Analysis

Barcelona MotoGP Thurday Round Up: A Changed Circuit, A Curious Crash, And A Strange Swap

Another week, another race track. We are a third of the way into the 2021 MotoGP season (probably, possibly, pandemic permitting), and things are starting to move fast. A third of the way now, and in three weeks' time, we will be at the halfway mark.

It is hard to overstate how important this part of the season is. Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, Barcelona, and Assen are the guts of the season, the foundations on which championships are built. By the time we pack up for the summer break – a long one this time, five weeks between Assen and Austria, with Sachsenring taking place before Assen instead of after, its usual slot – we should have a very good idea of who is in the driving seat for this year.

What makes the triumvirate of Mugello, Barcelona, and Assen key? They are fast, punishing tracks that test man and machine. They are riders' tracks, where a fast rider can make the difference, but they also need a bike to be set up well in pursuit of a good result. There are no shortcuts at those three circuits, no relying on one aspect of the machine to get you out of trouble.

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Mugello Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Jason Dupasquier, Remy Gardner, Dennis Foggia

The weekend’s excellent racing in the smaller classes at Mugello paled in significance to the passing of a rising star.

Jason Dupasquier 2001-2021

The racing world was rocked by news of the tragic passing of Jason Dupasquier at the Italian Grand Prix. The 19-year old paid a terrible price for the most minor of mistakes when chasing a fast time in the closing minutes of Moto3 qualifying. A sickening collision that involved Ayumu Sasaki and Jeremy Alcoba left him with serious head injuries, to which he eventually succumbed.

Confirmation of Dupasquier’s death came through a few minutes after noon on Sunday, just as the Moto2 grid was forming. The incident cast a huge shadow over race day, with several riders – Pecco Bagnaia and Danilo Petrucci included – stating they wished racing had been cancelled. A minute of silence was held just ten minutes before the MotoGP race start and each of the podium finishers dedicated their results to the fallen rider.

Any death is obviously tragic. But the fact Dupasquier was three months shy of his 20th birthday made it even more so. Hailing from Bulle in Switzerland, in some ways you could say Jason was destined to have an interest in two wheels. Father Philippe was former podium finisher in the 125cc Motocross World Championship as a privateer, and worked for KTM Switzerland for 20 years.

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Mugello Subscriber Notes: To Race Or Not To Race, And Quartararo, Rins, And Marquez

It is hard to sit down after a MotoGP weekend to write about the racing after a young rider has lost their lives. I have had to do it four times now, and it doesn't get any easier. It merely raises the uncomfortable questions we all know surround motorcycle racing: how do you enjoy a sport which is fundamentally dangerous? A sport in which a mistake risks not just injury, but death?

I have no ready answer to this question. It remains as uncomfortable now as it did the first time I had to address it, after Shoya Tomizawa's tragic accident at Misano in 2010. I feel just as ambiguous about it now as I did eleven years ago. It remains as clear as mud.

If anything, the manner of Jason Dupasquier's passing made the situation even more complicated. The Swiss rider fell right at the end of the Q2 session for Moto3, and was struck by following riders. The minimum combined weight for rider and bike for Moto3 is 152kg. The physics of speed differential and minimum weight meant Dupasquier sustained massive injuries in the incident.

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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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