It has been a rough start to the 2022 MotoGP season. Qatar started relatively smoothly, but things started going downhill from there.
The Indonesian round at Mandalika barely scraped through, the newly resurfaced track already coming up in the final corner as the new asphalt had not had time to bed in.
Then two broken cargo aircraft suffered technical problems and left part of the freight stranded in Mombasa, Africa on its way to Argentina.
A hastily rescheduled two-day event at the Termas de Rio Honda followed, which came off surprisingly well. Then with a short turnaround getting the freight from Argentina to Texas, there was another problem with cargo planes breaking down, and freight arriving late.
Fortunately for the GP of the Americas at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, the delay was merely stressful rather than problematic.
Marc Marquez’s second bout of diplopia, or double vision, inside the space of six months has been resolved favorably. The Repsol Honda team today announced he would make his return in Austin, after being given the go ahead by his doctors.
The news was not a complete surprise. Marquez had posted earlier on Tuesday that he had been at Alcarras, riding a Honda CBR600RR, as a test of his eyesight.
The Grand Prix of Argentina continues its proud tradition of weirdness, with Friday skipped and a day and a half of practice and qualifying crammed into Saturday.
The missing cargo, the result of not one but two planes breaking down between Mandalika and Termas de Rio Hondo, meant that Friday was canceled and the work of preparing for practice started around 2am on Saturday morning, as bikes and equipment were delivered up and down pit lane.
But, MotoGP as a whole pulled it off: apart from the weird schedule, practice and qualifying happened, and history was made.
It has been a busy day for everyone involved in MotoGP. A large section of the paddock was sat either behind a computer or staring at a mobile device frantically refreshing their flight tracker app of choice, watching the exploits of Aerostan aircraft EX-47001, as it finally made its way from Mombasa in Kenya to Lagos in Nigeria to Salvador in Brazil.
As I write this, it has taken off from Salvador and is winging its way to Tucuman, where it is due to land some time after 9pm. At Salvador, the flight number changed from BSC4042 to BSC4043.
A sign? I leave it up to the reader to decipher the letters BSC in the flight number.
Despite being back to something resembling relative normality, MotoGP is off to a strange start in 2022. The season opener at Qatar saw the favorites fall short, and a surprise winner and championship leader.
The second race, at Mandalika in Indonesia, nudged uncomfortably close to farce, the rain saving the MotoGP race from disaster. But like many wet races, the result was far from representative.
For round 3, MotoGP heads to Argentina, and the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. The track in Argentina is a lesson in contrasts.
A broken down cargo freighter has thrown the schedule for the Argentina Grand Prix at Termas de Rio Hondo into chaos.
One of the aircraft carrying some of the freight from Indonesia to Argentina suffered problems, causing the freight to get stuck in Mombasa, Kenya, and delaying its arrival at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit.
With bikes from a number of teams missing – including the Gresini Ducati of MotoGP championship leader Enea Bastianini – it was decided to cancel practice for all three classes on Friday, and to begin the weekend on Saturday instead.
The Repsol Honda team has announced that Marc Marquez is to miss the Argentina round of MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit.
The Spaniard met with the specialist treating him for diplopia, or double vision, on Monday, who judged that it would be better for him to sit out the race weekend taking place in Argentina.
Honda went into the Indonesian Grand Prix widely seen as potential front runners. Pol Espargaro had been fastest in the test at Mandalika a month previously, Marc Marquez had been quickest on the second day of the test, Honda riders had set a consistently fast pace, looking better than their single-lap speed.
What’s more, Espargaro was coming off a podium at the season opener at Qatar, the race where Marc Marquez had finished fifth.
To say the Indonesian Grand Prix ended badly for Honda is an understatement. Pol Espargaro was fastest Honda once again, but the Repsol rider crossed the line way down in 12th, 33 seconds behind the winner, Miguel Oliveira.
Espargaro was one of only two Honda riders to finish in the points, crossing the line just ahead of Alex Marquez on the LCR Honda in 13th. Takaaki Nakagami could only struggle to a 19th place, 49 seconds behind the winner.
That wasn’t the really bad news, however. The worst blow for Honda was the fact that Marc Marquez manage to miss the race, and perhaps endanger his chances of the 2022 title, or worse. Much worse.
There has been much debate over the past two months over the use of front ride-height devices, hydraulic-mechanical systems which lower the front of a MotoGP bike on corner exit.
Ever since Ducati turned up with the device at the Sepang test, the other motorcycle manufacturers have complained about it as a waste of money, an expensive way of finding small performance gains.
That prompted an internal discussion inside the MSMA, the association of motorcycle manufacturers racing in MotoGP.
Marc Marquez has suffered yet another injury setback on his long road to recovery. He has been diagnosed with another episode of diplopia, or double vision, after his huge highside in the morning warm up before the Indonesian Grand Prix at Mandalika.
Marquez was ruled unfit after the crash, and did not take part in the race at Mandalika. At the time, he had undergone scans to check for broken bones and brain trauma, but the scans turned up nothing serious.
Fearing a concussion, however, Marquez was not allowed to ride, a decision he and his team supported. During his trip back to Spain, however, he started to suffer vision problems again.
The first Indonesian GP in 25 years has been a complicated affair. A new track, in the middle of a construction site where a new resort is being built. A track which was resurfaced after the test uncovered issues with the asphalt.
The blistering tropical heat, capable of raising track temperatures to well over 60°. The swapping out of the rear tire used at the test for an older, safer tire used in Austria and Buriram to prevent the tire from blistering if track temperatures get that high.
And the intense rains which leave the track wet for a long time, have eaten into setup time, and keep washing dirt onto the surface.