CormacGP

Shinichi Sahara Interview: Part 2 - How Suzuki's 2011 Withdrawal Differed From 2022, And Going Out On A High

Suzuki's MotoGP activities finally came to an end with the Valencia GP, the final round of the 2022 season. Since the bombshell news of Suzuki Motor Corporation's decision to withdraw at the end of the season hit the world this May, every venue and every racetrack has become a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all the team members of Team SUZUKI ECSTAR. On Thursday afternoon, before Team SUZUKI ECSTAR's final race at the Circuit de Valencia Ricardo Tormo, we spoke with Shinichi Sahara, the project leader who has been leading the team for twenty years.

In the second part of this two-part interview, Sahara-san discusses how Suzuki's decision to withdraw at the end of 2022 compares with 2011, when Suzuki paused participation in the premier class. He talks about what will happen to the team at the end of the season, the chances of a return, and the joy of Alex Rins' victories at Phillip Island and Valencia.

Q: Your withdrawal is inevitably compared to that of 2011, but in 2011, it was an announcement of “suspension of activities".

Shinichi Sahara: In that sense, it is different from this time. Although it was a suspension, returning to the racing was very tough. And after returning, it needs a lot of effort to become competitive and fight at the top level. Therefore, even at that time, we did everything to persuade them not to suspend racing activities. In that sense, this is the second time we have worked like this. Although there are some similarities, suspension and withdrawal are different things. Anyway, I think once is enough for this experience!

Back to top

Shinichi Sahara Interview: Part 1 - On Suzuki's Withdrawal, Managing The Team, And The Value Of Racing

Suzuki's MotoGP activities finally came to an end with the Valencia GP, the final round of the 2022 season. Since the bombshell news of Suzuki Motor Corporation's decision to withdraw at the end of the season hit the world this May, every venue and every racetrack has become a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all the team members of Team SUZUKI ECSTAR. On Thursday afternoon, before Team SUZUKI ECSTAR's final race at the Circuit de Valencia Ricardo Tormo, we spoke with Shinichi Sahara, the project leader who has been leading the team for twenty years.

In the first part of this two-part interview, Sahara-san discusses in depth how Suzuki's decision to withdraw at the end of 2022 affected the team's season, and how the team handled it.

Q: This weekend must be very emotional for you. First of all, I would like to know what you are feeling now.

Shinichi Sahara: It is true that this is our last race, but to be honest, I try as much as possible not to think about it. I told my team members ‘let's do things as we always do to make a solid weekend’ because it is the best way to win the race, and this is what we always do in every race weekend. In the final part of the season, not only the engines but also a lot of chassis parts already have a lot of mileage on them, so we have to avoid any possibility of small troubles in order to have our riders give their 100% to demonstrate their potential and our bikes'.

Q: Do you feel that your last race has finally come?

Back to top

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.

Back to top

Lin Jarvis Interview: On Quartararo's Championship, Yamaha's Season, Satellite Teams, And Sprint Races in 2023

2022 has been a strange year for Yamaha. It started off on the wrong foot, when the Japanese factory was forced to give up on the more powerful engine they had intended to race this season and run a revised version of the 2021 engine (which, thanks to the Covid-19 engine freeze, was basically the 2020 engine) for this year.

Despite the obvious lack of engine performance, by the time MotoGP reached the summer break after Assen, Fabio Quartararo had a comfortable lead in the championship, sitting ahead of Aleix Espargaro by 21 points, and the man billed as his main title rival for 2022, Pecco Bagnaia, by 66 points.

Elsewhere, there were signs of trouble. While Quartararo was winning races and leading the championship, his Monster Energy Yamaha Franco Morbidelli was struggling just to score points. Over at the RNF team, Andrea Dovizioso jumped on a Yamaha only to find he had spent too long on a Ducati to be able to figure out how to ride it, and retired again after Misano. Darryn Binder had a big hill to climb going straight to MotoGP from Moto3, and found himself crashing along the way. And after the summer break, RNF announced they would be switching to Aprilia for the 2023 season.

Back to top

Valencia MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 2: Hot Tarmac, The Sad Loss Of Suzuki, Electronic Oddness, And Frustration For Aprilia And Honda

Going into the final MotoGP race of the year at Valencia, we were all expecting Ducati to dominate. After all, they had utterly dominated the 2022 season. Ducati had won 12 of the 19 races so far (7 by Pecco Bagnaia), had at least one rider on the podium for 25 consecutive races, taken 15 pole positions, and had at least one rider on the front row for 39 races. In 2021, Ducati had locked out both the front row of the grid, and the podium at at Valencia.

After qualifying, Ducati had increased their pole tally to 16 in 2022 and extended their streak of consecutive front row starts to 40. Jorge Martin started from pole, and Jack Miller qualified third. But that something had changed was clear from the rest of the grid. Marc Marquez was second on the Repsol Honda – a fit Marquez can use his genius to pull a fast lap out of the bag, but the Honda is in no shape to sustain that over race distance – while the second row consisted of Fabio Quartararo on the Yamaha, Alex Rins on the Suzuki, and Maverick Viñales on the Aprilia. Valencia was not looking like being a Ducati whitewash (redwash?) again.

Back to top

2022 Valencia MotoGP Test Notes: A Lot Of Work To Cram Into One Day

It has been a long year. 20 races is not 5% more than 19 races, that much is clear from the drawn faces in the paddock. The kind of intensity required to operate on a grand prix weekend means that the additional effort required for each race Dorna adds increases exponentially. We get through each weekend clinging on by the skin of our teeth, and that skin gets thinner every weekend.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I am way behind on a lot of things, including additional notes from a fascinating final race of the year. And that weekend was topped off by one of the most interesting and important tests of the year, where factories had a mountain of new stuff to test.

That needs a deep dive to examine properly, with photos to accompany and explain what we are seeing. But before that, a few brief notes on what I saw, and what it might mean.

Back to top

Valencia MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Pecco Bagnaia And Gigi Dall'Igna - The Long Road to The Championship

Pecco Bagnaia celebrates in Parc Ferme with Ducati

Gigi Dall'Igna has done it at last. After nine seasons, the Italian engineer has achieved his dream, and done what Ducati hired him to do: win a MotoGP title. After 125 and 250 titles with Aprilia, he now has a MotoGP crown to add to his trophy cabinet.

Of course, it is Pecco Bagnaia who will actually hold the title. And it goes without saying that it was Bagnaia who did the hard work of winning out on track. Seven victories is the best total for a Ducati rider since Ducati's last world championship, Casey Stoner in 2007 (Stoner won 10 races), and the way he dominated the second half of the season was phenomenal. In the final ten races of 2022, Bagnaia was averaging 19 points a race, and missed out on the podium twice: a crash at Motegi, and that tense final race in Valencia.

Back to top

Valencia MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Importance Of Qualifying, Dealing With Nerves, And The Optics Of Nepotism

Conditions at Valencia were near ideal on Friday, promising a stable weekend of practice for the first time in what feels like forever, but is probably only since Aragon. Nobody is concerned about rain, and even the temperatures are not much of an issue. The only thing the riders are worried about is the wind, blowing down the straight and causing issues with the bikes' aero packages.

"We changed the fairing," Luca Marini, fastest man on the first day said. "The smaller fairing with so much wind, the bike is easier to ride but we lose in acceleration, wheelie and top speed. So I hope for less wind to use the standard fairing which is much better for me."

Jack Miller struggled with the wind as well, complicating the process of getting the right setup. "I had to understand first of all where the wind was coming from, what we needed to do to get the bike working better in the wind," the Ducati Lenovo rider said. "A couple of rogue gusts smashed me coming out of the last corner during one of my best laps of the morning. And as the bike started to wheelie, it disappeared from underneath me."

Back to top

The 2022 MotoGP Finale At Valencia: The Decider, Or Already Decided?

Fabio Quartararo, Pecco Bagnaia, and Enea Bastianini on the podium at Sepang. Quartararo needs to win, but he also needs Bagnaia to fail

The final MotoGP round of the 2022 season is being billed by series promoter as "The Decider". The reason for the billing is simple: Pecco Bagnaia arrives at Valencia with a very comfortable lead over Fabio Quartararo, but the title is still up for grabs.

In theory, at least. Bagnaia leads Quartararo by 23 points, and has 7 wins to Quartararo's 3. In effect, this means that Bagnaia needs to finish 14th or better to be certain of the title. But even more reassuring for the Ducati Lenovo rider, Quartararo has to win the race to even have a chance of successfully defending his 2021 title.

What are the chances of both of those events happening? Let's examine each event separately. First, the chance of Pecco Bagnaia finishing 15th or worse at Valencia. His first couple of seasons in MotoGP did not go particularly well for the Italian. Ruled out of the race in 2019 after knocking himself out and fracturing a wrist in 2019, crashing in the first Valencia race in 2020, then ending in 11th in the second race there a week later.

Back to top

Pages

Subscribe to CormacGP