Analysis

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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Valentino Rossi After Jerez - Is The End Really Nigh?

There comes a time in every racer's career that they have to ask themselves if it is time to stop. It is a question they invariably spend a long time giving the wrong answer to; the life of an elite athlete means they always travel more in hope than in expectation. But sometimes that hope is justified: they find the speed they were missing. The setback was not their fault, but down to circumstances. But proving the reverse, that circumstances won't ride in on a white horse to save them, takes a very long time to accept.

Last July, Valentino Rossi found himself on the podium at Jerez, after a strong race and a solid weekend. The Italian was never outside the top three after the first lap of the race, and was only outside the top eight in practice twice, in FP4 and the warmup on Sunday morning.

Catching Covid-19, which forced him to miss the two races in Aragon, as well as Friday at the first race in Valencia, stopped his 2020 season in its tracks. The then factory Yamaha rider only finished inside the top ten once in any session of practice or the race throughout the remainder of 2020, an eighth place in FP3, his first session since returning.

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Jerez Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On The Real Deal, Dynamic Diggia, And A Close Brush With Fate

After a dramatic weekend, we look at some of the big stories coming out of the Spanish Grand Prix in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.

Acosta: Another box ticked

Forget last lap scraps, or pitlane penalties. The true test of Pedro Acosta’s mettle was to gauge the 16-year old’s reaction to the pre-event press conference at Jerez. There, Acosta sat among the MotoGP field. He looked on boyishly as Marc Marquez, Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo opined on his talent, his potential, and his future plans.

One of the more outlandish questions was whether Acosta would benefit from skipping Moto2 altogether, and jumping straight to MotoGP in the near future. Fabio Quartararo was the voice of reason on this occasion, offering a timely reminder “Come on guys, he’s only 16.”

That aside, this was a love-in. Never more so than when the considered Franco Morbidelli gave his opinion. “Keeping the feet on the ground is important. But Pedro has something different. We’ve never seen something like this. I’ve watched races since I was a kid. He’s 16 but he doesn’t look 16. He looks like a really focussed guy. He’s not here to play too much.”

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Peter Bom's Tech Corner: Why The Gap Between Fairing and Wheel On The KTM?

One of the first things you notice when you look at the KTM RC16 MotoGP machine is that there is so much space around the front wheel. Where the other MotoGP bikes look like the front wheel is tucked as tightly as possible under the front fairing, the KTM's front wheel seems to be pushed forward and almost hanging loose, as if they've forgotten to add part of the fairing.

You can see it most clearly when you put the bike side by side. The gap between the front wheel and fairing on Brad Binder's KTM RC16 seems huge by comparison with Alex Márquez' Honda RC213V. The line of the Honda fairing follows the circumference of the wheel. The KTM fairing is more of a 'boomerang' shape, two straight lines connected by a section of an arc.

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Jerez MotoGP Test Subscriber Notes: A Rundown Of Who Was Testing What, And Why

For some, the Monday after the Jerez race was a busy day, as they worked their way through a full program of parts and settings to prepare for Le Mans and beyond (and in Suzuki's case, for 2022). For others, they had a relatively easy day, especially the two factory Ducati riders – to the victors go the spoils. And for the unlucky ones of the weekend, they either barely turned a wheel, or not at all, as they headed off for medical checkups.

Fabio Quartararo took no part in the test at all. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider headed back to France to get medical advice on the best options for treatment on the arm pump issue which cost him the race on Sunday. With his home race up next, his priorities were clear.

Aleix Espargaro, who had also suffered with arm pump on Sunday, did ride a little, but he only put in 12 laps before heading back to Barcelona and seeking medical advice. Marc Márquez did a quick run out on Honda's new aero package – one of them, at least – before calling it a day after just 7 laps. The Repsol Honda rider had neck pain from his huge crash on Saturday, as well as stiffness in his shoulder, and elected to focus on his recovery instead.

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Jerez MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Breaking The Mold, Consistency Counts, And The Ins And Outs Of Arm Pump

"That's why we line up on Sunday. You never know what's going to happen," the late Nicky Hayden once said, in response to a particularly stupid question on my part. Jerez proved him right once again, events conspiring to confound what seemed to be an obvious conclusion from the very beginning.

What happened? At 2pm on Sunday, the MotoGP grid lined up with Fabio Quartararo on pole, starting as favorite after laying down an intimidating pace in practice. Alongside him were Franco Morbidelli on a two-year old Yamaha, and the Ducati of Jack Miller, while the second Ducati of Pecco Bagnaia started behind him.

It was obvious to the experienced Jerez hands that Fabio Quartararo would walk away with the race, the Frenchman having way too much pace for anyone else to stay with him over 25 laps. The Ducatis may have lined up third and fourth on the grid, but they would surely face; Jerez is not a Ducati track after all. The last Ducati victory at the circuit was way, way back in 2006, when Loris Capirossi kicked off the season with a win aboard the Desmosedici GP6.

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