Joan Mir

Valencia Test Deep Dive, Part 1: Honda - New Aero, Frame, Engine, And Clutch, But Little Improvement

Over the next week or so, I will be taking a deep dive into what I saw at the test, with the help of photos from Niki Kovács and having talked a few things over with Peter Bom. But examining all of the photos and thinking about what I saw has been an intensive affair, as I tried to figure out what was going on.

But we'll start off with Honda. For a lot of reasons. Not just because Marc Marquez expressed disappointment at what HRC had brought to the test, but also because two new riders switched to Honda, including the 2020 MotoGP champion Joan Mir and the winner of the Valencia MotoGP race Alex Rins.

I gave my first impressions from the test on Tuesday evening after the test, but the trouble with working quickly is that you don't notice what you have missed. There are so many small changes that you don't really have time to absorb them all. And sometimes, there are so many eye-catching changes that you miss out on other big changes, which is certainly the case with Honda.

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Shinichi Sahara Interview: Part 2 - How Suzuki's 2011 Withdrawal Differed From 2022, And Going Out On A High

Suzuki's MotoGP activities finally came to an end with the Valencia GP, the final round of the 2022 season. Since the bombshell news of Suzuki Motor Corporation's decision to withdraw at the end of the season hit the world this May, every venue and every racetrack has become a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all the team members of Team SUZUKI ECSTAR. On Thursday afternoon, before Team SUZUKI ECSTAR's final race at the Circuit de Valencia Ricardo Tormo, we spoke with Shinichi Sahara, the project leader who has been leading the team for twenty years.

In the second part of this two-part interview, Sahara-san discusses how Suzuki's decision to withdraw at the end of 2022 compares with 2011, when Suzuki paused participation in the premier class. He talks about what will happen to the team at the end of the season, the chances of a return, and the joy of Alex Rins' victories at Phillip Island and Valencia.

Q: Your withdrawal is inevitably compared to that of 2011, but in 2011, it was an announcement of “suspension of activities".

Shinichi Sahara: In that sense, it is different from this time. Although it was a suspension, returning to the racing was very tough. And after returning, it needs a lot of effort to become competitive and fight at the top level. Therefore, even at that time, we did everything to persuade them not to suspend racing activities. In that sense, this is the second time we have worked like this. Although there are some similarities, suspension and withdrawal are different things. Anyway, I think once is enough for this experience!

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Valencia MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 2: Hot Tarmac, The Sad Loss Of Suzuki, Electronic Oddness, And Frustration For Aprilia And Honda

Going into the final MotoGP race of the year at Valencia, we were all expecting Ducati to dominate. After all, they had utterly dominated the 2022 season. Ducati had won 12 of the 19 races so far (7 by Pecco Bagnaia), had at least one rider on the podium for 25 consecutive races, taken 15 pole positions, and had at least one rider on the front row for 39 races. In 2021, Ducati had locked out both the front row of the grid, and the podium at at Valencia.

After qualifying, Ducati had increased their pole tally to 16 in 2022 and extended their streak of consecutive front row starts to 40. Jorge Martin started from pole, and Jack Miller qualified third. But that something had changed was clear from the rest of the grid. Marc Marquez was second on the Repsol Honda – a fit Marquez can use his genius to pull a fast lap out of the bag, but the Honda is in no shape to sustain that over race distance – while the second row consisted of Fabio Quartararo on the Yamaha, Alex Rins on the Suzuki, and Maverick Viñales on the Aprilia. Valencia was not looking like being a Ducati whitewash (redwash?) again.

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Sepang MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 2: Aprilia's Dream Ends, Morbidelli vs Espargaro, Arm Pump For Mir, And Spinning KTMs

While most of the focus from Sunday's race at Sepang was on the battle at the front – understandably, as the championship (nearly) got settled – there was plenty to learn from events further down the field as well.

The battle at the front left only Pecco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo standing in the battle for the championship. Enea Bastianini may have finished second, but Bagnaia's victory put the Gresini Ducati rider out of contention.

Sepang also saw the end of the dream for Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia as well. A tenth place finish (eleventh crossing the line, but given a place after his clash with Franco Morbidelli, more of which anon) put him 46 points behind Bagnaia, and out of reach of the MotoGP championship.

End of a dream

"I'm very disappointed today. I'm very sad," Espargaro said after the race. But he was proud of everything he and Aprilia have achieved this year. "I'm very proud of everybody in Aprilia, of myself, of my teammate of everybody in Noale. What we did this year is amazing, historic, it will be forever. It will last for ever."

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Measuring Progress: How Much Faster Did MotoGP Bikes Get In The Past Three Years?

After an absence of three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, MotoGP is returning to the circuits in Asia and Australia. A lot has happened in those three years in terms of motorcycle development; there has been a sea change in the way that bikes are controlled, as ride-height devices have been introduced to aid acceleration and braking, and engineers have gotten a better understanding of aerodynamics, sufficient to start gaining in the corner, as well as on entry and exit.

When MotoGP raced in Argentina for the first time since 2019 earlier this year, Aleix Espargaro's winning time of 41:36.198 was more than 7.5 seconds faster than the 41:43.688 Marc Marquez took to win in 2019. Argentina, however, is not a great basis for comparison, as the track sees very little use in between races, and the condition of the surface can change a lot.

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Silly Season Nearing An End: Repsol Honda Confirm Joan Mir Through 2024, Pramac Line Up Remains Unchanged

As the paddock looks ahead to leaving Europe for the long session of Australasian flyaway races, MotoGP is tidying up some loose ends. Contracts are being announced for 2023 and beyond, ahead of Misano, and then Aragon.

The most significant announcement is the least surprising. HRC have finally announced that they will be signing Joan Mir to race alongside Marc Marquez in the Repsol Honda team for the next two seasons. This tie-up has been an open secret in the paddock since shortly after Suzuki announced they would be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2022 season. But actually nailing down a deal was a much longer and more painful process than expected. Mir's miserable results since the Suzuki announcement did not strengthen his hand in those negotiations.

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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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