Johann Zarco

Crunching The Numbers: Predicting Race Outcomes - Which Session Matters Most?

It is no secret that FP4 is my favorite part of a MotoGP weekend. Every Saturday afternoon I watch the live timing carefully for signs of which MotoGP rider has the best race pace, usually pinging comments back and forth with Neil Morrison over WhatsApp. Once the results PDF is published, I pore over the Analysis timesheets, showing times and sector times for each lap, as well as which tires were used, and how fresh or used they were.

Based on that information, plus the outcome of qualifying, listening to what riders have to say and discussing the day with others, I try to make as informed a guess as possible of what might happen in the race. I try to estimate who looks to have the best race pace, based on lap times set in longer runs on very used tires. And if a rider hasn't used older tires – switching between two different rear tires, for example – I try to estimate whether their pace on used tires drops off more than the times in FP4 show.

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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 Saturday Round Up: Are Eight Fast Ducatis Too Much Of A Good Thing For Pecco Bagnaia?

Saturday at Buriram gave us a glimpse of the future. If you want to know what the sprint races will look like next year, look no further than the fact that Ducati have secured their sixth front-row lockout of the season, that there were five Ducatis in the first two rows, and that there were two more on the third row. It was the thirteenth time a Ducati qualified on pole this year, in seventeen events.

Only Fabio Quartararo (Indonesia), Aleix Espargaro (Argentina and Barcelona), and Marc Marquez (Motegi) have prevented Ducati from sweeping an entire season's worth of poles. Pecco Bagnaia is just two races away from winning the BMW M award as best qualifier, which features seven Ducati riders in the top nine.

The bike really does play a very large role in that dominance of qualifying. With his breathtaking last lap, breaking Fabio Quartararo's pole record from 2019, Marco Bezzecchi became the seventh Ducati rider to secure pole this year. Only Bezzecchi's Mooney VR46 teammate Luca Marini is letting the side down, though Marini has been close, starting from the front row twice this year.

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Motegi MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Torrential Rain, Why BMW Doesn't Race In MotoGP, And The Return Of Marc Marquez

If you wondered why BMW does not build and race a MotoGP bike, Saturday at Motegi gave you your answer. With torrential rain forcing a red flag in the Moto2 Q2 session, the cancellation of MotoGP's untimed practice session FP3 (FP4 had already been scrapped due to the shortened schedule), and the delay of MotoGP Q1 and Q2, Loris Capirossi and his crew were sent out multiple times to assess the state of the track in their safety cars.

That meant that the audience were treated to hour upon hour of BMW cars circulating at speed, with close ups of the cars drifting through the water, the BMW branding on display. (Do not ask me what car it is: I have so little interest in cars I don't even own one. The only thing I know is that it is some form of M model, which, I learned from the introduction of the BMW M1000RR superbike, is BMW's sports brand.)

With this, and the BMW M Award for the best qualifying performances of the year, BMW gets a massive amount of exposure through MotoGP, without the risk of failure associated with actually racing in the series. Why would they trade that in to go racing?

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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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Misano MotoGP Thursday Preview: A Yamaha In Ducati's Den, Why Team Orders Are Nonsense, And KTM's Troubling Attitude To Talent

With seven races left in the 2022 MotoGP season, we are approaching the final stretch. There are 175 points left to play for, and Fabio Quartararo has a lead of 32 points over Aleix Espargaro. That means that Espargaro still has his fate in his own hands: he can become 2022 MotoGP champion by the simple expedient of winning every MotoGP race left, and if Quartararo finishes second in all seven races, the Aprilia rider would take his first championship by a slim margin of 3 points.

Pecco Bagnaia has to rely on the help of others if he is to become champion. The Italian is 44 points behind Quartararo, which means he will need someone to get in between himself and Quartararo on more than one occasion.

So it's a good job MotoGP is at Misano this weekend. For Bagnaia, this is very much his home track, the Italian riding here regularly as part of the VR46 Academy on road bikes. And Bagnaia has help on his side: Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi are also VR46 Academy riders, and Ducati stablemates. (Franco Morbidelli, the fourth VR46 rider, will not be helping Bagnaia. But then, given his form this year, he is unlikely to be in a situation to help his Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Fabio Quartararo.)

Like the back of their hands

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Silverstone MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Difference 3 Weeks Makes In Summer, Winning Races As Slowly As Possible, And Quick Thoughts On The Championship

In the week or so before a MotoGP race, crew chiefs and engineers pull up the data from the last race at that circuit and start work on a plan for the weekend. They then compare that to the tire allocation Michelin are bringing to the race, and try to get a jump on the game of figuring out which tires are going to work best. Motorcycle racing is a puzzle composed of many parts, and with just four sessions of free practice (three of which are partially lost to the pursuit of a direct passage to Q2), any pieces you can put in place beforehand can give you a jump on your rivals.

So crew chiefs and engineers pore over data, examine how tires performed, and decide what is likely to work and what probably won't. They make tentative choices about possible race tires, and draw up plans for practice accordingly: an attempt at a long run in FP2, a long run in FP4, and the option to revisit those choices during warm up on Sunday.

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Silverstone MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Highsides, Mental Strength, And Lap Records

Time, tide, and race day wait for no one, to paraphrase an old adage. Trite as it may seem, that can become incredibly visceral in a sport like MotoGP. Qualifying happens at 14:35 local time on Saturday, unless the climate or conditions intervene. Sunday is race day, and the flag drops whether you are there or not.

Mostly, we just gloss over this, disregarding how much pressure it puts on teams and riders. But then something like Aleix Espargaro's crash in FP4 happens, and you are confronted with just how harsh the life of an elite athlete can be.

Espargaro suffered a huge highside at Farm, Turn 12 in the early moments of FP4. The Aprilia rider was on his second flying lap after leaving the pits with a brand new hard rear slick when the rear slid, then bit and flicked him into the sky. He landed as badly as you might expect from such a highside, his body slamming into the tarmac, saved from worse injury by the airbag, which inflated with enough power to force the zip on his leathers open.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why The Sachsenring Was 2022 Condensed, Ride-Height Failures, Hot Hondas, And Events vs Races

With the Sachsenring done and dusted, we have reached the halfway point of the 2022 season. A quick dash from the east of Germany to the northeast of The Netherlands, and then MotoGP goes on a longer than scheduled summer break.

If the German Grand Prix marked the halfway point of the 2022 season – the median, if you will – then the result might be classified in statistical terms as the mode: the most frequently occurring value in a set of results. If you had to sum up the MotoGP season so far, this is what it would look like.

I have a long motorcycle journey on Monday, so below are a few quick notes after the German GP, and what precisely makes it the modal MotoGP race. But also, some of the factors which make it atypical. And a sign of hope for the future of the series.

In these notes:

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