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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes: How Fabio Quartararo Became Champion A Race Early

I learned a new Spanish expression today. "Hasta el rabo todo es toro", which translates roughly as "the bull goes all the way to the tail". It's an expression which comes from bullfighting (a misnomer: it is bullying, not fighting, with a large band of armed hooligans ganging up on a single bull, rather than a toreador going head to head with a single bull; for that reason, I am always, always Team Bull) which means you can't trust the bull until you are sure it is dead. It ain't over until it's over. And sometimes it is over before you realize.

Sunday at Misano 2 was the proof of that. It was a day of unexpected outcomes, of shock twists just when you thought everything was done and dusted. As the late, great Nicky Hayden said to me after I had asked a particularly stupid question at Indy many years ago, "that's why we line up on Sunday: you never know what's going to happen."

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Decline And Fall: Explaining Valentino Rossi's Final Year In MotoGP

Though there will still be two more races for Valentino Rossi after Emilia-Romagna round of MotoGP, Rossi's second home race feels like the grand finale to his career. Misano is just a few kilometers from Tavullia, where he grew up, and where he lives and trains. And it is a track where he has seen some success in recent years, winning races and finishing on the podium.

After Misano, we head to Portimão, which has only been on the calendar since last year, and to Valencia, historically one of Rossi's worst tracks, with mostly unhappy memories. So if there is to be a grand farewell for the most significant figure in motorcycle racing, and arguably, in all of motorsports, it is more likely to come at Misano, with Portimão and Valencia served up as an encore.

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Austin MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Near Tragedy In Moto3, Marquez Still Fast Going Left, And Quartararo Tightens His Grip On The 2021 Crown

Sunday was a busy day for motorcycle racing fans. WorldSBK from Portimão, MXGP in Teutschenthal, Germany, BSB from Donington Park, and probably some more that went unnoticed in the hectic schedule. There was a lot of racing to take in, even for the most ardent and completist fan.

The action in Europe was thrilling, WorldSBK turning into the most exciting and tensest racing on the planet right at this moment, and then the racing world turned its attention to the United States of America, where the Grand Prix paddock had set up shop at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

The racing in Austin was a good deal less scintillating. With the exception of the terror and drama of Moto3 – more on that later – both the Moto2 and MotoGP races were, frankly, dull, decided in the first few corners. Not that there wasn't anything of interest that happened: in Moto3 and Moto2, the championship gaps closed, in Moto2 significantly after Remy Gardner crashed out, his first mistake of the season, while in MotoGP, Marc Marquez returned to winning ways while Fabio Quartararo put one hand on the title.

But the process by which we reached this point was not exciting, in any shape or form. The field was quickly strung out – even in Moto3, at least by its own standards – and the battles for position were few and far between. After the shocking crash in Moto3, the dullness of the Moto2 and MotoGP races was rather welcome.

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Honda's 2022 RC213V Prototype - A Deep Technical Dive Into HRC's Radical New Bike

What MotoGP manufacturers change on test bikes for the future reveals a lot about what they feel is wrong with their current machines. So for example, at the Misano test, we saw Ducati roll out an updated version of their fairing, narrower and smaller, and consequently, likely aimed at creating a little more agility.

Aprilia introduced two different aero packages for high speed and low speed circuits. Suzuki had a new engine and a new chassis, while Yamaha had a different frame and revised engine. All small steps aimed at honing their current bikes into something better, an evolution of the bikes that raced at Misano the previous Sunday.

Not Honda. At Tuesday in Misano, Honda rolled out the latest prototype of their 2022 RC213V MotoGP machine, designed to address some of the obvious weaknesses of their current bike. The most remarkable thing about the machine is the stark and obvious differences between the 2021 bike and this latest prototype. This was no minor upgrade from last year's RC213V, this was a completely new bike, from the ground up. Very little remained the same; revolution, not evolution.

A New Hope

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Misano MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Bagnaia's Start, The One-Man Yamaha, Behold The Bestia, And What Honda Need To Fix

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.

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Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Real Marc Marquez, Perfect Pecco, The Mahindra Mob, And Fabio Saves His Bacon

In the week before the Aragon MotoGP round, I confidently predicted that Marc Marquez would win his second race of the season. The race proved me wrong: Pecco Bagnaia took a stunning victory at the Spanish track, Ducati's first since Casey Stoner in 2010. But the race also showed that the confidence I had in Marc Marquez was justified.

For 15 laps, Marquez sat patiently behind Bagnaia, as the pair set a pace which no one else could follow. Then, the Repsol Honda rider started to inch closer to the Italian, nipping at the heels of the Ducati, putting Bagnaia under more and more pressure. And with three laps to go, he unleashed an all out attack, diving under Bagnaia at Turn 5, Turn 1, Turn 15. Bagnaia countered perfectly each time, finally clinching the win when the Spaniard ran wide in a last, desperate attempt to get past at Turn 12.

Pecco Bagnaia won the Grand Prix of Aragon. But Marc Marquez didn't lose it. He was simply beaten by the better rider on the day.

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Aki Ajo Interview: On 2021 success, maintaining inter-team harmony, educating riders and fixing Moto3

Even for a team manager of Aki Ajo’s standing, 2021 has been quite the year. The Finn has resided over one of the most successful seasons ever for his squad as his riders Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez contest the Moto2 World Championship, while Pedro Acosta comfortably leads the Moto3 standings.

The success of Ajo’s team came into focus at the recent Austrian Grand Prix, where Fernandez scored the 100th victory for Ajo Motorsport, quite an achievement for a squad that made its debut with Mika Kallio all the way back in 2001. Incredibly, his riders have won 14 of the 24 races in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes this year.

But more than results, the Finn and his slick Red Bull KTM Ajo structure play a key role in developing and educating young talent for the Austrian factory. Take a look at the current MotoGP grid and Marc Márquez, Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, Miguel Oliveira, Brad Binder, Jorge Martin and, to a lesser extent, Iker Lecuona have all passed through his garage – that’s 31% of the current MotoGP grid.

In his own words, Ajo sees his job as “50% is to achieve results and 50% to educate and develop riders for the future, for MotoGP.” That is just one of many topics covered in this interview, held in June before the summer break. Across 20 minutes Ajo also shared his thoughts on maintaining team harmony when both his riders are fighting for a title, working with the bright talents of Fernandez and Acosta and how to fix the current problem that is Moto3.

Q: What has been the secret to your team’s success in 2021?

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