Pol Espargaro

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:

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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

Back to top

Le Mans MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Qualifying Surprises, Evaluating Aleix, And Retiring Numbers

The MotoGP riders are hoping that Le Mans doesn't turn into another Portimão. In Portugal, they spent two days perfecting their wet setup, only to find themselves racing in the dry with next to no time on a dry track, outside of morning warm up. At Le Mans, it could well be the opposite. Two days of practice in near-perfect conditions, only for the race to be held in the rain. Or not, the forecast changes every time you look at it.

The weather isn't the only thing capable of surprising. All through FP3 and FP4, a very clear pattern emerged. The reigning world champion had come to his home grand prix with a plan, and vengeance in his heart. Still smarting from finishing second in Jerez, Fabio Quartararo is intent on stamping his authority on the French Grand Prix at Le Mans.

The Frenchman's rhythm in free practice was fearsome. 1'31.7s with used tires in FP3, 1'31.6s with used tires in FP4. Not single laps either, but effortlessly stringing together runs of lap after lap. The only riders who came close to that kind of pace were Alex Rins and Aleix Espargaro, but they didn't have the consistency which Quartararo was displaying.

Back to top

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

Back to top

Portimão MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Wasted Day, An Improved Honda, And What The Yamaha Is Really Missing

If anyone was holding out the forlorn hope of a return to normality now that MotoGP is back in Europe, they were to be bitterly disappointed the way the first day of practice played out at Portimão. It rained all day, occasionally easing up, only for the rain to hammer down again. The track surface varied from wet to absolutely soaking, a rivulet of water running across the apex of Turn 5, a corner which is tricky enough in the dry.

Remarkably, nobody crashed there, despite it being notorious for catching out the unwary. There was plenty of crashing elsewhere: a grand total of 41 on the first day across all three classes, one shy of three-day total of last October's Algarve Grand Prix, and six short of the total accrued in the race here last April. The vast majority fell at Turn 4, the first left hander after the main straight, and nearly half the track from the previous left. In the cold, wet, and miserable conditions, the left side of the tire was losing a lot of heat, and it was easy to crash.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

Mandalika, Michelin, Marquez - How A Chain Of Unfortunate Choices Ended In Disaster

Honda went into the Indonesian Grand Prix widely seen as potential front runners. Pol Espargaro had been fastest in the test at Mandalika a month previously, Marc Marquez had been quickest on the second day of the test, Honda riders had set a consistently fast pace, looking better than their single-lap speed. What's more, Espargaro was coming off a podium at the season opener at Qatar, the race where Marc Marquez had finished fifth.

To say the Indonesian Grand Prix ended badly for Honda is an understatement. Pol Espargaro was fastest Honda once again, but the Repsol rider crossed the line way down in 12th, 33 seconds behind the winner, Miguel Oliveira. Espargaro was one of only two Honda riders to finish in the points, crossing the line just ahead of Alex Marquez on the LCR Honda in 13th. Takaaki Nakagami could only struggle to a 19th place, 49 seconds behind the winner.

That wasn't the really bad news, however. The worst blow for Honda was the fact that Marc Marquez manage to miss the race, and perhaps endanger his chances of the 2022 title, or worse. Much worse.

Living on the edge

Back to top

Mandalika MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Chaos Reigns, Honda Riders Moan At Michelin, And Ducatis Menace

The first Indonesian GP in 25 years has been a complicated affair. A new track, in the middle of a construction site where a new resort is being built. A track which was resurfaced after the test uncovered issues with the asphalt. The blistering tropical heat, capable of raising track temperatures to well over 60°. The swapping out of the rear tire used at the test for an older, safer tire used in Austria and Buriram to prevent the tire from blistering if track temperatures get that high. And the intense rains which leave the track wet for a long time, have eaten into setup time, and keep washing dirt onto the surface.

When working on a problem, such as the correct setup for a MotoGP bike, engineers like to change one variable at a time, to understand how it works. At Mandalika, that just hasn't been possible. The teams already had two new variables – a new track surface and different tires – thrown at them, and the weather is adding a third. It is making it almost impossible to figure out what needs to be changed to make the bikes go faster.

Back to top

Pages

Subscribe to Pol Espargaro