Analysis

Brno MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Majestic In Mixed Conditions, The Mystery Of The Soft Rear, And Fierce Rivalries

When a dry line formed during Q1, we knew that there would be riders who would gamble on slicks in Q2. We could even fill in the names: Jack Miller would obviously take a shot on slicks. Marc Márquez might have a go, but then again, why would he risk it? He leads the championship by 58 points, and a starting position on the first two rows would be more than sufficient. But Marc Márquez is Marc Márquez, so of course he is going to take a shot on slicks.

Who else? Anyone who fancied taking a gamble. Maverick Viñales rolled the dice on slicks after setting a time on wets. After a little contretemps with Márquez – more on that later – Alex Rins decided to try slicks. Seeing so many other riders out on slicks already, Danilo Petrucci and his team decided to take a chance on slick tires as well. Fabio Quartararo, Franco Morbidelli, Cal Crutchlow, all stuck slicks on for their last run. If you could get the slicks to work, they would give you a clear advantage.

Getting them to work is not easy, however. "We know the slicks can work in damp conditions," Michelin's Piero Taramasso said on Saturday evening. "If there is standing water, they won't work, but if it is damp, and the rubber is up to temperature, you can use the slicks. But it's not easy."

Tricks of the trade

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Brno MotoGP Friday Round Up: Mixed Messages, A Bumpy Track, A Surprise Soft, And The Silly Season Revolution

It is always hard to tell where things stand in MotoGP on a Friday. The track is green, riders are working through the tire allocation to assess the best choice, factories with new parts will send the riders out to test them, to get feedback in the least important part of the day. Teams are still working through their checklist of ideas, some of which won't work, but having crossed an idea off the list, that can send the rider in the right direction. Or not.

It is even harder at a track like Brno, where a lap takes the best part of two minutes to complete. For a race which is 21 laps long, six laps counts as a long run during practice. Trying to assess race pace from six laps during FP2 is a very tricky proposition indeed. And as FP2 is usually the session where new parts are tested – the idea is, first establish a baseline with your existing setup, then put the new parts on to try at the end of FP1 or sometime during FP2 – that makes identifying patterns even more difficult.

What we did learn is that the Brno track is incredibly bumpy, more bumpy than it has been in the past. There are bumps at some crucial points in the track: Turn 3, the left hander at the end of the short back straight. Turn 8, in the stadium section. The chicane of Turn 11 and 12 and up the hill. Turn 13, the first corner of the final chicane before the finish straight. Complaints were shared equally, but opinions were divided on whether the track was becoming unrideable.

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Brno MotoGP Preview: Great Tracks Make For A Level Playing Field

MotoGP returns to action from the summer break at Brno, probably for the last time. Not, as we thought, because the Brno MotoGP round faced being removed from the calendar – with constant arguments between the circuit, the city of Brno, the South Moravian Region, and the Czech ministry of sport over funding, there were regular delays in payment of the sanctioning fee – but because in 2020, the MotoGP season will almost certainly resume at the Kymiring in Finland at the end of July.

The good news is that it looks like MotoGP will be staying at Brno, at least for next year. That was the implication when Dorna announced the Northern Talent Cup at the Sachsenring, which included a race at the Brno MotoGP round in the calendar for the series.

The truth is that Brno belongs on the MotoGP calendar. In the pantheon of MotoGP racing circuits, Brno sits very close to the top, and like Assen and Silverstone, half a rung below Mugello and Phillip Island. It is a fast and wide track which tests every aspect of bike and rider, despite top speeds being relatively limited. Like Assen, top speeds don't get much above 310 km/h. But like Assen, the track flows, challenging riders to brake later, enter corners faster, and take their bikes closer to the limit to find an advantage.

Passing aplenty

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Adapt and survive at Suzuka – How to win as a team

Ego is a crucial part of the successful makeup of any world class racer. They need to have the belief that they are faster than everyone else on the grid. That they can do things that no one else can. That they’re the man for the job. What happens though when you’re forced to check that ego at the garage door? Having that ability can be the difference between winning and losing in Endurance race.

Adapt and survive. It’s rule of law in the natural world but it’s also the only way to be successful in endurance racing. Being a team and working together is the key success at the Suzuka 8 Hours. If you’re Yamaha Factory Racing Team rider Michael van der Mark, you know this better than most.

The Dutch star might be a four-time Suzuka winner, a WorldSBK race winner, and a World Supersport champion but he’s also cast in an unusual role in Japan; the outlier.

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Suzuka 8 Hours Preview: The biggest New Year’s Party in Japan

“The Suzuka 8 Hours is draining,” explains Alex Lowes. “The starting grid ceremony, the hour long stint on the bike, the conditions. Nothing about it is easy but almost everything about the weekend is special. It’s an amazing feeling to have one of the biggest manufacturers in the world supporting you. When you’re on the bike for the final hour and come across the line to win the race, it’s an amazing feeling.”

The 28 year old WorldSBK star sits third in the championship and heads to Japan as the three-time defending winner. With an enviable record at the 8 Hours - which included leading the opening hour of his 2015 debut aboard a Suzuki - the lap record holder is out to win again. He also knows that winning the race could have a huge impact on the next step of his career.

Without a contract confirmed for 2020, Japanese New Year comes at the perfect time. The 8 Hours is the turning point of the calendar for Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki. This is the race that they want to win more than any other. It’s easy to underestimate the great Japanese race and think that MotoGP titles have taken preference for the manufacturers, but make no mistake this is still the centrepiece of their season.

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MotoGP Silly Season Update: Binder To Tech3, Miller Awaiting A Contract, Wild Rumors Quashed, And 2021 To Start Early

Though empty seats are limited for the 2020 MotoGP season, in recent weeks there has been some movement to fill those vacancies. The moves have mostly been unsurprising, but then with so few seats available, the chances of something unexpected happening are very slim.

Just before the Sachsenring, we saw Danilo Petrucci keeping his seat alongside Andrea Dovizioso in the factory Ducati team for the 2020 season, a fully expected move since the Italian's victory at Mugello back in early June. That leaves Jack Miller in the Pramac Ducati team for another year, though that deal is not yet signed.

A deal is close, however. "We’re fighting over pennies now," Miller said on Sunday night in Germany. Miller will have a Ducati Desmosedici GP20 at his disposal, the same as his teammate Pecco Bagnaia, but there were still a few financial details to be ironed out. "It more or less should be done, I got some information today. So hopefully we can get it done before we get back at Brno and put all that stuff behind us and just focus on riding."

Binder to KTM

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Sachsenring MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why Marquez Wins, Ducati's Decline, Viñales' Resurrection, And Impressions Of MotoE

Some things changed at this year's edition of the German Grand Prix, held at the Sachsenring. The race was organized by the ADAC, the German equivalent of the Automobile Association, instead of the former promoter, a local organization based at the circuit. The difference was immediately evident: the event appeared to run more smoothly and more efficiently, and some of the old peculiarities ("we've always done it that way") replaced with things that actually work. It felt like a much better Grand Prix, without losing any of the charm which had marked it out before.

Then there was the inaugural round of MotoE, the new electric bike racing class which joins the MotoGP series. History was made on Sunday morning, when eighteen Energica Ego Corsa motorcycles lined up for the first ever all-electric motorcycle race. The race was shortened from 8 to 7 laps after being declared wet, and then red flagged after 5 laps when Lorenzo Savadori crashed out at Turn 8 after being clipped by Eric Granado.

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Sachsenring Saturday Round Up: On Injury Heroics, Confusing Race Pace, And Marquez' Master Manipulation

It has been a pretty brutal weekend for the MotoGP riders at the Sachsenring. With less than a week to recover after a punishing race in Assen, everyone is stiff, sore, and tired. But those who crashed in Assen or had a physical problem have it doubly tough, having to deal with the tight and tortuous layout of the Sachsenring circuit.

Such conditions inevitably create tales of motorcycling heroism. Taka Nakagami is one such, the LCR Honda rider still badly beaten up after his crash at Assen, where he was taken out by Valentino Rossi. Nakagami has a badly damaged left ankle, but is trying to ride anyway.

Having an injury on his left ankle is one of the worst possible injuries at the Sachsenring, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because is mostly left corners, meaning that the left ankle is bearing much of the load for a large part of the lap, riders leaning much of their weight on their inside leg through the corner. And secondly, because there is so much gear shifting to do, riders going up and down through the box through the tight and twisty circuit.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Friday Round Up: Blocked Laps, Honda's New Frame, And Marquez Applying Pressure To Quartararo

What was the big surprise on Friday at the Sachsenring? The fact that there were no real surprises. The first day of practice played out pretty much as you might expect based on the first few MotoGP rounds of 2019. Marc Márquez put in a push on FP2 to wrap up top spot at the end of the first day, a third of a second clear of Alex Rins on the Suzuki.

Besides Márquez, Rins was quick, as were the Yamahas of Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, and even Valentino Rossi. Cal Crutchlow got into the top 6, just behind Pol Espargaro – the KTMs and the Hondas were the only bikes which could gain a chunk of time from using the soft rear tire – while the Ducatis are not far behind.

Fabio Quartararo felt he could have been quicker, if he hadn't come across his teammate while he was chasing a fast lap. The Frenchman came up behind Franco Morbidelli, who was cruising around the tight interior section between Turns 2 and 3. For a few minutes, Quartararo was fuming, waving his arms in the air and gesticulating wildly.

Blocking party

After the session ended, the Petronas Yamaha SRT rider was a touch more contrite. "I was upset for five minutes," he said. "But you know it's really special, when you put a soft tire in, it's the best moment of the day. You make all the work, and that's the most fun part of the day. Fortunately we can't really make a good lap time with these tires, but that's OK. I was too angry, I should be more calm in these conditions."

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Sachsenring MotoGP Preview: Who Can Prevent A Marquez Perfect Ten?

There are two things which any motorcycle racing fan needs to know about the Sachsenring circuit in the east of Germany. The first is that the track has an awful lot of left-hand corners, which all flow together into one long turn, the bike spending a lot of time on its side. The second is that Marc Márquez has started from pole position and won the race since 2010, nine years in a row, in 125s, Moto2, and MotoGP. These two facts are probably not unconnected. Marc Márquez loves turning left, his win rate at anticlockwise circuits hovering around 70%. If a track goes left, there is a more than two in three chances that Márquez will come out victorious.

Márquez is especially good at the Sachsenring. The reigning champion starts every race as the man to beat, but the German Grand Prix is different. Here, riders speak of how close they hope to finish to him, rather than how they are going to beat him. His name is penciled in on the winner's trophy, the race almost, but not quite, a formality.

Even though the race is something of a foregone conclusion, the track itself is a fascinating circuit. On paper, it seems far too short and far too tight to be a MotoGP track, the bikes barely cracking sixth gear, and spending little time at full throttle. But that doesn't mean the track isn't a challenge.

Up and down, round and round

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