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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Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 2: The Nonsense Of Team Orders, And Losing Out At The Start

Much of the attention after Sunday's race went to what happened at the front: Enea Bastianini beating fellow Ducati rider Pecco Bagnaia, Brad Binder firing from mid pack to the front in the first couple of corners, and of course, the massive crash caused by Fabio Quartararo hitting the back of Marc Marquez' Repsol Honda, and in the aftermath, Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami colliding, and Marquez being forced to pull out of the race with a piece of Quartararo's fairing stuck in his rear wheel.

But that meant that some of the things which went on behind were overlooked in the media overload. Aleix Espargaro's return to the podium puts him right back in the championship chase. Brad Binder showed his exceptional class to finish fourth, and nearly on the podium. And some of the riders who felt they had the pace to make up ground in the first couple of laps after qualifying badly.

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Aragon MotoGP Thursday Preview - What Pecco Bagnaia Has To Worry About, Marc Marquez Makes A Return, And HRC's Secret Tryst With Kalex

With three races coming up in three weeks, confidence is key. The next couple of months are going to be grueling, with six races in eight weeks, and everything still to play for. Heading into the logistically nightmarish Aragon-Motegi-Buriram triple header is a lot easier if you have the feeling that you have the wind in your sails.

That puts Pecco Bagnaia in a very strong position, you would think. The Italian took his fourth victory in a row two weeks ago at Misano, the first rider to do that since Marc Marquez in 2019, and the first Ducati rider every to manage that.

He has closed the gap to championship leader and title rival Fabio Quartararo from 91 points to 30 points in those four races. And MotoGP arrives at a circuit where Bagnaia won last year in a scintillating battle with Marc Marquez, a track which Quartararo regards as a bogey track. Things are looking very good for Pecco Bagnaia.

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Misano MotoGP Test Analysis Part 1 - Aprilia And Ducati Make Subtle Changes, Yamaha Goes All In

What were the MotoGP factories testing at the two-day Misano test this Tuesday and Wednesday? That depends what day you asked, and which factories you looked at. Tuesday was the day most teams and factories spent on improvements to their 2022 setup – with 6 races left, there are meaningful gains to be made in the title race. On Wednesday, the focus mainly switched to 2023, with new frames, new engines, new aero, and more rolled out.

There was another reason to work on 2022 on Tuesday. The bane of all MotoGP tests is that they usually take place after a MotoGP weekend, so they start on a track which is nicely rubbered in from the Michelin tires used by MotoGP (and at Misano, also the MotoE Michelins), and then spend another day or (in the case of Misano) two laying down yet more Michelin rubber. By the end of the test, the riders have grip coming out of their ears, a very different proposition from the tricky conditions which prevail after a Moto2 race.

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Joan Mir To Miss Misano - Replacements Proving Tricky

Joan Mir's big highside on the first lap of the Austrian Grand Prix has had severe consequences for the Suzuki rider. Mir was initially diagnosed with a small fracture of his right heel, but further examination undertaken once he returned home revealed further damage. Mir suffered damage to the ligaments in his right ankle, and further fracture of the heel bone, including at the head of the heel bone where it meets the tibia and fibia bones in the leg.

Mir has been advised to take complete rest and to avoid putting weight on it for the next 15 days, to allow the heel to recover. That means he will not be fit to compete at the next MotoGP round in Misano.

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Austria MotoGP Friday Round Up: Deceptive Times, A New Chicane, And Will Sprint Races Really Address MotoGP's Problems?

Every Friday of a MotoGP weekend, we say the same: it's only Friday, so you can't read much into the times. That is doubly so on a day like Friday at the Red Bull Ring, when the morning starts wet, dries out during FP1, and the riders and teams have a new chicane to learn to deal with. MotoGP basically had one dry practice session in which to try to figure out gearing for the new chicane, check how the setup needs to be modified to deal with the chicane without losing out at the rest of the track, and try to post a time quick enough to get through to Q2, because of the risk of rain again on Saturday morning. Checking the timesheets is not much better than reading tealeaves on days like these.

So the fact that Ducatis dominate the FP2 timesheets should be taken with a pinch of salt. Johann Zarco was fastest, with Ducatis taking the top three spots, and seven of the top eight provisional places in Q2. Fabio Quartararo is the only interloper in the top eight, while Maverick Viñales put the Aprilia RS-GP into ninth, and Brad Binder spared KTM's with the tenth fastest time.

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Austria MotoGP Preview: Defanging Turn 3, Mastering The Red Bull Ring, And Waiting For Marc Marquez

There is a bittersweet irony to motorcycle racing. On the one hand, we want the racing to be as safe as it can possibly be. On the other, the element of risk, the thrill of watching a rider wrestle a motorcycle at very high speed on the edge of adhesion, teetering on the brink of disaster, is part of the appeal. Racing a motorcycle is difficult, and because the rider sits aboard the bike, in full view, it is obvious even to the most casual observer just how difficult it is.

Which brings me to the Red Bull Ring. The circuit at Spielberg is simple, and incredibly dangerous, because the bikes spend so much time either pulling hard in high gear, or braking hard into tight corners. To go fast, you have to be on the very limit with braking, and if you crash while braking at high speed, you either hit a wall, or get very close to it, or crash and take out other riders.

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Europe vs Japan: Why European Factories Are On The Rise And Japanese Manufacturers Are In Decline

For nearly half a century, Japanese motorcycles have dominated the premier class of motorcycle racing. Since Giacomo Agostini switched to Yamaha and beat his former teammate Phil Read on an MV Agusta in 1975, Japanese manufacturers have won every single rider championship bar one, Casey Stoner's 2007 title won with Ducati. Honda, Yamaha, and to a lesser extent, Suzuki, ruled grand prix racing with a rod of iron.

But that control has started to wane over the past few years. Since the return of 1000cc four strokes, European manufacturers have slowly started to assert themselves in MotoGP. Ducati started the shift after Gigi Dall'Igna took over as head of Ducati Corse, Andrea Iannone winning the first race for the Desmosedici in 2016, six years after Casey Stoner had departed the Italian factory, and their winning ways with him.

The following year, Andrea Dovizioso would win six races on the Desmosedici, and go on to challenge for the title every year through 2019. KTM were the next to succeed, getting on the podium for the first time in 2018, winning multiple races in 2020, and winning every year since then.

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Nobuatsu Aoki On Retirement, Recovering From Cancer, Developing Suzuki's MotoGP Bike, And Teammate Jeremy McWilliams

Nobuatsu Aoki finished his road racing career as a rider at the 2022 Suzuka 8 Hours Race at the age of fifty. As the eldest of well-known Aoki three brothers, Nobu had already shown his potential in the All Japan Road Race Championship when he was a teenager back in the early 1990s. Soon after, he moved up to the 250cc grand prix class, and took an impressive victory in Malaysia in 1993. Then in 1997, he stepped up to the 500cc class to ride for Honda NSR500. He also experienced the dawn of the 4-stroke MotoGP era in Proton KR team before becoming a test rider for Suzuki.

Backed by rich experience, knowledge, and skill, his words are always full of deep insight. And his sense of humor adds a unique flavor to them. We spoke with Nobu for an hour-long interview at Suzuka Circuit on Thursday evening, the day before his last race weekend started.

Q: First of all, could you tell us a little bit about the reason why you have decided to retire from racing?

NA: The reason? Nothing but my age! Unfortunately, when you get old, your body doesn’t respond as it used to. Although I have always been training very hard, in my late 30s, I felt something changed in my body. Then, when you turned forty, that strange feeling started growing even more. For sure, I still think I am still young like a teenager. However, if you train hard like a teenager and ignore your age, you can very easily end up with an injury in training. You run very hard, you lift a heavy barbell like you used to do, then you pull your muscles or injure your joint!

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