Jorge Martin

Barcelona MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Three-Way Battle Against Grip

On Friday, things looked pretty clear. Aleix Espargaro would walk away from his rivals at Barcelona, using the ability of the Aprilia to find grip where there is none – and at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the grip is absolutely terrible – to cruise to his second victory of the season, and of his MotoGP career.

On Saturday, things had changed. We are still on for a race of attrition, a desperate battle to keep your tires in good shape for as long as possible in the hope of wearing down your rivals. Or rather, convincing your rivals to wear down their tires, by pushing a fraction too hard, cracking the throttle a fraction too aggressively, spinning the rear just a tiny amount more than is absolutely necessary. This track eats tires, so the trick is to get your rivals to feed the circuit first.

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Le Mans MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Wrong Ducati Winning, Contract Revolt Brewing, And Why Can't Riders Overtake?

The rain held off, despite a brief shower which caused mayhem during the Moto3 race and meant the first race of the day had to be severely shortened and restarted (TV is king, and only absolute disaster can be allowed to move the start of the MotoGP race from its sacred 2pm CET slot), and so we got the dry MotoGP race we deserved. No descent into chaos and confusion, no randomized results based on gambles, smart or otherwise, or appetite for risk.

In fact, chaos is fast becoming a thing of the past in MotoGP. The first few races seemed like an absolute lottery, for one reason or another. In the first three races of 2022, there were 9 different riders on the podium, with nobody seemingly capable of getting on the podium a second time. At round 4, in Austin, we saw the first podium repeats, with Enea Bastianini and Alex Rins on the box once again, and Jack Miller making it 10 different riders on the podium in 4 races.

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Jerez Test: Close Up Photos Of Yamaha's Swingarm And Fender, Honda's Exhausts, And Ducati's Ride-Height Devices

The Monday after Jerez was the first chance that the teams and factories got to work on their bikes since the entire design was homologated ahead of the MotoGP season opener at Qatar. Given the oft-discussed weird start to the 2022 season, where the teams never seemed to have more than 5 minutes of normal or consistent conditions, having a whole day with a dry track allowed everyone some badly-needed time to work on some very basic stuff.

Of course, not everything was perfect. The weather was significantly cooler than it had been on Sunday, and the wind picked up considerably. There was also a nice thick layer of Michelin rubber, laid down in Sunday's race, the with the MotoE class, also Michelin-shod, adding yet more to the track surface. If anyone had hoped to work on low grip conditions, they would have to create them themselves by running very, very old tires.

Starting first with satellite riders – real satellite riders, that is, not the factory-backed riders in junior teams like Pramac – and rookies. When you have no new parts to test, then what you work on is setup, and especially the kind of setup changes that you don't have time to try during a race weekend.

Setup first

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Piero Taramasso On Tire Pressure Transgressions And Planned Changes For 2023

The role of tire pressures, and especially for the front tire, has grown in importance in recent years, as aerodynamics and ride-height devices have made the front ever more sensitive to pressure and temperature changes. It is common to hear riders complain of temperatures and pressures skyrocketing after getting stuck behind other bikes, and kept out of the cooling air.

It is therefore not surprising that factories and teams try to manage tire pressures as carefully as possible. By lowering the pressure, they can keep tire temperatures lower and allow the riders to better manage the front tires over the duration of the race.

They have to be careful not to go too low with tire pressures, however: like all motorsports series with a spec tire, MotoGP has a minimum pressure for both front and rear tires: 1.9 bar front, 1.7 bar rear. Tire pressures are monitored by sensors and recorded by the spec datalogger, and pressures have to be over the minimum for at least half of the race.

Bending the rules

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Paolo Ciabatti Interview: ‘It’s always difficult to improve an almost perfect bike’

The first five races of 2022 have been far from straightforward for Ducati. The factory that could claim it had the best bike on the MotoGP grid in the autumn of last year with some justification has struggled to get up and running since March, with fancied runners Francesco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin scoring just 31 and 28 points from a possible 125.

There has been much to ponder for Paolo Ciabatti, its MotoGP Project Director, in that time, be it rider performance, engine choices for the five riders running GP22s, or the decision to place a ban on front ride height devices, the most recent innovation from the Bologna factory that was in partly to blame for a disastrous first race of the season.

During the Friday of the Argentine Grand Prix, while the paddock waited anxiously for missing freight to be delivered, Ciabatti spoke to Motomatters on a range of issues, including a mixed start to the year for Ducati’s eight riders, the development of the front ride height device, his reaction to its ban, and how the MotoE project is being managed ahead of 2023.

Q: The start of 2022 has been a bit of a mixed bag, in that Enea has been exceptional but fancied names have struggled. How would you assess the start of Ducati’s season?

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The 2022 MotoGP Silly Season: The Slow Burn Starts

Despite the fact that almost the entire MotoGP grid started the year without a contract for 2023 and beyond, it has been extremely quiet on the contract front so far this year. The only new contract announced was the unsurprising news that Pecco Bagnaia is to stay in the factory Ducati team for the next two seasons, with that contract announced between the Mandalika test and the season opener at Qatar.

The general feeling seems to be one of wanting to wait and see. An informal poll of team managers at the Sepang test suggest that they expected to wait until Mugello at the earliest to start thinking about next year. At the moment, it seems likely that major moves will not be made until after the summer break.

But that doesn't mean there won't be any major moves made, however. There are growing rumors of talks having started behind the scenes among several key players. If these talks play out as expected, the grid could see look rather different in 2023.

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Argentina MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Long And Winding Road To Success

In November 2014, at the Valencia post-race test, there was something of a buzz. Aprilia to make a return to MotoGP as a factory team for the 2015 season, albeit under the umbrella of the Gresini squad. Up until that point, Aprilias had been racing in MotoGP, but they were modified versions of the Noale factory's RSV-4 superbike, with a lot of chassis work and a much more powerful engine. They would be racing more or less the same bikes in 2015, but the ambition was to step up development and build a genuinely competitive motorcycle.

To do that, they had abandoned their factory entry in the WorldSBK championship – a championship which Sylvain Guintoli had won for them the previous year – and drafted in Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri. Bautista was keen to push the project forward, but from the very first moment he appeared in the MotoGP paddock again, Melandri made it glaringly obvious he did not want to be there.

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Argentina MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Hard Work And Making History

The Grand Prix of Argentina continues its proud tradition of weirdness, with Friday skipped and a day and a half of practice and qualifying crammed into Saturday. The missing cargo, the result of not one but two planes breaking down between Mandalika and Termas de Rio Hondo, meant that Friday was canceled and the work of preparing for practice started around 2am on Saturday morning, as bikes and equipment were delivered up and down pit lane. But MotoGP as a whole pulled it off: apart from the weird schedule, practice and qualifying happened, and history was made.

With missing bikes and parts, teams had gone back to their hotels early on Friday afternoon, to get some sleep ahead of a long night. But you wouldn't know it looking at the pit boxes on Saturday morning. The work of a couple of days was condensed to a few short hours.

With success, for some. The Mooney VR46 Ducatis had turned up in the dead of night, and the crew had worked through the night to get the bikes ready for practice and qualifying. Luca Marini rewarded their grit and hard work with a front row start in Argentina, his second after the one in Misano last year.

No rest for the wicked

"My team did an amazing job so thanks to them and thanks to Ducati because they prepared for me two perfect bikes today," Marini said on Saturday evening. "It was not so easy for them because they did the work in just eight hours. They always do it in two days normally."

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Mandalika MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Chaos Reigns, Honda Riders Moan At Michelin, And Ducatis Menace

The first Indonesian GP in 25 years has been a complicated affair. A new track, in the middle of a construction site where a new resort is being built. A track which was resurfaced after the test uncovered issues with the asphalt. The blistering tropical heat, capable of raising track temperatures to well over 60°. The swapping out of the rear tire used at the test for an older, safer tire used in Austria and Buriram to prevent the tire from blistering if track temperatures get that high. And the intense rains which leave the track wet for a long time, have eaten into setup time, and keep washing dirt onto the surface.

When working on a problem, such as the correct setup for a MotoGP bike, engineers like to change one variable at a time, to understand how it works. At Mandalika, that just hasn't been possible. The teams already had two new variables – a new track surface and different tires – thrown at them, and the weather is adding a third. It is making it almost impossible to figure out what needs to be changed to make the bikes go faster.

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Off To A Poor Start: Where It All Went Wrong For Ducati In Qatar

Fortunes in MotoGP can change fast. Before the opening weekend of the 2022 MotoGP season, Pecco Bagnaia was the most tipped rider to take the title, the Ducati GP22 was the hot bike to have. The question was not whether a Ducati would win one of the early races, but rather which one, and how many Ducatis would end up on the podium at them.

That prediction turned out to be accurate, but not in the way those making it expected. Enea Bastianini rode an outstanding race in Qatar to win the first race of 2022, and the first for the Gresini squad since Toni Elias back at Estoril in 2006. A Ducati stood on the top step of the podium, as expected. Only it was a satellite rider on a year-old bike, Bastianini riding a Ducati GP21.

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