Aleix Espargaro

Buriram MotoGP Subscriber Notes: A New Generation Rising, Yamaha's Hope, Honda's Gamble, And Aprilia's Failure

We are in the middle of a major transition in MotoGP. One generation is on the verge of passing, another generation is rising, and right in the center of it all, towering over it, is Marc Márquez. The reigning champion has dominated 2019, while rivals of a variety of ages on a variety of bikes try to usurp his place.

The Thai Grand Prix illustrated this mix of generations nicely. On pole for the race sat the Young Pretender, Fabio Quartararo, 20 years of age. Alongside him, Maverick Viñales, 24, two years Márquez' junior, and the reigning champion himself. Behind them, two more 24-year-olds, Franco Morbidelli and Jack Miller, flanking the 28-year-old Danilo Petrucci.

On the third row, two veterans and a young rookie. Joan Mir, 22, sat between 40-year-old legend Valentino Rossi, and Andrea Dovizioso, at 33 years of age the only rider left who could stop Márquez from lifting his sixth MotoGP title in seven seasons in the premier class. Behind them, Alex Rins, 23, beside the Espargaro brothers, Pol, 28, and Aleix, 30.

Of the front twelve, Márquez, Viñales, Quartararo, Miller, Rins, Dovizioso, and potentially Rossi had the pace on paper for a legitimate shot at the podium. It was not inconceivable for the podium to represent a cross section of the current set of MotoGP generations. Or for Rossi to be sharing a podium with a man half his age.

Youth has the future

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Tom's Tech Treasures: Yamaha's New Exhaust And Swingarm, Aprilia's Holeshot Device


Rear wheel cover on the GP19 and carbon swingarm.
David Emmett: The full set of rear aerodynamics on the Ducati Desmosedici GP19, from the swingarm spoiler to the rear wheel covers. The rear wheel cover mounting points are clearly visible: at the rear of the chain tensioner, and at the front below the aluminum bracket with holes. The rear swingarm spoiler caused huge controversy at the start of the year, and now all manufacturers bar KTM have one.
Ducati used a loophole in the regulations to use the swingarm spoiler and wheel covers, but this loophole will be closed for 2020. For next season, all parts which are not part of the structural part of the motorcycle will be classified as part of the aero body, and so their designs will have to be homologated, with one update allowed during the season. So Ducati can start the season with one spoiler, and alter it once during the year.


Lighter front mudguard on the KTM RC16.
Peter Bom: Although it is a little bit difficult to see in this photo, the mudguard ends immediately after the double L of Bull. This leaves more of the front tire exposed, helping it to run a little cooler and prevent overheating. Some KTM riders have complained of this previously.

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Aragon Subscriber Race Round Up: Honda's Biggest Problem, A Ducati Resurgence, Punishment Fitting The Crime, And Riding Without Winglets

Winning a MotoGP race is never easy. Even when the winner crosses the line with a huge victory margin, it's never easy. Riding for 42 minutes and 117 kilometers at close to maximum intensity is tough on the body, and tough on the mind. Disaster is only a momentary lapse of attention away.

That thought was on Marc Márquez' mind going into the race at Aragon. He had qualified on pole with a lap a third of a second faster than anyone else. In terms of race pace, he looked to be half a second a lap quicker than the rest of the grid. On paper, the race was in the bag.

That was pretty much what we thought at Austin back in April as well. But there, Márquez crashed out of the race on lap 9, after he had built up a lead of nearly 4 seconds. Up until that point, he had looked as unbeatable as ever at the Circuit of the Americas. But a minor hiccup with engine braking pushed the front, the bike getting away from him, and down he went.

Coming into Aragon, Márquez led the championship by 93 points. He could feel his sixth MotoGP title was within his grasp. He knew he had the pace to win comfortably. But the crash at Austin was preying on his mind, and he knew that a repeat would make his life unnecessarily difficult. Eyes on the prize, at all times.

Command and control

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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.

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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

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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

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Misano MotoGP Test Thursday Notes: Yamaha Lead On Busy Day Of Testing

The advantage of a private test is that work can take place away from the prying eyes of the media. Some of the MotoGP manufacturers, most notably Yamaha and Honda, have taken advantage of the fact that the two-day test at Misano is private, and have debuted various new parts for both this year and next. With the pit lane closed to the media, the factories can work more freely.

The work going on means you can set little stock by the order on the timesheets. The two satellite Petronas Yamaha riders were fastest, but as they have mainly been working on race setup, this should hardly come as a surprise. Nor should the fact that Marc Márquez was third fastest, the Repsol Honda rider always fast under all conditions. But riders such as Alex Rins were not focused on a single fast lap, and so comparisons are difficult.

Yamaha had the most intriguing test program. Factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales had a lot of parts to test. Both riders tried a second version of the 2020 engine they debuted at Brno, and though it was a slight improvement, much more was needed. "The step is not as big as we need, but in the right direction," was Rossi's verdict, while Viñales was a little more pessimistic, saying it was not the step they had been hoping for.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why Marquez Wins, Ducati's Decline, Viñales' Resurrection, And Impressions Of MotoE

Some things changed at this year's edition of the German Grand Prix, held at the Sachsenring. The race was organized by the ADAC, the German equivalent of the Automobile Association, instead of the former promoter, a local organization based at the circuit. The difference was immediately evident: the event appeared to run more smoothly and more efficiently, and some of the old peculiarities ("we've always done it that way") replaced with things that actually work. It felt like a much better Grand Prix, without losing any of the charm which had marked it out before.

Then there was the inaugural round of MotoE, the new electric bike racing class which joins the MotoGP series. History was made on Sunday morning, when eighteen Energica Ego Corsa motorcycles lined up for the first ever all-electric motorcycle race. The race was shortened from 8 to 7 laps after being declared wet, and then red flagged after 5 laps when Lorenzo Savadori crashed out at Turn 8 after being clipped by Eric Granado.

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Aleix Espargaro: Frustration At A Lack Of Progress, Fears Of Foul Play

Six races into the season gives everyone a chance to size up where the riders, and more importantly, the manufacturers all stand. Teams have had a few races to analyze and optimize the setup of the 2019 bikes, plus a test at Jerez to find upgrades and solutions to problems which only emerge during race. Mugello is the third European race, meaning the paddock is back at tracks which they know like the back of their hand. There may still be a long way to go until the title is settled, but the shape of the championship is starting to shake out.

That leads to frustration for the riders who feel their manufacturers are not making progress. At Mugello, the frustration felt by factory Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro boiled over into outright criticism of the Italian factory over the lack of progress being made. Essentially, Espargaro said, they were stuck with an updated version of the 2017 bike, having lost an entire season with the 2018 machine. Espargaro saw the other bikes improving, and pulling away from him on track, and there was little he could do about it.

Aprilia are bringing updates for the RS-GP, but they were not fixing the underlying problems, Espargaro said. The latest update Aprilia brought was a new fairing with revised aerodynamics, using two smaller winglet sections, instead of a single larger winglet. Having a smaller side plate made the bike easier to switch from left to right, Espargaro said, but it did not address the main problems.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - 220mph and airborne - the Mugello corner that scares MotoGP riders

Mugello’s 220mph kink is MotoGP’s fastest, scariest, riskiest corner, but for how much longer?

If you’ve been around racing long enough you mourn many things: most of all you mourn the riders who have lost their lives, but you also mourn the legendary race bikes of old and you mourn the awesome corners that have been lost in the quest for greater safety, so that we have to mourn fewer dead riders.

Here are just two corner sections that are greatly missed. First, the terrifying 180mph/290kmh Armco-lined and cliff-lined left/right flick at the top of the hill at the Salzburgring: front end shaking, back end breaking loose. “To me, riding a bike like that at those speeds is why I liked racing,” remembers Mick Doohan.

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