Analysis

Mugello Saturday Round Up: The Dangers Of Racing, Underhand Tactics, And Outright Speed

For all the discussion of just how dangerous a track Mugello is, when a serious accident happens, it has nothing to do with the track. Jason Dupasquier, Moto3 rider for the PruestelGP team, lost the rear at the end of Q2 for the Moto3 class and crashed. A fairly regular occurrence in Moto3, as riders push the limits of the bike.

Tragically, however, Dupasquier fell directly in front of Tech3 rider Ayumu Sasaki, leaving the Japanese rider nowhere to go. Sasaki's KTM struck Dupasquier, leaving the Swiss rider gravely injured. It took the FIM medical staff half an hour to stabilize Dupasquier sufficiently for him to be flown by medical helicopter to Careggi University Hospital, where he lies in critical condition at the time of writing. Our thoughts are with Dupasquier, his family, friends, and team, and we fervently hope he makes a full recovery.

Dupasquier's crash unmasks the elephant in the room of motorcycle racing. No matter what you do to circuits, no matter how far you push back walls, how much run off you add, it remains a dangerous sport. If one rider falls in front of another, and is hit by the bike, serious injury, or much worse, is almost inevitable.

Unavoidable tragedy

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Mugello Friday Round Up: On The Relative Sensation Of Speed, New Parts Making The Difference, And Two Slow Riders

The only thing missing was the crowds. It was good to be back at Mugello, the most glorious jewel in the MotoGP calendar. Like all jewels, Mugello comes with sharp edges that need handling with care, and it took rookies and regulars alike some time to get used to the sheer speed at which they blasted down the straight.

Brad Binder had been impressed. "This morning was my first time ever at Mugello on the GP bike so it took me a while to find my feet and figure out where to go because it’s a bit different to how I remember it in Moto2; the straight is quite a bit quicker!" the South African said, with a fine sense for understatement. "Turn 1 is a lot more on the limit to find a good marker."

Contrary to expectations, Johann Zarco's top speed record of 362.4 km/h set at Qatar was not broken, the Frenchman's temporary Pramac teammate Michele Pirro managing a paltry 357.6 km/h in FP2. It may not have been faster than the top speed at Qatar, but it certainly feels a lot faster.

"At the first corner, when we arrive at 350 km/h in Qatar, I would say it's not normal, but it's fast," Fabio Quartararo explained. "If you compare to Mugello, when you arrive at the first corner, it looks like you are 450 km/h. Everything is going so fast, you see the wall on the left is so fast."

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Mugello Thursday Round Up: The Peril And Power Of Motorcycle Racing, Set In The Tuscan Hills

There is nowhere that encapsulates the essence of motorcycle racing like Mugello. The track snakes along the sides of the Tuscan valley in which it sits, echoing the country roads and mountain passes where racing first started, shortly after enough motorcycles had been made for riders to challenge each other to tests of skill and bravery.

That is precisely what Mugello is: a test of skill and bravery, of rider and machine, of guts and brains. Calculating risk is everything, both from the technical and human perspective. Manufacturers want to build a bike that will go as fast as possible, but it has to stay in one piece as the engine races past the limiter as the rear wheel lifts over the crest at the end of Mugello's 360 km/h straight. Riders need to hold the throttle pinned over the crest, yet balance the bike on the rear brake to ensure the front is in contact with the asphalt when they slam on the brakes at the most terrifying and invigorating section of track on the calendar.

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Steve English Superbike Snippets - Round 1, Aragon: Kawasaki's Lost Revs, Intermediates vs Slicks, Toprak's Work Ethic, And BMW Rising

The opening round of the 2021 Superbike World Championship is in the books and after three intriguing races there’s a lot to dissect ahead of this weekend’s round at Estoril.

New Kawasaki

The “new” Kawasaki ZX10-RR certainly looks different. With aerodynamic upgrades it has a very different profile, but this is very much a facelift rather than a new model. Engine upgrades were quite limited but with some new parts they had found a not insignificant 500rpm. During the winter Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes both commented that the bike was now much better as they wound on the power.

With a much fuller power curve the big advantage is found mid-range rather than in outright power. The Kawasaki doesn’t make its power at maximum revs. “We’ve been filling in the gaps of the power curve” was how Rea explained the improvements. That didn’t mean the team weren’t frustrated to lose the extra revs though.

Clearly annoyed at finding improvements and not being able to use them will always leave a team feeling exposed but in Aragon they found a way to make it work. The Kawasaki came away with podiums in all three races and leading the standings. It was a fantastic weekend for Team Green and gives them a lot to build on.

Rea’s performances will never surprise. Winning his 100th WorldSBK race on Saturday got a monkey off his back but as he was always going to win races this year, it was a question of when, not if.

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Le Mans Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On The Real Rookie Of The Year, Why Le Mans Is A Crashfest, And New Faces On The Podium

Neither race was a classic in France, but Moto2 and Moto3 still produced plenty to talk about last weekend. Here, we’ll dive into some of the more pressing matters in both classes.

Fernandez’s star rises

Anything Pedro can do, Raul can do better. All weekend long 20-year old Raul Fernandez demonstrated once again why his future is among the paddock’s big talking points. The rookie was untouchable in France, scoring a maiden Moto2 pole position before maintaining his cool in the opening laps when those around him lost theirs.

In a frenzied opening, when riders navigated a dry but patchy track on slick tyres, a number of podium contenders crashed out between laps one to four, Aron Canet, Augusto Fernandez, Joe Roberts, Sam Lowes and Xavi Vierge among them. A lap later and Fernandez coolly slotted by early leader Marco Bezzecchi to assume control. And from there, he held firm, even when team-mate Remy Gardner advanced to second and attempted to reel him in. There were no signs of the arm-pump issues that slowed him in the closing laps of the Spanish Grand Prix. As Bezzecchi said post-race with a shrug, “he was just faster.”

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2021 WorldSBK Season Preview - A New Era Beckons

There are few things better than the off-season for teams and riders in any championship. The winter is spent fine tuning. The big questions get answered and teams are filled with optimism. During testing teams run through their programmes without pressure. There are eight hours of running each day. There is always tomorrow.

But now, tomorrow has arrived. The new WorldSBK season kicks off in Aragon this week, and suddenly the pressure cooker environment of a race weekend is back. A qualifying tyre at the end of a test day papers over the cracks and shows a competitive time, but with everyone working to different programmes a clear picture never fully emerges.

That changes on the opening day of the season when suddenly the evidence is available on the timing screens. Are you fast enough? Can you make the tyre last? Is this the year that it all falls into place? Is this the year that it all falls apart? The winter war is over but now the ground battles are gearing up. The timing screens hold the truth and they don’t lie.

Potential

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Le Mans MotoGP Subscriber Notes: How To Win A Flag-To-Flag Race

It was inevitable really. The weather over the first two days of the Le Mans Grand Prix had been chaotic, so why would Sunday be any different? The skies were predictably unpredictable, the weather managing to provide different conditions for all three Grand Prix classes, in itself quite an achievement. We kicked the day off with a wet Moto3 race, the rain stopping early on to allow the Moto2 race to be dry. And to round things off, MotoGP started dry, then the drops of rain that started falling on lap 3 turned into a downpour on lap 4, triggering the first flag-to-flag race in MotoGP since Brno in 2017.

Chaos was unleashed, and a new Prince of Chaos crowned, the former prince brutally dethroned, betrayed by the conditions, and by the lack of strength in his right arm. Such is chaos, and such is the way of a flag-to-flag race. It was fascinating and terrifying to watch, and like all flag-to-flag races, immediately raised a host of questions over rules and safety. And reminded us once again that leads are meaningless early in the race. It's about the full 27 laps.

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Le Mans MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Let Unpredictability Reign

If you want to get an idea of what might happen during the race at any particular MotoGP round, the tried and tested method is to pay particular attention to what happens in FP4. Watch the session carefully, and then pore over the analysis timesheet carefully, checking to see who was using which tires, how many laps they had on them, and the average pace they were capable of doing.

Disregard the fast laps set at the end of each the three free practice sessions which select who goes through directly to Q2, and take the qualifying results as a guide to be viewed through the lens of a rider's projected ability to convert a strong grid position into solid race pace. It's no good qualifying on the front row if you get swallowed up before you hit the first corner – just ask Maverick Viñales. And qualifying down on the fourth row is not necessarily an impediment if you can overtake with ease – just ask Joan Mir.

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Le Mans MotoGP Friday Round Up: Why Le Mans Is Such A Crashfest, Rossi's New Speed, And Alberto's Return

It was an expensive first day at Le Mans. Bikes in the three Grand Prix classes hit the deck (and the gravel trap) 44 times on Friday, a colossal number, even for Le Mans. To put that into perspective: at the first race in Qatar, there were 37 crashes over all three days of the first Grand Prix, and 27 over three days of the Doha round at Qatar. In fact, six of the nineteen rounds held in 2019 had fewer crashes over all three days than Le Mans did on Friday, and another five rounds only had a handful more.

Some 19 of those 44 crashes happened at Turn 3, the first left hander of the Dunlop Chicane. Given how quickly the costs of a crash can mount up – even a slow crash can cost north of €20,000 to replace carbon fiber fairings, footpegs, and levers. And if fuel tanks, exhausts, wheels, brake discs or (heaven forfend) frames and swingarms have to be replaced, costs can rapidly approach six figures.

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Le Mans MotoGP Preview: Racing Without Fans, Racing In The Rain, And The Evils Of Technology

There are some tracks MotoGP goes to where you can pretty sure of what to expect. Jerez will be sunny and warm, though some years are warmer than others. Motegi will be cold, with a good chance of rain. The heat in Thailand and Sepang will be brutal, with a 4pm downpour in Sepang pretty much guaranteed.

There are other tracks where you are pretty much guaranteed a bit of everything. Sachsenring will invariably have one cold morning and one wet morning, and a sweltering afternoon. The wind at Assen means there is a good chance of rain showers in any given session, but also a good chance they have swept over the circuit and the track has dried out before the session is over. And crowning it all is Phillip Island, where it's not so much four seasons in one day, as four seasons in one 15-minute qualifying session. Given the full 45 minutes of FP2, there's a good chance of seeing a dozen or more seasons, including a couple you have probably never heard of.

Le Mans is a circuit in a similar mold. Packing for Le Mans invariably means taking a larger suitcase, as you will need something warm enough for the chill of a May morning, along with something light enough to handle the chance of a warmth Spring afternoon. And you will definitely need your waterproofs. And possibly a second set, for once the first set gets drenched through.

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