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Pol Espargaro Interview: “With hard work, blood and sweat, I can develop the Honda”

Whatever your impressions of Pol Espargaro, you can’t doubt his courage. It’s now over a year since the rider from Granollers, Catalonia chose to sign for Repsol Honda, leaving KTM’s factory team, which he helped build from the ground up. The seat has been something of a poisoned chalice in recent times. There, Dani Pedrosa’s racing career sizzled out in disappointment. Jorge Lorenzo’s sole year in orange turned into a personal ordeal. And Alex Márquez was informed he would be leaving the squad at the end of his first season before he had even raced. It turns out being team-mate to this generation’s greatest talent is no walk in the park.

Yet Espargaro jumped at the chance to measure himself against Marc Márquez He had long harboured that goal, telling me in 2019 without hesitation he’d choose racing his old Moto2 nemesis on the same bike over any other rider in history. While he was more than a match for his countryman in the junior categories – Pol narrowly lost out to Marc in fiery championship battles in 125s in 2010 and Moto2 in 2012 – their fortunes in the premier class diverged. As Márquez racked up records and titles at a dizzying race, Espargaro forged his reputation aiding KTM’s rise from class rookies to multiple race winners.

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Barcelona MotoGP Race Subscriber Notes: A Forensic Analysis Of Quartararo's Open Leathers, The Collapse Of the MSMA, And Will Honda Rise Again

It would be nice to sit down at the end of a MotoGP weekend and just write about the race. But it seems increasingly, the first thing a journalist has to do after a MotoGP race is go back and read the FIM Grand Prix World Championship Regulations, also known as the yellow book, back when books were a thing, and rules didn't change every couple of weeks rendering paper books unusable. We have had a stream of rule infractions, both large and small, infringements of rules which few new existed, and the application of penalties which have inevitably needed clarification.

The need to go back and reread the rulebook has sometimes been due to inexperience in particular situations – for example, Fabio Quartararo parking his bike in the wrong spot during the flag-to-flag race at Le Mans – or cunning use of the rules – see Marc Márquez crossing the white lines on pit lane entry at the same race. Sometimes, it has because we needed clarification of very specific situations, such as Miguel Oliveira and Joan Mir exceeding track limits on the last lap in Mugello.

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Mugello Subscriber Notes: To Race Or Not To Race, And Quartararo, Rins, And Marquez

It is hard to sit down after a MotoGP weekend to write about the racing after a young rider has lost their lives. I have had to do it four times now, and it doesn't get any easier. It merely raises the uncomfortable questions we all know surround motorcycle racing: how do you enjoy a sport which is fundamentally dangerous? A sport in which a mistake risks not just injury, but death?

I have no ready answer to this question. It remains as uncomfortable now as it did the first time I had to address it, after Shoya Tomizawa's tragic accident at Misano in 2010. I feel just as ambiguous about it now as I did eleven years ago. It remains as clear as mud.

If anything, the manner of Jason Dupasquier's passing made the situation even more complicated. The Swiss rider fell right at the end of the Q2 session for Moto3, and was struck by following riders. The minimum combined weight for rider and bike for Moto3 is 152kg. The physics of speed differential and minimum weight meant Dupasquier sustained massive injuries in the incident.

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Le Mans MotoGP Subscriber Notes: How To Win A Flag-To-Flag Race

It was inevitable really. The weather over the first two days of the Le Mans Grand Prix had been chaotic, so why would Sunday be any different? The skies were predictably unpredictable, the weather managing to provide different conditions for all three Grand Prix classes, in itself quite an achievement. We kicked the day off with a wet Moto3 race, the rain stopping early on to allow the Moto2 race to be dry. And to round things off, MotoGP started dry, then the drops of rain that started falling on lap 3 turned into a downpour on lap 4, triggering the first flag-to-flag race in MotoGP since Brno in 2017.

Chaos was unleashed, and a new Prince of Chaos crowned, the former prince brutally dethroned, betrayed by the conditions, and by the lack of strength in his right arm. Such is chaos, and such is the way of a flag-to-flag race. It was fascinating and terrifying to watch, and like all flag-to-flag races, immediately raised a host of questions over rules and safety. And reminded us once again that leads are meaningless early in the race. It's about the full 27 laps.

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Cormac's Tech Shots From Jerez: Holeshot Devices Close Up And In The Flesh For Subscribers


The Ducati left handlebar up close: On the top yoke, the front and rear holeshot device switches, on the handlebar, the red, yellow, and green buttons for the electronics, and a lockout lever for the 'shapeshifter' or ride height lowering device

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Peter Bom's Tech Corner: Why The Gap Between Fairing and Wheel On The KTM?

One of the first things you notice when you look at the KTM RC16 MotoGP machine is that there is so much space around the front wheel. Where the other MotoGP bikes look like the front wheel is tucked as tightly as possible under the front fairing, the KTM's front wheel seems to be pushed forward and almost hanging loose, as if they've forgotten to add part of the fairing.

You can see it most clearly when you put the bike side by side. The gap between the front wheel and fairing on Brad Binder's KTM RC16 seems huge by comparison with Alex Márquez' Honda RC213V. The line of the Honda fairing follows the circumference of the wheel. The KTM fairing is more of a 'boomerang' shape, two straight lines connected by a section of an arc.

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Jerez MotoGP Test Subscriber Notes: A Rundown Of Who Was Testing What, And Why

For some, the Monday after the Jerez race was a busy day, as they worked their way through a full program of parts and settings to prepare for Le Mans and beyond (and in Suzuki's case, for 2022). For others, they had a relatively easy day, especially the two factory Ducati riders – to the victors go the spoils. And for the unlucky ones of the weekend, they either barely turned a wheel, or not at all, as they headed off for medical checkups.

Fabio Quartararo took no part in the test at all. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider headed back to France to get medical advice on the best options for treatment on the arm pump issue which cost him the race on Sunday. With his home race up next, his priorities were clear.

Aleix Espargaro, who had also suffered with arm pump on Sunday, did ride a little, but he only put in 12 laps before heading back to Barcelona and seeking medical advice. Marc Márquez did a quick run out on Honda's new aero package – one of them, at least – before calling it a day after just 7 laps. The Repsol Honda rider had neck pain from his huge crash on Saturday, as well as stiffness in his shoulder, and elected to focus on his recovery instead.

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Jerez MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Breaking The Mold, Consistency Counts, And The Ins And Outs Of Arm Pump

"That's why we line up on Sunday. You never know what's going to happen," the late Nicky Hayden once said, in response to a particularly stupid question on my part. Jerez proved him right once again, events conspiring to confound what seemed to be an obvious conclusion from the very beginning.

What happened? At 2pm on Sunday, the MotoGP grid lined up with Fabio Quartararo on pole, starting as favorite after laying down an intimidating pace in practice. Alongside him were Franco Morbidelli on a two-year old Yamaha, and the Ducati of Jack Miller, while the second Ducati of Pecco Bagnaia started behind him.

It was obvious to the experienced Jerez hands that Fabio Quartararo would walk away with the race, the Frenchman having way too much pace for anyone else to stay with him over 25 laps. The Ducatis may have lined up third and fourth on the grid, but they would surely face; Jerez is not a Ducati track after all. The last Ducati victory at the circuit was way, way back in 2006, when Loris Capirossi kicked off the season with a win aboard the Desmosedici GP6.

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