MotoGP News Round Up: Miller Misses Ducati Launch, COTA Resurfaced, Spa Upgraded, Marquez Rides Again, And Rossi's In-Depth Interviews

As the start of the MotoGP season grows closer, the news cycle is starting to ramp up. Websites are starting to be able to report on things that are actually happening, rather than desperately thrashing around looking for filler content. So here's a round up of the latest developments in MotoGP.

The first Covid casualty of 2022

Jack Miller took to social media last night to announce that he had unfortunately tested positive for the coronavirus. "As you can tell, I'm still here in Australia due to testing positive for covid. I'm currently unable to travel, and will miss the team presentation." He was not suffering any symptoms, he emphasized. "I just want to let you all know I'm doing fine, no symptoms, continuing training on the farm."

Miller was due to travel back to Europe to take part in Ducati's team launch, to be streamed online on January 28th, before heading to Sepang for the first test of the year on February 5th and 6th. But with Miller absent from Europe, Ducati have instead decided to reschedule their team launch to February 7th, the Monday after the MotoGP test has finished.

Miller's positive test is unlikely to prevent him from traveling to Malaysia. With two weeks to present a negative test, his odds of being at the Sepang test are excellent. But it is a salutary lesson in the challenges the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks face in 2022.

Although the omicron variant which has become predominant appears to have less severe outcomes, it is far more infectious, even among the vaccinated, which covers almost every single member of the MotoGP paddock. The chances of others testing positive for the coronavirus remain high, and that will restrict travel.

Launch season

The Ducati launch may have been postponed, next week will still herald the start of team launch season. On Monday, January 24th, the RNF Yamaha team of Andrea Dovizioso and Darryn Binder will be presented from Verona, home of the team's sponsor. That presentation will be streamed via the team's YouTube channel starting at 4pm CET.

Three days later, on Thursday, January 27th, it is the turn of KTM. Both the Red Bull Factory team of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira and the KTM Tech3 squad of Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner will be showing off their new machines. This will also be streamed on YouTube, starting at 10am CET.

The following week, on Wednesday February 2nd, the Pramac Ducati team of Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin will present their 2022 bikes. More details when they become available.

On Friday 4th February, the day before the first MotoGP test starts at Sepang, the Monster Energy Yamaha team of Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli will hold their team launch at the Sepang International Circuit. That will likewise be streamed live, and will start at 8:30am CET.

Later that day, the Suzuki Ecstar presentation is to be held at the same venue, with Joan Mir and Alex Rins showing off the bike they will be racing.

On Monday, February 7th, the day after the test, the factory Ducati Lenovo team of Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia will present the 2022 livery, with that launch scheduled for 4pm CET, and also streamed on Ducati's website and social media channels.

A day later, on Tuesday, February 8th, Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro will launch the Repsol Honda team, again online, although there are no details fixed yet. And on Wednesday 9th, the LCR Honda team of Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez follows suit. Nakagami's launch will be at 10:30am CET, Alex Marquez at noon.

Fixing Texas

After the Grand Prix of the Americas at Austin, Texas last year, the riders were unanimous. Unless the track was fixed, especially the sections from Turn 2 through Turn 10, MotoGP could not return. The bumps were too bad. The good news came last November, in the form of a promise to fix at least the sections in that first half of the track.

That work has now begun, and it is being carried out on a much larger scale than at first anticipated. Turns 2 through 10 – the long series of turns starting from the bottom of the hill after Turn 1 to the hairpin at the start of the back straight - are being resurfaced, along with Turns 12 through 16 – the stadium section after the back straight.

In addition, work is being undertaken to tackle the substrate, which is prone to subsidence. A reinforced concrete slab has been laid underneath the section from Turns 2 to 10, in the hope of staving off a return of the bumps for as long as possible.

The work should make a huge improvement to the track, as well as make it much safer. It should also ensure that the US round of MotoGP remains at the Circuit of the Americas for the foreseeable future.

Future perfect

There was more good news on the track front, with the Belgian circuit of Spa-Francorchamps announcing they are in the middle of a massive upgrade to the track. Work is being undertaken to modify the circuit at several points to add run off and swap hard standing for gravel in a bid to make the track safe for motorcycles.

The work is primarily aimed at preparing the return of the Endurance World Championship for the 24 Hours of Spa, scheduled for June 4th and 5th of this year. But the hope is that with a few additional changes, the legendary grand prix circuit can be made safe enough to see a return of MotoGP to the track.

The last time Spa hosted a motorcycling grand prix was in 1990, when Wayne Rainey beat Jean-Philippe Ruggia. Spa still holds the record for the highest average speed in grand prix racing, with Barry Sheene's lap of 220.720 km/h set in 1977. The track has since seen significant changes, making an improvement on that record unlikely.

The track layout is not the only change being made. Major upgrades are also being made to Spa-Francorchamps' aging infrastructure, improving facilities for all the classes that race there, including F1.

Back at the grindstone

After jumping on a Honda RC213V-S at Portimão for the first time since crash while riding an enduro bike, Marc Marquez was back on track again this week. This time, he was at the Motorland Aragon circuit.

Marquez was not a 1000cc road bike this time, however. Instead, he was on a Honda CBR600RR. That may seem a curious choice, but there are advantages to choosing a smaller bike. The FIM Grand Prix Regulations limit riders to practicing on road bikes with minimal modifications, if those bikes are the same capacity as the bikes they race with. In the case of MotoGP riders, that is 1000cc bikes, for Moto2 riders, 765cc machines (which basically means Triumph triples), and for Moto3 riders, 250cc bikes.

However, there are no rules for practice on bikes which are not the same capacity as the bikes they race. By choosing to ride a Honda CBR600RR, Marquez is allowed to make much bigger changes to the bike. Those changes are visible, even from the single photo posted on social media by Marquez. There is a full-size race radiator and cooler installed, much larger than the items on the stock bike. The bike uses Brembo calipers instead of the stock Tokicos, what look like non-standard front forks, and totally different clip ons.

The advantage of practicing on what looks to be either a superstock or supersport spec Honda CBR600RR is that the feel of the bike is much closer to proper race bike than a lightly modified road bike. That appears to be what Marquez is chasing. It is also a sign of just how determined he is going into the 2022 season.

Doctor talk

As his career progressed, Valentino Rossi's media engagements became fewer and fewer. Getting a one-on-one interview with Rossi as a print or website journalist was nigh on impossible. Even his TV interviews were growing shorter and less frequent.

So it is something of a surprise and a pleasure to see that, now that he has retired, the MotoGP legend has given a huge interview to a veteran American sports journalist, Graham Bensinger. Bensinger spent a day with Rossi, touring the VR46 headquarters, and the VR46 flat track ranch.

The interview covers a huge amount of ground, and is available to paying subscribers of Bensinger's channel. A large number of segments, totaling over 50 minutes, have been posted to YouTube and are freely available without paying.

In those segments, Rossi talks about the VR46 ranch, his relationship with his partner Francesca Sofia Novello and the prospect of becoming a father, his retirement, and how Covid-19 affected that. He discusses his rivalry with Jorge Lorenzo, his motivation for racing and the thrill it gives him, and the loss of his friend Marco Simoncelli. He also talks about his tax situation, and the shock at learning he owed the Italian tax authorities €112 million, and how he ended up ensuring he could return to live in Italy.

The segments, mostly between 2 and 8 minutes long, make for easily digestible chunks of motorcycling history, and Rossi speaks freely and frankly about his past and his career. Well worth watching. The entire series is available as a YouTube playlist, and the first of the videos appears below.

Bike news

Not strictly MotoGP news, but news. Listeners to the Paddock Pass Podcast probably know that I have spent the last 9 months or so looking at a new motorcycle, to replace my aging 2009 BMW R1200GS. I finally bit the bullet on a new bike in November of last year, and picked it up in December. You can read about the entire adventure over on my personal website.

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Thanks for posting the detailed piece on your new motorcycle purchase. Good and informative read.

Jack Miller should get over Covid ok. Fingers crossed.

Team launches ho hum.

Improving COTA is very good news! What about the bumps on the back "straight"? The Circuit of the Americas is only 9 years old. It will be interesting to see how the new surface performs. How long will this upgrade last? Formula yawn will be racing there to and pounding the tarmac into submission.

Spa-Francorchamps upgrade yes love this yes! I am happy to be wrong again. I thought the terrain where the circuit is might make it very difficult and expensive to do the work needed. Glad to see they are improving the track and facilities. The old concrete grandstand I sat in has gone. This is very good news to me.

Marc is back! Working on riding fitness Celebrate! The rivals have improved while the ant was away or less than 100%.

Valentino gives us more off season entertainment, thank you Doctor Rossi.

Congratulations on the new wheels David and Mrs Emmett. I hope the three of you will be happy together. Read you piece regarding the selection process yesterday. Wasn't able to stop reading until I finished, good work.

2022 is going to be great, are we there yet?

Is pretty much the best thing I have read this winter - excellent and clear. Why am I not surprised? Nice machine and the personalisation looks and sounds good.
BMW should give you one free next time.

Congrats on the new ride! Always exciting the day a new bike comes home, hope it treats you well

Didn't see it mentioned in the blog - does the fact that BMW doesn't participate in MotoGP influence the decision at all? Easier to maintain journalistic integrity that way :-)

I miss my 2000 1150GS to this day. While the shocks would fade rapidly on a twisty road from new (Windy Ridge--Mt St Helens, for those that know), it served me well from track days to ill-advised forest service road explorations. And it was easy to service myself. Then kids. But now I've picked up a 2005 VFR with bags and a few battle scars for CDN$1500, and it will replace my car (and why would I need one if the wife has one?). I was influenced to get my license thanks to an article in Cycle Canada titled "Confessions of a Cheap-Skate Tourer", so the VFR is fitting. I've come full-circle. But should I find a suitcase full of cash, a GS would be up for consideration again.

I have against the GS line has to do with me, not the bike. At 5 ft 8 or so, I find it uncomfortably tall, the more so the older I get. No question it's perhaps the most comfortable bike I've ever ridden (sampled pretty much all the models in the last 20 years or so thanks to magazine work) and a superb two-up tourer. I've got an '09 R1200R at the moment that suits us well. You'll like the VFR, I'm sure. People say they lack character, I call BS on that. Terrific bikes. Just watch for the reg/rec going south.

I love the VFR800 too GSP! Does everything, looks great. Sportiness thing that tours well? I was up on a 10 day ride in your woods on an R1. It was REALLY unpleasant for the tour cruise part. But a loop around Vancouver Island coast then Vancouver to Whistler was fantastic! And a loop up North.

Had to run up into Whistler, hide the bike and leathers behind garbage dumpsters and duck into a bar. Apparently the authorities and roadworkers that radioed them disagree that it is a trackday up there?

If someone says the VFR lack character it may be because Honda made such a well balanced rider friendly bike? Every one of mine, except the CBR1000RR, was like that! (It was angry and bitter). Hondas are just like that. They "work" and don't get tricky or fancy. But come on, that VFR has a drop dead gorgeous swing arm and rear wheel! Really cool styling. Rare bike to do SO much well. Nearly bought one twice.

Windy Ridge is lovely! My very favorite piece of public road for a bike so far? Vernonia Oregon, through Clatsop State Forest, out to Astoria on the coast. Brew pub visit then back. Anyone in the Pacific NW USA ought to give it a rip.

A Backmarker Travel Motomatters track day at The Ridge sounds good too! Not much out there, but the track looks fantastic. I could cook us some seriously good food out of my campervan. This pandemic is going to end!
Uhm, yeah. VFR = good and countdown to Sepang Test = 8 Days

A few years after my Suzuki GS400 was stolen, I convinced my (pregnant) spouse that I could not live without a motorcycle, and bought a leftover VF700 tariff bike, all we could afford. And I have since owned a 6th gen (2002) and 7th (2010), on the principle that I could only afford a single street bike that could both carve and tour. That V4 motor is sublime.

A shame that Honda has won so many championships with a V4 but has left the VFR to, well, just kinda fizzle out.

Totally down. I was part of a group who got the first outing at The Ridge on two wheels in the winter of... whenever it was. Cold as hell that day, like today was here in the Tacoma area 38f or so. Ran rain tires on the track bike. Once the track officially opened My team won the first endurance WMRRA superbike race there as well. Haven't been out there in years now but they definitely made some changes.

Wouldn't mind dragging knees and hard parts on my CB500x there. Just for kicks I'll be leaving the full Givi set attached:)

I'm well-versed in the VFR's electrical "features". I had the all-white '93 (talk about a nightmare to keep clean--I'd also had a red '90 with the white whels) that I sold with over 200,000km. This one I bought had the stator and reg/rectifier replaced (I'll beef up the harness)--and then the young owner decided he needed a "Ninja". I still pine for the whirr of gear-driven cams though!

I'm glad you like it 'shrink. Hondas yes they do the job. No fuss just turn the key & ride.

Agreed the Ridge looks interesting. Seems to have plenty of run off and open space.

Any Backmarker Travel Motomatters people considering Philip Island in over 8 months time. Richard has a spare bed.

Lucky for me the off season is summer downunder.
But 21-22 has been the wettest spring & summer for 50 years. TOO cool but I do get to go riding.
All spring & half of summer we have had no more than 10 sunny days. You could get a duck bogged if you're not careful.

"Speed kills Officer, really? Well I'm not dead so I can't have been speeding. Appropriate pace for the conditions." :-)

I kept the 40 year old 600 twin for the public roads.
Particularly holidays and long weekends when we have Double demerit points.
I've geared it down every time I put a new chain & cogs on it. Still fun but not too fast. 150 kays is plenty.
More acceleration every time I open the throttle.
The more track days I do the less I want to go silly on the public roads.

Ape! Howdy down under. Hey, how concerned are you about Remy's broken/pinned right wrist? A few riders (Nicky Hayden comes to mind) have had a rough go with that injury. Hope he is good to go soon.

Pace on roads, seems I have two of them...quite reasonable jaunt and fookin nuts. Once you are speeding, may as well really go at it eh? Not planning to stop for the authorities at that point so it is a commitment. The "flip plate" button helps. Yes, track days cure that problem and much better indeedy.

8 days! We are going to make it. The Yamaha is going to disappoint. The Honda won't. The KTM is an utter mystery at which I toss hope. Hunch says improved but not big to the pointy end. Suzuki will be good, steady slow small steps continuing. We know what Red is bringing.

Lots of different kinds of broken wrists. If it is the scaphoid (carpal navicular), then it is probably best to pin it now rather than waste months trying to get it to knit and then go necrotic anyway.

Very concerned I am. Seems it's not too bad. Haven't heard any details. Can be a big problem if the joints are damaged.

My brother smashed his right wrist. He is left handed, luckily. The surgeon said "We rate these from 1 to 10, this injury is a ten!"
He recovered fairly well. Has some displacements on the articulation surface, step, slip, step, slide, clunk.
Didn't ride for quite a while. Back on a dirt bike these days. Throttle control is adequate, he rides around the issue.

I am hoping Yamaha will made a decent step up just to try and keep Fabulous Q happy. No rider is irreplaceable, Toprak is coming. TR54 might fit in well at ReallyNeedFunds Yamaha. Possible replacement for Dovi or Darryn depending on how they do in 22.

…but I’ve just had the first ride on my 2020 MV Agusta Dragster RR. What a beautiful beast but I’ll have to be very careful to keep my licence. I’m looking forward to Phillip Island this year but I’ll be taking a car.
Hope Rey has a quick recovery.

Dear god that bike is SEXY! Wow. Looks a one off custom. The rekluse clutch on a sport street bike is a super interesting development.

Wow! Gorgeous. Drooooling. Enjoy!

Looking fwd to WSS this year too? I am! There will be disparity and corrections. It will be a rough ride after Summer break. Ducati is jumping in w both feet, may be the overdog needing neutering?

Really Needs Funds racing launched today. Main color? BLACK. Or as I spell it for everyone but Aprilia where it should be, blech. 

If they just literally swapped the With U Orange with the black, making the black accents? Coolest livery here maybe. There is only one black bike, and it is lovely w it's added Italian tricolore. Lazy f*ckers, it is just a cheap easy thing to have around everywhere. They couldn't even make an Aqua livery without it. Blech.

Dovi is looking good. Hope he has one more adaption blossom in him, love him fighting up forward. Good luck over there, glad the team held things together! 2021 was fair to call a disaster for Aqua, not just disappointment. They came apart. D.Binder is going to have an easy adaptation to big bikes on the 2021 Yamaha relative to Orange and Red kids, but he will be our 2022 backmarker for sure. Hope he has the stomach to perservere. Maybe Brad can help? He is at risk of being swallowed up and going under, the MotoGP beast is swift moving, relentless, and more youth pours in.

To be honest the Honda sats have had a good few recently. Marc VDS Estrella Galicia, LCR Givi Castrol, LCR Idemitsu....all good looking. The blue, red, green and white of the LCR is a very nice mix.