Here is a preview of things to expect and watch for during during MotoGP’s stop in Spain, for the Aragon GP.
Racing under the Adriatic sun, here are the MotoGP race results from the San Marino GP.
Cal Crutchlow has added an extra year onto his contract with HRC to race in the LCR Honda team for the 2020 season.
This means the Englishman will be remaining at the LCR Honda team for the next two years, bringing him into line with almost the whole of the rest of the MotoGP grid.
At the end of the 2020 season, Crutchlow will be involved in the next wave of contract madness, with all factory seats (with the possible exception of one Ducati seat), falling open at the same time.
Crutchlow’s announcement will not be the only one to take place today. Alvaro Bautista is scheduled to be in the Thursday press conference at Silverstone, where he is expected to announce he has signed for the Aruba.it Ducati team in WorldSBK.
A permanent and bitter debate rages among British fans over where the home of the British round of MotoGP should be. One faction believes that Donington Park should play host to MotoGP. The other states categorically that, no, the true home of MotoGP in the UK is the Silverstone circuit.
There is a third, far smaller faction which claims that Brands Hatch is where the British Grand Prix should be held. Blinded by nostalgia, they hark back to the halcyon days of World Superbikes, when fans packed the track to watch Carl Fogarty dominate.
But they ignore the fact that the circuit is too short, too tight, and frankly, too dangerous to play host to 270+hp MotoGP machines. The Ducati would barely get out of third gear around Brands. The Brands Hatch faction can safely be ignored.
The battle lines between Donington and Silverstone are clearly drawn. Donington is set on a rolling hillside, with grass banks where fans can watch a large part of the action. Fans love Donington for the views, and for the access (though not so much for the facilities).
Silverstone is a vast affair, with lots of fast sweeping corners where the MotoGP bikes can really stretch their legs. Racers love Silverstone for the challenge of riding fast and hard, but fans complain of limited access, limited views, and cold and windy seats up in grandstands.
Which track is better? In terms of racing, there is really no contest. Donington is too small, too tight to host a modern MotoGP machine.
The final sector, the Melbourne Loop, was a late addition to find the necessary length to allow the track to qualify as a Grand Prix circuit. It was added without any thought or imagination on how to make the circuit more interesting.
It is a busy schedule for the MotoGP teams since coming back from their all-too-brief summer break. After back-to-back weekends at Brno and Spielberg, five teams headed to Misano, for a private test this weekend.
For Ducati (the only team to issue a press release after the test, the test was mainly about preparing for their second home race at Misano in three weeks’ time. Misano is a huge race for Ducati, and a good result there is an absolute necessity.
If the times released by Ducati are accurate, then a good result is almost assured: Jorge Lorenzo lapped at just about the circuit pole record, while Andrea Dovizioso was six tenths slower than his teammate.
Riders, teams, journalists, fans, almost everyone likes to complain about the layout of the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. Three fast straights connected by hairpins, with a long left hand corner thrown in for the sake of variety.
The facilities and setting may be magnificent, but the track layout is pretty dire. Coming from the spectacular, flowing layout of Brno, the contrast could hardly be greater.
And yet the Red Bull Ring consistently manages to produce fantastic racing. The combined gap between first and second place across all three classes on Sunday was 0.867 seconds, and nearly half a second of that was down to Moto3.
The MotoGP race was decided on the last lap again, just as it had been in 2017, though the race was decided at Turn 3, rather than the final corner. Spielberg once again served up a breathtaking battle for MotoGP fans, with a deserved winner, and the rest of the podium riders losing with valor and honor.
If we were to be picky about it, it would be to complain that the protagonists of the MotoGP race were rather predictable.
It is no surprise that the factory Ducatis would play a role at the front of the race: a Ducati had won in Austria in the previous two races, and the long straights from slow corners are almost made to measure for the Desmosedici’s balance of power, mechanical grip, acceleration, and braking stability.
Nor was it a surprise that Marc Márquez should be involved, the gains made by Honda in acceleration giving the RC213V the tools to tackle the Ducatis.
It is a good job it will be dry on Sunday at the Red Bull Ring. Because if it were to stop raining half an hour before the race started, the rest of the field wouldn’t see which way Marc Márquez went.
That is the conclusion we can draw from Saturday morning in Austria, when FP3 started on a wet track with a dry line forming.
Márquez waited patiently in the pits for half an hour, then when the dry line got wide enough, went out on slick, and destroyed the field, lapping 2 seconds or more faster than anyone else.
It was a display of just how useful all that riding flat track has been to Márquez. There is no one quite so good at searching for grip on a sketchy surface, and clinging so precisely to the thin line of drying track which offers grip.
We knew it was going to rain at some point on Friday, the only question was when. Well, not quite the only question.
The other question was, if it did rain, would the MotoGP riders go out and ride in the rain? Or would they deem the Red Bull Ring to be too dangerous to ride in the wet, and sit out practice, as they had threatened when rain had caused Moto2 riders to fall like skittles last year?
It started to rain in the early afternoon, right at the end of Moto3 FP2.
Thankfully, not heavily enough to claim too many casualties, though Nicolo Bulega did suffer a massive highside after the checkered flag had fallen, his bike flying through the air and clouting Nakarin Atiratphuvapat around the head, the Thai rider trying to fend off the airborne KTM with one hand, while trying not to fall off with the other.
From that moment on, the rain started to pelt down. A rivulet started running across pit lane exit, and standing water formed on the steep downhill sections of Turns 1 through 4.
It rained so heavily that MotoGP FP2 was delayed for 20 minutes or so, as the safety car circulated testing conditions. But the session was eventually given the green light, and riders were free to enter the track. Would anyone attempt it?
Alex Rins was the first to test the waters, venturing out and then heading straight back in. Johann Zarco was the next, the Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider the first to put in consistent laps, though conditions were not really up to it.
“When I start, even if we have mapping for the rain, there is too much power and I was fifth gear and spinning in fifth gear all the time,” Zarco said. “Also I have to have half-throttle to go and to make the straight.”
A third of the way into Sunday’s race at Brno, and there was a group of eleven riders fighting for the lead. That’s the MotoGP race, not the Moto3 race. In the Moto3 race at the same stage, there was still a group of twenty riders at the front.
In Moto2, ten riders were in the group at the front. If you wanted to see close racing, Brno delivered the goods, in all three classes. The MotoGP race saw the eighth closest podium finish of all time, and the closest top ten in history.
Moto2 was decided by seven hundredths of a second. The podium finishers in all three classes were separated by half a second or less. And the combined winning margin, adding up the gap between first and second in MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3, was 0.360. Are you not entertained?
“A good battle,” is how Cal Crutchlow described Sunday’s MotoGP race at Brno. “I think again, MotoGP has proved to be the best motor sport entertainment there is. Week in, week out we keep on having these battles.”
The race may not have seen the hectic swapping of places which we saw at Assen. The lead may not have changed hands multiple times a lap on multiple laps. Yet the race was as tense and exciting as you could wish, with plenty of passing and the result going down to the wire.
Is it any surprise that Brno should produce such great racing? Sunday’s race reiterated just how crucial circuit layout is in racing. The track is one of the widest on the calendar, with sweeping corners which run into each other.
A defensive line going into a corner leaves you open to attack on corner exit. What’s more, even if you ride defensively, or pass a rider and get passed again, you still end up with the same lap time. Brno, Assen, Mugello, Phillip Island: these tracks are made for motorcycle racing.
There are modern tracks on the MotoGP calendar, and there are old tracks. The modern tracks offer plenty of run off and nice wide tarmac, but are usually too tight and convoluted to give free rein to a MotoGP bike.
The old tracks are fast, flowing, offer plenty of overtaking opportunities, and are a real challenge, but they also tend to be narrow, and, frankly, dangerously lacking in run off. The riders find the new tracks irritating, but enjoy the safety, and they love the old tracks, but fear the consequences of a bad mistake.
The Automotodrom Brno seems like the perfect compromise. Fast and flowing, challenging, and big enough to give a MotoGP bike its legs. But also wide, with plenty of run off in most places, and plenty of grip from the track.
It has a stadium section, giving fans the chance to follow the action through a section of track. But it also flows up and down a hill, and through the woods, a ribbon of tarmac snaking through a beautiful natural setting, high on a hill above the city of Brno.
That location offers its own challenges. Up on the hill, it is usually a little cooler than down in the town. The woods exhale oxygen which gives the bikes a little power boost.
But they also hold moisture, the combination of high hills and thick woods raising the possibility of rain. Fortunately, the track retains its grip in the wet, though the rain can still shake up a race.
The Sachsenring is a unique circuit, and a unique place. We say that about almost every racetrack we go to, but it is much more true of the Sachsenring than of anywhere else.
No track is as tight, yet deeply challenging as the tightly-coiled circuit in Hohenstein-Ernstthal, and the atmosphere among the fans is electric.
Normally here, I would give a brief description or history of the circuit at which MotoGP is due to race. But Mat Oxley has already done that much better than I would have, so I suggest you read his article on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
There is a very good chance that this is the last race here at the Sachsenring, as Oxley lays out in the article. But all hope is not yet lost: regional politics may yet solve the problem, though it will be done with taxpayers’ money.
Given the huge attendance at the circuit – Sunday numbers often well over 90,000, and over 100,000 on occasion – the race generates a huge amount of revenue for the surrounding area.
Hotels are full, restaurants are heaving, supermarkets stock extra food and drink (especially drink). All that generates more revenue for local government through taxes. But will that be enough to justify spending on keeping the race here?