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Friday, June 14, 2024

10 issues we discovered from the 2023 MotoGP Catalan GP

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A dramatic and historic Catalan Grand Prix is within the books as Aleix Espargaro led a first-ever Aprilia 1-2 in MotoGP. After taking victory within the dash, Espargaro led team-mate Maverick Vinales in Sunday’s most important race to attain his second grand prix win of the season on house soil after April’s Spanish GP at Jerez, capping a exceptional weekend for the Noale manufacturing unit.

It was virtually overshadowed by a horrific accident for Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia, whose leg was run over by Brad Binder on the opening lap of the grand prix after highsiding out of the lead at Flip 2. The ordeal made for uncomfortable viewing, however Bagnaia one way or the other managed to flee with none critical accidents.

His championship lead took a success, because it was closed by Jorge Martin – who was third within the GP – from 66 after the dash to 50. However that mattered little within the grand scheme.

Bagnaia’s Ducati team-mate Enea Bastianini wasn’t so lucky, as he suffered fractured to an ankle and hand after triggering a multi-rider pile-up. This as soon as once more raised the dialogue about aggressiveness in fashionable MotoGP and what will be achieved about it. Elsewhere, there have been extra struggles for the Japanese marques, whereas rider market speak dominated the off-track information in Barcelona.

With 9 extra rounds remaining this season, right here is the whole lot we discovered from the 2023 MotoGP Catalan Grand Prix.

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1. MotoGP rider aggression have to be checked after second-straight Flip 1 pile-up

For the second week working, there was carnage on the opening lap

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

For the second yr in a row, the Catalan Grand Prix featured a multi-rider pile-up at Flip 1 on the opening lap. Although not unusual to the circuit, it’s one thing that’s turning into a bit too acquainted in MotoGP in 2023.

Within the dash race in Austria, Pramac’s Martin triggered a pile-up at Flip 1 as he tried to recuperate floor from a poor qualifying. In Barcelona, Bastianini was doing the identical, having been slapped with a three-place grid drop for impeding in apply.

This left him 14th for the grand prix, and as he tried to brake up the within of the sphere into Flip 1 he misplaced the entrance and clattered into Johann Zarco, wiping out Marco Bezzecchi, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Alex Marquez in an unlucky show of Ducati pleasant fireplace. Bastianini suffered fractures to his left hand and ankle, and can virtually definitely be out of the San Marino GP as he awaits surgical procedure (although Ducati is but to substantiate this).

We’ve seen a variety of early-lap collisions this season. And whereas that is a part of racing, it has repeatedly been identified that the difficulties in overtaking and the brand new tyre stress guidelines are forcing riders to be far more aggressive in the beginning of races.

Some riders in Barcelona steered that the startline ought to be moved nearer to Flip 1, given the pace everybody approaches off the road there. However Aleix Espargaro and Marc Marquez disagreed, claiming the onus is on the riders.

“I feel that we’re adequate to attempt to brake in the appropriate level, to not attempt to overtake 25 riders within the first nook,” Espargaro mentioned. “So, it’s not about the place you place the beginning – it’s about who rides the bike. It’s not that troublesome. We now have to be a bit extra relaxed within the first nook.

“Eight riders crashed in the present day within the first corners, it’s harmful. It’s troublesome to be taught, however imagine me it’s not about the place you place the beginning. In the event you put the beginning within the nook however any individual doesn’t wish to brake, he won’t brake.”

Bastianini was hit with a protracted lap penalty, initially to be served on the restart earlier than it turned obvious he was too crushed as much as take it. And so the stewards have reissued the penalty for the subsequent grand prix he contests.

This punishment is constant; Martin bought the identical factor in Austria. However a protracted lap is kind of mild for one thing as main as inflicting a significant multi-rider incident. If this type of factor is to be higher prevented, harsher punishments – Espargaro steered a double lengthy lap, although a ride-through can be significantly better – to offer real deterrent. 

2. Tv method to violent crashes nonetheless bordering the offensive

Bagnaia's lucky escape was shown by broadcasters on repeat well before the extent of his injuries were known

Bagnaia’s fortunate escape was proven by broadcasters on repeat effectively earlier than the extent of his accidents have been identified

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The controversy round what’s and isn’t applicable to be broadcast to the plenty is one thing that has raged ever for the reason that tv was first invented. In motorsport, the subject revolves round how critical incidents are proven. Bagnaia’s horrific incident with Binder is living proof of how to not do it.

Whereas the preliminary reside incident is unavoidable, Dorna’s world feed was fast to indicate replays of it earlier than Bagnaia’s situation was identified. Fixed arial pictures of him being attended to have been crass; the repeated pictures of his fearful workforce, his sister and his teary-eyed companion have been simply plain offensive.

Riders have complained repeatedly about this previously, not least after they’re forced to keep seeing a big incident moments before being sent back out onto the monitor. It appears to be forgotten too usually that these are human beings.

MotoGP should do higher.

3. Aleix Espargaro is to Aprilia what Bagnaia is to Ducati

Espargaro is the man of the moment for Aprilia

Espargaro is the person of the second for Aprilia

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The unpleasantness of Sunday’s incidents ought to overshadow the brilliance of Aprilia on the Catalan GP. Up till Q2, when Bagnaia fired in a lap file to grab pole, an Aprilia rider had led each session to that time. Aleix Espargaro then went on to win the dash, earlier than main house an historic first Aprilia 1-2 from team-mate Vinales within the full-distance grand prix.

There have been a number of elements behind Aprilia’s surge in Barcelona. The monitor could be very low in grip and traction was an issue for a lot of riders. The Aprilia has wonderful traction, largely as a result of it will possibly carry a lot nook pace that roll via the turns with out having to spin the rear tyre as a lot as its rivals.

However Espargaro was sensible, his driving fashion very well-matched to that RS-GP. Ironic, actually, as he admitted in the course of the weekend that he doesn’t really like the way in which he rides, and the high wind on Sunday meant he “didn’t enjoy” his time on the bike. But it surely’s the fashion that fits the Aprilia, which he has successfully constructed to be this fashion.

Very similar to Bagnaia is on the Ducati, Espargaro is the proper Aprilia rider. Clearly, the bike nonetheless must advance to have the ability to do what it did in Barcelona in every single place. However when that day comes, Aprilia has the rider for its bike.

4. Vinales returning to the rider he all the time “guess on”

Vinales is finally scoring results after a turbulent period in his career

Vinales is lastly scoring outcomes after a turbulent interval in his profession

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

And, so it appears, it’s lastly getting one other. Vinales’ transfer to Aprilia halfway via 2021 following his acrimonious cut up from Yamaha was questioned by lots of people, not least earlier than he was buying and selling the bike profitable that yr’s championship for one which hadn’t – on the time of his deal – even reached the rostrum.

Final season wasn’t precisely standout for Vinales both. Flashes of brilliance, like his podiums at Assen and Silverstone, promised quite a bit. And even for a lot of this yr, he did not flourish.

Unhealthy begins regularly plagued Vinales, who – as he all the time did at Yamaha – insisted he had frontrunning tempo. After two Austria begins by which he plummeted from second down the order and got here away with out the rostrum he had tempo for, the choir of ‘yeah rights’ swelled.

Because it turned out, these dangerous begins actually weren’t something to do with him. Since Jerez, Aprilia has successfully created a working group to enhance its clutch. At Barcelona, that bore fruit as Vinales made nice launches from fourth in each begins.

Main the grand prix for a very long time, the tempo of Espargaro proved only a bit an excessive amount of for Vinales to carry at bay. However he cut the happiest Vinales we’ve seen in a long time afterwards.

“I guess on myself, not on anybody else. I do know what I’m in a position to do, how I can journey the bike,” he mentioned. “I feel the psychological energy is one thing unbelievable. I felt one thing in the present day I used to be lacking within the races and I feel Misano goes to be totally different.

“I would like the individuals to know that on this sport a rider has to really feel valued,” he mentioned. “And on this workforce I really feel quite a lot of worth, I really feel quite a lot of respect. And this is essential as a result of I wasn’t handled in a great way previously. And to have this type of feeling with the workforce… I realised in the present day I had one of the best day of motorbike racing in my life.”

Aprilia’s perception and perseverance with Vinales is being vindicated by the rider. Lengthy might it proceed.

5. Bagnaia avoids championship catastrophe regardless of horror crash

Despite fears of a broken leg, Bagnaia remarkably escaped without any serious injury from his lap one crash

Regardless of fears of a damaged leg, Bagnaia remarkably escaped with none critical damage from his lap one crash

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“Right now I can solely say thanks.” To whom Bagnaia was referring in an Instagram put up following Sunday’s grand prix is open to your personal denominational interpretation. 

However there isn’t any doubting that the 2023 Catalan GP was very almost a significant turning level within the championship battle. Bagnaia’s large highside – which he couldn’t actually clarify – and sickening tangle with Binder one way or the other left him with no fractures to his leg.

Although needing crutches to hobble out of hospital, Bagnaia sensationally is heading again to Italy together with his workforce and can probably head to Misano to a minimum of give it a go. He has a wholesome sufficient championship lead of fifty factors that he doesn’t have to power himself.

Sadly, we at the moment are within the throes of 10 rounds in 13 weeks, and so any absence can be essential.

No matter all of this, the principle factor is his wellbeing. And also you’ll be hard-pressed to search out anybody within the paddock who wasn’t respiration a sigh of reduction upon information that Bagnaia – for probably the most half – was okay.

6. Marquez proving why Honda can’t lose him as crunch week begins

Marquez appears to be the only rider capable of dragging the Honda to any form of strong result

Marquez seems to be the one rider able to dragging the Honda to any type of robust end result

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The bleakness of Honda’s scenario actually shone via on the Catalan GP. After Friday’s working, the underside 4 locations on the timesheets belonged to HRC. The traction points the Honda has have been solely magnified by the low-grip Barcelona floor.

A short spurt of pace in qualifying, crusing into Q2 by shadowing Jack Miller, supplied Marc Marquez a psychological increase. As did his transient run in seventh within the dash, earlier than he tumbled to eleventh. Thirteenth in a grand prix that was a “drive to outlive” for the Spaniard wasn’t a lot, however he was nonetheless high Honda.

Takaaki Nakagami was the one different Honda within the factors within the GP in fifteenth, whereas the remaining apart from Marquez couldn’t even crack the highest 18 within the dash.

This week is the start of a vital one for Honda and its hopes of retaining Marquez long-term, with its first 2024 prototype being wheeled out on the post-race check at Misano.

HRC had higher hope its engineers have actually redefined its bike, as a result of Marquez on the very least made it look much less in hassle than it presently is together with his flashes of pace.

7. Bezzecchi’s determination speaks to the workforce VR46 has created

Bezzecchi will remain with the VR46 Racing Team for another season

Bezzecchi will stay with the VR46 Racing Workforce for one more season

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Forward of the Catalan GP, Bezzecchi’s future was signed, sealed and delivered as he elected to remain with VR46 for another season. With a manufacturing unit bike on provide at Pramac, a step up appeared like a no brainer given the selection. However, given the selection, Bezzecchi felt remaining with a year-old bike in 2024 for his third season in MotoGP was proper for him.

It’s no secret that Valentino Rossi was “pushing” to retain his protégé. Bezzecchi, who penned a one-year deal, cited the human aspect of VR46 that swayed his determination. That’s a mature determination for a 24-year-old sophomore to make, however he’s proper to be cautious of replicating the workforce ambiance he has now at a brand new outfit – not least one the place he’s having to adapt to a brand new bike.

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Bezzecchi additionally rightly famous there are manufacturing unit workforce seats up for grabs in 2025, which he’s extra more likely to be placing himself within the body for at VR46 with a package deal he is aware of effectively. In any case, Bastianini bought the nod to affix the manufacturing unit squad for this yr over Martin, because the latter struggled to adapt to the works bike he had.

Twice a grand prix winner already on a year-old bike, Bezzecchi received’t be at a significant drawback in 2024 – even when the Catalan GP weekend confirmed an even bigger hole between his bike and the manufacturing unit Ducati, having completed eighth within the dash and twelfth within the GP having been caught up within the Bastianini tangle. This left him no alternative however to run the mushy entrance tyre as a consequence of an absence of recent mediums, complicating his afternoon no finish.

However, clearly, Bezzecchi has a reliable workforce round him to assist him make the appropriate selections for his profession, and it speaks volumes of the professionalism of the outfit Rossi has created.

8. Nakagami has earned his anticipated Honda renewal

Honda could do a lot worse than retain Nakagami

Honda might do quite a bit worse than retain Nakagami

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

But to be formally introduced, however in all probability not far off, one other piece of the 2024 rider jigsaw is sort of in place. Nakagami mentioned in the course of the Catalan GP weekend that he’s “99%” sure to signal an extension with Honda to stay with LCR, the place he’ll companion Zarco subsequent season.

Whereas the Catalan GP was hardly a standout for Nakagami, as he scored only one level in an especially troublesome weekend for all Honda riders, the Japanese has gotten his head down this yr and made positive he’s gotten to the chequered flag most of the time to collect helpful information for HRC.

On the German GP, he was the one Honda rider current as damage claimed Marc Marquez, Joan Mir and LCR team-mate Alex Rins. His haul of 34 factors isn’t a lot, however Honda wants some continuity in its line-up and expertise. Nakagami has that in abundance.

Perception: The forgotten trooper of Honda’s MotoGP misery

And maybe he’s longer-term job safety. Moto2 frontrunner Ai Ogura has been linked to Nakagami’s seat for a while, however appears to be like like he’s about to step away from the Honda bubble to affix Ajo KTM subsequent yr. For the quick future, a minimum of, Nakagami deserves one other shot and Honda could possibly be doing quite a bit worse.

9. Mir’s dedication to keep away from Honda “failure” is admirable amid bleak yr

The season can't end soon enough for Mir

The season cannot finish quickly sufficient for Mir

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

There was completely not a factor to write down house about from Mir’s Catalan GP weekend. Solely on two events – in FP1 and the GP, because the final categorized runner – did he discover himself inside the highest 17.

Weeks on from admitting he thought about retiring amid his depressing yr as a Honda rider, the 2020 world champion was left fuming at simply how dangerous his bike was in Barcelona, noting after the dash on Saturday: “Truthfully, it’s laborious for me to be in entrance of you and communicate in regards to the race as a result of I had the worst feeling of my life on a bike.

“It’s one thing unbelievable. I used to be dropping on acceleration even with the opposite Hondas. I don’t actually perceive what occurred. I do know that our grip will not be unbelievable. There are quite a lot of corners right here that expose our weak factors and we try to outlive with it. However actually I used to be not in a position to management that spin.

“I used to be simply opening the throttle and wasn’t transferring. I used to be dropping two or three tenths minimal within the final nook in comparison with the opposite Hondas. I want solutions as a result of everybody is aware of easy methods to open the throttle. The opposite issues is to brake, going into the corners, the place I feel we’re robust. However what occurred within the race was unacceptable.”

His outlook didn’t actually enhance after Sunday’s GP, by which he was final in seventeenth, 33.9s off the win and even 5.1s behind LCR Honda stand-in Iker Lecuona having suffered with large tyre put on.

With a few plum Ducatis up for grabs at Pramac and Gresini nonetheless, and admitting he has had contact from different groups, Mir says leaving Honda now can be a “failure” he doesn’t wish to commit. When you might contemplate this silly, you may’t not have admiration for Mir’s dedication to make his Honda transfer work.

10. Quartararo makes use of set-up he received with in 2022 to complete seventh in 2023

Quartararo moved back to his 2022 race-winning Yamaha set-up on race-day and enjoyed improved fortunes

Quartararo moved again to his 2022 race-winning Yamaha set-up on race-day and loved improved fortunes

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

A yr in the past, Quartararo was standing atop the rostrum on the Catalan GP and about to make it back-to-back victories the next week in Germany, after which he would lead the standings by 91 factors.

In 2023, the Yamaha rider struggled to 18th in qualifying and couldn’t advance on that within the dash, as soon as once more revealing his lack of enjoyment for driving the M1 proper now.

As he has achieved at numerous factors already this yr, Quartararo as soon as once more went backwards to go forwards within the Catalan GP, reverting to the settings he used to win final season’s GP for Sunday’s full-distance contest.

One thing evidently clicked, as he managed to complete seventh within the grand prix. Not solely that, however he was significantly nearer to the win than he was within the dash: 10.821s versus 17.1s.

“For me, it was an excellent day, particularly we return to final yr’s bike’s base in warm-up,” he mentioned. “It was fairly good, the tempo was there. And we determined to observe this for the race and it was a bit higher. I might make an excellent tempo and preserve a 10s hole to the entrance man, [in the sprint] we completed inside half a lap, so 17s.

“So, I feel [Sunday] was not too dangerous. Probably not the primary time, however at this monitor on Friday and Saturday principally each exit on monitor I used to be doing with a special bike, totally different set-up. And this morning we determined to go together with final yr’s base and if my feeling was higher we’d use it for the race, and I feel it was an excellent step.”

It reveals how a lot of a battle being a Yamaha rider is correct now. However Quartararo’s main focus for the remainder of 2023 is to rediscover his pleasure of driving. So if that is the answer to that, extra energy to him.

The 2023 Catalan Grand Prix will be remembered for a historic 1-2 for Aprilia as Espargaro led home team-mate Vinales

The 2023 Catalan Grand Prix shall be remembered for a historic 1-2 for Aprilia as Espargaro led house team-mate Vinales

Picture by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images



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