It was a bright but chilly start in Barcelona for the premier class and Fabio Quartararo felt at home at the top of the standings throughout the first practice session. The Frenchman finished morning practice over four tenths of a second ahead of championship leader Andrea Dovizioso, who had a slow start but then got up to speed to climb into second. Despite an uncharacteristic tumble at turn five halfway through proceedings, Joan Mir recovered to finish third, marginally ahead of recent victor Maverick Vinales.
A cool breezy Montmelo welcomed the lightweight class to a familiar playground and riders were quick to get up to speed. Tony Arbolino spent most of the session at the top of the timesheets, until Raul Fernandez stole the limelight for the final five minutes. The Spaniard dropped into the 1:48s and built a considerable gap at the front, which was eventually reduced to a smidgen under four tenths of a second by most recent victor Romano Fenati. Arbolino settled for third, as the final rider within half a second of the leader.
The 2020 MotoGP season motors relentlessly on, as we visit Montmelo for the last race of the current triple header. The seventh race in eleven weeks, Round 9 marks the numerical mid-point of the season. Sort of: it is race 8 of 14 for the MotoGP class, but race 9 of 15 for Moto2 and Moto3, who raced at Qatar*. And as winter approaches in the northern hemisphere and Covid-19 cases start to rise again in Europe, the chances of us making it all the way to Portimao in late November and completing the remaining 6 races after Barcelona are significantly less than 100%.
The relentless round of races is brutal for everyone except fans and riders, most preferring racing every weekend to sitting at home. Especially in a season as up and down as 2020, where the direction of the championship seems to change every week. "I enjoy that the racing is hard and fast," said Jack Miller, summing up the general feeling of the riders on the grid. "We can have a quick turnaround and things can change very quickly. I enjoy that you don’t have to sit there thinking about a bad race for two or three weeks. You can get back into it straight away which is nice."
As a tyre manufacturer that supplies rubber for a Grand Prix category, one of the main priorities entering a race weekend is avoid any possibility of leaving with egg on your face. While producing excellent tyres that work in a variety of conditions and temperatures, Dunlop, the supplier of Moto2 and Moto3 rubber, is known to err on the side of caution, making sure the tyres in its allocation (both softer and harder options) can do a full race distance without any issues.
At the San Marino Grand Prix, all 29 Moto2 riders chose Dunlop’s softer option for the race. Asked if he was confident it would go race distance without any drop off, Gary Purdy joked, “It could do two race distances!” Therefore, the English factory decided to introduce a softer rear compound for the following week’s race at the Emilia-Romagna GP.
Rather than knowing the tyre choice from Friday morning, riders were tasked with assessing two compounds (one was the race tyre from the San Marino GP, then a softer compound still) for suitability over 27 laps. There was a real variety in tyre strategy in qualifying. “It’s fantastic,” Purdy said. “Teams are coming to me and asking what they should do (on race day). These back-to-back races have given us a great opportunity to mix it up a bit.”
Another MotoGP race, another Paddock Pass Podcast. Freshly returned from Misano, Neil Morrison talks to David Emmett about yet another weird weekend of racing for MotoGP. We start off with Maverick Viñales remarkable turnaround, from despair on Friday to victory on Sunday, and discuss if we can draw any conclusions about Viñales' title chances from this performance.
Next up, we look at Pecco Bagnaia, and how close he came to victory, and the reason he gave for crashing out of the lead at the race. We discuss Joan Mir, whether he is now the favorite for the championship, and whether the Suzuki is the best bike on the grid. We talk the battle for the podium, how Pol Espargaro held up Fabio Quartararo, and whether Quartararo's excuse that he didn't see the track limits warning on his dashboard stands up.
The Repsol Honda Team issued the following press release interview and video with Marc Marquez, discussing his recovery from injury:
Marc Marquez: “Don’t worry, we will come back to the top”
Ducati’s Desmosedici has struggled with turning for years. Now Ducati thinks it’s found the answer to the problem – 2018 Moto2 world champion Pecco Bagnaia
If Ducati doesn’t announce Pecco Bagnaia’s promotion to its factory team at Barcelona this weekend I promise to shin up the Sagrada Família naked.
Ducati needs Bagnaia because he is a huge talent and because MotoGP has changed. You only need to look at Andrea Dovizioso’s recent results to understand there is a new way of going fast in 2020.
Just when you thought the 2020 MotoGP season couldn't get any weirder, the Emilia-Romagna round at Misano threw up surprises we never even knew were possible. You would have that that having MotoGP race at the same track twice would make matters even more predictable, but instead, we find ourselves deep inside the world of Donald Rumsfeld's famous unknown unknowns.
The race itself was more a war of attrition than a bar-banging battle from lights to flag. It was hardly bereft of excitement – the battle for the podium grew intense and controversial in the last few laps – but the eventual winner spent pretty much the whole race alone. The same was true for the rider who should have won, but managed to throw it all away with seven laps to go.
That was far from the only crash. Of the 20 riders who started the race, only 13 managed to cross the line at the end of 27 laps. That is one of those surprises we really hadn't seen coming – two races and a test, combined with almost perfect weather (the briefest of showers during the Moto2 race, just enough to force a restart interrupted a week of otherwise endless sunshine) meant the newly resurfaced track had more grip than the tires could handle, and by Sunday, the riders knew every bump around Misano better than the knew their own mothers.
World Superbike standings after Race 2 at Montmelo: