Author

David Emmett

Browsing

With barely a moment to catch its collective breath, the MotoGP paddock alights at Buriram, in the east of Thailand.

The heavy rain which lashed the paddock in Motegi has followed them across the South China Sea, with heavy rain and flooding in many parts of Thailand.

Some who chose to drive rather than fly from Bangkok to Buriram reported flooded roads at several points along the way, and fields around the track are also flooded.

Nor is the rain done with MotoGP just yet. Thursday’s media duties took place in heavy rain, marshals and circuit workers doing their best to rid the track of the worst of its surface water.

The MotoGP calendar continues to expand. Today, Dorna announced in an unusually brief press release that the Sokol International Racetrack, 50 kilometers north  east of Almaty in Kazakhstan, is to be added to the MotoGP calendar for 2023 for a five-year period.

The Kazakh track is still in the process of being built, and so will face homologation and safety checks before the race will be confirmed as happening in 2023.

The race in Kazakhstan will take the slot vacated by the now defunct Kymiring in Finland, which failed due to its business case collapsing when Russia invaded Ukraine.

We are entering the four most important weekends of the season. Important for a lot of reasons: there are five races to go and just 17 points separate the championship leaders.

But above all, important because we are heading to three tracks where MotoGP hasn’t been since 2019, and Sepang, where MotoGP has only tested in 2020 and 2022. We are heading into the unknown, just as the championship is coming to a head.

So much has changed since MotoGP was on its last Pacific tour. Valentino Rossi was still in the Monster Energy Yamaha team. A young rookie called Fabio Quartararo was making a massive impression on fans.

Andrea Dovizioso was doing his best to win a championship for Ducati, against an unstoppable Marc Marquez. Marquez was having perhaps the best season in grand prix racing since Giacomo Agostini crushed the opposition in the late 1960s on the MV Agusta.

2019 saw the ride-height devices first start to make an appearance, Jack Miller using the system in Thailand. It was the last year of the old Michelin rear casing, the new tire introduced in 2020 effectively killing off Andrea Dovizioso’s career.

The recent spate of official rider announcements means that the MotoGP rider line up for 2023 is nearly complete.

The official confirmation by Aprilia that Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez would be racing in the RNF Aprilia squad brings the total of confirmed riders signed to 18. All of the factory seats are now occupied, and just four of the satellite seats remain open.

With seven races left in the 2022 MotoGP season, we are approaching the final stretch. There are 175 points left to play for, and Fabio Quartararo has a lead of 32 points over Aleix Espargaro.

That means that Espargaro still has his fate in his own hands: he can become 2022 MotoGP champion by the simple expedient of winning every MotoGP race left, and if Quartararo finishes second in all seven races, the Aprilia rider would take his first championship by a slim margin of 3 points.

There is a bittersweet irony to motorcycle racing. On the one hand, we want the racing to be as safe as it can possibly be.

On the other, the element of risk, the thrill of watching a rider wrestle a motorcycle at very high speed on the edge of adhesion, teetering on the brink of disaster, is part of the appeal. Racing a motorcycle is difficult, and because the rider sits aboard the bike, in full view, it is obvious even to the most casual observer just how difficult it is.

Which brings me to the Red Bull Ring. The circuit at Spielberg is simple, and incredibly dangerous, because the bikes spend so much time either pulling hard in high gear, or braking hard into tight corners.

With the summer break over, MotoGP is set to resume at Silverstone. Was a five-week break a long time? “It was short!” Pol Espargaro insisted.

He would say that, though, having ended the first half of the season with a cracked rib and a couple of disastrous weekends.

“I think it was the first time I enjoyed a break so much, because I was mentally and physically quite injured, and I needed to stop, to take a deep breath.”

The rest of the field were not quite as emphatic as Espargaro, but they all said that having a proper break, rather than just three weeks instead of two between races, made a difference. They returned refreshed, motivated, and genuinely keen to get back on a MotoGP bike.

The official announcement that Alex Rins has signed a two-year deal with the LCR Honda team means that the 2023 MotoGP grid is now officially half full. The factory Yamaha, KTM, and Aprilia seats are all confirmed, as is the Gresini Ducati team.

There has been official confirmation of one side of the Repsol Honda, Ducati Factory, and LCR Honda teams.

Does that mean that the remaining 11 seats are still wide open? Not all of them. There are some which are sure bets, while others are still very much open.