Motegi MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Magic Miller, Why Ducati Can't Win A Championship, And Marquez Up To Speed Again

It has been three long years since MotoGP last embarked on its Pacific tour, the flyway races in Asia and Australia which form the crescendo which build toward the season finale, and invariably decide the MotoGP championship. So the Motegi race, first of four overseas rounds, provided both a solid benchmark for the progress made over the last two and a half seasons, and gave us a foretaste of what is to come.

Motegi also changed the complexion of the championship. The importance of each race ramps up exponentially, as there are fewer and fewer points available. Closing gaps in the championship gets harder each race, the penalties for mistakes harsher, the rewards for success richer. Motegi mattered more than Aragon, and next Sunday, Buriram will matter even more than Motegi.

What we saw in Japan was a masterful display of riding, Jack Miller rising head and shoulders above the rest. We saw two Ducatis on the podium, though both of them the 'wrong' Ducatis in terms of the championship. We saw Marc Marquez complete a MotoGP race without pain for the first time since 2019 (and frankly, probably for much longer than that), and give a taste of what he is still capable of.

More significantly, we saw the momentum in the championship swing back in Fabio Quartararo's favor due to the fickle nature of events. Aleix Espargaro suffered the consequences of human error, a mistake by an engineer forcing him to swap bikes. Pecco Bagnaia was a victim of the vagaries of the weather and the condensed calendar, missing out on track time to sort out a setup that would allow him to be competitive. Quartararo, meanwhile, soldiered on, building on the start of his season and eking out the points needed to strengthen his hand in the title chase. There is still a long way to go. But Quartararo leaves Japan with much better odds of retaining his MotoGP crown than he had on the flight into Tokyo.

Let's start with Jack Miller. Since he adopted the more typical Ducati base setting also used by Pecco Bagnaia at the Barcelona test, Miller has gone from strength to strength. In the nine races including Barcelona, Miller had just two podiums and a total of 65 points, and was ninth in the championship, 82 points behind the leader, Fabio Quartararo. In the seven races since Barcelona, Miller has had four podiums, including the win at Motegi, and scored 94 points. He is now fifth in the championship, 60 points behind Quartararo.

It is rare that a rider is utterly dominant on a weekend, but Miller was pretty much unstoppable from the start. Off to a strong start in FP1, quick in the wet in FP2, it was only in qualifying that he came up short, ending up seventh on the grid. It didn't matter all that much: after trying the hard rear tire in morning warm up – one of only five riders to do so – Miller got a strong start, took three laps to get past everyone in front of him, and disappeared. Grinding out a pace in the low to mid 1'45s, he had a gap of nearly 4 seconds by the halfway mark. From there, he cruised to victory, still clearly faster than anyone on track.

"It went better than planned, to be honest," Miller told the press conference with more than touch of understatement. "I felt strong all weekend. I knew my pace from the Friday practice, and even this morning in the warmup I was able to put in a heap of consistent 45’s on that H. Felt like that was the race tire. Once I got going, I seemed to be able to pick off the blokes relatively quickly. But once I hit the front, I was able to sort of just sit at my pace. I knew where I could push. I knew where I needed to manage it. The bike worked amazing all day. Rode out of my skin, that’s for certain."

The hard rear tire was clearly the right choice for the race. Of the five riders who tried it in warm up – Miller, teammate Pecco Bagnaia, Marc Marquez, Luca Marini, and Miguel Oliveira – all but Marquez would race it. In addition to Miller winning, Oliveira finished fifth, Marini ended sixth, and Bagnaia was running in ninth until he crashed out trying to pass Fabio Quartararo.

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year: 
2022
round_number: 
16

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Comments

Very true but there wasn't a red flag. They would be best to have a tyre on the bike. Take their best guess of what might be required. If there was a red flag and a new medium was needed they could change it. If a soft was required they would be ready to go. If they had no tyre on the bike Aleix would have had to wait instead of hoping from one to the other. Maybe the best choice would be to keep the 2nd bike with a tyre that suited the context. For example, lap 1 to 5 hard, lap 6 to 10 medium, after that a soft and if the clouds gather a wet weather tyres etc. Best of all, have a bike that's ready to race on the grid from the beginning :)

I heard on another podcast that he had the soft on his spare bike in the event that race was red flagged. With a restarted race likely to be a sprint race, they put the soft on.

Not sure this is a great idea to begin with. In case of red flag, the team has more than enough time to change the tire before restart procedure forces riders to exit pit lane for the sprint. They can do it in about a minute during QP. Better to keep the bike ready in case of tech issue during the warmup lap.

Thanks David. If I remember right the engine is managed by the official MotoGP spec ECU...? What happened to Aprilia needs fixing. I don't know if it is something the team can do or if it is something which is a 'given'. Take a look at your smart phone, maybe it has 3 inputs which do not rely on the touch screen, volume up, volume down and a lock/power button. Your phone freezes, search google on a PC, hold the volume up and power button for 10 seconds while standing on one leg, the system reboots and happiness resumes. I'm not suggesting the bikes should have a reboot option for riders, it's just an input example. You let your imagination run wild in a way only diesel engine cheat software could match. It wouldn't be hard to have options in the bike which cannot be selected accidentally and are just as easy to change out from as any other map selection. Or something which can only be selected via a plugged in lap top but any further selections made by the rider return to 'normal'. Difficult in, easy out.

Or, as I suspect might be the case, I got out of bed on the wrong side and have complete brain fade. I'm guessing they have a limited number of options which can be used by the rider. Spec ECU allows maps 1 to 5 and nothing more etc. If you want 5 for the race (I have no idea how many they may want) then Eco mode must be replaced. However, if that was the case then why would Aleix be stuck in that map. It screams Mav in Austria 2021. Easily fixed....once seen.

....with the ANNOYING third button, that is for the ANNOYING Google Assistant!! I wish I could turn this button off!!!😊

I believe the SPEC ECU is a common Hardware and Software platform but factory can implement whatever they can with the provided framework (like which functions are available). It is supposed to be way less powerful than what factory had developed back in the day with GPS positioning available as input to code whatever was possible (like TC and engine braking corner by corner and lap by lap). This is like moving out of Google Android to go back to old Nokia 3320 OS. Clearly, you can do less with Unified HW and SW which is probably why some factories try to delay the adoption on their side as long as possible (and took longer to master it as well).

So it's the same platform for everyone but factories all have their own implementation. Understand they have (I believe) standard sensors, and standard electronic/SW libraries at their disposal and they can develop whatever they want to implement TC strategies for example within the system boundaries (in particular the CPU/RAM available in the system, and what they can do with the sensors output). 

Same for this pretty particular "Eco" map and how factories have their own way of enabling/disabling it. Either you have to flash the whole unit for that map (I guess the available storage space is limited) or you need to permanently rewrite some kind of configuration to disable it. In any case, someone at Aprilia forgot to do so on Aleix's bike (but not Maverick's one).

Furthermore, David stated that "It is such a restrictive map that the engineers cannot risk leaving it in the ECU.". It makes sense not to make it available to the rider to engage it by error. Otherwise, that could turn into a disaster on the track.

This is my understanding of the various information I read, mostly on this site (thanks David!). I have been working in IT for 20 years so this makes perfect sense to me, I hope I made it clear to you as  well ;-) 

Apologies, maybe I wasn't clear. Storage will place a limit the number of available parameter sets but if that limit is so low that they need to remove sets before the race...it's time to update the hardware. Possibly the unified software has an arbitrary limit on the number of available parameter sets and if so a change can be made. They (the developers) can change at any time provided there is agreement and all teams use it. Everybody has to use the same version of the software, the currently approved version. Such a change would allow more parameter sets but could also allow parameter sets to be flagged as only selectable under certain conditions. They end up with 10 possible sets for example. 1 to 5 being available to the rider via the bars. 6 to 10 available only to a laptop and only when the bike is stationary. Logic can be made so that any rider input will result in a set between 1 and 5 regardless of any current set being used higher than 5. If having sets normally unavailable to the rider is also risky then the entire system, awaiting a failure, is a risk. If the teams can do this or they need a change to the unified system it can be done.

... whatever happened to just RTFB? (ride the fcking bike, if you're unfamiliar with that non-tech acronym). Seems like less and less rider input is required ... although I guess Pecco disproved that on Sunday, lol.

Checklists have been proven invaluable in medical procedures, aircraft takeoff and landing preparation, and, for me, packing for a trip. I’ll bet Aprilia will never make that mistake again. 

A checklist probably would not have helped Aprilia in that situation. Crafar stated the technician replaced the eco map with what he thought was the race map. He erroneously clicked on the wrong map.

Cause I was just sitting there in OMG mode. First that Marc had grabbed pole. I do understand how frigging brilliant  the bloke is, and what the conditions were, but that was ahead of expectations on a really unpleasant ride. And then Jack does his Jorge Lorenzo impersonation, which was a huge surprise even though it validated my confirmation bias about Jack and harder tyres. And then Pecco did what he did and it was just gob smacking. No one with 5 DNFs - as David said 4 of them entirely self imposed - can really be anticipating winning a championship. So thanks David for paying full attention when I wasn't. And is this episode two of Crafar's curse? In the meantime I wonder if Gigi is undertaking an online psychology course cause it seems like additional engineering might be superfluous?

Like David said, an embarrassment of riches; 8 great riders taking points from each other race-by-race. We can add in that 7 of those riders are fairly inexperienced. Giving up Miller to KTM now doesn't seem to help any more than firing Dovi did. Maybe a primary factory team with one satellite team is the best strategy to exploit the bike or rider advantages they have. 

Funny numbers. If every Ducati in the season so far had slowed to finish behind Pecco, he would be trailing Fabio by 1 point. Or, in the races Pecco has not finished, if he had finished 9th four times and 8th once, he would be leading Fabio by 18 points instead of the other way around. Pecco was taken out in Catalunya so we can't really count that race. In the four races he has dropped it himself, Pecco would need to finish 7th or average 9 points over those four races to be 18 points ahead with four rounds remaining. He could even keep three of his dnf but finish 7th in the other two and he would be even on points. Win or lose, this year has been a master class by Pecco in how not to win the championship.

I was thinking last night about how sad it is we'll probably never see Marc ride another marque in anger. Then about Quartararo pushing to the absolute limit on the Yamaha. I considered how well Ducatis seem to overtake each other even when no one else is readily capable of it... Just imagine the tantalizing spectacle of all 20+ riders on Ducatis for one year. Finally Gigi would get his championship and probably we'd see just how alien Mr Marquez is. 

I have been fantasising about something similar for a while.

My version is even crazier:

Only one manufacturer per season.

One season will be Yamaha, next season Ducati and so on. If we can get five brands on board then every manufacturer will only have to produce bikes for the entire field every five years.

Wsbk will continue as usual as a multiple brand event.

Only one race on Sunday for MotoGp, and two for Wsbk.

Moto3 and Moto2 races will be on Saturdays and only at selected tracks to save money.

That's my idea.

You are welcome Mr Espeleta & Son :)

Great write up DE, thanks. Quality comments too.

I didn't catch who asked AE the question about "Is the compressed schedule to blame for the error?" which is so soft it's incredible that the topic even came up. Perhaps Peccos crash was due to there being too many races on the calendar and Ducati's garage reaction to his crash was a little lethargic considering the stakes. Definitely fatigue and not enough cuppacinos to offset.

The engineer in question needs a good coating of cotton wool and a melatonin protocol. Perhaps he can hang onto their teddy bear mascot as well.

"Suzuki tested a new rear tire warming device at Motegi, it was deemed too melty."

Or

"For sale, 2022 Suzuki MotoGP bike, hardly used, cooling system needs work. Comes with entire racing project minus Mir and Rins. Roasted light blue finish. Best offer."

(The test rider was perfect, got off the track, leaned it against the wall, and hooked off like a bike change. I would have Colin Edwards Cube tossed it!)

Obvs you're joking but it makes one think - if a mfg were thinking about entering MotoGP (BMW?) why not buy the entire Suzuki effort - bikes, spares, etc.  Could include the engineers and techs as consultants for a season to help get the project started. You could negotiate a good price :-)

Instantly competitive rather than the years and $$ it reguired for KTM and Aprilia

^ Or a second team for Yamaha! Not the bikes, but everything around it including a brain trust on a better inline 4. WAY better than Raz. Perhaps VR46 is best for Blue via the academy pipeline and Italian base.

A Moto2 or Moto3 outfit with flimsy branding could rebadge, like CFMoto. But it has mostly been done w sister brands within the Manu umbrella or existing collaborations. Suzuki has little of that. But one WAS Yamaha. I own a DRZ250 which is a Yellow Suzuki. A few street sport bikes from Italy and E Europe have had Yamaha motors in them, a customer relationship. I can't see anything European doing this move.

Kawasaki has a cultural and geographical fit w Suzuki. Outside of that it would be an established big Moto2 Team, like Raz Aqua did. Or Gresini. There are a few, but none are biting.

Don't forget we look to be entering a contraction period. Glad we got Gas Gas and Raz went Aprilia. After Petronas pulled out we could have lost Raz! Moto3 grid is shrinking in a bit, that would create a big ripple effect and vacuum. It isn't a cheap series to run in. 

CFMoto, be brave and jump in! Orange can help, AND take profit from the Suzuki staff integration! China has the market pull.