The VROOM Blog #GermanGP – Fabulous Fabio scorches to sizzling Sachsenring win
The MotoGP paddock returned to action this weekend following a weekend off after the Catalan GP. We returned to Germany and the Sachsenring, and for the first time since 2012 we would be seeing a different race winner in the premier class, such has been the domination of Marc Marquez since 2013.
The King of the Ring was of course missing from the German GP – and perhaps even the rest of the season – as he recovers and rebuilds following a fourth surgery on his damaged humerus. We have had an update on the Spaniard’s condition following a post-operative medical check two weeks on from the surgery, with the team releasing a statement which said that the “feedback on the initial progress after surgery” was positive, and that the medical team have recommended that Marc continue with controlled exercises until his next check in four weeks.
With silly season still in full swing, we did have one piece of the puzzle fall into place before the German GP, with Red Bull KTM announcing the signing of Jack Miller to race alongside Brad Binder for 2023 and 2024. The deal sees Miller return to the KTM family, having raced with them in Moto3, securing 2nd in the Championship in 2014, and also reunites the Australian with Francesco Guidotti who was Miller’s team boss at Pramac Ducati but now manages the KTM Factory team.
Miller’s deal also confirms Miguel Oliveira’s exit from the KTM family with the Portuguese rider having previously stated that there was no way he would take the offered step back to the Tech3 squad. Rumours this weekend have linked Miguel with a move to the RNF Aprilia team, alongside either Celestino Vietti or Raul Fernandez.
I personally think that Vietti would benefit from another year or two in Moto2 before making the step up to MotoGP, but we will have to wait and see what happens.
Miguel had also been linked with Gresini for 2023, having been seen heading into their truck with Paolo Ciabatti at the Catalan GP, but those talks have apparently stalled due to a clash of team and individual sponsors. There were also rumours beginning to float around this weekend that Ducati were in talks with Joan Mir to replace Miller, but Ciabatti was very quick to quash those rumours, telling the world feed that they have had no contact with Mir, and that it is essentially a straight fight between Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini for the seat.
Ciabatti stated that they were in no rush to make that decision, and that they wanted to give Martin a fair shot now that he has had surgery to repair nerve damage in his hand which had been causing him issues so far this season. He also confirmed that Ducati are very close to signing a deal to keep Johann Zarco in his Pramac seat.
The final piece of silly season gossip that I’ll share this week is that Pol Espargaro is being linked with a return to KTM – as it is looking likely he won’t remain at Repsol Honda – but with the Tech3 team.
Friday’s track action got underway with FP1, and the session saw 3 crashes in 6 minutes at turn 1 with Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro and Rins all crashing, before Pol Espargaro had a second, much bigger crash at the same corner later in the session. Pol’s second crash was a nasty looking high-side that saw the Spaniard take his time to get back to his feet. It was later reported that he had damaged his ribs and was finding it difficult to take deep breaths.
The session was topped by Jack Miller, Pecco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo. Would Miller go on to win the first race after announcing his departure from Ducati just as Dovi and Lorenzo had done before him? Spoiler alert – no, but that’s a pretty cool stat about Dovi and Lorenzo.
For FP2 we were treated once again to the shoulder cam, but this time we were given the view of the reigning World Champion as Fabio Quartararo had the camera stitched into his Alpinestars leathers. There were lots of early improvers in lap times, with Martin, Zarco, Oliveira, Morbidelli and Di Giannantonio all going faster than they had in the morning, and by the mid-point of the session it was Aleix Espargaro who had taken over at the top of the combined times from Pecco, with Maverick Viñales up to 3rd.
With just 2 minutes remaining on the clock, Pecco Bagnaia set a new all-time lap record, and followed it up with another to top the session from Luca Marini and Jack Miller. Darryn Binder finished the session in 19th position – not anything to write home about, but still two places ahead of big brother Brad.
FP3 on Saturday morning saw the usual late time attacks to try and secure passage to Q2, and both Aleix and Pecco set new all-time lap records towards the end of the session. With 2 minutes to go, some people had their laps compromised by yellow flags brought out for a crash by Alex Marquez, and then another for his team mate Nakagami.
Meanwhile, Fabio Quartararo’s helmet visor was flapping about and Fabio was trying to bash it back into place, but unable to do so he pulled into the pits, changed helmets and headed back out, but he was too late to try and set a faster time – could he hold on to a top 10 position and a place in Q2?
He must have breathed a sigh of relief inside his helmet as he checked the big screens and saw that he had held on to 6th place. Fabio admitted that the error was his own – he hadn’t properly closed the visor and when he turned his head to check behind him the wind caught the visor and whipped it up causing the side to unclip.
It was Pecco who led the charge into Q2, ahead of Aleix and Jack. They would be joined by Pramac duo Zarco and Martin, Fabio, Mir, Marini, Nakagami and Viñales, while the others would be taking to the track in Q1.
Before we got to qualifying, we had the small matter of FP4. The session was delayed due to a power outage in the paddock, and as we waited for the session to get underway, we learned that Alex Rins and Suzuki had taken the decision to withdraw from the rest of the weekend as he was suffering a lot of pain thanks to the two fractures in his left wrist following the incident with Nakagami in Catalunya. The plan is for Rins to rest up and try again in Assen next week.
The session finally got going, and just before the half way mark, Aleix Espargaro crashed at turn 13, followed not long after by Jack Miller. Jack was penalised with a long lap penalty for the race for crashing under yellows despite his explanation that he had tried to slow down but had then suffered vibrations on the front of his Ducati which caused him to crash.
By the end of the session, it was Fabio Quartararo who had gone fastest, with Pecco, Jack, Miguel and Zarco rounding out the top 5.
Sometimes Q1 is an intense affair with lots of riders vying for the top two slots, but it was really only Diggia, Bezzecchi and Pol Espargaro who seemed to be capable of setting fast enough times to head through to Q2. In the final few minutes of the session there were MotoGP riders behaving like Moto3 riders and cruising around looking for tows – honestly, I don’t know how we can expect the Moto3 riders to sort out their behaviour when they are seeing such behaviour go unpunished in the premier class…
Anyway, at the end of the session it was Diggia and Bezzecchi who would be joining the fastest 10 from FP1-3 to fight for the front four rows of the grid.
Q2 got started without any KTMs – Taka Nakagami was the sole Honda representation too – at the circuit where Miguel had finished 2nd to Marc Marquez last year. After the first set of runs, it was Pecco, Jack and Martin who held the front row slots.
With 5 minutes to go, Pecco went faster again to strengthen his hold on pole position while those around him jostled for 2nd, with Aleix, Fabio and Zarco all taking 2nd place over the course of the final minutes. With just 30 seconds to go, Taka crashed at turn 1 ending all hope for anyone else to improve on their final lap. Crashing and bringing out yellow flags at the end of the session is becoming quite the habit for the Honda riders.
Pecco held on to pole position and would be joined on the front row by French duo Quartararo and Zarco, while Aleix, Diggia and Miller would line up behind them on row 2.
Warm up on Sunday morning was topped by Jorge Martin from Oliveira and Aleix Espargaro.
As the temperatures soared at the Sachsenring, the riders lined up on the grid with 30 hot laps ahead of them. There were ice packs and cooling vests aplenty across the grid as the riders tried to stay cool before the race start.
The lights went out and it was Fabio Quartararo who was first into turn 1, with Pecco, Aleix, Zarco, Diggia and Jack Miller all in hot pursuit of the championship leader. Pecco made a move on Fabio at the beginning of lap 2, but Fabio was having none of it and immediately took back the lead of the race. As Jack Miller took advantage of a wobble from Diggia and moved up to 5th, his long lap penalty notification showed on the dash of his Ducati, while Zarco barged his way up to 3rd at the expense of Aleix, and Maverick passed Diggia for 6th.
Out front, Fabio was already starting to pull a gap over the chasing pack, and on lap 4 Pecco lost the rear and crashed out of the race at turn 1. Joan Mir also crashed out at turn 1 on the same lap, scattering gravel into the long lap loop area just in time for Miller to take his long lap on the next lap. Miller did well not to be taken down by the gravel, and only dropped to 7th place as he re-joined behind Jorge Martin.
Darryn Binder crashed at turn 13 on lap 5, Alex Marquez retired to the pits at the end of lap 7, and on lap 7 Taka Nakagami crashed at turn 8.
Things at the front had settled down, with Fabio leading Zarco by 1.4 seconds, while Aprilia team mates Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales were running in 3rd and 4th. In all honestly, the middle part of the race was fairly dull – there wasn’t too much happening other than Maverick looking like he might have the pace to steal a podium finish from his team mate, and Jack Miller making his way back up to 5th place behind the Aprilia duo.
On lap 18, Jack was able to pass Maverick as Top Gun ran way wide, and a lap later Maverick pulled into the pits where it became clear that the rear ride-height device was locked on rendering the bike unrideable, which is a shame because I really think Maverick could have fought for his first Aprilia podium.
By lap 21 Jack was all over the back of Aleix, and the battle for 5th was getting spicy with Martin, Marini, Binder and Diggia all fighting it out. Over the next few laps, Jack kept trying to pass Aleix but was unable to make a move stick until a mistake from the Aprilia rider allowed the Australian through to 3rd place.
Pol Espargaro pulled into the pits to retire, and while Honda put it down to pain from his FP1 crash, Simon Crafar said that he believed that the Repsol Honda may have been “cooking” Pol’s foot. And going by the photo that Pol’s team mate Stefan Bradl posted to his social media following the race showing his own burned foot, and his post-race comments about burning his hands, Crafar may well have been right.
As the final lap started, Fabio had a lead of over 5 seconds, and he scorched across the line to take his 3rd win of the season, and Yamaha’s first win at the Sachsenring since a certain Valentino Rossi back in 2009! Johann Zarco was 2nd to make it the seconds French 1-2 of the season, and Jack Miller was 3rd for his 3rd podium of the season.
Jack Miller rode off the track and onto the service road to locate a fan that had held up a sign asking to trade a t-shirt for Jack’s gloves. Jack held up his end of the bargain and gave the fan his race gloves. Fabio Quartararo meanwhile jumped out of parc ferme, ran across the track and lobbed his boots into the crowd.
After the race, all three podium finishers looked exhausted, with Jack Miller even saying to Zarco “you look in a bad way mate!” All three of them even sat down on the podium after spraying their prosecco.
Fabio’s win was impressive as it was, but the French rider hadn’t been feeling well all weekend and had also been struggling to sleep. In his pre-race info from Yamaha ahead of Assen, he says he has had a couple of days rest and is feeling much better, and is looking forward to one of his favourite tracks. If I were his rivals, I’d be a bit concerned by that – he’s on a good run and he won at Assen last year!
While Fabio is on the crest of a wave, things aren’t looking so rosy at Honda. With Alex Marquez, Taka Nakagami and Pol Espargaro all failing to finish the race, and Stefan Bradl crossing the line outside of the points in 16th, the German GP marks the first time in 40 years that Honda have failed to score in a premier class race. The last time Honda failed to score was the French GP in 1982!
As the paddock headed straight from the Sachsenring to Assen, there was a lovely story about the team truck drivers who stopped to give sick and disabled children a ride to the circuit as “co-drivers”. 54 trucks formed a convoy from Emmen to Assen before completing a lap of the legendary TT circuit.
Early this week Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow and reigning World Superbike champion Toprak Razgatlioğlu spent some time spinning laps on M1s around Aragon. We know that Lin Jarvis has already confirmed that there is no space for Toprak in their MotoGP team in 2023, but honestly, I don’t see Toprak making the move to MotoGP any time soon – he seems to be more focussed on Superbikes and the records he could break there. Plus, with the Yamaha team there is the whole energy drink sponsorship issue as the team is sponsored by Monster Energy while Toprak is a Red Bull athlete – the test bike he went out on had a completely black livery with no sponsors at all, while he still wore his Red Bull helmet!
So, Assen is up next and kicks off on Friday, although the weather forecast suggests it might be a little wet – well really wet actually – which might spice things up a little!