Joan Mir

Portimão MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Same Track, Different Season

We have been fortunate this year compared to 2020. Last year, we had repeat races at five circuits, making up ten of the fourteen MotoGP rounds held. In 2021, the situation with the Covid-19 pandemic has improved to the point that MotoGP managed to visit three different continents, needing to return to the same circuit only four times. Eight races out of eighteen is far from perfect, but much better than the situation in 2020.

Even the repeat races were better this year than last. 2020 saw all five of the repeat rounds at the same track held on consecutive weekends, as back-to-back rounds. 2021 started off that way, with the second round at Qatar held on the Sunday after the first race there. Austria followed suit in August. But the next repeat round wasn't until September and October, with Misano 2 taking place fully five weeks after Misano 1.

As the last of the double headers, Portimão is even more extreme. MotoGP has returned to the Portuguese circuit for the second time more nearly seven months after its first visit back in April. The reason for that massive gap is simple: the second round at Portimão was added in early July, after it became clear that Dorna would have to cancel the Australian round at Phillip Island.

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Saturday Round Up: First vs Fifteenth, Getting Heat Into Tires, And Yellow Flag Rules

It has been (and probably will be) a very odd weekend. Normally, grand prix weekends have a narrative, a story that builds like a novel, or a compositional structure that grows and swells like a symphony or an opera. Each part leads to the next: test parts and setup in FP1, work on tires in FP2, chase a spot in Q2 in FP3, work on race pace and tire wear in FP4, go for grid positions during qualifying, all building toward the dramatic crescendo of the race. Race weekends tell a story, and like all good stories, they have an internal narrative logic.

Not Misano 2. This feels more like a series of one-act plays, with the same characters but a different storyline every day. Friday was mostly soaking wet, with riders looking at wet tires. Saturday was wet in the morning, and a drying track in the afternoon. Sunday will be dry, probably sunny, but very cold. Each day feels unconnected to the next.

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Friday Round Up: Lessons Not Learned, Yamaha vs Ducati In The Wet, And Making Racing Safer In The Future

It has been something of an irrelevant day at Misano. On Friday morning, the track was soaking, rain keeping it wet. In the afternoon, it started off wet but a dry line started to form. "At the end, the last 10 minutes to go, we had one dry line, but lap by lap it was getting wider," was how Takaaki Nakagami described it. With damp conditions expected on Saturday, and a cold and dry Sunday, nothing of importance was learned on Friday.

It was a wasted day in terms of finding race setup, perhaps, but it was still useful in overall terms. MotoGP is full of young riders who haven't had all that much time in the wet, and so Friday offered a chance to gain some valuable experience. "Not a wasted day because I don’t have so much experience in wet conditions, and a day like this is good for me," Suzuki's Joan Mir said. "I improved a lot and could understand. When I started in MotoGP, from then to now I ride in a different way and I am able to be a lot more strong."

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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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Austin MotoGP Saturday Round Up: New Surface Needed, More Speed Than Ever, And Predicting The Last Rider Standing

It has been four years since anyone lapped the Circuit of The Americas quite so rapidly. In 2018 and 2019, nobody, not even Marc Marquez, managed to get under the 2'03s. So it is a testament to how much faster the MotoGP riders are going that two riders managed it on Saturday in Austin. And this, despite the fact that the track has become so much more bumpy in the past couple of years.

So bumpy, in fact, that it appears as if the circuit has been issued an ultimatum: resurfaces the section from the exit of Turn 1 all the way through Turn 10, or MotoGP is not coming back. Though riders try not to talk to the media about what was discussed in the Safety Commission, the body in which the MotoGP riders can talk to Dorna and the FIM about safety issues, so that they can speak freely, it was obvious there was only one topic of discussion in the meeting: the bumps which have rendered the track so dangerous that there were calls by some riders not to race at all on Sunday.

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Austin MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Danger Of A Bumpy Track, Lasting 20 Laps, And Can Marc Marquez' Withstand Fabio Quartararo's Onslaught?

Pol Espargaro summed up the complex emotions of almost the entire grid (possibly bar Jack Miller, but more of that later) at the end of an eventful first day of practice at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. "First of all we need to say that it's super nice to come here to America, to be able to race here," the Repsol Honda rider said. "Already this is something super good after so long in Europe. And to see the American fans is super nice, they are super excited and it's nice. Saying that, I think we are in a professional MotoGP championship that, we need a minimum of quality in the tracks, about safety, run off area."

Then came the 'but'. "We must say that the track is not at the level of a MotoGP championship, sure. First of all, there are parts where the asphalt is super bad. Not about the bumps, it's just cracked everywhere, and the asphalt is super old, and it looks bad, and also it's bad grip. But then there are the bumps, and the bumps are not something that we can say it's better or it's worse. The bumps are super dangerous."

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Austin MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Riders Share Ideas For Making Racing Safer

It was inevitable that there would be a lot of talk at Austin of the events of a few days earlier, at Jerez. The death of Dean Berta Viñales in the first (and only) WorldSSP300 race at the Spanish track had once again raised the question of safety in motorcycle racing. Especially the safety in the support classes, where the technical rules had been set up to achieve as much parity as possible, creating very large groups on the race track. And especially in classes populated by sometimes very young riders.

How ironic, then, that some of such talk took place in the pre-event press conference in Austin, where a group of riders in the FIM MiniGP North America series were present. Kensei Matsudaira, age 10, Jesse Shedden, age 12, Jayden Fernandez, age 13, Kayla Yaakov, age 14, and Travis Horn, age 13, all got to sit and listen as the MotoGP riders were asked questions about how to prevent young kids from being killed in motorcycle races.

The FIM MiniGP series is one of the steps Dorna is putting in place in its Road to MotoGP initiative, aimed at stimulating racing talent at a regional and national level, before moving up on the path to World Championship level racing.

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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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