Analysis

Barcelona Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Moto3 Fear And Delight, Gardner vs Fernandez, And A Moto2 Revival

Time for a Moto3 rethink?

It was hard to know what to make of Sunday’s Moto3 offering at Montmeló. On the one hand, there was drama and excitement from start to end, a contest across 41 minutes that had you on the very edge of your seat the entire time. But on the other, this strayed too far toward downright dangerous with so many near misses it was almost impossible to count.

Of all the weekends for a race like this to take place, the one that followed the tragic events of Mugello wasn’t it. As if a 15-rider fight for the win wasn’t wild enough, leader Jeremy Alcoba sat up through turn 13 on the penultimate lap (as did Pedro Acosta, then in second), refusing to lead onto the straight. Then it all kicked off, 13 bikes bunching up, crossing the line 0.7s apart. The braking antics into turn one were genuinely scary.

It didn’t end there. First Ayumu Sasaki high-sided out of turn seven, taking the Leopard Hondas of Dennis Foggia and Xavi Artigas down. Miraculously the Japanese rider escaped with minor injuries and will make a full recovery. Then Izan Guevara crashed at turn ten, narrowly avoiding a host of other names. And Sergio Garcia just held off Alcoba to the line to win his second race in three by 0.015s.

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Steve English Superbike Snippets - Round 2, Estoril: Rea's Risk Averseness, A Deep Field, And Gerloff's Pitlane Penalty

Back to back rounds kicked off the WorldSBK season and after six races, Jonathan Rea has opened a commanding 35-point lead. Estoril showed that the field is competitive but that Rea and Kawasaki still have the edge thanks to their experience and consistency. Over the course of a full season he’s very hard to beat, but over a race weekend it can be a very different story. Here’s some of the biggest stories from the paddock in Portugal.

Jonathan Rea is the margin for error

I said it on commentary this weekend, Rea is your margin for error. Whatever the circumstances in WorldSBK the Northern Irishman can make the most of the situation. He doesn’t make many mistakes and he’s always ready to capitalise on those of his rivals. On Sunday it was Scott Redding’s mistake when he tried to retake the lead that Rea took advantage of.

The Kawasaki rider has claimed over 100 victories by, amazingly, being more risk averse than his rivals. It’s very rare that Team 65 go to the grid with question marks. Rea and his crew chief, Pere Riba, generally use tried and tested settings rather than looking for a magic bullet on their tough weekends.

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Barcelona MotoGP Race Subscriber Notes: A Forensic Analysis Of Quartararo's Open Leathers, The Collapse Of the MSMA, And Will Honda Rise Again

It would be nice to sit down at the end of a MotoGP weekend and just write about the race. But it seems increasingly, the first thing a journalist has to do after a MotoGP race is go back and read the FIM Grand Prix World Championship Regulations, also known as the yellow book, back when books were a thing, and rules didn't change every couple of weeks rendering paper books unusable. We have had a stream of rule infractions, both large and small, infringements of rules which few new existed, and the application of penalties which have inevitably needed clarification.

The need to go back and reread the rulebook has sometimes been due to inexperience in particular situations – for example, Fabio Quartararo parking his bike in the wrong spot during the flag-to-flag race at Le Mans – or cunning use of the rules – see Marc Márquez crossing the white lines on pit lane entry at the same race. Sometimes, it has because we needed clarification of very specific situations, such as Miguel Oliveira and Joan Mir exceeding track limits on the last lap in Mugello.

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Barcelona MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Art Of Towing, Honda's Deep Difficulty, And A War Of Attrition

Saturday at Montmelo made several things crystal clear in MotoGP. We saw one rider emerge as the clear favorite for the win on Sunday. We saw just how critical tire choice and tire management is going to be at Barcelona. And we saw just how much pressure riders are under, whether it be seeking a tow to get through to Q2, celebrating a quick time in FP3 like a victory, or crashing out twice in an attempt to save a seat for next year.

Above all, we saw just how fast Fabio Quartararo is in Barcelona. The fact that the Frenchman was the only rider to get into the 1'39s in FP4 was not that much of a surprise; the Monster Energy Yamaha rider has been quick all weekend after all. What was a little more surprising is that nobody else managed it, Maverick Viñales getting closest, but still over four tenths behind his teammate.

What should be more worrying is the fact the vast majority of Quartararo's laps in FP4 were 1'39s: 8 of his 12 flying laps were 1'39s. His 9th fastest lap was quick enough to have secured fourth place, his 1'40.278 faster than Johann Zarco's best lap of 1'40.286. Quartararo's 10th fastest lap was a 1'40.290, just 0.004 slower than Zarco's best time.

In a different league

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Barcelona MotoGP Friday Round Up: Top Turn Ten, Missing Grip Causes Tire Confusion, And Meeting The New Boss

Once upon a time, Barcelona was regarded as one of the great motorcycling tracks, all sweeping corners demanding the utmost concentration and skill. So much of a motorcycling track was it that a couple of sections had to be put into it to make it a better track for cars, and especially for F1. The grand sweep of La Caixa had a hairpin inserted, to give the cars somewhere to brake. And Turn 13 had a tight little chicane added on the inside, to slow the cars down before they got onto the straight. Four fat tires meant they were at risk of going through the final corner so fast that would be within spitting distance of the sound barrier by the end of the straight.

Then Luis Salom died when he crashed on the outside of Turn 13, hit by his bike as he slid into a wall along a section of hard standing which nobody thought needed gravel, something which turned out to be a misconception. Questions about safety were raised, and the F1 layout was adopted. A great motorcycle track ruined.

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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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