MotoGP Valencia subscriber notes part 2: Hot tarmac, the sad loss of Suzuki, electronic oddity and frustration for Aprilia and Honda | MotoMatters.com
Heading into the last MotoGP race of the year in Valencia, we were all expecting Ducati to dominate. After all, they had totally dominated the 2022 season. Ducati had won 12 of the 19 races so far (7 by Pecco Bagnaia), had at least one rider on the podium for 25 consecutive races, taken 15 pole positions and had at least a driver in the front row for 39 races. In 2021, Ducati had locked both the front row of the grid and the podium at Valencia.
After qualifying, Ducati had increased its pole tally to 16 in 2022 and extended its streak of consecutive first-row starts to 40. Jorge Martin started from pole and Jack Miller qualified third. But that something had changed was clear from the rest of the grid. Marc Marquez was second on the Repsol Honda – an in-form Marquez can use his genius to pull a quick lap out of the bag, but the Honda can’t keep him going for race distance – while second row was made up of Fabio Quartararo on the Yamaha, Alex Rins on the Suzuki and Maverick Viñales on the Aprilia. Valence no longer looked like a Ducati whitewash (redwash?).
What has changed between last year and this year? The answer is simply the weather. This is a recurring problem for Michelin: it is responsible for selecting the tire distribution for the 20 races in February, even before the start of the season. This forces them to try to anticipate weather conditions 8 or 9 months from now.
Long term forecast
To get an idea of the magnitude of this task, imagine that in February you had to choose the clothes you will wear at each of the 20 races throughout the year, pack them in separate bags, and then open them at the ‘arrival. You might arrive in Valencia in November and worry that the sweater you brought will be too thick for the surprisingly warm weather. Or you might wish you had something warmer as you shiver in the freezing early morning temperatures. Rinse and repeat this for 20 strokes.
The problem in Valencia was that it was surprisingly hot. Air temperatures on Sunday reached 27°C, where a year earlier they struggled to reach 20°C. Track temperatures were 10°C or more warmer than last year. This year’s temperatures were way above what Michelin had covered.
This placed a lot of load on the tires, especially the front. Valencia is very asymmetrical and a place where bikes spend a huge amount of time on the tire side. It is also a place where you brake a lot by leaning. Turn 2 to Turn 3, Turn 6, 7, 8 and Turn 14 on the left side of the tire, Turn 5, 10, 11 on the right side. The left side of the forehead, especially, took a hammer blow.
That’s why the race ended up being so slow. Alex Rins’ winning race time was almost 6.8 seconds slower than Pecco Bagnaia’s winning time in 2021, and would have seen him finish sixth last year. It was a second and a half slower than his Suzuki teammate Joan Mir’s time in last year’s race, which took him to fourth place.
Front tire issues left Fabio Quartararo unable to keep pace with the leaders. “It was just a problem because the tire compound was too soft,” said the Monster Energy Yamaha rider. “And luckily this year we had at least one step harder on the left. But they bring way too soft tires on this track, and also I think because every year it gets hotter and hotter on this track, today it’s like 26° or 27°, that’s why we’re also a bit too soft, and we’re already using super hard tyres.”
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