Analysis

Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Peak Of Perfection

In all likelihood, how you view Sunday's MotoGP race at Aragon will be a matter of perception. For many people, it will be a forgettable affair, the race over after the first couple of corners, Marc Márquez clearing off into the distance. For a few, it will be the greatest display of motorcycle racing they have ever seen. Both views are valid, because, in all likelihood, Marc Márquez will win Sunday's race by something approaching the largest margin in a dry MotoGP race ever.

That might seem like a bold prediction, but just look at Márquez' performance so far this weekend. In FP1, he came within a quarter of a second of the outright lap record. In FP2, he was posting times in race trim to match his rivals best laps on brand new soft tires. In FP4, he was a 'mere' four tenths faster than Maverick Viñales, but of the 17 full laps he posted in the session, 6 were faster than Viñales' best lap. And 10 were faster than Fabio Quartararo's fastest lap in the session, the Frenchman finishing third in the session.

Securing pole position was almost a formality, his 61st pole maintaining his 50% record. (And stop to think how insane that is, that Márquez starts from pole in half of the races he contests.) He was a third of a second faster than second-place man Fabio Quartararo, and didn't really look like he was trying. He had time to spare on ramping up the pressure on his rivals, choosing his position to make sure they knew he was there, and coming through.

Back to top

Aragon MotoGP Friday Round Up: Marquez The Merciless, Yamaha Progress, And Pit Beirer On Zarco

Everyone not called Marc Márquez will be worried at the Motorland Aragon circuit. They will be worried at the fact that the reigning champion, and last year's winner, went out and put in a fast lap in FP1 on soft tires. They will be worried because that lap was 1.6 seconds faster than anyone in FP1, and 1.1 seconds faster than anyone in FP2.

But above all, they will be worried that it was a demonstration of his confidence in his own pace. Márquez went for a quick lap during FP1 thinking of Saturday, and the likelihood that rain would prevent anyone from going faster during FP3. More importantly, it allowed him to spend all of FP2 on his race pace, in conditions likely to be similar to race time on Sunday afternoon.

It was a typical stroke of strategic genius, Márquez and his team giving himself a head start on preparing for the race. Not only has he had more time figuring out whether to use the hard or the soft rear tire for the race – as so often, the medium is neither fish nor flesh, the drop not much smaller than with the soft, the grip not much more than with the hard – he has also had time to work on race setup. Márquez is already two steps ahead of everyone else before they have even lined up on the grid.

Fast out of the blocks

Back to top

Aragon MotoGP Thursday Round Up: The Zarco Situation, Wild, Wild Retirement Rumors, And How Fabio Goes Fast

It was supposed to be a quiet year for rider rumors. Most riders have a contract for 2020, and much of the speculation had been about when negotiations for 2021 would start. The biggest controversy looked like being whether Takaaki Nakagami would get a 2020 Honda RC213V or a 2019 bike.

Then we came back from summer break, and it's all been insane since then. First there were the reports of Jorge Lorenzo talking to Ducati about a possible return for 2020, taking Jack Miller's seat at Pramac Ducati. Then on Sunday night at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, KTM's home race, we learned that Johann Zarco had told KTM that he wanted to leave at the end of 2019, after just one year of his two-year contract.

So far, so shocking. On Tuesday, KTM announced they were replacing Zarco with immediate effect, and giving his bike to Mika Kallio to ride. Zarco was left without a ride for the rest of the season, and facing an uncertain future. More about that in a moment.

Pulling the rug

Back to top

Aragon MotoGP Preview: Who Can Beat Marc Marquez At A Counterclockwise Track?

In the space of a week, we travel from a race track set in the heart of a bustling tourist spot to one sitting in the middle of nowhere. We go from having affordable accommodation withing 15 minutes of the track, to having to drive for 50 minutes or more to find somewhere which costs less for 5 nights than the budget of a mid-pack Moto2 team.

It's worth it though. The Motorland Aragon circuit is set in some spectacular scenery, sat on the side of a hill looking over the arid plains of Aragon's southern interior. To the south and east, the low mountains of the Maestrazgo, a wild and empty place of visceral beauty. There is no better place to combine a hiking or mountain biking holiday with a race weekend. And the roads are pretty good too.

The fact that the circuit is used a lot for testing tells you a lot about the layout of the track. It has a little bit of everything, from the long, fast back straight, to tight changes of direction like the 'Sacacorchos' or Corkscrew at Turns 8 and 9, to long and fast corners like Turns 10 and 11, and Turns 16 and 17. There are places where you brake hard: Turn 1, Turn 12, and Turn 16, the corner at the bottom hill having the added complication of being downhill before turning for a long off-camber corner which then heads back up the hill.

Passing lane

Back to top

Misano MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes - Marquez vs Quartararo, and A Lack Of Grip from The Stars

Subscriber notes

The outcome of the MotoGP race at Misano was decided some time ago. Several key decisions went into determining the result, most of them many weeks, or even many months ago. Those decisions set in motion a train of events that led inexorably to the domination of a single manufacturer at the Misano World Circuit on Sunday.

One of those decisions was to microblast the surface of the track to remove the build up of rubber from the track and improve the grip in the wet. The microblasting took place some three months ago, and on Saturday, Michelin boss Piero Taramasso explained what had been done. "They shot very small balls of metal with high speed into the asphalt. From one big stone, this treatment makes many smaller stones. So this treatment you reduce the macro roughness, and you increase the micro roughness."

"Normally this is the way to increase the grip. What happens is that as soon as you do the treatment, you increase the wet grip. In wet conditions the grip is better instantly. But for the dry, you have to wait more and more time for dry grip because this treatment cleans all the track. It makes it like a brand new track, no rubber, nothing on the floor. So that’s why the grip on dry is lower for the first five, six, or seven months. After that, after the track has been used a few times, sometimes it’s better."

No rubber

Back to top

Misano MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Old Rivalries Rekindled, Why Yamaha Is Fast, And The Value Of Dani Pedrosa To KTM

A race track is a large place. 4+ kilometers of asphalt, 15 meters wide. A MotoGP bike is a small thing, under 2 meters long from nose to tip, and 60 centimeters wide. The bikes should get lost in the vast expanse of asphalt on track. Yet somehow, these tiny vehicles always seem to run across each other on track.

The riders are to blame, of course. There are advantages to be gained from following other riders around. In Moto3, a slipstream is vital to gaining extra speed. In MotoGP, using a rider ahead as a target allows you to judge your braking points better and gives that extra bit of motivation which is worth a tenth or two. And a tenth or two can mean starting a row ahead of where you would otherwise.

When bikes meet on the track, it always sparks resentment. The rider in front is annoyed at being followed, and will slow down to try to force the other rider in front. The rider behind gets annoyed by the antics of the person they are trying to follow. In the best case, it is all soon forgotten. In the worst case, well, it involves Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi and a small war breaks out in the Italian and Spanish press, and a much bigger war breaks out among the fans.

Old rivalries

Back to top

Misano MotoGP Friday Round Up: Why Are The Yamahas So Fast On A Track With No Grip?

On a normal race weekend, you might see one or two minor updates in all of the garages collectively. Factories don't like to debut too many new parts at the same time, as there is not enough time to evaluate them effectively. And normally, you would test one part at a time and evaluate them separately, to try to understand what difference each specific part makes.

However, there was an official test here at Misano two weeks ago, and so teams had a chance to do the preliminary sifting ahead of the race. And that is why Valentino Rossi started FP1 with a new carbon-fiber swingarm on both of his Yamaha M1s, tested a new aerodynamic front wheel cover, and both he and Maverick Viñales had one bike each with the new double-barreled exhaust debuted at the test.

"It's positive, because it looks like that Yamaha is working stronger now and also working in the right direction," Rossi told us on Friday afternoon. "For me, from the end of 2016 to the Brno test, in reality everything we test is not clearly better than the old stuff. So technically speaking it was a very difficult period and in fact the gap to the other manufacturers increased. But now, from the beginning of the season something changed and have a lot of different people from Japanese especially but also Europe and it looks like now we start to see the effect."

Quiet revolution

Back to top

MotoGP Misano Thursday Round Up: Track Preconceptions, Disagreement In Aprilia, Coming Back From Injury, And Lorenzo Parries Criticism

Thursday was the first chance most of the media got to talk to the MotoGP riders after the test at Misano two weeks ago, and find out what they really thought about the test, rather than trying to decode the meaning of the press releases issued. That clarified a lot about the test, answering some of the questions we had been left with, and intriguingly, raising yet more questions which had slipped under the radar.

As always, however, when you ask different riders about a subject, they will have different opinions. Even if they are teammates, like Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli. Asked about the state of the track, Quartararo expressed concern about the lack of grip, especially in certain places.

"For me, [track grip] was terrible, but some corners were good, some corners were less, and one corner was totally a disaster, corner 14," the Petronas Yamaha rider said. "I think many riders crashed in this corner. I heard that when Marc crashed, he thought it was the white line which they just painted, but as soon as you want to put lean angle in this corner, you crash. And I have a lot of big moments in this corner. Let's see if it improves this weekend, because in the test it was a really critical place to ride."

Better the devil you know

Back to top

Misano MotoGP Preview: Surprises Expected At Circuit By The Sea

There is a lot to like about the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, aka The MotoGP Race With The Name Which Is Too Long To Fit In A Headline. The track is just a stone's throw from the Italian coast, so visitors can spend their days at the track and their evenings at the beach, soaking up the atmosphere. The weather is (usually) spectacular, the food is outstanding, and the area has a long association with motor sports, and motorcycle racing in particular. A quarter of the paddock could probably sleep in their own beds and commute to the track at the weekend.

But the upsides also have a downside. The location of the circuit may be perfect for the fans, but it is a nightmare for crew chiefs and riders. The sea mist which settles on the track most nights brings salt along with it, robbing it of grip. The spectacular weather in September usually also means the sun burning down, raising track temperatures to the high 40s Centigrade, and into the region where the grip falls off a cliff. The track can be greasy and unpredictable, and despite being resurfaced to address these issues, physics and chemistry will always prevail.

Back to top

Misano MotoGP Test Friday Notes: Much Work For Yamaha, Honda, KTM, and Michelin

The Misano MotoGP test may well turn out to be more important than it might seem at first glance. Perhaps precisely because it was a private test, and the teams could work in some privacy away from the prying eyes of most media. The pit lane was closed, and there were virtually no media present, with the honorable exception of Italian stalwarts GPOne.com.

It meant that factories could test early versions of their 2020 bikes with relatively little interference from outside, other than the usual crowd of engineers from rival factories gathered round as they warm up their bikes. And that is precisely what Yamaha, Honda, and KTM in particular spent their time doing, while Ducati and Suzuki debuted a few parts which may or may not see use next season.

New rubber

It wasn't only the motorcycle manufactures. Michelin also brought two updates, a rear tire with a different casing to help improve performance, which was also tested at Barcelona and Brno, and a new front tire with a stronger casing, to help give support in braking. Both tires received positive feedback, the riders praising the front in particular.

Back to top

Pages