Author: Myanna Wedes

Thrills, spills, and vital World Championship points regained by Ducati factory rider Pecco Bagnaia. In the words of Bagnaia, he believes this was his best race victory to date because all weekend long he was lacking in pace, confidence, and the practice times not reflective of where he ended up on race day. Bagnaia was on another level pushing his Ducati to the limits and staying focused in a challenging atmosphere. The Italian rider has obtained some very valuable points for the World Championship battle after rivals Fabio Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro finished eighth and ninth. There are two reasons for their results. The first one is that during FP4, A. Espargaro experienced a major high side and was thrown from his bike with majority of the force and impact taken by his feet. There were fears that A. Espargaro would be out for the weekend, however, in a superhuman effort, he qualified and raced with pain killers to numb out some of the pain. The fact that he was able to ride a bike at speed in and out of the corners and push on race day regardless is incredible and another reason why these riders are truly some of the best athletes in the world. A. Espargaro needed assistance walking and it was clear that his dedication outweighed the choice to sit back and recover. As a team leader, he showed up to the garage ready for work. Whereas, Quartararo had to serve a long lap penalty from the crash event that took place last race and even though it was completed with precision, after the penalty, he did not have the same pace or feeling with his bike and started going backwards rather than forwards. The current World Champion and Yamaha rider could not do anything to improve his race pace after choosing the wrong tyre and finished the event feeling frustrated. The two back-to-back wins for Bagnaia is extremely concerning for both riders because the Ducati is difficult to beat on any given day and now the Italian rider is feeling on top of the world even with his off-track personal issues that were constantly on the microphones of those completing interviews. Right now, if you were Bagnaia, you would be doing everything in your power to continue this dominant run of wins and ensuring no one upsets the rhythm.

The race from lights out was exhilarating. There were elbows hitting one another and Maverick Vinales and Quartararo almost taking each other out whilst Enea Bastianini lost a winglet and miraculously chased down to finish fourth even with a bike that lacked balance, downforce, and performance. When you watch the race back, you can see Bastianini utilising his leg to balance the bike. The fact he was able to outperform other riders with a bike that lacked pace is impressive and no doubt the factory Ducati team will be taking note and marking down a tally point towards signing him for the main seat opposite Bagnaia though Jorge Martin also did a superb job over the course of the weekend. With that said, the toughest loss to accept is the fact that Johann Zarco was on course to win the race when he crashed out of first place! History repeating itself once again. Zarco was the pick of the field to win the Silverstone race after impressive displays of pace, performance and control all weekend. However, before the race, Zarco opted to change and went with the medium compound front tyre. The warmth got the better of the tyre and caught out Zarco by surprise as well as the fans, commentators, and teams. A big mistake not only for the win, also the World Championship standings. In comparison from a Ducati perspective, we were very impressed with the composure demonstrated by Jack Miller who opted for the soft tyre which he felt more comfortable racing on although a medium tyre may have enabled him to push that little bit extra in the later stages of the race to chase down his teammate and defend second position from Vinales. With that said, Miller was precise, smiling and enjoying the journey with his new Pokémon / Dinosaur inspired winglets on the rear of the bike. It is a win for both Ducati and Miller because they are not limiting development and allowing him to try new parts. We find this interesting, because most teams who lose a rider, cut them off from all development and in this case, they know Miller can provide them with the results plus feedback to continue refining their machine. Not only does Miller get to enjoy the remainder of his season, but he can also build up his intel of knowledge to take to KTM for the 2023 season.

Pecco Bagnaia #63:

“I didn’t expect to be able to win today. Until yesterday I would have been happy to get a result in the top 5. We decided to race with a medium tire on the front because we weren’t sure if the soft tire could hold up to the end and at the beginning I was not happy with this decision. In the race, however, it proved to be the right choice, because at the end it allowed me to be still fast despite the fact that the rear tire was already worn. I really want to thank my team because I was struggling really hard and thanks to their support I managed to get this victory which, for me, is one of the best of my career ”.

Jack Miller #43:

“After five weeks off it’s nice to be able to get back on the podium straight away. In the second half of the race I started to suffer a bit with the front tire and this meant that the rear tire also began to wear out quickly. In any case, I am happy with this result, the bike is working really well and, after the Barcelona test, we have made great steps forward. Now I want to keep working in this direction to get stronger and stronger. We are sixth in the championship, but third place is not far off ”.

In terms of the Aprilia Racing MotoGP team, Vinales stepped up to the challenge with his teammate A. Espargaro riding in pain. The result could have been different had the ride height device worked from the start, although Vinales is stoked to be on the podium with the second-place finish putting a smile on his face. The scare Aprilia had with A. Espargaro was real and we did not expect him to qualify let alone race. He gritted his teeth and pushed beyond the pain barrier to bring home some points, even if it was a handful of points, the Spanish rider was going to give it his all. In contrast, the result for Vinales is a reminder that he can still achieve podiums, potentially a win and the change to Aprilia motivating considering if you look at the Yamaha riders, there is only one at the top. We are happy to see the Aprilia team enjoying the journey because it has been hard work and they are finally being rewarded. Since the race has concluded, it has also been discovered that even though A. Espargaro was all clear of fractures on initial viewing, it has been made known that he fractured his heel after a follow up check. “The injury does not require surgical treatment, and Aleix has been prescribed seven days of absolute rest during which he will have to use crutches in order not to strain his injured foot.” We know how dedicated he is to the job, so doctors ordered will be adhered to with a strict regime because it is the key factor in becoming a World Champion and making sure he is prepared for Austria.

Maverick Vinales #12:

“I tried my best all the way to the end! Unfortunately, I lost a bit of time in the battle during the opening laps, but then to recover I stressed the tyres a lot and didn’t have anything left in the finale. Bagnaia was good at closing the door when I overtook him. On a couple of corners I lost the rear trying to catch up and that’s where the race was decided. In any case, I’m happy. I’m riding well and in harmony with the Aprilia and we are reaching the level we’ve been aiming for. We’re almost there. We’ll keep trying even as early as the next race. We deserve it!”

Aleix Espargaro #41:

“I felt rather good in the race and didn’t have too much pain, but I also wasn’t able to move on the bike comfortably and be aggressive. That meant I wasn’t able to overtake. I didn’t make even one pass all race and that was a determining factor where the result was concerned. In any case, I don’t want to make excuses. The crash obviously didn’t help in terms of confidence, but we weren’t able to be as fast as we wanted to be today. I didn’t have much traction, especially on the right side and I was unable to maintain the pace of the leaders. It’s a pity because we had demonstrated good potential in practice. That said, we lost almost nothing in the standings. The championship is still wide open and the final part of the season will definitely be interesting!”

The goal for current leader Quartararo is to chase down Bagnaia which is worrying the Frenchmen. The Yamaha rider opted for the wrong tyre, and this proved costly with his rear tyre overheating to a point that ended his chase for the podium. The disappointment of finishing so far back will be on the mind of Quartararo as we wait for the next race in Austin. He will be shifting focus on what Yamaha need to do to stop Bagnaia from winning again, how their overheating tyre issues can be fixed and the support required from his fellow Yamaha riders to shake up the middle of the field in case a title contender finds themselves in that part of the grid. The workload will be much larger than it was before the summer break, that is for sure! We look forward to seeing how Quartararo handles the pressure as he looks to achieve back-to-back titles. The one rider who could shake that up is Bastianini who had a successful weekend all things considering. His tyres worked well even though he raced with a bike lacking in aerodynamic pace. Sure, the Gresini Ducati rider had mixed feelings and knew that a podium opportunity had been lost. With that said, he must focus on the positives because finishing fourth is far better than being in the gravel or achieving zero points. In addition, KTM had a great weekend even with majority of their bikes finishing outside of the top ten. The ride from Miguel Oliveira was class and he knows it as Brad Binder picked the wrong tyre, ended up colliding with a few others sending him backwards whereas Oliveira was calm and enjoyed the race. It really is a balance to find form and finish as far up the grid as possible. Australian rider Remy Gardner had a superb weekend especially in qualifying and then performing in the race regardless of the issues he encountered with the tyres. It appears, the riders need to do further homework on tyre choice because this has become a very important factor in performance. The hard tyre was not chosen or tested by Gardner which could have added to the overall feeling of the bike to go faster. With that said, he is trying to earn a new contract with KTM, and we will know in Austria who their team line up will be with our theories edging towards Pol Espargaro and Remy Gardner as the two for 2023. It is 100% that P. Espargaro is on his way out of Honda and looks to be returning to the KTM outfit just not at the top. Whilst KTM did mention they were balancing the older with the younger, Gardner has earned the right to stay on. We could be wrong about this line up because the rumour mill has been working in overdrive, so be sure to watch this space to find out who gets the gig at Tech3 KTM Factory Racing for next year.

Fabio Quartararo #20:

“I’m not happy about my race. I was just suffering so much. I wasn’t having fun. With that medium rear tyre we struggled so much. After the long-lap penalty I was behind four riders and the rear tyre overheated. There was no more performance, and the tyre drops much quicker. So, at that moment our race was gone. I was suffering. I was suffering from this lap to the end.”

Enea Bastiainini #23:

“At the start of the race it wasn’t easy to understand how to ride without a rear wing, but from halfway point I was able to put together a great race. Fourth is surely a good result, but to get so close to the podium without actually achieving the result left a strange test in my mouth. We put together a great comeback and it doesn’t really matter who I overtook, the important thing was to get as high as possible and we did it. We’re an evolved type of Pokémon and I’m sure in a little while, more will follow.”

Miguel Oliveira #88:

“A good race and I had fun. There was the potential to be a bit further up the ranking but starting from the fifth row is always challenging. I’m happy to have had a solid weekend: all the sessions were decent. We made a few overtaking moves and that also helped for confidence. Hopefully we can improve and do a bit better in Austria.”

Brad Binder #33:

“All weekend we had quite good pace on race rubber but in qualifying we keep trying to make a competitive lap-time to be a bit further up. I had a really good start today but unfortunately in Turn 5 I had a bit of contact and lost five positions. It put me off the back of the front group and although I caught up again I made a massive mistake with my tire choice. I paid for it because I had large drop in the last laps. Sorry to my team because we could have definitely done something good today. A big learning experience for us.”

Remy Gardner #87:

“I made a decent start and went with the group. It was fun. I was enjoying myself but from about lap ten the rear tire really dropped and the last six laps was about survival. There was no edge grip and it was costing me a couple of seconds a lap. We didn’t try the hard tire over the weekend and that was a mistake. It might have given us a better result. The gap to the front was the closest it has been all year, even with those last six-seven laps so the pace was pretty good.

Next up is Austria and the home event for KTM. We expect big battles and a lot of mind games across the front runners. The time off will allow A. Espargaro time to heal and be ready to charge once again as the Aprilia appears to not have hit the ceiling yet in terms of performance. The excitement grows as we continue the second half of the MotoGP season.