Austin MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Near Tragedy In Moto3, Marquez Still Fast Going Left, And Quartararo Tightens His Grip On The 2021 Crown

Sunday was a busy day for motorcycle racing fans. WorldSBK from Portimão, MXGP in Teutschenthal, Germany, BSB from Donington Park, and probably some more that went unnoticed in the hectic schedule. There was a lot of racing to take in, even for the most ardent and completist fan.

The action in Europe was thrilling, WorldSBK turning into the most exciting and tensest racing on the planet right at this moment, and then the racing world turned its attention to the United States of America, where the Grand Prix paddock had set up shop at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

The racing in Austin was a good deal less scintillating. With the exception of the terror and drama of Moto3 – more on that later – both the Moto2 and MotoGP races were, frankly, dull, decided in the first few corners. Not that there wasn't anything of interest that happened: in Moto3 and Moto2, the championship gaps closed, in Moto2 significantly after Remy Gardner crashed out, his first mistake of the season, while in MotoGP, Marc Marquez returned to winning ways while Fabio Quartararo put one hand on the title.

But the process by which we reached this point was not exciting, in any shape or form. The field was quickly strung out – even in Moto3, at least by its own standards – and the battles for position were few and far between. After the shocking crash in Moto3, the dullness of the Moto2 and MotoGP races was rather welcome.

It wasn't the first time we've seen processional races at the Circuit of The Americas. In fact, processional races tend to be the norm at the circuit. Sunday's top ten in MotoGP was separated by 20.265 seconds, the second closest at the circuit since MotoGP started racing there. The closest top ten was in 2017, when 18.494 covered winner to tenth. The first four races held in Austin saw the top ten separated by over 40 seconds, and 31 seconds separated first from tenth the last time we came here in 2019. That was the only time the margin between the winner and second was under a second, Alex Rins beating Valentino Rossi by 0.462 seconds.

For comparison, only Portimão and Mugello saw bigger gaps between the top ten in the dry in 2021, as well as the wet races in Austria 2 and Le Mans, which tend to be more spread out. For some reason or other, though, Austin always seems to string races out, see them effectively decided in the first couple of corners.

Why is that? "Well, I have no idea," Pol Espargaro responded when asked. Fortunately, he went on to give a long list or reasons: "The track is tricky, long, it's bumpy, so it's very easy to make a mistake. It's physically demanding, and this makes more mistakes. I don't know, maybe it's that. Consistency is very difficult here, and maybe for that, there is more gap in between the riders. But honestly speaking, I don't know."

No room for error

Espargaro is onto something. The first section, the long esses from Turn 2 to Turn 10 is complex, and if you run wide there you are automatically off line for a long time before there is enough space between corners to correct a mistake. And if you mess up bad enough, you are across the hard run off and either have to slow down, or like Jorge Martin, have to do a Long Lap Penalty.

Making things worse is the bumpiness of the track. On a long, complicated track, the bumps are so numerous and varied that you can only really memorize the bumps around the main line of the track. Run off line and you encounter bumps you weren't expecting, turning a small mistake into a major loss of time.

Espargaro had bitter experience of how a single mistake can turn into a nightmare. "In my case for example, on lap 7 I had a huge closing in the second corner, and then I needed to go straight and I need to shortcut on the consecutive corners, and in that place I lost 1.5 or 2 seconds in one lap," the Repsol Honda rider told us. "So this makes a huge gap between me and the guy in front, and then I couldn't recover."

All downhill from there

Things went from bad to worse after that. "I was overtaken by Bastianini, I did another mistake, then I lost another second and a half, so in two laps I lose three and a half seconds. So after, it's difficult after a huge closing like that to come back to a good pace, it's difficult."

That puts pressure on a rider to try to make up ground, tempting them into even more mistakes, Espargaro pointed out. "And then you make more mistakes, you get nervous, you want more than what you can do, and also I cooked the front tire and I burned it and that was it." Espargaro finished over 20 seconds behind his teammate, and race winner, Marc Marquez.

The racing may not have been memorable – with the exception of the Moto3 race, for all the wrong reasons – but it was still a significant weekend. In these subscriber notes:

  • Moto3 mayhem, literally, the hows and the whys
  • Will a two-race ban for Deniz Öncü clean up Moto3?
  • How modern training methods are making for more aggressive races
  • Marc Marquez' secret for turning left
  • Fabio Quartararo's championship calculations
  • Pecco Bagnaia's impossible task
  • Quick thoughts on Martin, Bastianini, Rins, Miller vs Mir, Jenny Anderson on the podium, Dovizioso's progress, and Rossi being right to retire

First, that Moto3 race. Or rather, those Moto3 races. The first attempt at running the race was stopped on lap 7, when Filip Salac highsided on the exit of Turn 11, and needed to be moved with care from the side of the track. He was later taken to the Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin for scans on chest and abdomen.

Once the track was cleared, a second attempt at running the Moto3 race was made. That second attempt did not last long. Halfway through the 5-lap dash, as the pack headed down the back straight, Deniz Öncü moved across in front of Jeremy Alcoba, clipping the Gresini Moto3 riders front wheel. Alcoba went down, leaving Andrea Migno and Pedro Acosta nowhere to go. Migno was launched over Alcoba's Honda, knocking the bike into the path of Acosta, who was a little way behind Migno. Like Migno, Acosta was launched over the prone Honda, skidding along the side of the track and clipping the armco.

It was a horrendous crash, sending a shiver of fear through everyone watching. With motorcycle racing currently haunted by a spate of deaths in support classes, we feared the worst. When the three riders involved stood up and wandered over to talk to each other about just how lucky they had been, a sigh of relief powerful enough to blow a hurricane back out to see emanated from the paddock. There was a feeling that we dodged a bullet.

The long wait

Then the waiting started. Would there be a third attempt to restart the race? The very thought of it was appalling. The crash had left race fans sick to their stomachs, and in terror of what might happen, let alone the riders involved. Each rider reacted in their own way, as was visible from their faces on the TV screen. Pedro Acosta, at 17 still feeling the invincibility of youth, sat comfortably and looked ready to go again. The older, more experienced Andrea Migno looked drawn, and was shown on camera shaking his head, and signaling "basta" with his hands.

To read the remaining 5360 words of this article, you need to sign up to become a MotoMatters.com site supporter by taking out a subscription. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here. If you are already a subscriber, log in to read the full text.


This is part of a regular series of unique insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series includes interviews, background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion, and is available to everyone supporting the site by taking out a subscription.

If you would like to read more of our exclusive content you can join the growing band of site supporters, by taking out a subscription here. If you prefer, you can also support us on our Patreon page and get access to the same exclusive material there.

Source: 
year: 
2021
round_number: 
15

Back to top

Comments

I rode COTA on Monday after the race, as did Mr. Bloom.  Quite a nice fellow. His Alpinestars leathers, designed by Death Spray Custom were a treat.  The track itself - disappointing.  Bumps aside, the track feels like a digital creation.  It's evident a panel of executives said, "We need a 200mph straight, a hairpin corner, a double apex", etc.  it is a collection of great individual pieces that lack any cohesion or flow.   

I always thought the first part of the track looked decent, while the final bits, a series of flippin' hairpins, looked pretty mickey mouse.

Is okay.  powering down into turn two is lovely.  The esses that follow are fun, but again, feel a bit contrived.  I rode that entire section with my ass off the seat, as the "bumps", really more like troughs a bike lengh long had the bike diving and heaving under you so less input the better.   But that section lasted about 10 seconds.   I did like turn 20, which brings you onto the straight. it's a late apex, and the proper line brings you onto the curbs at exit.  The curbs at cota provide great traction and so you can really use them, where I'm normally suspicious of them at other tracks.  

I always thought it would be a much better track if T13 and T14 were eliminated and T12 flowed directly into the existing T16/17/18. Unfortunately, though, it's not really do-able given the layout of the existing walls and runoff. The T12 braking area would be pointed directly at wall. Not ideal.

That infield section there has no flow to it.  There are too many slow corners -1, 11, 12, 15.  They break up any opportunity to carry some speed from one sector to the next.  

 

... I like Corner 1, it's sort of like Moss Corner (T-5) at Mosport (although left instead of right). I used to be able to make up a lot of time there on the brakes, maybe that's why I like it ... devil

I agree, eliminating that first slow loop after the back straight seems like a good idea, to get a better flow and create some more space to set up overtaking moves. Skipping turn 5 by going straight from 4 to 6 also seems like a good possiblility to me.

COTA has too many corners, that's why the racing is often processional. It's a problem with many modern circuits; it's as if the designers think "the action only takes place in corners, so let's put in as many as possible", while in reality you need straights to make those corners interesting, and create overtaking opportunities. The new Kymiring in Finland has 18 corners in 4,6 kilometres, with the second half of the track apparently all ridden in second gear or thereabouts. From comments of the riders who tested it I understand that they already suggested to skip some corners by putting some straights in instead.

It seems that usually it's the tracks with the least amount of corners that give the greatest racing. The old Silverstone circuit in the 70's and 80's was just sort of an rectangle with a kink in it, because it was basically a series of connected old runways, and the racing was often thrilling. The Salzburgring in Austria is more or less a boot-shaped track, dictated by the geography, and it gave legendary racing when the GP's and Superbikes still rode there. There are similarities with Spielberg in that same country nowadays: a simple looking track with few corners, located in a mountain area, fast and with great racing. Phillip Island doesn't have that many corners either, and it's one of the best races of the year every time.

Since COTA has to reconstruct the surface including foundations in that first half before the turn 11 hairpin anyway, they could consider eliminating one, two or even three corners there. I'm sure that would improve the racing.

Well put. Phillip Island is a beautiful and perfect example. Think of Thruxton, Snetterton (before they added) and Oulton Park etc. Strange thing is some of these tracks seem to feel the need to ramp up their corner count. Oulton Park gives itself 17 corners but that includes counting the lefts and rights in the Foulston's and Knickerbrook chicanes so minus 4 there. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe they need to honour someone and look to name a slight deviation from true. I don't recognize half the corner names anymore, i never considered half of them corners.

So many turns... They claim there's 20 but looking at the course map shows more like 24. There's an un-named left before turn 3. Between turn 14 and 15, there are two more lefts. Turn 17 is a turn, a straight, and another turn. I'd agree with you on connecting turn 12 to turn 15, but I'd also like it if turn 7 connected to turn 10 as a straight.

I'll also add that COTA is a busy track - it just doesn't really flow. Algarve flows.

 

I believe the answer you're seeking as to why such a spectacular facility and locale produces such boring and predictable racing is Hermann Tilke.

Informed write up David, however as usual nowadays (which I find so sad) it was Valentino who was about equal dead off the line and last out of the first corner - Dovi as you say made a poor start, however interesting that they both raced at almost exactly the same lap time with Valentino posting his fastest lap on the last lap!

That certainly pushes back against the "just not able to physically keep up" narrative, especially at such a physical track. I'm just glad that his seat will finally be up for grabs. It's many years too late, but better late than never. 

Agreed, I'm looking forward to Valentino pursuing his next challenge. Something I've been wondering David, given how steep the drop has been for Valentino this year, I wonder about his motivation. A new life with a little one on the way and the relentless dulling of the blade over 20+ years of GP racing. To win, you need to risk, and I can't help but feel that Valentino must feel like "F it".  A mix of not having it and not wanting it. Perhaps he went (even for himself) one year too long.

Dead last in the full time riders department. At least he's still racking up personal accolades for his legacy. 

Apologies for error, meant to say dead last off the line and dead last out of the first corner. Still last for a few laps and then matched Dovi,s pace till the end... For a man who used to be brilliant on the first lap this just doesn't make sense, indeed had he raced at his 2019 pace he would have equaled Fabios race time, furthermore his pace not 12 months ago would have placed him much much further up order, so what has happened. My opinion is that you don't loose so much speed in one season,  so why is he so slow and I really don't subscribe to the notion that it is his age, bearing in mind that he's just as fit as last year. Sure I feel he doesn't want to take so much risk in his final season but to be tail end Charlie so often is something I can't understand ... Anybody got an opinion apart from he's too old!!!!

I think with the field being so ultra competitive you need to be constantly sharpening a very sharp razor. Previously he still wanted to be at the front, he still believed he could run at the front and maybe he still thinks it could be possible with xyz. However, he has also accepted that it wont be happening and as a result has decided to retire. I think the difference is motivation. I'm sure he is still motivated to get up and work. I'm sure he still loves it but just not quite as much as before. Impossible to quantify...5%?....0.1%? Of what ? However, in this sport right now, if you are not 100.00% 'in' then you're at the back.

What you are saying I agree with completely,  I was also thinking about motivation. Perhaps it's no more than that.

Women and babies. I know correlation in not causation, but who has had uneven or poor performance this year? Rossi, Rins, Vinales and Olivera.

While I hope that MM93 gets his old strength and feeling back in his right arm/shoulder it's impressive that step by step he's finding ways to ride around his physical limitations and a bike which is clearly not the best on the grid. HRC tend to say as little as possible on bike development but Marc and Alberto Puig have both dropped hints that they are happy with the first iteration of the 2022 bike, 🤞 they have a more user friendly bike for next season, I can't remember the last time two Hondas were on the podium🤔

The Austin round highlights the conundrum of racing motorcycles - how to make the show exciting but not deadly. Were the technical regulations to be changed in the Moto3 class, specifically the fifth and sixth gearing ratios to limit the advantage of the draft, then the racing might occassionally resemble what was witnessed in the Moto2 and Motogp races last Sunday. Kinda boring for the casual spectator.

Question: Was Öncü's mindset and intention any different than Rossi's when his rear wheel sidwswiped Marquez's front at Argentina in 2015? Or Simoncelli's during his antics of the past? Can anyone really know?

Titillation by the death defying performances leads one down the path to handwringing when tragedy inevitably strikes. How to regularly gorge on cake without gaining any weight?

I have no answers. And the show is fabulous right now.

Honda has 2 wins so far this season. Without Marc it would have zero. Ducati -> 3 winning riders, Yamaha -> 2 (Franco having a shocker), KTM -> 2. Honda don't even have any podiums without Marc. I love Pol, Alex and Taka but the gap is as huge as it ever was. Marc's dropped it too many times in races this year but I think that's just part of the recovery. Looking at him compared to his team mates, same old Marc is coming...Maybe an altered version. With that guy it might mean doing things even better. Love or hate him he is one incredibly impressive individual.

I generally follow my fellow countrymen and lean towards the Bolonga folks. But Marc is the biggest draw and his soap opera is the positive story to follow this year (Vinales stands alone and there is no silly season).

Im not a Marc fan as such but I've definitely enjoyed the ride from day dot. MM vs All-time records is a great watch too. When I'm checking his times before my eyes shift to find Jack.. he has sucked me in to his recovery drama for sure.

I hope he doesn't need the fourth op but no union in the bone is bad news. They won't really know about the lingering infection until its open and all year there have been hints that he's still on anti-biotics to fight it. That crap ruins your gut biome. He's far from 100% which makes his progression pretty wild imho.

Plates are bad. Before the ill fated return, i looked at the xrays and said, 5 screws above and below, their intention was to race before the first operation. Don't know if op 2 left plates, but they def should have left them out for 3. My own experience, my leg felt better the next day after having my plate removed. IF he has an operation this winter, lets hope it to remove any h/w. They are harbors of infection.

As far as my history in MotoGP COTA seems to turn out the most boring races of all the curuits. Why on earth would MotoGP continue to have its US GP in Austin and not in the internationally signicigant location of Monterey's Laguna Seca Raceway. Racing at Laguna Seca has created some of the most daramtic races in motorsports hitory. It's a far more interesting racetrack than COTA IMHO.

... but not necessarily the first. I've ridden there (hardly on a Moto GP bike, admittedly, and long ago) and don't think it's a particularly dangerous track. Tight, gnarly, and tough, and scary in a couple of places, for sure.

Facilities insufficient and no room to grow them (we couldn't have Moto2 and Moto3 because of that). Access in and out to the circuit is a long bottleneck. You have to drive in from San Jose, CA a ways off. The circuit is tight, but safe. 

Missing it too! Hope they leave COTA. Even Indy could be preferable, and that says alot.

There was one, admittedly, incredible race in 9 years of visits, every other year was a strung out procession and desperately boring to watch. The layout is much too tight and the track too narrow for modern racing

No moto3 or moto2.

The barriers are much too close for GP speeds.

The surface is not up to the required standard and a botched job before one visit made the surface actively dangerous. 
 

I can't understand the psuedo religious atavism surrounding Laguna, it has a novelty corner and people had fun weekends there as spectators? It's a treacherous parochial backwater circuit that racing motorcycles outgrew decades ago, by that metric we should send them to Cadwell...

you attended this treacherous parochial backwater circuit nine times? Or did you mean you never visited, just the racers? You should probably stand up and name the circuits you have visited and admire after that lambasting!

More seriously, yes, LS is parochial in that the county owns and runs it, has dumped SCRAMP, and hired a politically connected hotel franchisee--whose sons were injured at the track--to manage...er, mismanage...it. I do however disagree with treacherous, and where did backwater come from?

Motogp like most professional sports is paid for by, and exists for the entertainment of, the fans. It's not psuedo religious atavism (that did produce a chuckle, I admit: perhaps its real religious atavism?), but actually a fun weekend as spectators that draws us--isn't that the point? 

I've been a spectator at Mugello and PI, the two greatest racetracks I have ever visited, but the experience as a fan did not exceed my "fun weekend" as a spectator at the 1988 LS gp. Sooner or later motogp will face the choice of seriously slowing down the bikes or else abandon the Mugellos of the world. Maybe if that happens, and by some miracle Monterey County gets its act together, we could see the circus return to LS.

I would say it is religious!

Mugello AND Phillip Isl?! Nice St.S, well done. Greedy to hope for an Assen too? If I could track day those AND see a GP that would be heaven times 3. A few other tracks had divine intervention (Portimao is starting to emit cosmic light and angelic song). But then there is damned COTA. 

:)

P.S. there is a small track in Tokyo, a private one "Porsche Experience" owned I think. They replicated several iconic corners...the Corkscrew, and the big positive camber railing rocket at Nurburgring, etc. It is set on a hill. 

Seems like a very clever conglomerated forgery could literally replicate the best of the best corners from heralded tracks full of soul, AND piece them together such that they flow? One can dream, it is fun even if it isn't reality.

Tilke and computers are design hell. But what happened specifically at COTA is a new kind of stupid. It had SO much going for it! We were all quite excited hearing the ingredients lining up, but the chefs botched it. Schwantz has been pretty quiet about it. I would love to hear him spill the beans.

Melandri's comments after first inspection of the track in '05. Edward's eyes after he returned to the pits during the first free practice. Hayden owned the race in '05, but was not making any inroads on Vermuelen's lead in '06 until his Suzuki crapped out. Julien Rider's article about the heat wave's effect on the spectators.  Michelin totally screwing up the tire selection and Toseland circulating on a wet tire during a dry free practice. The Rossi/Stoner battle in '08 and Hopkins taking out Hayden at T1 just after the start. Marquez doing the Rossi move at the corkscrew. And a whole lot of boring, processional racing that hypnotized me into a trance resembling a grey area between sleeping and wakefullness. Gobert said Laguna reminded him of a motocross track. Maybe it's a blast for the riders, like COTA, but for the casual spectator?

Would be my suggestion on top of race bans. Licence points too, with anyone having 3 or more having championship points deducted and denied anything more than runner-up. If safe riding got you points it should not stop contacts but harsh and dangerous moves should hurt a lot more than running on green. Slow riding ditto unless there is a real excuse - add 3 secs to the quali time.

I always found watching Sofuoglu more scary than exciting and his students are the same. Toprak is a fantastic rider to watch on his own but his overtakes are OTT. You only have to look at Tom Sykes lucky escape to realise that Dorna need to do something before several more tragedies occur in either series. BSB is nurturing the same.....