Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 1: How The Suzukis Won, Alex Marquez' Home Race, And Why The Hondas Beat The Yamahas

It seems like everybody wants to win a race in 2020, but nobody wants to win the championship. The Aragon round of MotoGP produced another new winner, and shook up the championship once again. The result you might have expected after qualifying never materialized. Yamahas finished top in all four free practice sessions, and there were three Yamahas in the first four slots on the grid after qualifying, Cal Crutchlow in third the only non-Yamaha on the front row.

What happened? Well, the temperature went up, and that persuaded riders to gamble on the medium front with little or no data on the tire. Racing and practice turned out to be two very different things – who would have thought? Tire wear, especially the way tires wear, became a factor. And riders who love the track found a little bit extra.

With his convincing victory, Alex Rins became the eighth winner of the season, and the eighth winner in as many races. Starting at Brno, we have had victories for Brad Binder, in Austria we had Andrea Dovizioso and Miguel Oliveira, at Misano there was Franco Morbidelli and Maverick Viñales, Fabio Quartararo in Barcelona, and then Danilo Petrucci at Le Mans.

The last time that happened was in 2016, in Michelin's first year in MotoGP. In the eight-race stretch between Mugello and Misano, from May to September, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Jack Miller, Marc Márquez, Andrea Iannone, Cal Crutchlow, Maverick Viñales, and Dani Pedrosa all took victory. By the end of 2016, Andrea Dovizioso had made it nine winners overall. You wouldn't want to bet against a ninth, maybe even a tenth winner emerging from the four races remaining in the 2020 MotoGP season.

Closer now

There is a difference between the 2016 and 2020 seasons, however. The switch to Michelins had a big impact on 2016. The teams and factories were still trying to adapt their bikes and their setups to the Michelin rubber, after years perfecting their bikes for the Bridgestones. A lot of races were decided by riders and teams getting it right on Sunday, while others didn't. The weather was a factor too: of the eight races between Mugello and Misano, three of them - Assen, Sachsenring, Brno – were wet.

There's a new rear Michelin in MotoGP for 2020, but that hasn't had anywhere near the impact of a complete switch of tire brands. And though the weather has been a factor, with races being held at tracks at very different times than usual (Jerez in July, Barcelona in September, Le Mans in October), there has been only a single properly wet race.

The biggest difference in 2020 is the closeness of the field. There are now four Yamahas, two Suzukis, four Ducatis, three KTMs, and after Aragon, two, maybe three Hondas which either have won races or have looked capable of winning. Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, and KTM have all won races, Yamaha, Ducati, KTM, Honda, and Suzuki have all had podiums. There have been 15 different riders on the podium.

That happens because the differences between the bikes are small. That is reflected in the race as well. Neil Morrison, with a little help from Thomas Morsellino, pointed out on Twitter that the Aragon round of MotoGP was the second closest top ten in history, with just 9.6 seconds between the winner, Alex Rins, and Johann Zarco in tenth. It was also the second closest top fifteen in history. And so far, the ten MotoGP races of 2020 have produced the second and fifth closest top tens in history, and the second, fourth, and eighth closest top fifteens.

There is once again much to talk about, too much perhaps for a single article, so these subscriber notes will be split over two parts. In part 1, we will talk about the podium, and how the winners came from so far behind on the grid, outclassing the Yamahas who had been so fast in qualifying:

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Source: 
year: 
2020
round_number: 
11

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Comments

Given the schedule (and yet the enormous amount of on-track action), I feel all the more appreciative for these synopses -- and to have a 2-part write-up for Aragon 1?!!?  I feel nearly spoiled.

Agree with Lucas, David you spoil us with these fantastic reviews. Thank you. 

Just wondering how cold tyre pressures are determined?  Strong guidance from Michelin and some idea for each manufacturer?  Given the varied loads the different bikes must put through the tyres at different stages of a lap i'd assume there must be differences.  Must turn into some big variations throughout a race. Ta guys.

Hi David,

I love your command of the English language! The use of parsimonious I particularly enoyed... Two typos for you to correct below.

Paragraph 11

At Le Mans, Rins had started sixteenth, and crossed the line at tend of the first lap in seventh

 

Paragraph 14

Rins simple held a tighter line and came through the final corner, Turn 17, underneath Quartararo.

We've been here before Spyker, folk correcting David's grammar. There's actually more than you've presented but I really don't care, and I suspect many more feel the same. I'll take the sheer depth of insight and effort we are fortunate enough to receive without questioning the odd typo, I doubt David needs it 'spelling out' for him, just enjoy the sunshine, with an odd wispy cloud passing through! Roll on Aragon 2, Rabat or Lecuona for me...

Of all the riders to line up on the grid on Sunday, he was the only one to have won titles in the lightweight and intermediate categories. To earn these two podiums in his rookie year on a tricky bike is among the most impressive of his achievements. I'm really glad Alex has firmly silenced the really quite unkind words being spoken about him at the end of last year. I suspect a lot of it was a way to get at Marc, but these two are made of stronger stuff!

Maybe I was getting caught up in all the excitement, but it seemed to me that Alex wasn't as wild in getting pace out of the Honda as Marc usually is. Just wondering if it turns out there really are two ways to ride that bike...?

We are in very interesting times when Suzuki and a Honda are the podium for a dry normal temp race eh? I too watched Alex Marquez and his bike with keen attention. His style is a bit different than those around him. He hangs off a lot, more bum first than head and shoulders. Marc's elbow is way lower, spine closer to parallel with the bike. With Alex's upper body held a bit closer to the tank comes a quieter style, less going on, steady. Closer to Nakagami than Marc. "Old school." The second picture from the bottom here captures it. Not crossed up like Elias "Doohan butt," but a significant step away from that shoulder pivot and front of the bike shift of Marc. More conventional.

The bike got into corners well, which was quite interesting. Without the front skating and hunting for traction. It moves around more than the Suzuki, but still quite composed. It appears less physical to ride now than last year. Watching Crutchlow in Q, he looks more comfortable.

Since Honda has The Marc, it has looked really appealing for them to stay stuck while several competitors advanced. #93 on the 5th best bike? Ok, better racing. Now we await gauging where everyone is at relative to him. I suspect a step forward has been taken by several riders, not enough to join Marc at the front. Looks like he is opting to return in Portugal. It will be fun to see him join everyone at a new track. Exciting roller coaster challenge awaits. 

This Honda, didn't we all just recently believe it needed a big overhaul to correct course? Apparently it doesn't, and this improvement came primarily from new linkage and rear shock. When The Marc returns, we may get to see how the Honda can be ridden against him at another notch up on pace. Marc really may adjust his style a bit again to bring the crashes down, and change set up and development a step away from "drift bike." Respect and congratulations to Alex Marquez! Earnest and thoughtful guy. Some aggression, lots of self control. Steady in his focus, a bit more thinky than #93. Nice surprise this round. 

In addition to different race winners, look at how many surging uptick standouts we have seen this year. They are popping up like popcorn, then sometimes sifting to the bottom of the bag too. Who is next?

:)

...as mentioned previously ;)

...and wouldn't you just know it was a left hander where the Marquez family would stand out !

What stood out for me was the way Alex could attack the turns. He mentioned in the post race press conference that he can feel the front much better now. Instant confidence given. 
 

Best of all about 2020, seeing Pecco, Alex, Brad, Franco, Oli and Mir we can be sure the future is very bright indeed. 

I loved Simon Crafar inquiring with Lucio about the new rear shock on the Honda, and Lucio chuckling and asking how he knew; Simon just responding, "I can see it."  Love having a well-educated ex-rider snooping around in the pits!

This Honda, didn't we all just recently believe it needed a big overhaul to correct course? Apparently it doesn't, and this improvement came primarily from new linkage and rear shock.

Oh come now Shrinky! The performance has been there all along. Nakagami needed one race to figure it out. The less experienced Marquez brother needed more time but the results are right there for everyone to see. All bikes are evolving with modifications to the setup and the odd new components but fundamentally this is still the same bike they ran at the beginning of the season.

And let's not forget, Taka is 5th in the championship less than 30 pts down on Mir. 

Shrink,it's not always easy for me to distill your comments to a sentence or two, but did you just say "Gosh, that Honda is better than I thought?"

And I'm wondering whether Honda top brass might be (re)thinking that two marquez's on factory bikes is better than one and asking the legal team to explore exit clauses.

I have to say, if AM performs well for the rest of the season then he'll have outshone just about everyone else in my book.

If AM performs more or less just as well for the rest of the season, then he will have fulfilled Marc's assessment of what is required by Repsol: "be on the podium".

If Pol ends up unable to do so next year to the extent that AM might this year, then the critics (even though they won't) will have plenty to tuck tail about (including Honda!)

The race was faster by a couple of seconds that Marc´s win last year. The top three all beat Marc´s time and with about the same track temperature, but Marc had enough lead to slow down by 2 seconds on his last lap...and that was the margin by which both Rins and AM were faster.

I would add that Alex Rins has the potential to beat them all. He crashed out of two races he could have won or been second in and of all the defeats that Marc suffered last year, the one that galled him the most was Silverstone. Actually, Rins beat him twice that day because he got his laps mixed up and thought the penultimate laps was the final lap and actually rode ´round the outside of Marc at Woolcott to to "win" that lap by 0.001 and then, when no flag was shown, had to get his concentration back and win the race for real, going up the inside this time. If you replay Marc in the post-race, pre-podium interview, you can see he was not amused.

Alex Marquez and Alex Rins, by the way, have history going back to Moto3 days when Rins felt that the Estrella Galicia team was built around the wrong Alex.

And, just an observation. When I came to the GP paddock in the 70s, the idea of Spanish riders dominating a single GP in the premier class, let alone being the powerhouse of the big class was unthinkable outside Spain and only whispered in Spain. One thing that held Spanish riders back was a virtual embargo on Spanish riders on Japanese teams because of the Spanish government's embargo on importation of Japanese bikes.

I might (definitely am...) be jumping the gun with the Quatararo notes coming tomorrow but IMO Petronas has made two big mistakes two races in a row now. First was not sending Fabio out to get some wet / damp condition experience in Le Mans "because it's not going to rain on Sunday" leading them to have no set up nor tyre information at all when the clouds emptied out 3 minutes before the race start and now they were taking an absolute wild punt on a tyre they haven't used with a pressure they got completely wrong. Seems unfathomable the championship leader's team could be so... amateur. Wilco has been around a long time and surely knows better than this. I wonder if Fabio, through pressure and inexperience, is perhaps going a little bit off script and wanting changes that weren't in the plan originally which has led to swings in the dark and fingers / toes crossed it works out?

"The performance of the rider are so influenced by their mentality, by their mind, you know. If they are happy it's easy to go fast. If they think the bike is good they go faster. If they think the bike has a problem, they amplificate everything" - Livio Suppo.

The purpose of the practice sessions is not only about adjusting or changing the settings of the bike, understanding the tires and track conditions, preparing for qualifying and practicing race starts. One other purpose is creating a rhythm for the rider. The ritualistic routine of going around and around and around the same track creating the same lines with the same braking points, turning points, acceleration points and shift points causes everything to become one in the mind of the rider. It all becomes automatic, natural or subconscious - not requiring any thought. The practice sessions prepare the mind of the rider. That's why "working in a good way" inside the pitbox - in a calm step by step manner without blame and judgment - is so important.

Marquez said, "Having already made a podium at Le Mans took away my thoughts. On the bike I forgot everything and was amazed at how fast I was." Marquez was fast because he he was happy about his podium in Le Mans. He was fast because he did not have to think about what he was doing. He proved to the thinking self, what Plato called the soul (consciousness taking on the role of the person with identity), that he was fast enough, good enough at Le Mans. This proof and self-belief silenced his critics, any self-doubt, and his mind (thought). And a rider with an empty, silent mind is one with the bike. This combination, this oneness, is a weapon. It also calls into question the source of thought. Can our thoughts about others, especially when combined with emotions, trouble the consciousness of others?

An empty, silent mind is a mind that is at peace. This is our natural state of consciousness. This deep, profound peace creates a sense of calm. Rins said, "Seriously, I was there on the grid with all of my mechanics. I was really calm. And I was thinking, 'Alex c'mon, be a bit nervous. You need to go up a lot of positions.'" When a rider has a calm disposition and not a lot of thoughts arising in the consciousness, they are not only one with the bike, but they can also be one with their surroundings. That's why they do not need to think a lot of strategy off the line. Everyone nails the throttle and launches their bikes when the lights go out, and when riders choose their trajectories it can seem like a parting of the obstacles. Space just opens up and that is exactly where Rin's bike went when the race started at Aragón.

In life we are inspired by our dreams. We dream up what we want in life and then go about trying to create it. The Universe listens to our dreams and helps manifest them into reality. Many times the result is different than our ideal - what is created in the imagination. It can feel like we are blocked from that elusive prize that we believe will give us peace. And sometimes it may be best to not think too much about what we want in the future because that is constantly imagining it in the future and not in the now. The paradox though is that everything that happens in reality happens in the now. Only the past and future are imagined in the mind.

Rather than focus on what one really wants, it may be best to make something else not quite as important the elusive prize. This is what Mir is engaged in right now. Mir holds the belief (which has been proven in the past to be false bt Alzamora) that in order to win the championship a rider must win races. So rather than make the championship the elusive prize, he is making the first race win the goal. Then, if he is in with a shot at the title at the last round or two, he'll think about the championship. It's good advice about where to focus one's attention in life. To kinda act like you don't want to win the championship. 

 

Desperation is repulsive, a desperate person pushes away that which he desires. A bit of insoucience is the key to baiting the universe into giving us what we want. Mir seems to be trying to talk himself into the right frame of mind but 'don't think of the elephant' doesn't usually work so well. That said, I believe he is as talented as anyone not named Marquez (one? both???) so he will get himself in the right place.

Giving is a way one can remove the obstacles blocking the realization of their dreams. It's a relationship - in order to receive one has to give. We receive what we give in life. Expressing gratitude is another to receive. Expressing gratitude for receiving what one wants before they receive it is old Native American wisdom.

Or maybe for some..Whilst the alternative race reports and psychological briefings are all part of this rich tapestry, Nicky Hayden's "It's why we line up on a Sunday, you never know what's going to happen" does it for me, particularly this year. Sometimes the woods looks better with a few less trees, 'appen. (Ancient South Yorkshire proverb).