Unfortunately because of some technical difficulties, the audio on this show isn’t up to our usual standard. But, the guys still cover in great details the on track action at the race, as well as the goings on behind the scenes in the paddock.
It has been a strange weekend so far in Barcelona, with changing conditions once again the culprit. First, there was the heavy rain on Wednesday and Thursday, which left the track coated in fine sand and dust blown in from the Sahara.
Then there is the rapidly changing weather: temperatures have been rising rapidly every day, with track temperatures 10°C higher on Saturday than they had been on Friday, with a similar increase expected again on Sunday.
Track temperatures for the race are expected to be well over 50°C, spelling disaster for grip levels.
Completing the trifecta of problems, the Moto2 race is likely to leave a thick layer of Dunlop rubber on the surface, which will make grip levels even more unpredictable. “After Moto2, it will be worse,” Michelin’s Two Wheel Motorsports manager Piero Taramasso predicted on Saturday evening.
“Many times this problem happens when you have aggressive asphalt, which is the case here, and on a track in very hot conditions, which is also the case. So I think that tomorrow after the Moto2 race, the conditions will be not as good as we would like.”
Another day of track action and the running of the Moto2 race may help sweep some of the dust and sand from the track, but the rubber the Moto2 bikes leave behind in the forecast hot and humid conditions will leave the surface greasy and without grip.
“The track will be cleaner, but without Michelin rubber on the track,” Taramasso said. One step forward, two steps back.
Why are the MotoGP bikes so much slower at Barcelona than last year? In FP1, fastest man Marc Márquez was a second and a quarter slower than Valentino Rossi was in the first session of 2018. Fabio Quartararo, fastest rider in FP2, was 1.2 seconds slower than Jorge Lorenzo was in the same session in 2018.
“If you compare to last year, in FP2 somebody did a 1’38 and many riders were able to do a 1’39, but this year, nobody was able to do a 1’39,” Takaaki Nakagami wondered. “More or less 1 second slower than last year.”
The answer came from the skies. When I walked to my car this morning, I found it covered in thick drops of very fine dust. According to the locals, this is a fine dust carried from sandstorms in the Sahara, 1000km south of Barcelona.
Heavy rain earlier in the week, then brief showers overnight, and at the start of the afternoon, left this fine Saharan sand all over the track, making it dusty, and robbing it of grip.
A lack of grip wasn’t the only problem. The sand on the track was also incredibly abrasive, chewing through tires, especially fronts, and especially in FP1. When Marc Márquez came back from his second run on the medium front tire, the right side looked like someone had taken a cheese grater to it.
Things were much better in the afternoon, but it did make figuring out who was doing what much more difficult. With conditions so rough in the morning, most riders were using up their allocation of tires they did not expect to need for either qualifying or the race. But some were also approaching the weekend from a different angle.
Was FP1 a wasted session? “No, it was not a waste of a session for sure,” Fabio Quartararo told us on Friday afternoon, after setting the fastest time of the day. The brief rain shower in the afternoon had made FP2 a tricky proposition as well, the Petronas Yamaha SRT rider said.
“Also in FP2, there was some rain in Moto3, it looked like it wasn’t water, it was more dirt. I work a lot with the rear brake, and today, I couldn’t touch it, because as soon as you touch it, the bike is sliding a lot. So for me the track today was really dirty, and we see that the lap times are really far from last year already.”
If MotoGP has a home, it is in Barcelona. There are many other places which have a solid claim to that title, of course. The Grand Prix championship was born in the Isle of Man, the 1949 TT being the first event to count towards the motorcycle racing world championship.
Freddie Frith won the 350cc class race on 13th of June of that year, the race which kicked off the championship. (Dorna is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the start of the championship this week, so keep an eye out for that).
But the Isle of Man hasn’t been on the calendar since 1976, the circuit rightly ruled too dangerous to race a Grand Prix at, even by the standards of the 1970s.
If not the Isle of Man, is Britain the home of Grand Prix racing? The UK once provided the bulk of the riders in the championship, and many of the bikes.
But British influence has waned, and though the paddock is still full of Brits, especially in organizational capacities, there are just a handful of British riders in the championship, and the Moto2 engines of the British brand Triumph are actually produced in Thailand.
Italy certainly has a valid claim to be the spiritual home of racing. The two riders with the largest number of victories in Grand Prix racing, Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi, hail from Italy, and both are widely touted as the greatest motorcycle racers in history.
There are two Italian factories in MotoGP, Ducati having been a mainstay of the premier class, while Aprilia formed the backbone of the smaller classes when they were still two strokes. And there is a generation of young Italian riders on the way up, brought on in large part by Valentino Rossi’s massive investment in Italian talent.
Japan, perhaps? Honda and Yamaha kept Grand Prix running from the dawn of the two stroke era up until the present day, while Suzuki did their part in the 1970s and ’80s, and are slowly looking to expand their support again, with a satellite squad likely to enter in 2021.
Japanese motorcycles have dominated the championship, and Japan has had its fair share of world champions, though predominantly in the lower classes. But though the championship would not exist without the efforts of the Japanese factories, often at considerable cost to themselves, Japan has never actively engaged in running the series, happy to settle for a role as chief supplier.
Though the race itself was a show of force from Jorge Lorenzo, plenty happened behind the scenes, which makes for interesting discussion.
As such David and Neil talk about Lorenzo’s falling out with Ducati Corse; how the Spaniard has gone from nowhere to the top of the field on the Ducati; and there is an interesting discussion about the plight of Yamaha, which is struggling in the championship.
In addition to the weekend’s racing, the show also covers the Catalan MotoGP test, and what new parts teams are trying, and where their development is headed.
All in all, We think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
How do you win a championship? There are two schools of thought. Casey Stoner believed that the way you won world titles was by focusing on winning races. “If you win races, the championships will look after themselves,” he said when he was still racing.
Others argue that consistency is key, that you win titles by getting the best result available on the day, and hope that you don’t make mistakes. After all, Emilio Alzamora became 125cc World Champion in 1999 through sheer consistency, without winning a single race that season.
The riders in contention for the 2018 MotoGP title have mixed opinions about the best way to win a championship. Marc Márquez wanted to win every race he started in, until the 2015 Honda RC213V got the better of him, and he had to push too hard to try to be competitive, crashing himself out of contention.
Since then, he has tamed his approach, winning whenever possible, but understanding that sometimes, he has to grit his teeth and settle for whatever is available on the day.
Valentino Rossi, wily veteran that he is, follows the same approach, take what you can, where you can, and wait to see where it takes you. That’s how he came close to racking up title number ten in 2015, and that’s how he has remained in contention every season since he came back to Yamaha in 2013.
On Sunday night, Andrea Dovizioso affirmed that he was thinking about the championship in every race as well. “My approach to the race is always thinking about the championship,” the Ducati rider said. “If I fight for the championship or for another position, I always race for the championship.”
The trouble with racing in MotoGP at the moment is that no matter how spectacular your riding, no matter how phenomenal your achievements, no matter how dominant your performance, you will always, always be upstaged by Marc Márquez.
“The worst thing is that we have to deal with the situation of Marc saving [crashes] every week,” Cal Crutchlow complained, only half joking. “It makes the rest of us on Honda look like idiots. Imagine how many he has saved this year compared to how many we have we crashed. He saves fifteen a weekend.”
Saturday in Barcelona was yet another example, and perhaps Márquez’ biggest yet. In the dying seconds of FP4, after passing Xavier Simeon through Turn 12, Márquez entered Turn 14 and the front folded completely on him.
Where other riders would simply go down, Márquez was unwilling to surrender without a fight. “It was last corner, last lap and I lose the front,” the Repsol Honda rider told the press conference.
“I was fighting against everything, against the bike, against my knee pushing a lot. Then it looks like I was able to save it, but the when I go on the dirty part of the track, I again lose the front.”
He had not yet had a chance to look at the data, he said. “I already said to [my team] to check, but what I can say is that the steering was full close because I feel, but it was long. It was very long this one. It was maybe the longest one in my career.”
Long enough to upstage everyone else on Saturday, despite there being many riders deserving of attention.
MotoGP riders love resurfaced tracks, and Barcelona is no exception. But while the new asphalt laid at the start of this year is infinitely better than the old surface it replaces, there are still the odd few blemishes.
The surface may be new, but the grip wasn’t universally good, especially as the track was a little dirtier than expected.
And as the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmeló is used extensively by F1, the cars have already started to pull up the tarmac in the braking zone, bumps and ripples starting to make an unwelcome appearance already.
And though you can change the asphalt, you can’t change the locating and microclimate around the track. It got hot and humid in the afternoon on Friday, and riders went tumbling through the gravel despite the new surface.
A grand total of 28 riders hit the deck on Friday, across all three classes and all sessions. That is well over twice as many crashes on Friday as on any Friday during the last five years.
Johann Zarco was one of them, washing out the front at Turn 5. It was a fairly normal crash, Zarco explained. “The crash this afternoon was not something bad, just closing the front when you try to lean the bike to turn the bike as quick as possible,” the Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider said.
“Things can happen. It was the medium front after three laps. Maybe I asked a bit too much, or we were not good in the setup to lean that way. But not a big problem, I could understand it quickly.”
MotoGP could be headed back to Brazil. That is the news coming out of the Catalan GP, as Dorna and Rio Motorsports have inked a preliminary agreement to add the South American round to the MotoGP calendar.
If the deal is followed through, it could mean a MotoGP race in Rio de Janeiro as early as the 2021 season.
The big “if” in all this is the building of a new race track near Rio de Janeiro, which once it passes homologation, it could “potentially” be added to the MotoGP calendar as the Brazilian GP, according to a press release from Dorna.
“We would be thrilled to see MotoGP return to Brazil and this memorandum of understanding is fantastic news for the Championship and South American fans,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports.
“We have a truly global sport, paddock and grid and to add another country to our calendar – especially one such as Brazil – is always something to aspire to. It would be a pleasure for MotoGP to race in a country and continent known for its passion and incredible atmosphere.”