MotoGP™ gets ready for lights out in Lombok

by | Mar 14, 2022 | Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, motoGP News, Suzuki, Yamaha

MotoGP™ gets ready for lights out in Lombok

The road to Pertamina Mandalika Circuit is paved with headlines, and we’re likely about to make some more

At the end of the Jerez Test, the world seemed to be at Ducati’s feet. And in some ways after the Grand Prix of Qatar and the start of 2022, it remains so, but it’s a more complex equation than it appeared. It was ultimately the GP21 of Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) that took a stunning victory under the floodlights in Qatar as the Italian sophomore secured his first MotoGP™ win and the first for his team since 2006 – as well as making it look impressively achievable. With Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) taking a convincing second and an equally convincing debut for Honda’s new RC213V in third in the hands of Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) too – who led more MotoGP™ laps in one race that he had on all his previous starts combined – there’s a lot to unpack on the road to Lombok. So let’s go!

A new challenge awaits as MotoGP™ heads for Indonesia

First, Ducati. For Francesco Bagnaia and teammate Jack Miller it was a pretty difficult first race of the season. Still looking for that sweet spot with the GP22 before crashing out and, in Miller's case, suffering an electrical issue, it made for a damp squib for the Ducati Lenovo Team and one they'll be wanting to right as soon as possible. Finding the sweet spot may be aided by experience gained in the Mandalika Test though, and reliability has seldom been an issue for the Bologna bullets, so there are two reasons to expect more red in the fight for the podium at Mandalika. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) fell victim to Bagnaia's mistake too, so the could-have-beens create a mystery there, and his teammate Johann Zarco seemed to go a little under the radar in P8 too. Have they got more in the locker?

Looking at Bastianini's incredible race, they'll need to find it soon if they're to take on... themselves. Ducati lead the constructors' Championship, just with the same bike that they won it with last season as the number 23 put in a near-perfect race on his GP21: out the box and on top straight away to make 1 the number of the Beast as we head for Round 2.

REWIND: Chapter 1 - A Beauty From The Beast

And now, KTM. It was a coy preseason for the Austrian factory - as much as that can apply when the top 21 on Day 3 of the Mandalika Test were covered by eight and a half tenths - but Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) broke cover with some serious form at Lusail. The number 33 was at the front from the off and remained there, homing in to within a few tenths of Bastianini by the flag, too. And that's at a track that traditionally sees the orange machinery struggle a little more than others, so there are now likely a few whispers up and down pitlane, accompanied by a sliver of apprehension, about what exactly KTM will have in the locker going forward. Mandalika may well suit man or machine, and Binder suits the top step so much his two previous MotoGP™ podiums had been wins. Can the South African go one better in Indonesia? And can teammate Miguel Oliveira bounce back?

Another interesting talking point from Qatar most definitely originates with Honda. Pol Espargaro not only led more laps in one race than he ever had done before combined, and took the new RC213V to the podium, he also beat returning eight-time Champion Marc Marquez, becoming the first Honda to finish ahead of the number 93 when both saw the flag at Lusail. Given the more turbulent time non-Marc Marquez riders have had at times with the Honda, it speaks to the factory having accomplished a key goal for 2022: rideability - as well as serious speed. Pol Espargaro also topped the timesheets on Day 3 at Mandalika, which is an extra spring for his step on the flight to Indonesia.

Marquez will no doubt be up in the mix as his experience on the bike and physical condition both increase, however, and after such a difficult couple of seasons, a top five at Lusail is a patient warning for the rest: the number 93 very much races on. Can he take on the podium at Mandalika and hit back against his teammate?

FREE: Binder pushes Bastianini all the way in desert battle

For Aprilia, meanwhile, it was their best ever MotoGP™ race according to timesheets alone. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) may have finished fourth but it was the closest the Noale factory have ever been to the winner, so that's a very good start for an RS-GP that looked lean and mean in pre-season. It was a more difficult opener for Maverick Viñales, however, and he'll be looking for more at Mandalika. on Day 3 of the test the number 41 was third and the number 12 was seventh, split by less than a tenth, so Aprilia will be keen to see both bikes attack the bigger points hauls - and try and keep that fourth place in the Constructors' rolling.

And then there's Suzuki. There was many an eyebrow raise after Friday in Qatar saw a GSX-RR draft a Ducati, and straight line speed gains have certainly been made. Qualifying was fairly solid, and the start of the race so too. But as the laps ticked down the Team Suzuki Ecstar machines couldn't quite get up into the podium fight, ultimately coming home in P6 - 2020 MotoGP™ Champion Joan Mir - and P7, Friday's fastest Alex Rins. They'll want a lot more at Mandalika and pitlane reporter Simon Crafar said in pre-season testing he expected the 17-corner layout to suit the inline four machinery, so it could be an interesting shuffle in Lombok. Mir did lose some track time at the test due to illness, so there may be more in the locker once we get down to racing business...

For Yamaha, it was a tough Qatar GP. With reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) in ninth, it was the worst position for the top Yamaha in the season opener since 2006 - and it didn't result from any one-off drama. The Iwata marque will be all hands on deck to convert Mandalika into a much better round, for both Quartararo and teammate Franco Morbidelli, who ended up in P11. Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) was 14th too, with a whole lot of experience struggling to crack into the podium fight. Quartararo was just 0.014 off the top on Day 3 at Mandalika in testing though, so the track may prove a happier hunting ground - with a potentially better layout for the YZR-M1.

Other battles from the Grand Prix of Qatar

And finally, rookie watch. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was the breakaway star of the first half of the race as the Italian shot clear of his fellow debutants and made a few waves before crashing out, rider ok. That left Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) vs Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) as the battle for top rookie and, in the end, the battle for a first GP point. The reigning Moto2™ Champion took it by hundredths at the line, but Binder did likewise impress as he moves from Moto3™ - although Gardner felt he'd been pretty held up by some late lunges from the South African. Can Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) move forward at Mandalika and can Raul Fernandez (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing), after an impressive start, take back to the rookie top? The Spaniard missed some track time at Mandalika after a crash in testing, so he'll be eager to get down to work.

One race down, 20 to go - and already a thousand talking points. Get ready to enjoy some more as MotoGP™ returns to race in Indonesia for the first time since 1997 in the Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia, with the roar of the grandstands set to rival the engines. The lights go out for the MotoGP™ race at 15:00 (GMT +8) on Sunday, so make sure to tune in for another stunner!

VideoPass allows you to watch every single second of every single sector LIVE and OnDemand. VideoPass offers you unrivalled access to interviews and features as well as every competitive lap at every Grand Prix. VideoPass is also available on the MotoGP™ app for iOS and Android, while you can also watch LIVE or OnDemand content with Roku TV, Apple TV, Android TV or Amazon Fire TV.
More than 45,000 videos dating back to 1992, with a comprehensive back catalogue of MotoGP™ coverage including full races, interviews, summaries, reports and documentaries, are at your disposal - when you want, where you want.
Different camera feeds and OnBoards allow you to choose your preferred viewing experience, and to enjoy the race from so many angles. SIGN UP NOW

Read more here


The Moto Beach Classic Returns to Bolsa Chica, CA

A purpose build asphalt oval track will host a number of races including the 2021 Super Hooligan National Championship final. The Moto Beach Classic returns to Bolsa Chica on Saturday, October 23rd. Entry is free for a full day of motorcycle racing from the final...

2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350

2021 Royal Enfield Meteor 350 (Fireball trim) (Royal Enfield/)UpsThe beginner cruiser market gains one more competitorImpressive, well-balanced handlingEngine power may not be jaw-dropping, but its mild-mannered delivery and lack of vibration provides a very relaxed...

Ladies Who Ride: Reviews! Dainese Impeto Motorcycle Gloves

MoreBikes caught up with 25 year old Orthodontic dental nurse and Isle of Wight resident Tahnee Attwood. Tahnee rides (takes deep breath..) K6 GSXR 750, Yamaha R1, KTM 500 exc, Honda CRF450X in dirt set up and CRF450R in Supermoto set up! Luckily, she took time off...

Yamaha Motor Unveils Hydrogen-Powered V-8 Combustion Engine

Powerful hydrogen power: 397 pound-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm are the claimed figures. (Yamaha Motor/)Exciting and surprisingly specific news from Hamamatsu: Yamaha Motor has been tapped by Toyota Motor Corporation to develop an automotive engine fueled entirely by...

How to speak motorcycle

Slipper clutch or slipping clutch? There’s a big difference. Listen to any crowd of riders talking bikes and it seems like a foreign language. Just like any wide-eyed obsessive hobby, there’s a world of new words to learn. Here’s a helping hand. Two-storke and...

Can-Am and Road Warrior Foundation Sponsor Veterans on Cross-Country Ride

The 2022 Road Warrior Ride, sponsored by Can-Am, ended at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Columbus, Ohio. During the week of Sept. 23-30, a group of veterans seeking adventure, camaraderie, and healing rode Can-Am Spyders from Florida to Ohio, covering over...

2021 Yamaha YZF-R3

2021 Yamaha YZF-R3. (Yamaha/)UpsSmall size, amiable manners for new ridersRevvy engine, good handling for expertsDownsNeeds slightly bigger engine to compete with rivals$300 price increaseVerdictThe R3′s debut six years ago changed the entry-level motorcycle...

The Speedshop roars into action for a series of adventures on BBC Two

Photo: Mark Riccioni Following a successful pilot, The Speedshop returns for 6×60 episodes with former Special Forces operator Titch Cormack designing and building bespoke motorbikes and cars from his “souped-up man-cave” on Poole’s picturesque waterfront. This series...

Longhaulpaul: Ep. 15 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Longhaulpaul (Paul Pelland) and his Yamaha Ténéré 700 on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Our guest for Episode 15 of the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast is Longhaulpaul (Paul Pelland), a long-distance motorcyclist who is Chasing the Cure: riding one million miles to...

2021 Suzuki GSX-R600

2021 Suzuki GSX-R600. (Suzuki/)UpsOne of the best-handling sportbikes everSuperbly balanced performanceLight weightDownsNo real updates since 2011A bit priceyNo quickshifterVerdictThe GSX-R600 may be getting long in the tooth, but the middleweight Suzuki is still one...