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Assen MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Quartararo vs Espargaro, Outstanding Ducatis, And Big Crowds

The Circuit van Drenthe, or the TT Circuit, as the glorious ribbon of asphalt to the south of Assen is officially known, always delivers, and Sunday was no exception. We had an outstanding Moto3 race, where the main championship contenders and promising youngsters broke away and fought down to the wire. We had one of the best Moto2 races in a long time, with action all the way to the finish. And we had an eventful, dramatic MotoGP race that saw some incredible battles from front to back of the field. It was a good day.

Adding a little spice to proceedings was the kind weather which is so unique to Assen. The race started dry, but the rain radar showed a very light shower heading for the track and likely to hit at around the two-thirds distance mark. It rained alright, but it was the worst kind of rain: the kind that leaves lots of spots on your visor, but barely touches the track. If you can blot the rain out from your mind, you can keep pushing just as hard, but it takes enormous mental strength and conviction. Worth the effort, though: even in the midst of the drizzle, riders were still posting 1'32s.

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Assen MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Timing Is Everything In Qualifying

MotoGP riders have three primary objectives on their todo lists on the Saturday of a Grand Prix weekend. First make sure you end FP3 in the top ten combined times and ensure passage directly to Q2. Secondly, use FP4 to figure out which tires will work best for them in the race, and what to expect in terms of performance at the start, drop in performance after the first five or six laps, and then the second drop in the last third or so of the race. And finally, to find a way to exploit the potential performance of a soft rear tire to secure a spot on the front row of the starting grid. Pole position would be nice, but second or third will do almost as well.

There are plenty of hurdles to cross along the way, not least figuring out how to get the most out of the package they have underneath them. But some of the challenges are outside of their control. Such as the tendency for their fellow racers to crash in the final minutes of a session, bringing out the yellow flags and automatically costing them a chance at setting a fast lap.

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Assen MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Weather Plays A Role

It has been a typically Assen start to the weekend of the Dutch TT. Thursday's stifling heat lingered through the night, windows left open throughout the province in the hope the cool air sweeping in from the south would arrive and bring relief. The heat lingered long into the night, until a summer storm arrived. A massive downpour around 8am dumped a lot of water on the track, the weather instantly turning gray, wet, and blissfully much cooler.

It made for a tricky morning out on track. Conditions were manageable for both MotoE and Moto3, a steady drizzle persisting. The rain picked up a little at the start of the MotoGP session, and made riding increasingly difficult. Assen drains pretty well – a legacy of its ancient roots starting as a race held on public roads, which means there is a crown to several parts of the track, the center of the track a little higher than the sides, to facilitate drainage.

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The Transformation Of Maverick Viñales: How The Pandemic, Marriage, And Aprilia Rekindled His Love Of Racing

Maverick Viñales has always been something of an enigma. While his talent was beyond doubt, it was also mercurial, the Spaniard winning one week before riding around anonymously the next. When he had the tools he needed, he was unstoppable, winning 9 MotoGP races with both Suzuki and Yamaha. But if he didn't, he would struggle, go backward and end up frustrated and angry.

Throughout the period Viñales was at Yamaha, in the period when rider media debriefs were held in team hospitality units making it impossible to attend all of them, the small group of journalists I share debriefs with would draw straws for who would have to go to speak to Maverick Viñales. That was usually a depressing experience, sitting through Viñales' simmering frustration at not getting the results he believed he was capable of.

It was no surprise this would all come to a head, though I don't think anyone imagined it would end in such a dramatic fashion. Maverick Viñales was suspended by Yamaha after he stalled the bike on the grid in Austria, then in frustration, rode around overrevving it. A few days later, it was announced the contract Viñales had with Yamaha had been terminated with immediate effect, by mutual consent.

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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 Saturday Round Up: Preparing For Sweltering Sunday Slog

As a parade of MotoGP riders traipsed into the media center at the Sachsenring, we had time to reflect upon the fact that it is a good thing we did not have access to strong drink. For if we had decided to play the "30-lap drinking game" – taking a drink every time a rider says "tomorrow is going to be a long race", half of the MotoGP media would be spending Saturday night having their stomach pumped. Each rider we spoke to used it at least once, and some did so multiple times within the space of a couple of minutes.

What conclusions can we draw from this? That 30 laps are a lot around the Sachsenring's tight and tortuous ribbon of asphalt, where the bikes are spending most of their time on the left side of the tire. Especially in the middle of a heatwave, where temperatures are more like Sepang than Assen, despite the Sachsenring being situated in the temperate north of Europe, rather than the sweltering heat of the tropics. The Sachsenring was sweltering on Saturday, and will swelter even more come Sunday.

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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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Sachsenring MotoGP Preview: Who Will Rule The Ring Now The King Is Gone?

The Sachsenring offers an opportunity to learn two things in 2022. Firstly, who is the second best rider around the tight and twisty German track, now that Marc Marquez, whose name is provisionally penciled into the winner's column when the calendar is announced, is absent. And secondly, will crowds return to pre-pandemic levels at MotoGP events?

To start with the second question first, perhaps it is best to rephrase it: will the Sachsenring be Mugello or Le Mans? That is a gross simplification of course, but gets to the root of some of the issues facing MotoGP, post-pandemic, post-Valentino Rossi. Mugello was a washout, with an official attendance of less than half pre-pandemic numbers. Le Mans was a sellout, a capacity 110,000 people turning up at sunny Le Mans.

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Are Yamaha Better Off Putting All Their Eggs In Fabio Quartararo's Basket?

Is the 2022 Yamaha M1 a good MotoGP bike? It is a simple question with a simple answer: it depends. If Fabio Quartararo is riding it, it is good enough to have won two races, get on the podium in three others, and lead the 2022 MotoGP championship by 22 points.

But if anyone other than Fabio Quartararo is riding it, it is not quite so good. The best result by the trio of Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso, and Darryn Binder is a seventh place, by Morbidelli at Mandalika. That seventh place is one of only two top tens for the other Yamahas, Darryn Binder being the other at the same race.

Together, Morbidelli, Dovizioso, and Binder have scored a grand total of 40 points. Fabio Quartararo has 147, over three times as many. And he has never finished behind any of the other Yamahas throughout the season. In fact, the closest any other Yamaha rider has gotten to Quartararo is Franco Morbidelli's eleventh place, two places behind his teammate, at the season opener at Qatar. Since then, Quartararo and the other Yamaha riders have been operating on different planets.

Facing the future

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Lin Jarvis Interview, Part 2: "Our Main Challenge Was To Convince Fabio Of Our Program And Commitment"

At the Barcelona round of MotoGP, I sat down with Yamaha Motor Racing managing director Lin Jarvis, ostensibly to talk about the decision by RNF to leave Yamaha and switch to Aprilia for the 2023 season. If you want to read what Jarvis had to say about that, you can read the first part of the interview published yesterday.

After discussing RNF, we moved on to discuss the wider situation with the rider market. Jarvis offered insights into how Yamaha is working with Franco Morbidelli, how surprised he has been by the transformation of Aleix Espargaro into a championship contender, and how Yamaha persuaded Fabio Quartararo to sign on for two more years.

Q: Suzuki’s withdrawal has thrown the rider market to chaos. All of a sudden, Alex Rins, Joan Mir, both top riders, are being discussed as options everywhere. You’ve signed both of your riders for next year, but Franco Morbidelli is not really showing what he showed in previous years. Is there a chance you might let him go? Have you had conversations with Frankie about next year?

Lin Jarvis: No, we have a commitment with Frankie. It’s something we must work on together to get him to rediscover the confidence again with the bike and to be able to perform. So, that’s our mission. In that sense, it’s a bit strange that Frankie has… Last year was not strange because he missed half the season, then he came back. The leg was completely not good. So, it was a very difficult circumstance last year.

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