Maverick Viñales

Assen MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Quartararo vs Espargaro, Outstanding Ducatis, And Big Crowds

The Circuit van Drenthe, or the TT Circuit, as the glorious ribbon of asphalt to the south of Assen is officially known, always delivers, and Sunday was no exception. We had an outstanding Moto3 race, where the main championship contenders and promising youngsters broke away and fought down to the wire. We had one of the best Moto2 races in a long time, with action all the way to the finish. And we had an eventful, dramatic MotoGP race that saw some incredible battles from front to back of the field. It was a good day.

Adding a little spice to proceedings was the kind weather which is so unique to Assen. The race started dry, but the rain radar showed a very light shower heading for the track and likely to hit at around the two-thirds distance mark. It rained alright, but it was the worst kind of rain: the kind that leaves lots of spots on your visor, but barely touches the track. If you can blot the rain out from your mind, you can keep pushing just as hard, but it takes enormous mental strength and conviction. Worth the effort, though: even in the midst of the drizzle, riders were still posting 1'32s.

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The Transformation Of Maverick Viñales: How The Pandemic, Marriage, And Aprilia Rekindled His Love Of Racing

Maverick Viñales has always been something of an enigma. While his talent was beyond doubt, it was also mercurial, the Spaniard winning one week before riding around anonymously the next. When he had the tools he needed, he was unstoppable, winning 9 MotoGP races with both Suzuki and Yamaha. But if he didn't, he would struggle, go backward and end up frustrated and angry.

Throughout the period Viñales was at Yamaha, in the period when rider media debriefs were held in team hospitality units making it impossible to attend all of them, the small group of journalists I share debriefs with would draw straws for who would have to go to speak to Maverick Viñales. That was usually a depressing experience, sitting through Viñales' simmering frustration at not getting the results he believed he was capable of.

It was no surprise this would all come to a head, though I don't think anyone imagined it would end in such a dramatic fashion. Maverick Viñales was suspended by Yamaha after he stalled the bike on the grid in Austria, then in frustration, rode around overrevving it. A few days later, it was announced the contract Viñales had with Yamaha had been terminated with immediate effect, by mutual consent.

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Sachsenring MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Why The Sachsenring Was 2022 Condensed, Ride-Height Failures, Hot Hondas, And Events vs Races

With the Sachsenring done and dusted, we have reached the halfway point of the 2022 season. A quick dash from the east of Germany to the northeast of The Netherlands, and then MotoGP goes on a longer than scheduled summer break.

If the German Grand Prix marked the halfway point of the 2022 season – the median, if you will – then the result might be classified in statistical terms as the mode: the most frequently occurring value in a set of results. If you had to sum up the MotoGP season so far, this is what it would look like.

I have a long motorcycle journey on Monday, so below are a few quick notes after the German GP, and what precisely makes it the modal MotoGP race. But also, some of the factors which make it atypical. And a sign of hope for the future of the series.

In these notes:

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Barcelona MotoGP Friday Round Up: How To Go Fast When There Is No Grip, And Why Aprilia are Favorites

Normally after the first day of practice for a MotoGP race, everyone says, "it's only Friday, you can't read too much into the times". But not here. At Barcelona, everyone is asking how they can stop the Aprilias. Aleix Espargaro was fastest on a soft tire and in race trim, and Maverick Viñales was quick over a single lap – his weakness so far with Aprilia - and managed a respectable race pace. If one or both qualify well on Saturday, nobody will see which way they went.

The gap over the rest is impressive. Aleix Espargaro was three tenth faster than his Aprilia teammate, while Viñales was two tenths quicker than Enea Bastianini in third. And that was with Viñales feeling he hadn't get everything possible out of the soft tire he put in at the end of FP2. "When I put the soft, the jump was huge so I didn’t take enough profit of the soft. The difference was very big," the Spaniard told us.

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Aprilia Extend Contracts With Aleix Espargaro And Maverick Viñales Through 2024

Aprilia have decided on their MotoGP line up for the next two seasons. At Mugello, they announced that they will be keeping Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales for 2023 and 2024.

The announcement does not come as a huge surprise. Despite rumors that Aleix Espargaro had been displeased with the initial offer Aprilia made, the two sides have agreed terms for the next two years. The decision to extend with Maverick Viñales is a decision based more on expectation than current results, as the Spaniard continues to make progress toward being competitive. How much more progress is possible remains to be seen.

The signing of Espargaro and Viñales brings the total number of riders with a contract for next year to six. Marc Marquez, Brad Binder, and Pecco Bagnaia are signed through 2024, while Franco Morbidelli has a contract with Yamaha for 2023.

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Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola: We're Not Ready To Win, We're Ready To Be The Underdog

Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola and Antonio Jiménez, crew chief to Aleix Espargaro, speak of what the rest of the season holds for the Noale factory after a historic first MotoGP victory in Argentina.

Not for the first time Argentina was the scene of another wacky MotoGP weekend. There was a list of factors that could explain Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia’s maiden premier class triumph: A revamped schedule due to delays with the freight arriving. A bumpy, dirty track that had barely been used since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. And the absence of Marc Marquez, the winner of the 2019 event by a handsome 6s.

Even then, there was enough to suggest this won’t be a one off. Espargaro was bullish regarding their chances for the rest of 2022. And he has every reason to be, such is the strength of the RS-GP at each track we’ve visited since the beginning of preseason. Had it not rained before the Indonesian start, he could have been a podium contender at each outing so far. “If we don’t make any mistakes we will be in the mix for the victory and for the podium every weekend,” he said on Sunday.

Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola gave a more reserved assessment. Speaking to Motomatters outside the factory pit box on Sunday evening after the Argentina race, the Italian stopped just short of his rider’s enthusiasm. But the ’22 RS-GP is now a real all-round package, boasting great agility and genuine top speed (see Espargaro’s repeated overtaking of Jorge Martin on the back straight). With some justification, he suggested there could be rounds in the future when his rider is fighting at the very front.

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Argentina MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Long And Winding Road To Success

In November 2014, at the Valencia post-race test, there was something of a buzz. Aprilia to make a return to MotoGP as a factory team for the 2015 season, albeit under the umbrella of the Gresini squad. Up until that point, Aprilias had been racing in MotoGP, but they were modified versions of the Noale factory's RSV-4 superbike, with a lot of chassis work and a much more powerful engine. They would be racing more or less the same bikes in 2015, but the ambition was to step up development and build a genuinely competitive motorcycle.

To do that, they had abandoned their factory entry in the WorldSBK championship – a championship which Sylvain Guintoli had won for them the previous year – and drafted in Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri. Bautista was keen to push the project forward, but from the very first moment he appeared in the MotoGP paddock again, Melandri made it glaringly obvious he did not want to be there.

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Argentina MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Hard Work And Making History

The Grand Prix of Argentina continues its proud tradition of weirdness, with Friday skipped and a day and a half of practice and qualifying crammed into Saturday. The missing cargo, the result of not one but two planes breaking down between Mandalika and Termas de Rio Hondo, meant that Friday was canceled and the work of preparing for practice started around 2am on Saturday morning, as bikes and equipment were delivered up and down pit lane. But MotoGP as a whole pulled it off: apart from the weird schedule, practice and qualifying happened, and history was made.

With missing bikes and parts, teams had gone back to their hotels early on Friday afternoon, to get some sleep ahead of a long night. But you wouldn't know it looking at the pit boxes on Saturday morning. The work of a couple of days was condensed to a few short hours.

With success, for some. The Mooney VR46 Ducatis had turned up in the dead of night, and the crew had worked through the night to get the bikes ready for practice and qualifying. Luca Marini rewarded their grit and hard work with a front row start in Argentina, his second after the one in Misano last year.

No rest for the wicked

"My team did an amazing job so thanks to them and thanks to Ducati because they prepared for me two perfect bikes today," Marini said on Saturday evening. "It was not so easy for them because they did the work in just eight hours. They always do it in two days normally."

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2022 Sepang MotoGP Test Review, Part 3: Aprilia, Suzuki, Yamaha - A Question Of Progress

With Ducati hogging all of the technical limelight with their latest gadget, it is easy to overlook what was going on elsewhere in pit lane at the Sepang MotoGP test. Yet there was plenty of interesting tech on display, some of it working well, other parts not quite so much. So here's a look at what the other MotoGP manufacturers were up to in Malaysia.

Aprilia – lighter, slimmer, but more chatter

Aprilia face a major challenge in 2022. For the past two years, their rivals have been unable to develop their engines, engine design having been frozen during the pandemic. 2022 is the first season where the factories without concessions have been able to bring updated engines. So the Noale factory is about to find out whether it has done enough over the past two years to close the gap and be competitive.

The evidence so far points to them being successful. Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales topped the first day of the official test, and finished second and fifth respectively on the second day, Viñales just 0.130 behind Enea Bastianini, and on the same time as fourth-placed Alex Rins.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Aprilia fight for its first MotoGP victory in 2022?

Aprilia’s technical director Romano Albesiano talks openly about the factory’s fight to get to the front and the challenges of MotoGP engineering in general

Aprilia is still MotoGP’s underdog, but if the Noale factory continues climbing on the upward curve since introducing its 90-degree V4 that may no longer be the case in 2022, or at least less so.

The switch to a wider-angled V4 – basically the same configuration as used by Ducati, Honda and KTM – from the previous 72-degree unit allowed Aprilia to build a better-balanced motorcycle with improved engine performance in both corner entry and exit.

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