Aleix Espargaro

Motegi MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Torrential Rain, Why BMW Doesn't Race In MotoGP, And The Return Of Marc Marquez

If you wondered why BMW does not build and race a MotoGP bike, Saturday at Motegi gave you your answer. With torrential rain forcing a red flag in the Moto2 Q2 session, the cancellation of MotoGP's untimed practice session FP3 (FP4 had already been scrapped due to the shortened schedule), and the delay of MotoGP Q1 and Q2, Loris Capirossi and his crew were sent out multiple times to assess the state of the track in their safety cars.

That meant that the audience were treated to hour upon hour of BMW cars circulating at speed, with close ups of the cars drifting through the water, the BMW branding on display. (Do not ask me what car it is: I have so little interest in cars I don't even own one. The only thing I know is that it is some form of M model, which, I learned from the introduction of the BMW M1000RR superbike, is BMW's sports brand.)

With this, and the BMW M Award for the best qualifying performances of the year, BMW gets a massive amount of exposure through MotoGP, without the risk of failure associated with actually racing in the series. Why would they trade that in to go racing?

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Motegi MotoGP Friday Round Up: Just How Much Has MotoGP Moved On In Three Years?

Friday at Motegi was the equivalent of being fourteen and having a distant relative visit for the first time in three years. "Goodness, haven't you grown up!" they say to you, as you roll your eyes and try not to look utterly exasperated and embarrassed.

In this case, it's the MotoGP bikes in the role of the surly teenager and Motegi as the annoying relative. The bikes really have changed a lot over the past three years, as a quick glance at the timesheets will tell you.

In 2019, after two 45-minute sessions of practice on the first day, Fabio Quartararo posted a fastest time of 1'44.764. In 2022, despite only having one 75-minute session of free practice, the first nine riders were all under Quartararo's 2019 time, with Jack Miller nearly a quarter of a second quicker. Maverick Viñales was second fastest in 2019, with a lap of 1'45.085. The first sixteen riders, all the way down to Franco Morbidelli, were faster than that.

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Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Marquez As Scapegoat, The Danger Of Ride-Height Devices, And How Ducati Made Tire Management Irrelevant

Marc Marquez was hoping to make an impact on his return to MotoGP at the Motorland Aragon circuit. He made an impact alright, but not quite the one he was intending. A lightning start, collisions with Fabio Quartararo and Takaaki Nakagami – much, much more on that later – and a withdrawal due to having a chunk of Quartararo's fairing stuck in the back of his bike. Marquez had come up short on his objective: "Try to get kilometers, try to finish the race, and we didn't get the target. I just did one lap," he said after the race.

We will come to apportioning blame for the Quartararo-Marquez crash later, and how Enea Bastianini came to the championship leader's aid at the end of the race. The race itself was in some ways a repeat of last year: a waiting game, with a burst of excitement settling the outcome in the last couple of laps.

Bastianini's victory wrapped up the manufacturers championship for Ducati again with five races to go. There is no doubt that the Ducati is now the best bike on the MotoGP grid. But the halfhearted celebrations in the factory Ducati Lenovo garage betrayed just how much more the riders championship matters to Ducati.

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Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: The Best Bike On The Grid, And Pit Lane Mayhem

For the past few seasons, there has been a fierce debate over what is the best bike on the grid. In 2021, we thought it might have been the Yamaha, given just how good Fabio Quartararo has been. In 2020, the Suzuki looked to be a pretty complete package, though that was a little distorted by the pandemic-hit season. In 2019, with Marc Marquez' dominance, there were those who claimed the Honda was the best bike, though the difference in performance between Marquez and the other Honda riders was rather stark.

The common thread across all these years was the Ducati. Was it perhaps the Desmosedici, born in Bologna, which was the best bike? And was it the riders on the other machines that was making the difference? In 2019, the Ducati was faster than the Honda, but not fast enough to get enough of a gap until Marc Marquez threw the RC213V underneath Andrea Dovizioso on the brakes in the next corner. In 2020 and 2021, Ducati improved the turning of the bike, but it was still no match for the corner speed of the Suzuki GSX-RR and the Yamaha M1.

Even at the start of the 2022 season we wondered whether the Ducati was really the best bike on the grid. After Aleix Espargaro won Aprilia's first MotoGP race in Argentina, we started to think that perhaps the RS-GP was the best bike on the grid, an impression strengthened by Maverick Viñales' increasing competitiveness. Espargaro was turning into a podium regular, and at the front of the championship.

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Misano MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Bagnaia's Dovizioso Tribute Act, Fabio's Unfixable Problem, And Aprilia's Rising And Waning Stars

There were many, many tributes to Andrea Dovizioso on the day that he retired as a full-time MotoGP racer, but there was perhaps none so fitting as the winner of Sunday's MotoGP race at Misano. Pecco Bagnaia, riding the bike Dovizioso had a massive, massive part in developing in the eight years he was at Ducati, took two and a half laps to get to the front of the race and then controlled it right to the end.

It was the way Bagnaia managed the race that was so reminiscent of Andrea Dovizioso. The way you usually win a race from the front is by taking off at the front and trying to lay down a pace that no one else is able to follow. Once you've opened a gap, you can then manage the pace to keep the gap consistent right to the end. The benefit is that you don't have to worry about fending off attacks, and can just concentrate on your own riding.

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Misano MotoGP Thursday Preview: A Yamaha In Ducati's Den, Why Team Orders Are Nonsense, And KTM's Troubling Attitude To Talent

With seven races left in the 2022 MotoGP season, we are approaching the final stretch. There are 175 points left to play for, and Fabio Quartararo has a lead of 32 points over Aleix Espargaro. That means that Espargaro still has his fate in his own hands: he can become 2022 MotoGP champion by the simple expedient of winning every MotoGP race left, and if Quartararo finishes second in all seven races, the Aprilia rider would take his first championship by a slim margin of 3 points.

Pecco Bagnaia has to rely on the help of others if he is to become champion. The Italian is 44 points behind Quartararo, which means he will need someone to get in between himself and Quartararo on more than one occasion.

So it's a good job MotoGP is at Misano this weekend. For Bagnaia, this is very much his home track, the Italian riding here regularly as part of the VR46 Academy on road bikes. And Bagnaia has help on his side: Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi are also VR46 Academy riders, and Ducati stablemates. (Franco Morbidelli, the fourth VR46 rider, will not be helping Bagnaia. But then, given his form this year, he is unlikely to be in a situation to help his Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Fabio Quartararo.)

Like the back of their hands

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Honda's Depths Of Despair - Why HRC Is So Far Behind, And How It Can Catch Up Again

In case you were wondering how things have been going at Honda, after 13 races Marc Marquez is currently the best-placed HRC rider in the 2022 MotoGP championship. Marc Marquez is in 15th place, with 60 points, Takaaki Nakagami is 16th, with 45 points, Pol Espargaro 17th, with 42 points, and Alex Marquez 18th, with 29 points. After the next race at Misano, the 14th race of 2022, Marc Marquez is still likely to be the best placed Honda rider.

And to refresh your memory, that is the same Marc Marquez who raced the season opener at Qatar, then highsided himself to the moon in Indonesia, and missed that race and Argentina, then competed from Portimão through to Mugello, where he revealed that the humerus in his right arm had healed with a 30° rotation in it, and he had to have a fourth (and almost certainly last, whichever way it turns out) operation on the arm to straighten it out before he can compete again.

So not only has Marc Marquez missed 7 of the 13 grand prix this year, but in the ones he did compete in, he was effectively riding with one arm. And yet he is still top Honda.

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Austria MotoGP Subscriber Notes: On Tires Front And Rear, How To Win A Championship, And Silly Season Nearing Its End

Does MotoGP need something like sprint races to pack out otherwise empty grandstands? It depends on which you ask that question. On the evidence of Silverstone, where just 41,000 people turned up on Sunday, you would say yes, we need a change. Judge by the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, where 92,000 – pretty much a packed house – turned up on a gray and overcast day, when it looked like it could rain at any moment, and you would say that MotoGP is doing OK.

I spent a lot of time over the weekend talking to a variety of people about the way the sprint races will (or may) affect each MotoGP weekend, and so will save that subject for an in-depth look later in the week. But first, a few quick notes on the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg, which featured a demonstration of the pointlessness of team orders in Moto2, a further settling out of the order in MotoGP, and saw the end of the 2023 silly season start to approach.

No such thing as team orders

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Aprilia Team Manager Paolo Bonora: Now we’re waiting for Maverick’s time

Aprilia Team Manager Paolo Bonora explains to Neil Morrison how the factory has nurtured Maverick Viñales to a level where he is a MotoGP contender once again.

Would it be fair to say Mack is back? If not now, then top figures at Aprilia are confident it won’t be long until Maverick Viñales is on the top step of the podium once more, in part thanks to a good deal of patience and a careful strategy of man-management.

It hadn’t been an easy start to life in Aprilia colours for the enigmatic Catalan. He finished higher than tenth just twice in his first 13 races aboard the RS-GP, a bike that could currently be hailed as the most rounded package on the grid, and one that could yet win this year’s championship with teammate Aleix Espargaro.

But the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was vindication for the faith Aprilia has shown in the former Moto3 World Champion. While his performance lacked a touch of composure in the critical moments, it was the first time Viñales was clearly the fastest rider on track in any race since his explosive exit from Yamaha this month a year ago.

What’s more, the 27-year old mentioned he had “started laughing” when up front, fighting among the Ducatis of Francesco Bagnaia, Jack Miller and Jorge Martin. It has been quite some time when Viñales has appeared so comfortable and content both on the bike and off it.

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