Pol Espargaro

Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up: Coping with The Wind, And Turning With The Rear

Phillip Island is going to Phillip Island. A truth universally acknowledged, that whatever you thought the weather was going to do at the glorious racetrack overlooking the Bass Strait, the weather systems powered by the mighty Southern Ocean will always have a mind of their own.

So the day started off bright and relatively sunny, confounding forecasts of rain on Friday. "The thing in this country is that is it so difficult to predict the weather," Pecco Bagnaia said. "It was raining a lot yesterday but then it was completely dry during FP2 so it is difficult to know."

The rain from Thursday had left a lot of water around the track, but the strong wind had dried most of the track out, bar a couple of sections where water ran across the surface, including at the last corner and around Siberia. It made FP1 extremely difficult. "Coming back to the Island after three years was quite nice," Alex Rins said. "Sincerely FP1 was so difficult and so dangerous. With two-three wet patches crossing the track and it was on the limit for those conditions and with some kerbs full of water."

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Buriram MotoGP Preview: More Weather Disruption, Searching For Setup, And The Difference Between Europe And Japan

With barely a moment to catch its collective breath, the MotoGP paddock alights at Buriram, in the east of Thailand. The heavy rain which lashed the paddock in Motegi has followed them across the South China Sea, with heavy rain and flooding in many parts of Thailand. Some who chose to drive rather than fly from Bangkok to Buriram reported flooded roads at several points along the way, and fields around the track are also flooded.

Nor is the rain done with MotoGP just yet. Thursday's media duties took place in heavy rain, marshals and circuit workers doing their best to rid the track of the worst of its surface water. More rain is expected over the weekend, though the forecast is very difficult to read. There could be delays to track action on Friday, if the rain is as heavy as predicted. But there are also likely to be a couple of dry sessions spread over the weekend. Right now, the race looks to be wet. But three days out, that is pretty meaningless.

A wet race would both simplify and complicate matters, depending on your point of view. The track in Buriram is one of only two tracks – the other being the Red Bull Ring in Austria – which requires the use of the special, stiffer casing Michelin uses to resist the extremely high loads and temperatures at the two circuits. That is good for most, but not for Aleix Espargaro, the Aprilia rider not a fan of the special tire Michelin brings to the Red Bull Ring.

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Motegi MotoGP Friday Round Up: Just How Much Has MotoGP Moved On In Three Years?

Friday at Motegi was the equivalent of being fourteen and having a distant relative visit for the first time in three years. "Goodness, haven't you grown up!" they say to you, as you roll your eyes and try not to look utterly exasperated and embarrassed.

In this case, it's the MotoGP bikes in the role of the surly teenager and Motegi as the annoying relative. The bikes really have changed a lot over the past three years, as a quick glance at the timesheets will tell you.

In 2019, after two 45-minute sessions of practice on the first day, Fabio Quartararo posted a fastest time of 1'44.764. In 2022, despite only having one 75-minute session of free practice, the first nine riders were all under Quartararo's 2019 time, with Jack Miller nearly a quarter of a second quicker. Maverick Viñales was second fastest in 2019, with a lap of 1'45.085. The first sixteen riders, all the way down to Franco Morbidelli, were faster than that.

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GasGas To Join MotoGP With Tech3, Pol Espargaro Confirmed For 2023

GasGas, the iconic Spanish motorcycle brand bought by the Pierer Mobility Group and KTM, is to enter MotoGP with the Tech3 team. From 2023, Tech3 will become the GasGas Factory Racing Team, with Pol Espargaro confirmed as one of their riders. The team will compete with factory-backed KTM RC16s branded under the GasGas name.

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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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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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Sachsenring MotoGP Friday Round Up: Why Are Ducatis So Fast Around The 'Ring?

Conventional wisdom has it that the Sachsenring is a tight and twisty track. Slow, tortuous, and difficult. "It's like a riding on a Supermoto track!" Raul Fernandez said after his first experience riding a MotoGP bike around the German circuit. What had felt like a short straight between Turns 7 and 8 on a Moto2 bike was an entirely different experience on a MotoGP machine. "In MotoGP it's like super fast. It's like not a straight, like a corner."

As is usually the case, the conventional wisdom has only a passing acquaintance with the reality of the situation. Yes, the Sachsenring is tight and twisty. But as Tech3's Fernandez points out, it is also much faster than it seems. Jerez has a lower top speed, for example. And Jerez, Le Mans, Valencia all have slower average speeds.

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Barcelona MotoGP Friday Round Up: How To Go Fast When There Is No Grip, And Why Aprilia are Favorites

Normally after the first day of practice for a MotoGP race, everyone says, "it's only Friday, you can't read too much into the times". But not here. At Barcelona, everyone is asking how they can stop the Aprilias. Aleix Espargaro was fastest on a soft tire and in race trim, and Maverick Viñales was quick over a single lap – his weakness so far with Aprilia - and managed a respectable race pace. If one or both qualify well on Saturday, nobody will see which way they went.

The gap over the rest is impressive. Aleix Espargaro was three tenth faster than his Aprilia teammate, while Viñales was two tenths quicker than Enea Bastianini in third. And that was with Viñales feeling he hadn't get everything possible out of the soft tire he put in at the end of FP2. "When I put the soft, the jump was huge so I didn’t take enough profit of the soft. The difference was very big," the Spaniard told us.

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Mugello MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Mugello Makes Passing Easier, And The Merits Of Banning Technology

If there has been one topic which has dominated MotoGP so far in 2022, it is the profound lack of overtaking in the first few races. The causes have been discussed ad nauseam – ride-height devices mean riders are braking later, loading the front more, aerodynamics are creating turbulence which makes following difficult and overheats the front tire – but there is another factor which has not been touched upon so often.

"Nowadays with the problems that we have, that the front is heating and to stop the bike is hard with the wings and everything, the tracks where you have to stop and go, it's quite difficult to overtake in the braking area, you know?" Joan Mir said on Thursday. Tracks like Le Mans, or Austin, or even Jerez, with tight corners where you can sit in the slipstream and try to outbrake the rider ahead pose a problem.

"This track is completely the opposite," Mir pointed out. "You don't have to be good in the braking, you have to be good on corner speed, to find the flow, to get a good line, that's so important in this track, and that's why this track is good for overtakes, and for the show."

Flow = show

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