest of the sessions untouched.

The recent rains did leave their mark, however. The standing water left by the heavy showers of recent weeks had allowed midges, mosquitoes, and other insect life to breed copiously, and clouds of midges swarmed sections of the track. To the misfortune of Jack Miller, who had to come into the pits after getting one of the little mites in his eye.

"I did end up with one in my eye," he told the press conference after qualifying on the front row of the grid. "It was annoying for a couple of laps. It was strange. There were small tubes of them just randomly in random spots on the track. Even on my best lap in FP3, I had one flying around the inside of the helmet and it didn’t want to go away. I was trying to look past him a little bit."

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Misano MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Rossi's Home Race, Dovizioso Returns, and Michelin Musings

While Mugello is Valentino Rossi's spiritual home, Misano is truly the Italian's home circuit. It is quite literally walking distance from his home town of Tavullia: on the Sunday morning before the MotoGP race, a part of the Valentino Rossi official fan club gather in Tavullia to walk to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. It is a little over 12 kilometers, so it's not short, but it is easily doable.

It is also the home of the VR46 Riders Academy, who use it to train on Yamaha R6s and Yamaha R1s, to keep their brains up to speed, as well as using the karting track to race minibikes, sharpening their elbows, which have already been honed at the ranch. The circuit is not far from the end of the Strada Panoramica Adriatica, the stretch of road where Rossi learned the art of riding a two-wheeled vehicle as fast as possible over a winding course. And where, it is whispered, he will still occasionally try to destroy his friends as they race their T-Max scooters along the road.

So the last Misano Grand Prix for Valentino Rossi should be a glorious affair, held in bright, sunny, Adriatic weather. A chance for Rossi and his fans to bathe in the sunshine and the glory of his truly legendary career.

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Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: An 'Ordinary' Marquez, Bagnaia's Blitz, And Ride-Height Devices Explained

Marc Marquez arrived at Aragon as the clear favorite to win. Based on his record – five wins from seven races, and crashing out of the lead in a sixth – and on the fact that this is a counterclockwise circuit, like the Sachsenring. Before the Sachsenring, Marquez had a seventh, a ninth, and three DNFs, but he went on to win the race in Germany with ease, despite still not being completely fit.

Marquez arrived at Aragon – his third most successful circuit - with a seventh place, an eighth, a fifteenth after a fall, and a first-lap crash with Jorge Martin. If the pattern is to repeat itself, then surely Marquez is on for another win at the Motorland Aragon circuit?

Two crashes on the first two days suggest that may be harder than we all thought. The first crash, on Friday, was a simple mistake of the kind that most riders make – picking the bike up a fraction to avoid running into the rear of his brother Alex' LCR Honda, getting onto the dirty part of the track, and sliding off, furious at his own foolishness.

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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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