Analysis

Austria MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Wasted Session, KTM vs Ducati, And Yamaha As Supplicant

We nearly got away with it. The clouds hung heavy over the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg for much of the morning, but it stayed dry for all three classes, and the Red Bull Rookies practice as well – I will leave it to the imagination of the reader as to why the Red Bull Rookies are racing in Spielberg this weekend. But halfway through FP2 for the Moto3 class, at the beginning of the afternoon, the heavens parted and the deluge began.

The weird thing about the rain is that it was so incredibly localized. The Red Bull Ring is a relatively compact circuit, not elongated like Assen, or spread out over a vast territory like Silverstone, so to have a downpour in Turn 3, the track completely soaked and water running across the track, while a few hundred meters downhill, along the front straight and at Turn 1, the track was completely dry, made for impossible conditions. A few Moto3 riders nearly got caught out as they hammered up the hill toward Turn 3, then found themselves unable to brake for the corner and forced to run wide.

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Austria MotoGP Preview: The Risk Of Rain Riding At The Red Bull Ring

A short hop over the Alps – or rather, a short drive south, and then west between the Alps, to avoid the slow but spectacular progress over the mountain passes to the north of Spielberg – and the MotoGP paddock reassembles at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. From one of the best tracks on the calendar, plagued by financial problems, to one of the best-funded tracks on the calendar, plagued by the fact that, well, frankly, it's not a very good circuit for motorcycle racing.

The setting is spectacular, nestled at the foot of the hills rising from the valley of the river Mur and heading up to snow-capped peaks a couple of kilometers skywards. The circuit sits on a slope at the bottom of those hills, making for a surprisingly steep climb up to Turn 1, then up the hill to Turn 3, along the hillside to Turn 4, before rolling down through a huge Omega right-left-right combination to get back to the bottom of the hill, and the straight which runs along it.

But the circuit belies its heritage, as a spectacular but treacherous mountain circuit crossing hills and woods. And like many mountain circuits, there is little room for mistakes, with runoff limited at Turn 1, Turn 3, between the barriers from Turn 3 to Turn 4, and at the bottom of the hill into the final corner. In the dry, it is all just about manageable. But in the wet, it can be a terrifying place.

Hard rain is going to fall

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Brno MotoGP Things I Missed: KTM's Long Road To Success, Rins' Grits His Teeth, And Viñales Comes Up Short

Every MotoGP round has a lot going on, too much to capture on a Sunday night. But the Brno round of MotoGP was even worse than usual, with ten times the usual surprises, and a month's worth of stories and intrigue. On Sunday, I covered Brad Binder's win, KTM's journey, the state of the championship, Yamaha's engine situation, and Ducati's problems since the start of the season. Below is a round up of things I didn't get around to writing about.

It goes without saying that Brad Binder's victory was the biggest story to come out of the MotoGP race at Brno. A rookie winning in MotoGP in just his third race, and claiming the first victory in MotoGP for KTM – coincidentally, the first win for a manufacturer not from either Japan or Italy since Kim Newcombe won the Yugoslavia GP in 1973 on a König, something you can find out much more about in this highly recommended documentary series – is unquestionably a massive event.

The KTM factory team celebrate Brad Binder's first win for the manufacturer in the premier class

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Brno Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On Lowes' Podium, Roberts' Revival, A Fiery Foggia, And More

Sam Lowes leads Joe Roberts ing the Brno Moto2 race - Photo: Polarity Photo

In one of the most topsy-turvy rounds in recent memory, Moto2 and Moto3 added to the spectacle as certain riders triumphed while others bafflingly faded away. As always we’re on hand to take a look through some of the biggest talking points through both classes.

A calmer Lowes

There was good reason to believe Sam Lowes’ hopes of a strong championship finish were over before it had all started. A slow, innocuous testing fall at Jerez in early February ruptured tendons in his right shoulder, chipped the top of his humerus bone and deprived him of his entire preseason testing programme. That kind of injury isn’t one you just shake off; the joint still gives the Englishman considerable pain at the end of each day.

It was a nightmare start to life as a Marc VDS rider in what is a critical season. But how he has fought back has been exceptional. While fortunate the suspension of racing gave him added time to recover, there has been nothing lucky about performances since. A pair of fourth places at Jerez was a solid foundation to build on. And the Czech Grand Prix – where he was never outside the top two – resulted in a first podium finish since September, 2016.

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Brno MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes: Remarkable Rookie, KTM & Concessions, Yamaha's Engines, A Direction For Ducati, And Honda's Many Mistakes

If there was any doubt 2020 was going to be a historic season for MotoGP, the Czech round at Brno erased the last of them. It has been a weird year, the COVID-19 pandemic throwing the calendar out of kilter, then the resumption of racing bringing excitement, drama, and a whole boatload of surprises.

There was Marc Márquez breaking his arm one week, and trying to ride the next. There was Fabio Quartararo dominating both races. There was Valentino Rossi looking lost on the first Sunday, and finishing on the podium seven days later. And that was just the tip of the iceberg of weirdness.

After the topsy-turvy events of the two Jerez races, Brno turned the MotoGP world even more upside down. In these subscriber notes, an attempt to make sense of the madness, to filter some signal from the noise. There is a lot of signal, but also plenty of noise. Here's the signals we have picked up so far:

  • The rookie who finally lived up to expectations
  • The new best bike on the grid?
  • The consequences for the championship
  • Concessions explained
  • Petronas Yamaha's other rider gets what he deserves
  • Yamaha's engine situation
  • The Zarco vs Espargaro smackdown
  • Are Ducati really as lost as they seem?
  • Honda's litany of errors

Lots to get through. But there is only one place to start: with the winner.

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Brno MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Stolen Laps, Surprise Front Rows, And Why Old Is (Sometimes) Better Than New

If ever there were a day where qualifying and practice told two very different stories, it was Saturday at Brno. The tales were linked and related, interwoven in many ways, but the differences outweighed the common threads. The grid tells a tale of heroism, surprises, and the cruel application of sensible rules. Practice is a story of dark foreboding, of the grim war of attrition that awaits on Sunday afternoon. Qualifying was tough; the race is going to be much, much tougher.

Qualifying is always the highlight of Saturday afternoon, though the final free practice session, FP4, is what matters most. With nothing on the line but race setup, and conditions close to what they will face at race time on Sunday afternoon, teams and riders show what they are really capable of. Even then, the story told is not in the overall result, but tucked away in the analysis timesheets, where teams send out riders on old tires, to see how they hold up once they get a lot of laps on them. The secret code created by combining tire compound with tire age and run duration is almost impossible to decipher, but there are fragments of the real story of the weekend tucked away for the diligent student.

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Brno MotoGP Friday Round Up: Bumps, Grip, Crashes, And Ducati's Shapeshifter Device

What did we learn from the first day of practice at Brno? Not much, but that in itself is valuable. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that the Automotodrom Brno circuit has not seen much action, so there is very little rubber on the track. The circuit has always been fairly low grip, but it is much worse now than it has ever been. It needs rubber down on it before any conclusions can be drawn.

That makes figuring out what is going on rather tricky. The track is changing session to session, as bikes deposit a thin smear of Dunlop and Michelin rubber on the surface of the track and in the crevices between the grit particles used in the aggregate. That leads to big changes in grip levels: Fabio Quartararo's fastest time in FP2 was over eight tenths faster than the best lap set by Takaaki Nakagami in the morning session. Quartararo's best time from Friday was nearly three quarters of a second slower than the best time at the end of the first day in 2019.

With the times so far off the pace – Quartararo's time is two whole seconds off Marc Márquez' outright lap record, and half a second slower than the race lap record – and grip still changing, conditions were just to inscrutable to draw any conclusions from, or at least any conclusions which might last beyond Saturday morning. Trying to work out which tire will work best was almost possible on Friday. There are still too many unknowns.

Bump and grind

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Brno MotoGP Preview: Missing Marquez, Horsepower Hill, Yamaha's Hope, And KTM Competitive

With MotoGP heading to Brno for the first of three races, a new chapter opens for the championship. The two season openers at Jerez were somehow anachronistic, races out of time, and out of place. The searing heat of an Andalusian summer turned the Circuito de Jerez into an alien space, the searing heat punishing riders, bikes, and tires. It proved costly, too, Yamaha losing three engines to the heat in two races, Ducati losing one, that of Pecco Bagnaia. Those lost engines are likely to have long-term consequences for Yamaha, though it seems as if Ducati have escape a little more lightly.

These three races at two race tracks are something of a return to normality. The Czech Grand Prix at Brno, and the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, are happening on the weekends scheduled on the original calendar, before the COVID-19 pandemic MotoGP calendar, along with the rest of the world, on its head. Much has changed, of course: MotoGP is at Brno with a much-reduced paddock, with no fans and no media outside of a small band of TV journalists. But at least the Grand Prix paddock is where it was supposed to be, in the conditions which could have been expected back in January.

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Andalucia Moto2 & Moto3 Review - Neil Morrison On Bastianini's Brilliance, The Sky VR46 Celebration Fails, And Moto3 Stars

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of Neil Morrison, Paddock Pass Podcast host, Moto2/Moto3 commentator, and the finest writer in the Grand Prix paddock. Neil will be contributing a review of the goings on in the Moto2 and Moto3 paddocks this season.

As always Moto2/3 delivered plenty of talking points at the Andalusian Grand Prix. Sunday’s results threw up a host of surprises and blew both championships wide open. Here, we take a look through some of the big talking points from both classes.

Bestia’s bolt from the blue

Few gave Enea Bastianini a hope in a hell at the beginning of Sunday’s 23-lap Moto2 race. The Italian had caught everyone off guard by qualifying third. But free practice showings (17th in FP1, 8th in FP2, 16th in FP3) didn’t point to the Italian coming up with a solution to stop the Sky Racing VR46 team-mates over race distance.

But what do we know? The 23-year old got the holeshot, led every lap and coolly resisted Luca Marini’s midrace advances to collect his maiden Moto2 triumph. From ninth place, 19 seconds off the winner a week before, ‘La Bestia’ trimmed a colossal 18 seconds off his race time from Jerez 1 to 2. The secret, he said, was returning his base setting to what he used at race one in Qatar, where he finished third.

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WorldSBK Jerez Preview: Too Hot To Handle?

Lord Almighty,
I feel my temperature rising

Higher higher
It's burning through to my soul

Elvis wasn’t singing about WorldSBK racing at Jerez this weekend when he covered Burning Love almost 50 years ago, but he might as well have been. During the course of this weekend’s races the rider’s will face an incredible challenge due to the conditions.

With air temperatures hovering close to 40°C in recent weeks the difficultly is in keeping a cool head and avoiding your core temperature be rising at an alarming degree. The moment that the body temperature starts to rise, even for an elite athlete, they are running on borrowed time. When a critical point is reached the body transitions into survival mode, and suddenly the typically razor-sharp racing brain takes a back seat to surviving until the end of the race.

To combat this we’ll see riders keeping cool with air blown into their faces while they sit in the shade with cold towels wrapped around their necks and wearing ice jackets. The aim of the game is to get your body temperature as low as possible before going into battle and then hope that you’re body can deal with the heat when the action gets underway.

"I was cooking!"

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