Analysis

Misano MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Rumor Mill Grinds To A Halt, Viñales Explains His Brakes, And What The New Surface Means

A couple of days before the Misano MotoGP round – that is, the Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, not the Gran Premio TISSOT dell'Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini, or Misano 1 and Misano 2 as most people without photographic memories or a contractual obligation to use their full names will call them – kicked off, there was a flurry of rumors and excitement over possible announcements ahead of the race. Thursday could see important news made, people whispered.

The rumors doing the rounds bordered on the outlandish, but were just far enough off that to be credible. Valentino Rossi would announce his retirement, and Petronas Yamaha would announce they were signing Andrea Dovizioso, now free of his Ducati chains, to take his place. There was of course nothing in the rumors: Petronas team boss Razlan Razali denied the reports ahead of the weekend, and in the press conference on Thursday, Valentino Rossi laughed off the suggestion.

"My retirement is big news, no?" the nine-time champion commented. "If you write on the internet that Valentino retires, a lot of people click to read, a lot of fans. I think it is for this reason. There isn't another reason because the situation hasn't changed, and I tried to explain a lot of times that I will race next year. But maybe it is more interesting to say I will retire."

A rod for his own back

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MotoGP Mid-Season Review And Preview - The Lessons Of The First 5 Races For The Last 9 Races

The opening laps of the 2020 Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring - Photo Cormac Ryan Meenan

The 2020 MotoGP season is divided into two, uneven halves. The first five races were something of a warm up: a pair of races at Jerez, followed by a week off, then three races on consecutive weekends, one at Brno, two at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Those five races proved punishing for bikes, riders, teams.

Riders crashed and hurt themselves: Marc Márquez broke his right arm and put himself out of action and out of the championship; Alex Rins damaged ligaments in his shoulder and has been riding hurt since then; Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco broke scaphoids, and gritted their teeth to ride; Zarco and Franco Morbidelli had a horrifying high-speed crash which saw their bikes cross the track and come within centimeters of hitting the Monster Energy Yamaha team of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales.

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Teruel WorldSBK: Jonathan Rea Grinds Down The Opposition

Jonathan Rea & Michael Ruben Rinaldi at Aragon - Photo credit WorldSBK
Jonathan Rea leads Michael Ruben Rinaldi into Turn 1 at Aragon - Photo WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea just keeps ticking boxes in his title defence. Another weekend and another victory, but crucially also another three podium finishes. Consistency wins championships, and in the history of the Superbike World Championship he has no equal in this regard.

Motorland Aragon was a case in point. With back-to-back rounds at the Spanish circuit, this was a prime opportunity for his rivals to take points away from him. Instead Rea extended his title lead to 34 points by a mixture of risk-taking on track and conservative strategy in the garage.

Aragon is historically Ducati territory. The long straight clearly plays to the strength of the Panigale V4R, its horsepowers. When riding on board with Rea throughout the race weekend we could see where his bike excels: through Turn 10 on the edge of the tyre with the throttle pinned and the rear sliding but still able to find drive grip. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but giving up so much acceleration on the straights meant the Kawasaki rider had to push incredibly hard everywhere else.

Lessons learned

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WorldSBK Rider Coach Nicolo Canepa - Unleashing Riders' Full Potential

In racing no stone is left unturned. The bikes are tuned to perfection. Development takes place for months behind closed doors. Wind tunnels, fluid dynamic testing, analysis of data, and tyre modelling are all key components in getting the most out of the motorcycle. It’s a never-ending cycle of constant improvement with the goal of going ever faster.

The process of fine tuning the machine mechanically was always in stark contrast to that of the rider. For much of the sports history the partnership of man and machine has been talked about but while the bike is fine tuned the rider has largely been left to their own devices.

Training, nutrition, and mental preparation have been areas focused on by all teams for years but now they are starting to open their eyes to rider coaching. Over the last five years we have seen this area become increasingly important. When Valentino Rossi and Jonathan Rea both employ a coach it’s clear that even multiple World Champions can enjoy the benefits of another pair of eyes.

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Styria Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On Track Limits, Bezzecchi's Return, Remy's Revival, And Moto3

Martin's Mirth

Minutes after repeating his brilliant lights-to-flag feats of the Austrian Grand Prix for a second time in as many weekends, initial race winner Jorge Martin was shown the runner-up slot in parc fermé. His crime? Running over a sliver of green paint that follows the kerb on the outside of turn eight as he fought resolutely to fend of Marco Bezzecchi’s ever-threatening late race advances. The FIM Stewards demoted to second despite crossing the line 0.060s second ahead.

“Losing out this way is painful,” Martin sighed from that same parc fermé. “In the last lap I think I didn’t touch it. Last week I touched it but they (the FIM Stewards) said it’s OK. Today wasn’t the day to touch. We won in an amazing way. For sure Bezzecchi at the end had a little bit more but he didn’t arrive to the battle. Me and my team really deserved this victory.”

So, were the Stewards wrong to penalize him? Well, after the controversy surrounding Augusto Fernandez’s last lap victory at Misano last year, when he passed Fabio Di Giannantonio at turn 14 moments after exceeding track limits on the exit of turn eleven, Dorna published a clarification on a tightening of the rules regarding track limits.

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Styria MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes: Red Flags, Track Limits, Braking Issues, And A Wide Open Championship

It has been an exhilarating, fascinating, infuriating, enervating three weeks in Grand Prix racing. Three back-to-back rounds, one at Brno and two at the the Red Bull Ring in Austria, have thrown up more surprises than we could ever expect. Three different winner in three races, new manufacturers on the podium, a host of unusual and long-standing records broken. There really is a lot to talk about.

Red flag waved at the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring

One of the most surprising things is the fact that in the six races we have had in the space of the last eight days (disregarding the Red Bull Rookies for a moment) three, or fully half, have been red flagged, and a restart needed. The Red Bull Ring became the Red Flag Ring, as Twitter wits quickly dubbed it after a massive brake failure by Maverick Viñales saw his Yamaha M1 pierce the air fence at Turn 1 and cause the MotoGP race to be red flagged, for the second time in as many weekends.

Blame the track?

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Styria MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Marquez' Extended Absence, An Unwanted Guest In Parc Ferme, And Race Pace

Qualifying at the Red Bull Ring proved as exhilarating a spectacle as ever, but like Banquo's ghost at Macbeth's banquet, an absent specter took some of the attention away from a celebration of racing. A little over an hour after qualifying finished – delayed because Jaume Masia tore the fairing from his Leopard Honda Moto3 bike after crashing in Q1, then rode back to the pits dumping oil and water all over the track – a press release from the Repsol Honda team reminded us of the absentee champion.

Marc Márquez, the press release announced, would be out for another two to three months, to allow him to recover fully from the broken humerus he suffered at the first round of MotoGP on July 19th. Of course, the problem wasn't that break, but the aftermath: Márquez had an operation to plate the humerus a couple of days later, he was doing press ups the day after that, and tried to ride again on the Saturday after breaking his arm. It went OK for one session of practice, but he felt an unpleasant twinge in his arm, and a lack of strength, and so stopped.

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Styria MotoGP Friday Round Up: Another Weekend, The Same Track, A Different Outcome?

It's groundhog day. The MotoGP paddock is back in exactly the same place and doing exactly the same thing it was doing a week ago. The coronavirus-curtailed 2020 season is big on repetition, and as a result, on disorientation. With no distractions at the track, everyone is starting to go a little stir crazy. What things will be like at the second race at Valencia, in the middle of the third run of three back-to-back races doubling up at some circuits, heaven only knows.

What does change from last Friday was the work to be done. Better weather and a weekend's worth of data mean that most teams are much closer to their base set up. (But no everyone: there are a few riders who are a bit lost, and grasping around for a solution). That leaves the teams free to experiment with the tires they weren't sure about a week ago, riders swapping between the soft and medium rears, for example.

"Not too much difference," Jack Miller said. "It is what it is. Don't get too focused on what worked the week before. You've got to keep an open mind. For example, I'm leaning towards the medium tire this weekend, but we need more analysis."

More time to work

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Styria MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Back To A Dangerous Track, Where Bad Blood Remains

A week later, and back in the same place. Plus ça change pas... The same riders are back at the same track, in the same situation. So we should have the same result, right?

That's not quite what the data from Jerez says. Sure, the first two places were the same in both races. But behind that, the results were completely different between the two races, a week apart on the same circuit. Only 9 of the 22 riders on the entry list of the first race finished both races, three of them ending up injured in the carnage of the two opening rounds.

Only Pol Espargaro crossed the line within one place of his finishing position in the second race, ending sixth in the first race, seventh in the second. Only Johann Zarco's finishing position varied by two places, crossing the line eleventh in the first race, ninth in the second. The rest of the field either finished three or more places out of position, or crashed out – and there were a lot of riders who didn't cross the line one way or another.

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Austria Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On Syahrin's Crash, Martin's Win, Marini's Progress, And Moto3 As The Least Eventful Race Of The Weekend

The smaller classes delivered once again at the Austrian Grand Prix as a dramatic Moto2 encounter, which had one hair-raising moment, resulted in an added dimension to the championship fight, while Moto3 produced the sixth closest top 15 finish in the history of the class. Here are some of the big talking points from Moto2 and Moto3 last weekend.

The Crash

Had it not been for Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli’s terrifying collision in the MotoGP race, the sight of Hafizh Syahrin smashing into Enea Bastianini’s stricken machine on the exit of turn one would have been the takeaway image of the Austrian Grand Prix.

There were elements of Days of Thunder as the Malaysian was flung from his machine at well over 160 km/h, with parts of his Speed Up bike disintegrating around the oncoming pack. Dominique Aegerter, enjoying a replacement ride for NTS, narrowly missed his head. “Scary,” said the Swiss rider. “The debris literally flew around my ears. I was really lucky.”

This wasn’t the first time the Red Bull Ring’s turn one has witnessed such a spill. Remy Gardner’s collision with Alex Marquez so nearly ended in disaster at the same point a year ago, when Jorge Martin avoided hitting the Australian at 130 km/h by a matter of inches.

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