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Assen MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Quartararo vs Espargaro, Outstanding Ducatis, And Big Crowds

The Circuit van Drenthe, or the TT Circuit, as the glorious ribbon of asphalt to the south of Assen is officially known, always delivers, and Sunday was no exception. We had an outstanding Moto3 race, where the main championship contenders and promising youngsters broke away and fought down to the wire. We had one of the best Moto2 races in a long time, with action all the way to the finish. And we had an eventful, dramatic MotoGP race that saw some incredible battles from front to back of the field. It was a good day.

Adding a little spice to proceedings was the kind weather which is so unique to Assen. The race started dry, but the rain radar showed a very light shower heading for the track and likely to hit at around the two-thirds distance mark. It rained alright, but it was the worst kind of rain: the kind that leaves lots of spots on your visor, but barely touches the track. If you can blot the rain out from your mind, you can keep pushing just as hard, but it takes enormous mental strength and conviction. Worth the effort, though: even in the midst of the drizzle, riders were still posting 1'32s.

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Alex Marquez And Fabio Di Giannantonio To Race For Gresini Ducati In 2023

Another piece of the 2023 MotoGP rider line up has fallen into place. On Sunday morning, Gresini announced that they have signed Alex Marquez to race alongside Fabio Di Giannantonio for next year.

The signing did not come as a surprise. Rumors had been circulating all weekend that the younger Marquez brother was close to a deal with Gresini, and Di Giannantonio has show great progress in the last few races, including taking pole at his home race in Mugello.

The second seat at Gresini became available after initial talks with Miguel Oliveira failed to progress. That opened the way for Alex Marquez, who had in turn fallen out of favor with LCR Honda. Marquez' switch to Gresini opens the door for Alex Rins to sign with LCR, while Oliveira is likely to end up at the RNF Aprilia squad.

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Assen MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Timing Is Everything In Qualifying

MotoGP riders have three primary objectives on their todo lists on the Saturday of a Grand Prix weekend. First make sure you end FP3 in the top ten combined times and ensure passage directly to Q2. Secondly, use FP4 to figure out which tires will work best for them in the race, and what to expect in terms of performance at the start, drop in performance after the first five or six laps, and then the second drop in the last third or so of the race. And finally, to find a way to exploit the potential performance of a soft rear tire to secure a spot on the front row of the starting grid. Pole position would be nice, but second or third will do almost as well.

There are plenty of hurdles to cross along the way, not least figuring out how to get the most out of the package they have underneath them. But some of the challenges are outside of their control. Such as the tendency for their fellow racers to crash in the final minutes of a session, bringing out the yellow flags and automatically costing them a chance at setting a fast lap.

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Assen MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Weather Plays A Role

It has been a typically Assen start to the weekend of the Dutch TT. Thursday's stifling heat lingered through the night, windows left open throughout the province in the hope the cool air sweeping in from the south would arrive and bring relief. The heat lingered long into the night, until a summer storm arrived. A massive downpour around 8am dumped a lot of water on the track, the weather instantly turning gray, wet, and blissfully much cooler.

It made for a tricky morning out on track. Conditions were manageable for both MotoE and Moto3, a steady drizzle persisting. The rain picked up a little at the start of the MotoGP session, and made riding increasingly difficult. Assen drains pretty well – a legacy of its ancient roots starting as a race held on public roads, which means there is a crown to several parts of the track, the center of the track a little higher than the sides, to facilitate drainage.

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Assen MotoGP Preview: Northern European Weather Set To Upset The MotoGP Apple Cart

We are past the mathematical midway mark of the 2022 MotoGP season, and we are on the brink of the de facto midway mark. This weekend's race at Assen is the last before the long summer break – longer than originally planned, and a welcome break for pretty much everyone in the paddock. "I'm not going to touch a motorbike for two weeks!" Remy Gardner told us.

At least we are going into the summer break on a high. The Dutch TT Circuit at Assen is still one of the greatest motorcycling circuits in the world, despite the trackectomy which happened in 2005 and the old North Loop was removed. The fast, sweeping section was removed to sell the land and buoy up the circuit's ailing finances, and replaced with a little crochet hook of tarmac. But the rest of the circuit remained, the Southern Loop as glorious as ever.

After braking for the first corner and sweeping through the sequence of right handers that take them through to the Strubben hairpin, the riders fire out of Strubben and down the Veenslang, the snaking straight which leads to the first fast right-left combination and prime over taking spot. Through the Ruskenhoek and onto the Stekkenwal, then another short, snaking straight down to De Bult. A fast left, and then onto one of the best sequences of turns on the MotoGP calendar.

A crescendo of corners

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Tight Travel Schedule Forces Program Change For Japanese Grand Prix At Motegi

As the MotoGP calendar expands, the logistical challenges of running an increasing number of back-to-back rounds are starting to have an impact. The triple header starting at Aragon, then proceeding to Motegi, then finishing at Buriram in Thailand was always going to be the hardest one, because of the distances to be traveled, and finally, Dorna and IRTA have had to admit defeat. Practice for the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi has been rescheduled, with just a single session on Friday, starting at 1:15pm, and no track action in the morning.

The new schedule will see Moto3 start at 1:15pm local time, with the normal 40 minute FP1 session. The 40-minute Moto2 FP1 follows at 2:10pm, and at 3:05pm, MotoGP will have 75 minutes on track for FP1. Normal service will be resumed on Saturday. Progress to Q2 will be determined by the combined times set during FP1 on Friday and FP2 on Saturday.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why The Sachsenring Was 2022 Condensed, Ride-Height Failures, Hot Hondas, And Events vs Races

With the Sachsenring done and dusted, we have reached the halfway point of the 2022 season. A quick dash from the east of Germany to the northeast of The Netherlands, and then MotoGP goes on a longer than scheduled summer break.

If the German Grand Prix marked the halfway point of the 2022 season – the median, if you will – then the result might be classified in statistical terms as the mode: the most frequently occurring value in a set of results. If you had to sum up the MotoGP season so far, this is what it would look like.

I have a long motorcycle journey on Monday, so below are a few quick notes after the German GP, and what precisely makes it the modal MotoGP race. But also, some of the factors which make it atypical. And a sign of hope for the future of the series.

In these notes:

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Sachsenring MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Preparing For Sweltering Sunday Slog

As a parade of MotoGP riders traipsed into the media center at the Sachsenring, we had time to reflect upon the fact that it is a good thing we did not have access to strong drink. For if we had decided to play the "30-lap drinking game" – taking a drink every time a rider says "tomorrow is going to be a long race", half of the MotoGP media would be spending Saturday night having their stomach pumped. Each rider we spoke to used it at least once, and some did so multiple times within the space of a couple of minutes.

What conclusions can we draw from this? That 30 laps are a lot around the Sachsenring's tight and tortuous ribbon of asphalt, where the bikes are spending most of their time on the left side of the tire. Especially in the middle of a heatwave, where temperatures are more like Sepang than Assen, despite the Sachsenring being situated in the temperate north of Europe, rather than the sweltering heat of the tropics. The Sachsenring was sweltering on Saturday, and will swelter even more come Sunday.

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Sachsenring Notes From Pit Lane - New Aero, Swingarm Analysis, And Ducati's Ride-Height Gubbins

A wander up pit lane at the Sachsenring shows teams and factories still hard at work trying to figure out ways of going faster. Here's a quick note of the things I have seen so far, with a few very poor photographs.

The Barcelona test proved to be a chance to try out new aerodynamic packages, and some of those have made an appearance at the Sachsenring. On Friday, Maverick Viñales spent most of the day on Aprilia's new fairing, with Aleix Espargaro following suit today.

As you can see, the lower part of the fairing is wider, creating a ledge around the middle of the bike. That should bring the side of the bike closer to the asphalt when the bike is leaned over and create something of a ground effect. It also provides a certain amount of downforce at a very useful point, close to the center of mass.

The fairing redesign does have a disadvantage, however: the neat sliding hatch on the standard fairing where the starter motor engages has been replaced with a latch.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Friday Round Up: Why Are Ducatis So Fast Around The 'Ring?

Conventional wisdom has it that the Sachsenring is a tight and twisty track. Slow, tortuous, and difficult. "It's like a riding on a Supermoto track!" Raul Fernandez said after his first experience riding a MotoGP bike around the German circuit. What had felt like a short straight between Turns 7 and 8 on a Moto2 bike was an entirely different experience on a MotoGP machine. "In MotoGP it's like super fast. It's like not a straight, like a corner."

As is usually the case, the conventional wisdom has only a passing acquaintance with the reality of the situation. Yes, the Sachsenring is tight and twisty. But as Tech3's Fernandez points out, it is also much faster than it seems. Jerez has a lower top speed, for example. And Jerez, Le Mans, Valencia all have slower average speeds.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Preview: Who Will Rule The Ring Now The King Is Gone?

The Sachsenring offers an opportunity to learn two things in 2022. Firstly, who is the second best rider around the tight and twisty German track, now that Marc Marquez, whose name is provisionally penciled into the winner's column when the calendar is announced, is absent. And secondly, will crowds return to pre-pandemic levels at MotoGP events?

To start with the second question first, perhaps it is best to rephrase it: will the Sachsenring be Mugello or Le Mans? That is a gross simplification of course, but gets to the root of some of the issues facing MotoGP, post-pandemic, post-Valentino Rossi. Mugello was a washout, with an official attendance of less than half pre-pandemic numbers. Le Mans was a sellout, a capacity 110,000 people turning up at sunny Le Mans.

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Are Yamaha Better Off Putting All Their Eggs In Fabio Quartararo's Basket?

Is the 2022 Yamaha M1 a good MotoGP bike? It is a simple question with a simple answer: it depends. If Fabio Quartararo is riding it, it is good enough to have won two races, get on the podium in three others, and lead the 2022 MotoGP championship by 22 points.

But if anyone other than Fabio Quartararo is riding it, it is not quite so good. The best result by the trio of Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso, and Darryn Binder is a seventh place, by Morbidelli at Mandalika. That seventh place is one of only two top tens for the other Yamahas, Darryn Binder being the other at the same race.

Together, Morbidelli, Dovizioso, and Binder have scored a grand total of 40 points. Fabio Quartararo has 147, over three times as many. And he has never finished behind any of the other Yamahas throughout the season. In fact, the closest any other Yamaha rider has gotten to Quartararo is Franco Morbidelli's eleventh place, two places behind his teammate, at the season opener at Qatar. Since then, Quartararo and the other Yamaha riders have been operating on different planets.

Facing the future

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Jack Miller To Join KTM Factory Team Through 2024

The next piece of the 2023 puzzle has fallen into place. Today, KTM and Ducati announced that Jack Miller would be leaving the factory Ducati squad at the end of 2022, and joining KTM for the 2023 and 2024 season to race in the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing squad.

Miller is no stranger to KTM. The Australian raced for KTM in his final year in Moto3, before making the move to MotoGP. He is managed by Aki Ajo, the veteran team manager of KTM's Moto2 and Moto3 squads. So a return to KTM is no surprise, and had been the subject of rumors for several weeks now.

Miller's arrival means that Miguel Oliveira will be departing. The Portuguese rider has been offered a place in the Tech3 KTM satellite squad, but he has publicly stated he has no interest in a return to Tech3. Oliveira has been linked to both LCR Honda and Gresini Ducati, with Ducati believed to be the most likely destination at the moment.

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Barcelona MotoGP Subscriber Notes: How Fabio Quartararo Was Able To Dominate, A Costly Crash, And How To Count Laps

There are some tracks that somehow always seem to manage to produce drama. Sometimes, drama which affects the trajectory of a championship. Barcelona would appear to be one of those tracks.

Take 2006, for example. Loris Capirossi came into the Barcelona leading the MotoGP championship, tied for points with Nicky Hayden. At the start, his Ducati teammate Sete Gibernau took a line crossing from left to right in an attempt to gain places. Gibernau clipped the rear of Capirossi's bike, jamming on his front brake and causing it to cartwheel end over end through the pack. Capirossi was forced into Marco Melandri to his right, the pair of them going down and resulting in a massive pile up and forcing a race restart.

There were a couple of consequences from that crash. Capirossi escaped injury, but was battered and bruised. Unable to take part in the race, the Italian lost 20 points to Nicky Hayden, and limped through the next couple of races, effectively ending his championship challenge. And it was the incident which started the discussion about making brake lever protectors mandatory, though it would take until 2011 to get the rules pushed through in all three grand prix classes.

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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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