Latest MotoGP News

Motegi MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Magic Miller, Why Ducati Can't Win A Championship, And Marquez Up To Speed Again

It has been three long years since MotoGP last embarked on its Pacific tour, the flyway races in Asia and Australia which form the crescendo which build toward the season finale, and invariably decide the MotoGP championship. So the Motegi race, first of four overseas rounds, provided both a solid benchmark for the progress made over the last two and a half seasons, and gave us a foretaste of what is to come.

Motegi also changed the complexion of the championship. The importance of each race ramps up exponentially, as there are fewer and fewer points available. Closing gaps in the championship gets harder each race, the penalties for mistakes harsher, the rewards for success richer. Motegi mattered more than Aragon, and next Sunday, Buriram will matter even more than Motegi.

What we saw in Japan was a masterful display of riding, Jack Miller rising head and shoulders above the rest. We saw two Ducatis on the podium, though both of them the 'wrong' Ducatis in terms of the championship. We saw Marc Marquez complete a MotoGP race without pain for the first time since 2019 (and frankly, probably for much longer than that), and give a taste of what he is still capable of.

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Motegi MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Torrential Rain, Why BMW Doesn't Race In MotoGP, And The Return Of Marc Marquez

If you wondered why BMW does not build and race a MotoGP bike, Saturday at Motegi gave you your answer. With torrential rain forcing a red flag in the Moto2 Q2 session, the cancellation of MotoGP's untimed practice session FP3 (FP4 had already been scrapped due to the shortened schedule), and the delay of MotoGP Q1 and Q2, Loris Capirossi and his crew were sent out multiple times to assess the state of the track in their safety cars.

That meant that the audience were treated to hour upon hour of BMW cars circulating at speed, with close ups of the cars drifting through the water, the BMW branding on display. (Do not ask me what car it is: I have so little interest in cars I don't even own one. The only thing I know is that it is some form of M model, which, I learned from the introduction of the BMW M1000RR superbike, is BMW's sports brand.)

With this, and the BMW M Award for the best qualifying performances of the year, BMW gets a massive amount of exposure through MotoGP, without the risk of failure associated with actually racing in the series. Why would they trade that in to go racing?

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Motegi MotoGP Friday Round Up: Just How Much Has MotoGP Moved On In Three Years?

Friday at Motegi was the equivalent of being fourteen and having a distant relative visit for the first time in three years. "Goodness, haven't you grown up!" they say to you, as you roll your eyes and try not to look utterly exasperated and embarrassed.

In this case, it's the MotoGP bikes in the role of the surly teenager and Motegi as the annoying relative. The bikes really have changed a lot over the past three years, as a quick glance at the timesheets will tell you.

In 2019, after two 45-minute sessions of practice on the first day, Fabio Quartararo posted a fastest time of 1'44.764. In 2022, despite only having one 75-minute session of free practice, the first nine riders were all under Quartararo's 2019 time, with Jack Miller nearly a quarter of a second quicker. Maverick Viñales was second fastest in 2019, with a lap of 1'45.085. The first sixteen riders, all the way down to Franco Morbidelli, were faster than that.

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Motegi MotoGP Thursday Preview: A New World Awaits

We are entering the four most important weekends of the season. Important for a lot of reasons: there are five races to go and just 17 points separate the championship leaders. But above all, important because we are heading to three tracks where MotoGP hasn't been since 2019, and Sepang, where MotoGP has only tested in 2020 and 2022. We are heading into the unknown, just as the championship is coming to a head.

So much has changed since MotoGP was on its last Pacific tour. Valentino Rossi was still in the Monster Energy Yamaha team. A young rookie called Fabio Quartararo was making a massive impression on fans. Andrea Dovizioso was doing his best to win a championship for Ducati, against an unstoppable Marc Marquez. Marquez was having perhaps the best season in grand prix racing since Giacomo Agostini crushed the opposition in the late 1960s on the MV Agusta.

2019 saw the ride-height devices first start to make an appearance, Jack Miller using the system in Thailand. It was the last year of the old Michelin rear casing, the new tire introduced in 2020 effectively killing off Andrea Dovizioso's career.

All change

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Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 2: The Nonsense Of Team Orders, And Losing Out At The Start

Much of the attention after Sunday's race went to what happened at the front: Enea Bastianini beating fellow Ducati rider Pecco Bagnaia, Brad Binder firing from mid pack to the front in the first couple of corners, and of course, the massive crash caused by Fabio Quartararo hitting the back of Marc Marquez' Repsol Honda, and in the aftermath, Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami colliding, and Marquez being forced to pull out of the race with a piece of Quartararo's fairing stuck in his rear wheel.

But that meant that some of the things which went on behind were overlooked in the media overload. Aleix Espargaro's return to the podium puts him right back in the championship chase. Brad Binder showed his exceptional class to finish fourth, and nearly on the podium. And some of the riders who felt they had the pace to make up ground in the first couple of laps after qualifying badly.

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Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Marquez As Scapegoat, The Danger Of Ride-Height Devices, And How Ducati Made Tire Management Irrelevant

Marc Marquez was hoping to make an impact on his return to MotoGP at the Motorland Aragon circuit. He made an impact alright, but not quite the one he was intending. A lightning start, collisions with Fabio Quartararo and Takaaki Nakagami – much, much more on that later – and a withdrawal due to having a chunk of Quartararo's fairing stuck in the back of his bike. Marquez had come up short on his objective: "Try to get kilometers, try to finish the race, and we didn't get the target. I just did one lap," he said after the race.

We will come to apportioning blame for the Quartararo-Marquez crash later, and how Enea Bastianini came to the championship leader's aid at the end of the race. The race itself was in some ways a repeat of last year: a waiting game, with a burst of excitement settling the outcome in the last couple of laps.

Bastianini's victory wrapped up the manufacturers championship for Ducati again with five races to go. There is no doubt that the Ducati is now the best bike on the MotoGP grid. But the halfhearted celebrations in the factory Ducati Lenovo garage betrayed just how much more the riders championship matters to Ducati.

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Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Best Bike On The Grid, And Pit Lane Mayhem

For the past few seasons, there has been a fierce debate over what is the best bike on the grid. In 2021, we thought it might have been the Yamaha, given just how good Fabio Quartararo has been. In 2020, the Suzuki looked to be a pretty complete package, though that was a little distorted by the pandemic-hit season. In 2019, with Marc Marquez' dominance, there were those who claimed the Honda was the best bike, though the difference in performance between Marquez and the other Honda riders was rather stark.

The common thread across all these years was the Ducati. Was it perhaps the Desmosedici, born in Bologna, which was the best bike? And was it the riders on the other machines that was making the difference? In 2019, the Ducati was faster than the Honda, but not fast enough to get enough of a gap until Marc Marquez threw the RC213V underneath Andrea Dovizioso on the brakes in the next corner. In 2020 and 2021, Ducati improved the turning of the bike, but it was still no match for the corner speed of the Suzuki GSX-RR and the Yamaha M1.

Even at the start of the 2022 season we wondered whether the Ducati was really the best bike on the grid. After Aleix Espargaro won Aprilia's first MotoGP race in Argentina, we started to think that perhaps the RS-GP was the best bike on the grid, an impression strengthened by Maverick Viñales' increasing competitiveness. Espargaro was turning into a podium regular, and at the front of the championship.

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Aragon MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Tough Track For Tires, A Rider Returns, And New Parts Shenanigans

By now, you will have heard the MotoGP mantra a thousand times. "It's only Friday," everyone says after the first day of practice. "It's only Friday, but for sure it's better to first than to be fifteenth," was Jorge Martin's addendum, after ending the first day at the top of the timesheets.

It may only be Friday, but we still learned plenty, though maybe not about who is going to win the race on Sunday. A lot can still happen between then and now. But the riders and teams now have a better idea of what they are facing.

The biggest challenge this weekend is going to be the tires. The asphalt at the Motorland Aragon Circuit is probably the oldest on the calendar, having not been resurfaced since the circuit was built back in 2009. Asphalt changes with age: the bitumen which binds the aggregate together evaporates very slowly, eventually leaving sizable gaps between the stones.

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Aragon MotoGP Thursday Preview - What Pecco Bagnaia Has To Worry About, Marc Marquez Makes A Return, And HRC's Secret Tryst With Kalex

With three races coming up in three weeks, confidence is key. The next couple of months are going to be grueling, with six races in eight weeks, and everything still to play for. Heading into the logistically nightmarish Aragon-Motegi-Buriram triple header is a lot easier if you have the feeling that you have the wind in your sails.

That puts Pecco Bagnaia in a very strong position, you would think. The Italian took his fourth victory in a row two weeks ago at Misano, the first rider to do that since Marc Marquez in 2019, and the first Ducati rider every to manage that.

He has closed the gap to championship leader and title rival Fabio Quartararo from 91 points to 30 points in those four races. And MotoGP arrives at a circuit where Bagnaia won last year in a scintillating battle with Marc Marquez, a track which Quartararo regards as a bogey track. Things are looking very good for Pecco Bagnaia.

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Marc Marquez To Race In Aragon

Marc Marquez is to race at the Aragon round of MotoGP. The Spaniard tested his arm at the Misano test last week, and despite some tiredness in his muscles, is confident he can compete in the race at what is effectively his home round.

The decision is not entirely surprising. The Repsol Honda rider rode a CBR600RR at the Motorland Aragon kart track again on Monday, in a final test of his fitness and his recovery. But it is still an early return to full-time competition.

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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 Test Analysis Part 3 - Marc Marquez On His Return, And Honda's Big Gamble On Kalex

In our review of the Misano MotoGP test, we come at last to Honda. Undoubtedly the team with the most work to do, and the most going on. And the most attention, too, but that was more down to personnel than hardware. Marc Marquez was back on a MotoGP bike for the first time since the fourth operation on his right arm, with the aim of solving the multiple issues he has suffered since his crash at Jerez in 2020 once and for all.

Naturally, journalists and fans wanted to know if Marquez would be able to ride again, and if he could ride, whether he would still be winged, as he was after previous operations, or have full use of his right arm and get back to his old self. So far, it looks like the answer is that he can ride, and will be back to his pre-Jerez crash form.

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Misano MotoGP Test Analysis Part 2 - KTM's Radically Revised RC16 Rear

The two factories which saw the biggest changes at the Misano test were KTM and Honda. Honda were at a disadvantage here: they had Marc Marquez back, which obviously brought with it a lot of attention; they had a widely publicized and visually conspicuous new aluminum swingarm from Kalex; and Marc Marquez was trying new aero. It was hard for HRC to hide what they were doing. Or some of it, at least.

KTM were flying under the radar a little, but they were also bringing some major updates. The bike Dani Pedrosa was testing had some major changes to it, though you had to look carefully to see them exactly. The fact that their riders spoke mostly about the work for this year, and avoided talking about the 2023 bike meant we really did learn very little about the bike.

KTM

But let's start with KTM. Brad Binder offered a good explanation of KTM's method of working compared with last year. "I think we needed to start at a point at the beginning of the season, so we locked in the chassis, we locked in the aero, we locked in a whole lot of things, and said, OK, that's our base, now, how do we make this better?"

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Misano MotoGP Test Analysis Part 1 - Aprilia And Ducati Make Subtle Changes, Yamaha Goes All In

What were the MotoGP factories testing at the two-day Misano test this Tuesday and Wednesday? That depends what day you asked, and which factories you looked at. Tuesday was the day most teams and factories spent on improvements to their 2022 setup – with 6 races left, there are meaningful gains to be made in the title race. On Wednesday, the focus mainly switched to 2023, with new frames, new engines, new aero, and more rolled out.

There was another reason to work on 2022 on Tuesday. The bane of all MotoGP tests is that they usually take place after a MotoGP weekend, so they start on a track which is nicely rubbered in from the Michelin tires used by MotoGP (and at Misano, also the MotoE Michelins), and then spend another day or (in the case of Misano) two laying down yet more Michelin rubber. By the end of the test, the riders have grip coming out of their ears, a very different proposition from the tricky conditions which prevail after a Moto2 race.

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Misano MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Bagnaia's Dovizioso Tribute Act, Fabio's Unfixable Problem, And Aprilia's Rising And Waning Stars

There were many, many tributes to Andrea Dovizioso on the day that he retired as a full-time MotoGP racer, but there was perhaps none so fitting as the winner of Sunday's MotoGP race at Misano. Pecco Bagnaia, riding the bike Dovizioso had a massive, massive part in developing in the eight years he was at Ducati, took two and a half laps to get to the front of the race and then controlled it right to the end.

It was the way Bagnaia managed the race that was so reminiscent of Andrea Dovizioso. The way you usually win a race from the front is by taking off at the front and trying to lay down a pace that no one else is able to follow. Once you've opened a gap, you can then manage the pace to keep the gap consistent right to the end. The benefit is that you don't have to worry about fending off attacks, and can just concentrate on your own riding.

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