Luca Marini

Sepang MotoGP Friday Round Up: Rain Ruining Plans, The Dangers Of A Wet Q1, And Aprilia Coming Up Short

The weather in the tropics is always a gamble. At some places, you can set your clock by the rains during monsoon season. If it's 3:45pm, you're about to get soaked. At others, you only know that at some point during the afternoon, a lot of rain is going to fall. It might rain at 1pm. Or it might rain at 5pm. But of one thing you can be certain: a hard rain is gonna fall, and it will flood the track.

Friday at Sepang the rain came shortly after 2:15pm, less than a quarter of the way through the Moto2 FP2 session. Light at first, then more heavily, then a torrent of water from the heavens, forcing a red flag, and a delay of an hour.

It caught everyone by surprise. The forecast had been for dry weather through the afternoon, and teams had made their plans accordingly. That meant that in FP1, a lot of riders didn't bother putting in a set of soft tires to chase a fast lap, expecting to improve in the afternoon.

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Phillip Island MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Record Falls At Last, Managing Tires, And Controlling Wildlife

It has been a long time coming, but Jorge Lorenzo's pole record from 2013 has fallen at last. Lorenzo's 1'27.899 was MotoGP's most long-standing record, the then factory Yamaha rider smashing the previous pole record, set by Casey Stoner in 2008 by seven tenths of a second.

Why did Lorenzo's record stand for so long? Those with a long memory will remember that Phillip Island was last resurfaced at the end of 2012, with Stoner being used as a consultant on the project. The new asphalt increased the available grip by a massive amount. Fergus Cameron, managing director of the circuit at the time, told the New Atlas website, "On a scale of 0-110 on a friction coefficient test the old surface was at 54 or 55 and the new surface is at 78, so the new surface is much grippier."

The Omnishambles

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Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up: Coping with The Wind, And Turning With The Rear

Phillip Island is going to Phillip Island. A truth universally acknowledged, that whatever you thought the weather was going to do at the glorious racetrack overlooking the Bass Strait, the weather systems powered by the mighty Southern Ocean will always have a mind of their own.

So the day started off bright and relatively sunny, confounding forecasts of rain on Friday. "The thing in this country is that is it so difficult to predict the weather," Pecco Bagnaia said. "It was raining a lot yesterday but then it was completely dry during FP2 so it is difficult to know."

The rain from Thursday had left a lot of water around the track, but the strong wind had dried most of the track out, bar a couple of sections where water ran across the surface, including at the last corner and around Siberia. It made FP1 extremely difficult. "Coming back to the Island after three years was quite nice," Alex Rins said. "Sincerely FP1 was so difficult and so dangerous. With two-three wet patches crossing the track and it was on the limit for those conditions and with some kerbs full of water."

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Buriram MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Are Eight Fast Ducatis Too Much Of A Good Thing For Pecco Bagnaia?

Saturday at Buriram gave us a glimpse of the future. If you want to know what the sprint races will look like next year, look no further than the fact that Ducati have secured their sixth front-row lockout of the season, that there were five Ducatis in the first two rows, and that there were two more on the third row. It was the thirteenth time a Ducati qualified on pole this year, in seventeen events.

Only Fabio Quartararo (Indonesia), Aleix Espargaro (Argentina and Barcelona), and Marc Marquez (Motegi) have prevented Ducati from sweeping an entire season's worth of poles. Pecco Bagnaia is just two races away from winning the BMW M award as best qualifier, which features seven Ducati riders in the top nine.

The bike really does play a very large role in that dominance of qualifying. With his breathtaking last lap, breaking Fabio Quartararo's pole record from 2019, Marco Bezzecchi became the seventh Ducati rider to secure pole this year. Only Bezzecchi's Mooney VR46 teammate Luca Marini is letting the side down, though Marini has been close, starting from the front row twice this year.

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Buriram MotoGP Friday Round Up: Fast Ducatis, Miller's Improvement, Marquez' Poetry In Motion, And 21 Races In 2023

The MotoGP paddock had been looking fearfully at weather forecasts the entire week, and well into the night. Some of them drove through flooded roads to arrive at the Buriram circuit in Thailand, a week after losing Saturday to the rain at Motegi. MotoGP feared another washout.

Instead, they appear to have dodged a bullet. There were a couple of rain showers, and some half-wet, half-dry conditions for Moto3 and Moto2, but MotoGP had two sessions of pretty much completely dry practice. And looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow, there is every chance of it being dry again on Saturday. But also, every chance of rain.

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21 Down, 1 To Go: Nakagami Gets Another Year With LCR, Marini Back With VR46, Only One MotoGP Seat Open

The MotoGP grid is nearly complete. Today's announcement that Takaaki Nakagami is to stay at LCR Honda for one more season comes a day after the VR46 team announced a contract extension with Luca Marini for 2023, as well as confirming that the option the team had on Marco Bezzecchi's contract for 2023 had been taken up. Those three announcements bring the grand total of signed riders to 21 for next season, leaving just the second seat at GasGas Tech3 open.

Nakagami's signing had been expected, after Ai Ogura confirmed that he would be staying in Moto2 for another season, and had turned down the offer to move up to MotoGP. The second LCR Honda seat is funded by Idemitsu, and the Japanese oil firm has made it clear they want an Asian rider to take that seat. Honda are also keen to have a Japanese rider in MotoGP.

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Misano MotoGP Thursday Preview: A Yamaha In Ducati's Den, Why Team Orders Are Nonsense, And KTM's Troubling Attitude To Talent

With seven races left in the 2022 MotoGP season, we are approaching the final stretch. There are 175 points left to play for, and Fabio Quartararo has a lead of 32 points over Aleix Espargaro. That means that Espargaro still has his fate in his own hands: he can become 2022 MotoGP champion by the simple expedient of winning every MotoGP race left, and if Quartararo finishes second in all seven races, the Aprilia rider would take his first championship by a slim margin of 3 points.

Pecco Bagnaia has to rely on the help of others if he is to become champion. The Italian is 44 points behind Quartararo, which means he will need someone to get in between himself and Quartararo on more than one occasion.

So it's a good job MotoGP is at Misano this weekend. For Bagnaia, this is very much his home track, the Italian riding here regularly as part of the VR46 Academy on road bikes. And Bagnaia has help on his side: Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi are also VR46 Academy riders, and Ducati stablemates. (Franco Morbidelli, the fourth VR46 rider, will not be helping Bagnaia. But then, given his form this year, he is unlikely to be in a situation to help his Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Fabio Quartararo.)

Like the back of their hands

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Silverstone MotoGP Notes: Aerodynamics, Enea Bastianini, And Why Losing A Wing Doesn't Always End In Disaster

It is no secret that aerodynamics is a big deal in MotoGP. The winglets, aerodynamics packages, and various scoops, spoons, and other attachments aimed at modifying the behavior of the modern generation of MotoGP bikes have become increasingly important.

Aero has now reached the point where it is such a major part of bike setup that it is getting hard to change without needing a lot of work to balance out the rest of the behavior of the bike. As Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Brad Binder explained when asked about the two different versions of KTM's aero package he has available. "I think the most important thing is to really choose one and really stick with it. Because when you do play with the aero, it has such a massive impact that your whole setup really has to change completely. So it's not so simple to say, OK, one race we'll use them and one race we won't."

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