With plenty happening at the MotoGP round, there is no shortage of discussion, and we think you will find their conversation to be quite interesting.
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.
Of course, the talk of the hour centers around the battle between Fabio Quartararo and Marc Marquez, and the quiet rivalry that is brewing between these two young riders.
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.
Thursday was the first chance most of the media got to talk to the MotoGP riders after the test at Misano two weeks ago, and find out what they really thought about the test, rather than trying to decode the meaning of the press releases issued.
That clarified a lot about the test, answering some of the questions we had been left with, and intriguingly, raising yet more questions which had slipped under the radar.
As always, however, when you ask different riders about a subject, they will have different opinions. Even if they are teammates, like Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli. Asked about the state of the track, Quartararo expressed concern about the lack of grip, especially in certain places.
“For me, [track grip] was terrible, but some corners were good, some corners were less, and one corner was totally a disaster, corner 14,” the Petronas Yamaha rider said.
“I think many riders crashed in this corner. I heard that when Marc crashed, he thought it was the white line which they just painted, but as soon as you want to put lean angle in this corner, you crash. And I have a lot of big moments in this corner. Let’s see if it improves this weekend, because in the test it was a really critical place to ride.”
There is a lot to like about the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, aka The MotoGP Race With The Name Which Is Too Long To Fit In A Headline. The track is just a stone’s throw from the Italian coast, so visitors can spend their days at the track and their evenings at the beach, soaking up the atmosphere.
The weather is (usually) spectacular, the food is outstanding, and the area has a long association with motor sports, and motorcycle racing in particular. A quarter of the paddock could probably sleep in their own beds and commute to the track at the weekend.
But the upsides also have a downside. The location of the circuit may be perfect for the fans, but it is a nightmare for crew chiefs and riders. The sea mist which settles on the track most nights brings salt along with it, robbing it of grip.
The spectacular weather in September usually also means the sun burning down, raising track temperatures to the high 40s Centigrade, and into the region where the grip falls off a cliff. The track can be greasy and unpredictable, and despite being resurfaced to address these issues, physics and chemistry will always prevail.
Franco Morbidelli knows the track well. As part of the VR46 Riders Academy, he rides the track on a very regular basis, and knows how it changes throughout the year.
“We all know that we are going to struggle with the grip,” he says. “Misano, especially in this moment of the year has no grip at all. It’s very hot, I think that the salt that comes from the sea somehow affects the grip. I know the track very well, and I know how it reacts, and during the summer, it’s completely different, no grip at all.”
Dorna has announced a new schedule for the MotoE series, consisting of six races to be held at four European rounds of the MotoGP Championship. The 2019 MotoE series will now kick off in July at the Sachsenring in Germany, followed by a race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, and double headers at Misano and Valencia.
Misano is still casting a long shadow over the Grand Prix paddock. Or at least parts of it. Most specifically, the aftermath of Romano Fenati’s disqualification after touching Stefano Manzi’s brake lever during the Moto2 race, and the decision by the Reale Avintia team to draft in Frenchman Christophe Ponsson to replace the injured Tito Rabat.
Before we can get to a dissection of the weekend’s racing, the first part of the show covers the Romano Fenati situation, and gets the perspective of these three MotoGP pundits regarding the Moto2 incident.
After a lengthy conversation about Fenati, the show turns to the Ducati MotoGP program, and talks about how the Italian motorcycle is widely held as the best on the grid. Despite having to take on the Ducatis though, Marc Marquez has still been able to fend off Dovizioso and Lorenzo in the Championship results.