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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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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 Notes From Pit Lane - New Aero, Swingarm Analysis, And Ducati's Ride-Height Gubbins

A wander up pit lane at the Sachsenring shows teams and factories still hard at work trying to figure out ways of going faster. Here's a quick note of the things I have seen so far, with a few very poor photographs.

The Barcelona test proved to be a chance to try out new aerodynamic packages, and some of those have made an appearance at the Sachsenring. On Friday, Maverick Viñales spent most of the day on Aprilia's new fairing, with Aleix Espargaro following suit today.

As you can see, the lower part of the fairing is wider, creating a ledge around the middle of the bike. That should bring the side of the bike closer to the asphalt when the bike is leaned over and create something of a ground effect. It also provides a certain amount of downforce at a very useful point, close to the center of mass.

The fairing redesign does have a disadvantage, however: the neat sliding hatch on the standard fairing where the starter motor engages has been replaced with a latch.

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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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Lin Jarvis Interview, Part 1: "People Have No Idea The Factories Talk To Each Other All The Time"

Timing press releases is always something of an art. You want to maximize the publicity value, while paying due care to the feelings and pride of all those involved. So they are usually only released after long discussions and with approval by management.

Which is what made the announcement by RNF that they would be switching from Yamaha to Aprilia quite so painful. Though the news was hardly a shock, the way it was made public was extremely surprising, with a press release rushed out on Friday morning, just before FP1.

The timing was even more awkward because the release went out at the same time that RNF team owner Razlan Razali was in a meeting with Yamaha Motor Racing managing director Lin Jarvis, where Razali was about to officially inform Jarvis of RNF's intention to switch to Aprilia from 2023 onward. Normally, the timing of a press release would be one of the subjects on the table at such a meeting.

In Barcelona, I sat down with Lin Jarvis to discuss the announcement, and what it means for Yamaha's future plans for a satellite team. We ended up covering quite a lot of ground beyond my original questions about RNF, so this has been split into two parts. In the first half of the interview, we discussed the situation surrounding Yamaha's current and future plans for a satellite team.

Q: Obviously, the news came at Mugello that RNF were going to Aprilia. I understand that you were in a meeting with RNF at the time. They were telling you about it when it was made public. I think that was Aleix Espargaro’s fault for being eager to tweet the news. Were you expecting this?

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Barcelona MotoGP Subscriber Notes: How Fabio Quartararo Was Able To Dominate, A Costly Crash, And How To Count Laps

There are some tracks that somehow always seem to manage to produce drama. Sometimes, drama which affects the trajectory of a championship. Barcelona would appear to be one of those tracks.

Take 2006, for example. Loris Capirossi came into the Barcelona leading the MotoGP championship, tied for points with Nicky Hayden. At the start, his Ducati teammate Sete Gibernau took a line crossing from left to right in an attempt to gain places. Gibernau clipped the rear of Capirossi's bike, jamming on his front brake and causing it to cartwheel end over end through the pack. Capirossi was forced into Marco Melandri to his right, the pair of them going down and resulting in a massive pile up and forcing a race restart.

There were a couple of consequences from that crash. Capirossi escaped injury, but was battered and bruised. Unable to take part in the race, the Italian lost 20 points to Nicky Hayden, and limped through the next couple of races, effectively ending his championship challenge. And it was the incident which started the discussion about making brake lever protectors mandatory, though it would take until 2011 to get the rules pushed through in all three grand prix classes.

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Massimo Rivola On RNF: Aprilia Plans A Long-Term Partnership With A Junior Team

While rumors that the WithU RNF Yamaha MotoGP team were considering a switch to Aprilia had been circulating for a while, nobody had expected the news to come out in the manner it did. Aprilia Racing rider Aleix Espargaro tweeted a welcome to RNF before FP1 started, and before Aprilia and RNF had intended to announce the news. Though Espargaro's tweet was deleted shortly afterward, it was too late. RNF and Aprilia rushed out press releases announcing the deal.

On Friday evening, MotoMatters.com contributor Niki Kovács and myself, David Emmett, sat down with Aprilia boss Massimo Rivola to find out more about the deal. What goals Aprilia had in signing RNF, how the link up will work, what bikes RNF will have available, and what the rider strategy will be for RNF.

The deal is what both parties have been looking for these past couple of years. RNF has wanted a closer relationship to the factory supplying bikes, while Aprilia has been in search of a satellite squad for the past couple of seasons. Both sides want to create a "Junior Team", in the mold of Pramac Ducati or Tech3 KTM.

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Mugello MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Cream Of MotoGP, Why The Ducati Is Best, Mugello Makes Passing Possible, And The New Marc Marquez

Mugello is a real motorcycle racing track. And on Sunday, it served up a real motorcycle race. After close games of follow-my-leader at Jerez and Le Mans, we had battles, we had passing, we had riders attacking and counterattacking, lining people up to dive underneath, or sweeping out of the slipstream to dive under the rider ahead at Turn 1.

Does this mean MotoGP's overtaking problem has been fixed? Only if we hold an entire season's worth of racing at Mugello and Phillip Island (which doesn't sound like such a terrible idea, to be honest). But it offers hope that when conditions are right, we can see the kind of spectacle which we have come to expect from MotoGP.

Even the atmosphere was good. Sure, the crowd was much thinner on the ground than in previous years – roughly half of what you might expect, making the drive into the track smooth and easy – but they brought the smoke bombs, the passion, the cheering, helped in no small part by the fact that there was an all-Italian front row, and an Italian rider won the Italian Grand Prix on an Italian bike.

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Joan Mir Interview: On His Hard Road To MotoGP, Burning Brightly But Briefly, And Coping With Crashes

It has been a pretty tough couple of weeks for Joan Mir. After a frustrating sixth place at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, in which he complained of struggling with the front, on the day after, at the end of the Jerez test on Monday, he was called in to the office in the Suzuki Ecstar team truck to be told be Shinichi Sahara and Livio Suppo that Suzuki had decided to withdraw from MotoGP at the end of the 2022 season.

Two weeks later, after a difficult day on Saturday, where he found himself struggling in FP3 and having to go through Q1, Mir ended up crashing out of the French Grand Prix at Le Mans while chasing a possible podium. "It's been painful mentally," Mir said after the race on Sunday.

Can Joan Mir bounce back? At the Circuit of The Americas, I spoke to Mir about his past, and the road he took to MotoGP. It was a long, hard, and uncertain road, the possibility of failure lurking every step along the way. Mir had to bear a heavy burden of responsibility, one he shouldered largely through his own choice, rather than outside pressure. Along the way, he had to deal with plenty of setbacks, and turn them into something positive. That path helped him to win the 2020 MotoGP championship.

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