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San Marino GP

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It was supposed to rain, so of course it didn’t, proving that the weather on Italy’s Adriatic coast is just as fickle as any other place in the world at the moment.

Instead, it was hot and humid, with the threat of rain looming in the distance, providing a brief shower during qualifying for the Moto2 class, but leaving the rest of the sessions untouched. The recent rains did leave their mark, however.

The standing water left by the heavy showers of recent weeks had allowed midges, mosquitoes, and other insect life to breed copiously, and clouds of midges swarmed sections of the track. To the misfortune of Jack Miller, who had to come into the pits after getting one of the little mites in his eye.

Friday at Misano was fun, if a complete waste of time. Ideal conditions for about 35 minutes of FP1, then the deluge came, flooding the track and putting an end to any idea of improvement.

A rainy afternoon – though not quite as rain-sodden as the end of FP1 – meant it was impossible to better the times from this morning.

Which left Maverick Viñales at the top of the timesheets. A remarkable achievement, given this is just his second race on the Aprilia after his dramatic separation from the Yamaha team.

Does this mean that Viñales is now the favorite for the win at Misano? Even Maverick Viñales doesn’t think so.

While Mugello is Valentino Rossi’s spiritual home, Misano is truly the Italian’s home circuit.

It is quite literally walking distance from his home town of Tavullia: on the Sunday morning before the MotoGP race, a part of the Valentino Rossi official fan club gather in Tavullia to walk to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.

It is a little over 12 kilometers, so it’s not short, but it is easily doable.

It is also the home of the VR46 Riders Academy, who use it to train on Yamaha R6s and Yamaha R1s, to keep their brains up to speed, as well as using the karting track to race minibikes, sharpening their elbows, which have already been honed at the ranch.

It should come as no surprise that in a paradoxical 2020 MotoGP season in a year full of paradoxes, a new surface at Misano should have simultaneously both improved the track and made it much worse.

Yet the paradox is relatively easy to understand: the tarmac chosen for the new surface has a lot more grip, but it is also softer when it gets hot, deforming more and producing more and bigger bumps. The additional grip is great, but you can’t always benefit when your wheels are being kicked up into the air.

“There’s more grip than last year but the track is similar to motocross!” Fabio Quartararo told us. “A lot of bumps. Positive that there is more grip but we need to adapt because honestly the first exit in FP1 was really difficult to manage the bumps.”

One of the things making the bumps so difficult to manage is where they are. “It’s bad,” said Jack Miller, “especially in the fastest sector, it’s really quite bad. That back section, the bike just starts shaking and bouncing, and one lap you can get through there semi OK, and the next lap you’re just bouncing around and you can’t really get back on the track.”

“Down to the back straight, before the first fast kink, on the dead straight piece it’s bumpy, the bike is going like that,” Miller said, waving his hands about to indicate just how much the bike moves. That was tricky as you approach the fastest part of the track. “You’re trying to get the bike settled as much as you can to tip it in. It doesn’t feel great.”

A couple of days before the Misano MotoGP round – that is, the Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, not the Gran Premio TISSOT dell’Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini, or Misano 1 and Misano 2 as most people without photographic memories or a contractual obligation to use their full names will call them – kicked off, there was a flurry of rumors and excitement over possible announcements ahead of the race.

Thursday could see important news made, people whispered.

Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto2 rider Jorge Martin has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the resumption of racing this weekend at Misano.

The Spaniard, currently third in the Moto2 standings, tested positive for the virus during the standard testing procedure put in place as part of Dorna’s COVID-19 protocol, and as a result, was not allowed to travel to Misano for the race.

Martin has been in quarantine since receiving the test results. Martin is now awaiting the results of a second test, to confirm the first test.

A race track is a large place. 4+ kilometers of asphalt, 15 meters wide. A MotoGP bike is a small thing, under 2 meters long from nose to tip, and 60 centimeters wide. The bikes should get lost in the vast expanse of asphalt on track. Yet somehow, these tiny vehicles always seem to run across each other on track.

The riders are to blame, of course. There are advantages to be gained from following other riders around. In Moto3, a slipstream is vital to gaining extra speed.

In MotoGP, using a rider ahead as a target allows you to judge your braking points better and gives that extra bit of motivation which is worth a tenth or two. And a tenth or two can mean starting a row ahead of where you would otherwise.

When bikes meet on the track, it always sparks resentment. The rider in front is annoyed at being followed, and will slow down to try to force the other rider in front. The rider behind gets annoyed by the antics of the person they are trying to follow.

In the best case, it is all soon forgotten. In the worst case, well, it involves Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi and a small war breaks out in the Italian and Spanish press, and a much bigger war breaks out among the fans.