Wednesday, April 13, 2022

MOTO GP: Aprilia and Gresini make History, KTM Wins Again and Marquez returns to His Playground at COTA

Although Thar’s a new Sheriff in Austin, whilst the King of COTA nearly lost His Crown during MotoGP’s 500th race…


Heading into this year’s USGP at the Circuit Of The Americas, nee COTA on it’s traditional Spring weekend Slot for the first time in three Gory years! There had been an unprecedented nine different riders atop the Podium, including three different winners, with two scoring their maiden MotoGP victory. As would this trend continue at Austin?


Instead, we saw the season’s first repeat winner and just one new rider to the podium, giving us 10 of 12 different riders atop the podium’s first four races.



This has to be the story of the year so far. As the much overlooked Italian marque and it’s longtime rider Aleix Espargaro not only scored his Debutante MotoGP Pole in Argentina, but also claimed His and aprilia’s maiden MotoGP victory upon Aleix’s 200th MotoGP Start!


But the Spaniard didn’t make it easy upon himself, albeit later commenting how the track temperature was affecting his riding style. But Aleix  persevered and finally made his pass upon Jorge Martin stick for good wit five laps remaining for the victory!


Aprilia’s lineup stays unchanged with the addition of Maverick Vinales late last year after his Yamaha Styrian GP Meltdown. As Vinales stuck his Aprilia RS GP fifth upon the Argentina grid before settling for a disappointing seventh, as Vinales so far seems outclassed by Aleix, albeit Maverick’s six years younger, so time should be on his side for the steadily improving Minnowesqe Italian marque.


COTA saw the typical reversal of fortunes, as the Aprilia’s struggled mightily in Qualie’, with Aleix and Maverick P13-14 respectively. As Vinales got Team leader Espargaro at races end, finishing 10th, with Aleix one place behind, and losing his Points lead and dropping to third Overall, now 11 markers back.



The Italian marque sees it’s ranks bolstered by the addition of one additional team, with two new Satellite Squads on it’s rolls, giving Ducati the most Bikes on the Grid with eight. While the Factory and Pramac Teams lineups remain unchanged, Gresini Racing joins the Ducati fold and The Doctor’s, nee Valentino Rossi’s VR46 concern fills out the Ducati entries.


Have to say that the Factory riders have struggled so far entering the Lone Star state. With Francesco Pecco’ Bagnaia taking out an unsuspecting Jorge Martin in Qatar, whilst Jack Thriller’ Miller was penalized three places in Argentina for slowing a competitor, finishing where He started in 14th.


Bagnaia rebounded with a fifth place finish in Argentina, but you’d expect Miller 11th Overall and Bagnaia 14th Overall to be much Higher in the standings!


Miller put his Nightmare weekend behind him, Qualifying second at COTA and then promptly leading the race’s first 15 laps before ultimately claiming his season’s first podium finish in third, whilst Bagnaia claimed his second P5 finish to date.


Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco had two Top 5 Finishes following the Argentina round, with a fifth at Qatar and  a Hard fought third at Indonesia, pipping Miller for the podium’s final step. While teammate Martin finally got on the “Board” with a second place finish in Argentina after two retirements, as Zarco and Martin were eighth and ninth Overall entering COTA.


Although Martin claimed the Pole at Austin and ran second for the first dozen laps, the Spaniard ultimately dropped to eighth, one position ahead of his teammate at the Chequered flag.


Obviously Nobody would have expected Gresini Racing’s Enea Bastianini to not only be the leading Duc’ rider Points-wise, having slid down to third following Argentina with 36 points. But who would have expected the 24yr old Italian to have won His and Gresini’s maiden MotoGP victory at Qatar!


Then Bastianini who reputedly was the fastest at COTA, winding his year old Duc’ up to a ridiculous 350kph, Yikes! Played the long game, content to let Miller and Martin lead the early stages before taking the lead with five laps remaining to win his second MotoGP race in Austin! And thereby recaptures the Points lead with two wins, with 61 points.


Rookie Gresini teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio is off to a typical MotoGP Debutante start, in surely what is a learning year for Him. Not to mention firmly being Overshadowed by second year rider Bastianini…


The Mooney VR46 Racing Team seems somewhat of a “Pet” project for The doctor’s, aka Valentino Rossi’s Half Brother Luca Marini, who I think has scored a best of 11th to date. While Rookie teammate Marco Bezzecchi scored an impressive seventh at Argentina.



Both the Factory Repsol and Satellite LCR Honda  rider lineups remain intact from last year. And although the Factory duo of Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez got off to a fast  start in Doha, with Espargaro claiming third and Marquez fifth. It All went Pear Shaped beginning in Indonesia, where Marquez suffered a wicked High-side crash during the race’s morning warm-up and missed the race due to having Double vision, presumably due to concussion.


Marquez sat out the following Argentina round, still recovering from his blurred vision, while test rider Stefan Bradl deputized for him with mediocre result.


Pol Espargaro crashed out of the Argentina race, with his older brother Aleix being victorious, before finishing a Ho Hum 13th in Austin.


Yet it was Marc Marquez, known simply as the King of COTA who looked forward to his MotoGP return Stateside. Yet it ultimately was a weekend of what could have been for the 29yr old Six-times MotoGP Champion!


First Marquez qualified an uncharacteristic ninth, where the mighty Ducati’s claimed the top five spots. Then at race’s start, the Spaniard Dropped like a Stone to Dead last, i.e.; P24! Before putting on another typical Marquez Clinique, ultimately holding off reigning MotoGP World Champion Fabio Quartararo for sixth in what had to be the ride of the day!


Although Takaaki Nakagami claimed P10 in the Desert’s season opener, have to say that the Honda LCR Satellite Squad seems an afterthought on the grid for Mwah. As Thar results Don’t even register, typically outside of the Top 10 finishers. With Alex Marquez, younger brother of Marc’s best finish  being P13 at Indonesia heading to COTA. As Nakagami and Alex ranked 15th and 20th Overall respectively before Austin, where Takaaki finished P14 and Alex Crashed out of the race!



The Werks’ riders remain the same with Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira, with the pair both standing on the podium. Binder finished Runner-up at Qatar and Oliveira scored another win for KTM at the rain sodden Indonesian GP. Binder was second in the Points table following Argentina but has dropped to sixth after being the top KTM finisher at COTA in a Quiet 12th.


Really don’t know what to say about the Tech3 KTM “B Team” Satellite Squad, other then I didn’t expect too much from the two rookies. As both Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez, who finished 1-2 respevtively in last year’s Moto2 championship are in a learning year and have constantly finished towards the tail end of the grid…



Their lineup remains unchanged, with Joan Mir and Alex Rins being solid Top-10 Finishers, with 2020 MotoGP World Champion Mirs leading a P6-7 finish at Qatar. And then Rins has gotten the better of Mir’s, leading a P5-6 finish in Indonesia, and scoring Suzuki’s first podium of the season in Argentina when finishing third, with Mir fourth, which seems to becoming a trend.


Rins ran a stellar race at Circuit Of The Americas, being the only rider able to crack what the media called the Ducati Wall! As Rins picked off Jack Miller on the final lap to finish Runner-up, with Mir P4. As Rims moves into second in the Championship just five points adrift of Enea Bastianini, and Mir P4 Overall, 15 points adrift.



The Factory Yamaha Squad remains unchanged after last year’s final roster shuffle. As Fabio Quartararo is the reigning MotoGP champion, but has had a somewhat Subpar start in 2022, with finishes of P9-2-8. Having Quipped following Argentina that eighth place finishes Don’t win you Championships! Thus the Frenchman probably isn’t too Happy over being Boxed out by Marc Marquez, having to settle for P7 at COTA, and 17 points behind Bastianini.


Franco Morbidelli seems to have struggled more than Quartararo so far, with a best finish of seventh at Indonesia prior to COTA. Morbidelli then finished a lowly 16th in Texas, his second finish outside of the Top 10 after P11 in Qatar , along with retiring in Argentina. Making me wonder what’s up with this Italian rider, or is it just more a sign of how the Yamaha’s lagging behind?


The rebranded Yamahopper’ WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP Satellite Squad is an interesting Dichotomy, as have to say I’m surprised by MotoGP rookie Darryn Binder outperforming team leader Dovi’, aka Andrea Dovizioso prior to the latest round in Texas. Especially with the latter’s wealth of MotoGP experience.


As the younger Binder brother pulled off a tenth place finish in Indonesia, the team’s only Top 10 to date.