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Joan Mir Interview: On His Hard Road To MotoGP, Burning Brightly But Briefly, And Coping With Crashes

It has been a pretty tough couple of weeks for Joan Mir. After a frustrating sixth place at the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, in which he complained of struggling with the front, on the day after, at the end of the Jerez test on Monday, he was called in to the office in the Suzuki Ecstar team truck to be told be Shinichi Sahara and Livio Suppo that Suzuki had decided to withdraw from MotoGP at the end of the 2022 season.

Two weeks later, after a difficult day on Saturday, where he found himself struggling in FP3 and having to go through Q1, Mir ended up crashing out of the French Grand Prix at Le Mans while chasing a possible podium. "It's been painful mentally," Mir said after the race on Sunday.

Can Joan Mir bounce back? At the Circuit of The Americas, I spoke to Mir about his past, and the road he took to MotoGP. It was a long, hard, and uncertain road, the possibility of failure lurking every step along the way. Mir had to bear a heavy burden of responsibility, one he shouldered largely through his own choice, rather than outside pressure. Along the way, he had to deal with plenty of setbacks, and turn them into something positive. That path helped him to win the 2020 MotoGP championship.

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Jerez Test: Close Up Photos Of Yamaha's Swingarm And Fender, Honda's Exhausts, And Ducati's Ride-Height Devices

The Monday after Jerez was the first chance that the teams and factories got to work on their bikes since the entire design was homologated ahead of the MotoGP season opener at Qatar. Given the oft-discussed weird start to the 2022 season, where the teams never seemed to have more than 5 minutes of normal or consistent conditions, having a whole day with a dry track allowed everyone some badly-needed time to work on some very basic stuff.

Of course, not everything was perfect. The weather was significantly cooler than it had been on Sunday, and the wind picked up considerably. There was also a nice thick layer of Michelin rubber, laid down in Sunday's race, the with the MotoE class, also Michelin-shod, adding yet more to the track surface. If anyone had hoped to work on low grip conditions, they would have to create them themselves by running very, very old tires.

Starting first with satellite riders – real satellite riders, that is, not the factory-backed riders in junior teams like Pramac – and rookies. When you have no new parts to test, then what you work on is setup, and especially the kind of setup changes that you don't have time to try during a race weekend.

Setup first

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History Deep Dive: Why Suzuki's Withdrawal From MotoGP Won't Be Like Kawasaki In 2009

Two years after starting the blog which would eventual morph into MotoMatters.com, I felt it was time to quit my job and do this full time. It seemed like the perfect moment to pursue my dream of writing about MotoGP for a living, so I handed in my notice to my erstwhile employer and prepared to strike out on my own. That was late August, 2008.

Two weeks later, on September 15th, Lehman Brothers collapsed, kicking off the Global Financial Crisis which would plunge the world into recession. My timing turned out to be absolutely terrible.

Why am I looking back to 2008? Because the financial crisis sparked by the collapse of the US housing market and the worldwide banking system would have a profound effect on motorcycle racing, and would go on to shape MotoGP as it is today. It would create the conditions where there were six manufacturers racing in MotoGP. It would also reshape the politics of MotoGP to put Dorna in a much stronger position to cope with Suzuki's decision to withdraw from the series.

What will Dorna do and how will they handle Suzuki's withdrawal? To understand their current position, you need to go back to 2008, and the aftermath of that terrible September.

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Portimão MotoGP Subscriber Notes: When The Rider Makes The Difference, And A Dash Of Normality Returning

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. It is a painfully trite cliché, and yet like most clichés, it gets used so often because it generalizes a truth. You may not always have the best tools at your disposal for the job at hand, so you just have to find a way to make the best of what you do have.

The current MotoGP elite know this lesson all too well. Marc Marquez won his Moto2 championship on a Suter against superior Kalexes. Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin came up through Moto3 riding Mahindra, a competent but underpowered motorcycle. Fabio Quartararo found himself on a Speed Up in Moto2, and found a way to win on a finicky but fast Moto2 bike. They didn't have what they wanted, but they found a way to make it work anyway.

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Corrado Cecchinelli: On MotoGP's Push For Non-Fossil Fuels, The Inevitability Of Ride-Height Devices, And Balancing The Rules

In November, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, announced that the series would be switching to using fuel obtained from non-fossil sources in two steps. From 2024, at least 40% of the fuel used in MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 will be of non-fossil origin, with a switch to completely fossil-free, sustainably-sourced fuels by 2027.

Why 2027? The MotoGP series runs in five-year cycles. Contracts with manufacturers and teams are set for five years, guaranteeing continuity and financial stability, especially important for independent teams. Dorna also promises stability in the technical rules over that same five-year period, allowing manufacturers to work on technologies over the medium term. 2022 is the start of a new five-year contract period, due to expire at the end of 2026, so 2027 is the next opportunity for major technological change.

At the Sepang MotoGP test in February, I got a chance to talk to MotoGP's Director of Technology, Corrado Cecchinelli. As a former engineer with Ducati, Cecchinelli is the person appointed by Dorna to understand and guide the technical rulebook in MotoGP. In principle, the MSMA, the association of manufacturers active in MotoGP, manage the technical rules, but Cecchinelli is charged with translating those concerns into a working set of rule, and with working with manufacturers to make grand prix motorcycle racing a place where they can fruitfully compete, develop new technologies, and train their engineers.

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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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Austin MotoGP Subscriber Notes: A Satellite Challenger, What Went Wrong With Marquez, And Consistency Is Key

The Circuit of The Americas is an impressive venue set on the edge of a spectacular city, with much to commend it. Vast grounds to walk around, with plenty of grass banks overlooking large sections of track. And everywhere there is something to do, not necessarily racing related, with a large vendor area, a funfair, and more.

What COTA isn't known for is spectacular racing. As MotoGP commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast regular Neil Morrison likes to say, the usual sequence of events is, we spend Thursday speculating who might be able to beat Marc Marquez this year, spend Friday analyzing Marquez' pace, and wondering if he's lost his edge at the track, marvel at him grabbing pole on Saturday, then watch him disappear into the distance after the first lap or two, as the race turns into a procession.

Not in 2022, though. This year, the race brought spectacle, hard battles, and a much more open race than in the past. A new winner, and a rider who seems to have an edge. And yes, a spectacular ride by Marc Marquez demonstrating his superiority at COTA, though this time, forced into it by a problem on the grid that saw him enter the first corner dead last.

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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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Stefania Palma Speaks: Mother Of Valentino Rossi & Luca Marini On Racing, Retirement, And What The Future Holds

After 26 years in the World Championship and more than three decades of racing, Valentino Rossi retired from competing on two wheels. His mother Stefania Palma looks back on the achievements of her son and the future in an exclusive interview.

There is something quiet, calm, gentle and very calculated in the way Stefania Palma speaks. Her eyes are penetrating yet beautiful, delicate and soft at the same time. She radiates warmth, acceptance, patience but she is also direct and resolute.

Stefania, or Steffi as her sons call her, does not share the same surname as Valentino - Graziano's son, a past racer - or like Luca - the son of Massimo Marini, who coaches soccer goalkeepers by profession - and seems quite comfortable with the fact that the family name gives her some anonymity.

Stefania met Graziano when he was already pursuing his dream of becoming a motorcycle racer. Parallel to her studies she accompanied the young rider through his career at the World Championship, even when he suffered serious and life-threatening injuries that led to his retirement - and might have also had an influence on their separation when their only shared son Valentino was a young boy.

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Mandalika MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes: Indonesia Deserves Better, Why Confidence Matters, And A Surprising Rookie

As I wrote on Thursday, if there is one nation which deserves a MotoGP race, it is Indonesia. The fact that the President himself turned up for the race, (and actually hung around for the MotoGP race, rather than disappearing once the formalities had been handled) says plenty about the central role which the sport plays in Indonesia.

Indonesia may deserve a MotoGP round, but they deserve better than they got at Mandalika. Despite the fact that we had three races at the track, with three deserving winners, including an Indonesian rider on the front row in Moto3 and the first ever Thai winner of a grand prix, with Somkiat Chantra's victory in Moto2, MotoGP got through the event by the skin of its teeth.

Starting with the crowds. The fans who turned up were fantastic, enthusiastic and clearly reveling in the fact that they had a race in their home country at last. The official attendance figure was 62,923, but to paraphrase a popularly misattributed aphorism, there are lies, damned lies, and official sporting event attendance numbers.

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