It is crunch time in the championships of all three Grand Prix classes. In Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP, the leader went into Misano with a comfortable lead: 46 points for Pedro Acosta over Sergio Garcia, 39 points for Remy Gardner over Raul Fernandez, and 53 points for Fabio Quartararo over Pecco Bagnaia. Enough of a lead not to have to win at all costs, but not so much that they could afford to throw away points.
If anything, that's more stressful than having a much smaller lead. With a gap of just a few points or so, your only option is to put your head down and try to win as many races as possible. You have to take risks if you have any hope of winning the championship; the choice is out of your hands. With a comfortable gap, you have to start thinking about how much to risk, and when and how many points you can afford to give away. You can't relax and ride freely, because you are still a long way from actually wrapping up the title. But you can't just ease off and ride for points, because if you lose a couple of places you can suddenly find your rivals have slashed large chunks out of your championship lead, making your job even harder.
So the pressure is on. In Moto2 and MotoGP, the current leaders rose to the challenge, and did what they needed to do to minimize their losses. Both Remy Gardner and Fabio Quartararo rode outstanding races to finish second, behind their main title challenger. Both of them lost points, but ironically, trailing by 34 points and 48 points respectively with 4 races left is a more comfortable position than trailing by 39 and 53 points with 5 races to go.
Margin for error
Gardner went from being able to lose 7.8 to 8.5 points a race, Quartararo from 10.6 to 12 points a race. Gardner needs three thirds and a second to beat Raul Fernandez to the Moto2 crown, Quartararo needs three fourths and a third to hold off the charge of Pecco Bagnaia. And these calculations assume that Fernandez and Bagnaia win the rest of the remaining races. If they don't then the job of the championship leaders gets an awful lot easier. We are on course for the titles to be wrapped up either here in Misano when we return in October, or else two weeks later at Portimão.
Why not do the same calculation for Moto3? The race in Misano made it plain why calculating what might happen in the junior class almost pointless: Romano Fenati was on his way to a massive points haul, bringing him a lot closer to the leader in the championship, when he crashed out. And with his second win in two races, Dennis Foggia leaped back into title contention, alongside Sergio Garcia. Where Quartararo and Gardner have been exceptionally consistent in their classes, Pedro Acosta, Dennis Foggia, and Sergio Garcia have been notoriously unreliable throughout the season. Moto3 ain't there yet.
But back to MotoGP. The Misano race turned into a masterclass of riding, and whittled the championship fight down to just two names: the man who finished first, and the man who finished second. Joan Mir was once again the victim of Suzuki's poor qualifying, and the mistake of his team, and said afterwards that though he will never give up fighting until the championship is mathematically impossible, it did look like his chance of defending his 2020 title had gone.
The podium consisted of three riders with an average age of 23, and with relatively little experience in the class. Enea Bastianini scored his debut podium in the premier class in his rookie season, while Quartararo and Bagnaia are in just their third season in MotoGP. Another sign that we are in the middle of a generational change.
We also learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of the various MotoGP machines. With a test coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday, riders spoke more openly than usual about their bikes, and the bikes of others. A clearer picture emerged of where the championship stands right now, and what the manufacturers have to improve.
There was a little controversy too. The race winner Pecco Bagnaia appeared to make a jump start, though you had to watch very closely indeed to see the evidence.
So in these subscriber notes:
- When is a jump start not a jump start?
- Where Fabio Quartararo lost the race
- Ducati's Panigale advantage
- Quartararo laying it on the line
- Why only one rider can ride the Yamaha, for the moment at least
- The new generation taking over MotoGP
- The brilliance of Bastianini
- What Honda needs to fix to be competitive again
First, about that jump start. Watching the start live, it was hard to see anything wrong. When the TV director showed the replay halfway through the race, highlighting Bagnaia from the helicopter shot, then doubts were raised whether the factory Ducati rider had anticipated the start or not. When they showed the replay of the start from onboard camera of Johann Zarco's bike, starting from the middle of the second row, some commentators started to cry foul.
Did Bagnaia's bike move before the red lights went out? A very close examination of the view from Zarco's bike suggests that he did move very fractionally before the lights went out, though you have to look carefully. I put together two consecutive frames from the MotoGP.com video feed, which Twitter user @sirbastian kindly stitched into a gif. If you look closely at Bastianini on the left, you can just see that he moves, even though the red lights are still on.
Another Twitter user (@MotoetGPaddict) posted a slightly longer segment, and from that, it seems that the red lights go out in the very next frame. Assuming that MotoGP.com streams in 30 frames a second – a common frame rate for live sports, given the constraints of bandwidth the world over – Bagnaia's bike would have been moving for less than four hundredths of a second. If the frame rate is faster, say 60fps, then Bagnaia would have been moving for even less time than that.
To read the remaining 4691 words of this article, you need to sign up to become a MotoMatters.com site supporter by taking out a subscription. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here. If you are already a subscriber, log in to read the full text.
This is part of a regular series of unique insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series includes interviews, background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion, and is available to everyone supporting the site by taking out a subscription.
If you would like to read more of our exclusive content you can join the growing band of site supporters, by taking out a subscription here. If you prefer, you can also support us on our Patreon page and get access to the same exclusive material there.