Joan Mir

Aragon MotoGP Preview: Who Can Beat Marc Marquez At A Counterclockwise Track?

In the space of a week, we travel from a race track set in the heart of a bustling tourist spot to one sitting in the middle of nowhere. We go from having affordable accommodation withing 15 minutes of the track, to having to drive for 50 minutes or more to find somewhere which costs less for 5 nights than the budget of a mid-pack Moto2 team.

It's worth it though. The Motorland Aragon circuit is set in some spectacular scenery, sat on the side of a hill looking over the arid plains of Aragon's southern interior. To the south and east, the low mountains of the Maestrazgo, a wild and empty place of visceral beauty. There is no better place to combine a hiking or mountain biking holiday with a race weekend. And the roads are pretty good too.

The fact that the circuit is used a lot for testing tells you a lot about the layout of the track. It has a little bit of everything, from the long, fast back straight, to tight changes of direction like the 'Sacacorchos' or Corkscrew at Turns 8 and 9, to long and fast corners like Turns 10 and 11, and Turns 16 and 17. There are places where you brake hard: Turn 1, Turn 12, and Turn 16, the corner at the bottom hill having the added complication of being downhill before turning for a long off-camber corner which then heads back up the hill.

Passing lane

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MotoGP Misano Thursday Round Up: Track Preconceptions, Disagreement In Aprilia, Coming Back From Injury, And Lorenzo Parries Criticism

Thursday was the first chance most of the media got to talk to the MotoGP riders after the test at Misano two weeks ago, and find out what they really thought about the test, rather than trying to decode the meaning of the press releases issued. That clarified a lot about the test, answering some of the questions we had been left with, and intriguingly, raising yet more questions which had slipped under the radar.

As always, however, when you ask different riders about a subject, they will have different opinions. Even if they are teammates, like Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli. Asked about the state of the track, Quartararo expressed concern about the lack of grip, especially in certain places.

"For me, [track grip] was terrible, but some corners were good, some corners were less, and one corner was totally a disaster, corner 14," the Petronas Yamaha rider said. "I think many riders crashed in this corner. I heard that when Marc crashed, he thought it was the white line which they just painted, but as soon as you want to put lean angle in this corner, you crash. And I have a lot of big moments in this corner. Let's see if it improves this weekend, because in the test it was a really critical place to ride."

Better the devil you know

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Misano MotoGP Test Thursday Notes: Yamaha Lead On Busy Day Of Testing

The advantage of a private test is that work can take place away from the prying eyes of the media. Some of the MotoGP manufacturers, most notably Yamaha and Honda, have taken advantage of the fact that the two-day test at Misano is private, and have debuted various new parts for both this year and next. With the pit lane closed to the media, the factories can work more freely.

The work going on means you can set little stock by the order on the timesheets. The two satellite Petronas Yamaha riders were fastest, but as they have mainly been working on race setup, this should hardly come as a surprise. Nor should the fact that Marc Márquez was third fastest, the Repsol Honda rider always fast under all conditions. But riders such as Alex Rins were not focused on a single fast lap, and so comparisons are difficult.

Yamaha had the most intriguing test program. Factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales had a lot of parts to test. Both riders tried a second version of the 2020 engine they debuted at Brno, and though it was a slight improvement, much more was needed. "The step is not as big as we need, but in the right direction," was Rossi's verdict, while Viñales was a little more pessimistic, saying it was not the step they had been hoping for.

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Austria MotoGP Preview: Who Can Stop Marquez At A Track Where Speed Is King?

Racing in Austria has always been about speed. When Grand Prix motorcycles first raced in Austria, they went to the Salzburgring, a hairy, narrow track that snakes along one section of the mountain east of Salzburg, then down a bit, and then all the way back again. It was fast, and it was terrifying, and by the time Grand Prix left the track, the average speed of a lap was over 194 km/h. But it was also incredibly dangerous, with no runoff in sections, and steel barriers along large parts of the track.

After abandoning the Salzburgring, Grand Prix moved to the A1 Ring, the predecessor of the modern Red Bull Ring. The A1 Ring was a shortened and neutered version of the original Österreichring, a terrifyingly quick circuit which rolled over the hill which overlooks the little town of Spielberg, where the F1 cars reached average speeds of over 255 km/h. The original circuit is still there, at least in outline, visible from the satellite view of Google Maps.

Shortened and neutered it may have been, but speeds were still high. In 1997, Mick Doohan took pole for the race at an average speed of 175 km/h, faster than the 171 km/h average speed for pole at Phillip Island, a notoriously quick track. When MotoGP returned to Austria after an absence of 20 years, speeds were still high: Andrea Iannone's pole lap was set with an average speed of nearly 187 km/h, making it the fastest track on the calendar.

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Brno MotoGP Test Round Up: Yamaha's New Bike, Honda's Chassis Mystery, Suzuki's Swinger, And Ducati Working For 2019

Testing is a difficult business, and Monday tests are the worst, especially if your problems only manifest themselves when the grip is low. The race on Sunday lays down a nice layer of rubber, and by the afternoon of the test the next day, there is so much rubber on the track that traction is never an issue. If you have traction problems, you have a brief window in the morning where you can replicate those problems. That window also falls when the track is coolest, which means more grip again. You can't win.

The grip on Monday morning at Brno gave a brief window for those who were struggling with grip, riders like Danilo Petrucci, manufacturers like Yamaha. Petrucci found a small improvement in that time, falling back on a setup they used last year which helped in braking, but he illustrated the problem he faced with an example. At the end of the day, when there was plenty of rubber on the track, he was faster than he had been all weekend. "At the end today, I did two or three quite fast runs, in the 1'56s, and I never did a 1'56 all weekend."

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Brno MotoGP Preview: Great Tracks Make For A Level Playing Field

MotoGP returns to action from the summer break at Brno, probably for the last time. Not, as we thought, because the Brno MotoGP round faced being removed from the calendar – with constant arguments between the circuit, the city of Brno, the South Moravian Region, and the Czech ministry of sport over funding, there were regular delays in payment of the sanctioning fee – but because in 2020, the MotoGP season will almost certainly resume at the Kymiring in Finland at the end of July.

The good news is that it looks like MotoGP will be staying at Brno, at least for next year. That was the implication when Dorna announced the Northern Talent Cup at the Sachsenring, which included a race at the Brno MotoGP round in the calendar for the series.

The truth is that Brno belongs on the MotoGP calendar. In the pantheon of MotoGP racing circuits, Brno sits very close to the top, and like Assen and Silverstone, half a rung below Mugello and Phillip Island. It is a fast and wide track which tests every aspect of bike and rider, despite top speeds being relatively limited. Like Assen, top speeds don't get much above 310 km/h. But like Assen, the track flows, challenging riders to brake later, enter corners faster, and take their bikes closer to the limit to find an advantage.

Passing aplenty

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Sachsenring MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why Marquez Wins, Ducati's Decline, Viñales' Resurrection, And Impressions Of MotoE

Some things changed at this year's edition of the German Grand Prix, held at the Sachsenring. The race was organized by the ADAC, the German equivalent of the Automobile Association, instead of the former promoter, a local organization based at the circuit. The difference was immediately evident: the event appeared to run more smoothly and more efficiently, and some of the old peculiarities ("we've always done it that way") replaced with things that actually work. It felt like a much better Grand Prix, without losing any of the charm which had marked it out before.

Then there was the inaugural round of MotoE, the new electric bike racing class which joins the MotoGP series. History was made on Sunday morning, when eighteen Energica Ego Corsa motorcycles lined up for the first ever all-electric motorcycle race. The race was shortened from 8 to 7 laps after being declared wet, and then red flagged after 5 laps when Lorenzo Savadori crashed out at Turn 8 after being clipped by Eric Granado.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Preview: Who Can Prevent A Marquez Perfect Ten?

There are two things which any motorcycle racing fan needs to know about the Sachsenring circuit in the east of Germany. The first is that the track has an awful lot of left-hand corners, which all flow together into one long turn, the bike spending a lot of time on its side. The second is that Marc Márquez has started from pole position and won the race since 2010, nine years in a row, in 125s, Moto2, and MotoGP. These two facts are probably not unconnected. Marc Márquez loves turning left, his win rate at anticlockwise circuits hovering around 70%. If a track goes left, there is a more than two in three chances that Márquez will come out victorious.

Márquez is especially good at the Sachsenring. The reigning champion starts every race as the man to beat, but the German Grand Prix is different. Here, riders speak of how close they hope to finish to him, rather than how they are going to beat him. His name is penciled in on the winner's trophy, the race almost, but not quite, a formality.

Even though the race is something of a foregone conclusion, the track itself is a fascinating circuit. On paper, it seems far too short and far too tight to be a MotoGP track, the bikes barely cracking sixth gear, and spending little time at full throttle. But that doesn't mean the track isn't a challenge.

Up and down, round and round

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Assen MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Corner Speed, Conditions, And Consistency - Is The Championship Nearly Decided?

When we say that conditions make a huge difference in MotoGP, we usually meant that a track which was drenched in rain, or a one which was drying and changing, effected the outcome of the race. But there are a couple of race tracks in the world where the wind can have a huge impact on the way a race plays out. One of those places is Assen, where the wind sweeps up from the south east unimpeded by any geographical obstacles and straight into the faces of the riders coming out of the Strubben hairpin and heading down the Veenslang back straight. (Though like all of the straights at Assen, it isn't really that straight. It weaves and winds down to the fast right at the Ruskenhoek.)

On Sunday, the wind, which had picked up significantly compared to the day before, produced three barnstormers of races. It kept a huge group together until the end of the Moto3 race, it produced a thrilling Moto2 race decided in the last laps, and it even helped to bunch the MotoGP riders up, and create drama for most of the race.

The wind, combined with the fact that Assen has so many high-speed changes of directions make it immensely physically demanding. Hustling a MotoGP bike from side to side is never easy, let alone when you have to do it at over 200 km/h. The laws of physics turn momentum into an unstoppable force which you have to overpower if you are to make the next corner.

Physically draining

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