David Emmett

Valencia MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 2: Battles On A Tight Track, And Comparing The 2019 And 2020 Yamahas

The Valencia round of MotoGP is going to be remembered primarily as the race where Joan Mir make history, becoming the sixth Suzuki rider to win the premier class title, following in the footsteps of Kenny Roberts Jr, Kevin Schwantz, Franco Uncini, Marco Lucchinelli, and Barry Sheene. Rightly so, given the significance of that title, and Mir's path to winning the title. You can read more about that in part one of my Valencia round up.

But there was more to Valencia than just Joan Mir clinching the championship. The Circuit Ricardo Tormo is supposed to be a hard track to pass at, yet in all three classes we saw last-lap battles where the lead and podium places changed hands multiple times. We saw the 2019 Yamaha triumph where the 2020 model came up a long way short. We saw KTM take three of the top six positions, and we saw Andrea Dovizioso surprise himself with an eighth place.

So here are some notes from an intriguing and exciting race weekend.

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Interview: Suzuki's Davide Brivio On COVID-19 Cost-Cutting, Satellite Teams, And Paddock Life In A Pandemic

The Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP machine during the presentation at the Sepang test in February

For a few weeks, it looked like racing in 2020 might be impossible. But as the peak of the COVID-19 crisis appears to have passed in many parts of Europe, there are a few rays of hope that racing might resume before the end of the year. At the moment, Dorna have put plans in place to hold two races at Jerez, on July 19th and 26th, with more races to follow.

These plans see factories and teams start to slowly ramp up their preparations for racing in Jerez. At the same time, the factories are having to come to terms with the still-emerging post-coronavirus economic reality. Measures have already been put in place to cut costs, including a freeze on engine development and aerodynamics until 2021, while the factories and teams are considering further proposals to cut costs and secure the future of the sport.

On Monday, the Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP team organized a press teleconference with team manager Davide Brivio, in which he discussed this, and many other subjects. Brivio talked about starting the championship in Jerez, the impact of the coronavirus on Suzuki and on the MotoGP championship, and about Suzuki's plans for a satellite squad. He also talked about what life in the paddock could look like when racing resumes.

All in the same boat

"Everybody is in the same situation," Brivio started off by saying. "We are trying to be in contact with MotoGP, Dorna, IRTA and also with the other teams. We’ve had a few meetings altogether. We are also looking at other sports to see what is going on: what’s happening in football, everybody is taking different directions and positions. In Germany they are going to restart the football next week and Spain and Italy are still to decide."

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How The Cancellation Of Qatar Affects MotoGP's Engine Freeze And Aerodynamics Homologation

Marc Marquez' 2020 Honda RC213V at the Sepang test, with the aero package he rejected at the Qatar test

The cancellation of the Qatar MotoGP race and the Thai round of MotoGP in Buriram throws MotoGP's regular schedule into a bit of disarray. The deadlines under which the MotoGP manufacturers were working have suddenly been opened up again. Factories without concessions – Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Ducati – were due to homologate their engines this week, ahead of the first race, and all six manufacturers were due to submit their aerodynamics packages for homologation, although aerodynamics packages can vary per rider.

Similarly, teams were due to submit their gearbox ratios ahead of the first race, with a maximum of 24 different gearbox ratios and 4 different final drive ratios allowed during the season.

So now that Qatar and Thailand have been canceled or postponed, what happens next?

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Romano Albesiano On Why Aprilia Changed The Engine Angle, Satellite Teams, And Measuring Success

The 2019 MotoGP season was a long, hard road for Aprilia. The hiring of Massimo Rivola as CEO of Aprilia meant that the development of the RS-GP came to a standstill while he first straightened out Aprilia's organization, and allowing Romano Albesiano to concentrate on building a brand new machine, with a 90° V4 engine, from the ground up.

The 2020 prototype of the Aprilia RS-GP, at the Sepang MotoGP test

It was a major gamble. Aprilia was throwing away four years of development in MotoGP, and starting almost from scratch again. The Noale factory had a lot of new data to go on, but they had to make the right choices in so many areas that it would be easy to find themselves chasing down a blind alley.

The gamble seems to have paid off handsomely. Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia test rider Bradley Smith were wildly enthusiastic about the new RS-GP. "I didn't really expect that with a bike as new as this, that I would be as competitive as I am," Espargaro said. "Even with 20 laps on the tires, I can do 1'59s, it's unbelievable how fast I was. I think that with this RS-GP, the bike is a lot more close to the podium."

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2010 – 2019: MotoGP's Long Decade Of Change, And What It Means For The Future

2020 sees the start of a new decade (convention has it that decades are zero-based, going from 0-9, so please, numerical pedants, just play along here), and if there is one thing we have learned from the period between 2010 and 2019, it is that a lot can change. Not just politically and socially, but in racing too. So now seems a good time to take a look back at the start of the previous decade, and ponder what lessons might be learned for the decade to come.

It is hard to remember just how tough a place MotoGP was in 2010. The world was still reeling from the impact of the Global Financial Crisis caused when the banking system collapsed at the end of 2008. That led to a shrinking grid, with Kawasaki pulling out at the end of 2008 (though the Japanese factory was forced to continue for one more season under the Hayate banner, with one rider, Marco Melandri), and emergency measures aimed at cutting costs.

The bikes entered in the 2010 MotoGP season

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2015 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test Gallery - Poorly Framed And Out Of Focus Photos From Day 1


The biggest change on the 2015 Honda RC213V, the rear subframe mount points


Yamaha's exhaust is slightly different to the one trialed in Valencia. Looks good, sounds fantastic


Matteo Flamigni and his magical laptop

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Out Of Focus And Badly Lit: David Emmett's Photos From The Valencia MotoGP Test


Compare and contrast: Suzuki's chassis provides outstanding handling and turning


Honda's super stiff 2015 RC213V. Incredible braking and turning


Michele Pirro's Ducati GP14: Stiff, excellent stability in braking, but turning, not so much...

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Amateur Spy: David Emmett's Out-of-Focus Shots From The Sepang Test, Part 1


Big changes at Ducati. Andrea Dovizioso shows off the new tank cover housing a revised electronics position.


Here's another part: the rear seat unit is wider, and features larger air scoops


New frame, new tank, new seat, new fairing, new handlebar grip position... the list goes on

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