The VROOM Blog – 2022 Season Review
Another MotoGP season has come to a close, and MotoGP 2022 was a wild ride. We saw a new champion crowned following the biggest comeback in MotoGP history, a MotoGP documentary arrive on Amazon Prime, and a grid containing the highest number of GP World Champions ever. 14 GP World Champions, if you were wondering!
The MotoGP Unlimited documentary had been billed as MotoGP’s answer to the F1 Drive to Survive series, but from what I understand there was much less drama built into MotoGP Unlimited (I’ve never watched Drive to Survive). The only real drama with it was the god-awful dubbing that was put over the riders’ voices. It honestly made the series unwatchable, and caused quite the backlash online. Thankfully Amazon resolved a ‘technical issue’ and we were gifted the series with the riders’ own voices and subtitles where they weren’t speaking English.
I enjoyed the series, I think it showed MotoGP for what it is, and it gave a good insight into the lives of some riders away from the track. It was particularly interesting to see some of what played out behind the scenes for Maverick Viñales last season, but apparent the series has been shelved so we won’t be seeing another season this year, which is a shame.
The season kicked off under the floodlights in Qatar, and there was concern already for 2021 runner-up Pecco Bagnaia. He was unhappy with the performance of the new Ducati engine – the GP22 – and so was running what Paolo Ciabatti described as a hybrid between the GP21 and GP22. Team mate Jack Miller was also on the hybrid model, whilst the other Ducati riders were split between the GP21 and the GP22, with Gresini’s Enea Bastianini and Fabio Di Giannantonio joining VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi on the GP21. Pramac riders Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin, and VR46’s Luca Marini were on the GP22.
Marco Bezzecchi crashed out of his first MotoGP race on the 7th lap, and if Pecco thought his season was off to a poor start due to his engine woes, it got worse when he finished the first race of the season in the gravel having wiped Jorge Martin out at turn 1 in an attempt to take 8th place.
While Pol Espargaro had spent a fair amount of the race leading on his Repsol Honda, it was Enea Bastianini who came through in the latter stages of the race to lead and take the first win of the season. Having split from Aprilia at the end of last season, this win marked the first win for the Gresini team in MotoGP since 2006. It was also Enea’s first MotoGP win, and the first win for the team since the loss of Fausto Gresini so there was plenty of emotion on display from the team.
Enea was joined on the podium by Brad Binder and Pol Espargaro, with both riders confident of continued progress throughout the season. Pol even declared that he and Honda were back, and well, he may have been a little over-confident there…
With Qatar done and dusted, it was on to Indonesia for a first visit to the Mandalika circuit. I say first visit, but the MotoGP riders had been here in pre-season testing and they were critical of the track conditions during the test. Part of the track had been resurfaced since the pre-season test, but there were still issues with the track that saw both Moto2 and MotoGP races being shortened “to preserve the track conditions”. The track is due to be fully resurfaced before MotoGP arrives back there in 2023.
One of the big stories this weekend was the massive high-side crash suffered by Marc Marquez in the warm up session on Sunday morning. It was Marc’s fourth crash of the weekend, and it looked horrendous. He took longer than you would like to get back to his feet and was unsteady as he made his way through the gravel. Following trips to the medical centre and the local hospital, Marc was back at the track in time for the race, but had been declared unfit due to concussion.
Concussion wasn’t the end of the story for the Repsol Honda rider, as the team announced on the Tuesday following the race that Marc was suffering a relapse of the diplopia issue that saw him miss the end of the 2021 season.
The other big story was the weather. I’ve never understood why races can be scheduled during the ‘rainy season’ in some countries, and this weekend was a massive example of that. Shortly after Somkiat Chantra made history by becoming the first ever Thai rider to win a GP race, the heavens opened and the track was saturated.
The MotoGP race was delayed by over an hour as they waited for conditions to improve enough to get the race underway. In the down time, we saw a local ‘rain handler’ carrying out a ritual to try and lessen the rain, and the online response from some race fans was less than respectful. It doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t believe that a person can have control over the weather, there is no need to be so rude and disrespectful about the culture of another country when it isn’t doing any harm.
Anyway, the race finally got going and reigning World Champion Fabio Quartararo took an early lead. Quartararo dropped back in the early laps, but was able to fight back to finish 2nd to Miguel Oliveira. Fabio was delighted with his first ever podium in a fully wet race – wet races have never been the Frenchman’s strong point – and he and Miguel were joined on the podium by Johann Zarco. Rookie Darryn Binder scored his best result (by far) of the season in Indonesia, coming across the line in 10th place after quite the battle with his brother Brad and Aleix Espargaro.
Enea Bastianini finished in 11th place, meaning he was able to hold on the lead of the championship just 2 points ahead of Brad Binder, with Fabio 1 point further back.
Up next was Argentina – back on the calendar for the first time since 2019 thanks to both the pandemic, and a fire which had destroyed some of the paddock buildings – and there were issues with the freight which saw all of Friday’s track action cancelled as the final plane load of paddock freight arrived late Friday night. It did give us a great example of how the paddock can come together with teams helping each other out with setting up garages, and Moto3 and Moto2 tyre supplier Dunlop helping the Michelin guys fit tyres to MotoGP wheels.
While the delay was a huge pain in the backside for many in the paddock – it worked in favour of Taka Nakagami who looked to be missing the weekend thanks to a positive Covid test, but the delay in track action meant he returned a negative test in time and was on a plane out to Argentina after all!
The condensed schedule meant that MotoGP had extended FP1 and FP2 sessions before heading straight into qualifying. Pole man in Argentina was Aleix Espargaro who took his first pole position since 2015, and only his 3rd MotoGP pole.
Aleix hit the milestone of 200 MotoGP race starts in Argentina, and in doing so became the first rider ever to reach 200 MotoGP race starts without a single victory. Now you may know that I’m not the biggest fan of Aleix, but I respect the hard work he puts in. I also love a fairy tale and we certainly got one this weekend as the stars aligned for Aleix and Aprilia and he went on to take his first ever GP race win, and Aprilia’s first win in the MotoGP era.
Not only was Aleix now a MotoGP race winner, he was also the championship leader, with 45 points ahead of Brad Binder on 38 and Enea Bastianini on 36.
The Circuit of the Americas – COTA – was up next, and Jorge Martin headed an all-Ducati front row ahead of Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia, while Zarco and Bastianini in 4th and 5th on the grid meant that for the first time ever, Ducati had locked out the top 5 places on the grid, becoming the first manufacturer to do so since Biaggi, Tamara, Rossi, Gibernau and Hayden did so for Honda back in 2003.
Enea Bastianini dethroned the ‘King of COTA’ Marc Marquez to take victory ahead of Alex Rins and Jack Miller, as Rins secured Suzuki’s 500th podium in all classes of GP racing. Enea rode a great race, but you have to wonder if he would have beaten Marc had Marc not had a bike issue on the first lap that saw him drop to last place before fighting back to 6th. ‘What ifs’ don’t really matter in racing though, and Enea was a worthy race winner – and the first to win more than one race this season.
As we headed on to the first European round of the season at Portimão, we had had 10 different podium finishers and no one who had finished in the top 7 of the championship last year had won a race yet!
There were questions raised by some riders at Portimão about the size and shape of the gravel in the gravel traps, and Pecco Bagnaia scooped up a handful of it to take back to the garage following a crash in FP2.
Johann Zarco claimed pole position for the Portuguese GP, ahead of Joan Mir and Aleix Espargaro. It was Zarco’s compatriot Quartararo who went on to win the race though, 5 seconds ahead of Zarco, with Aleix Espargaro rounding out the podium. Fabio’s first win of the season took him into the lead of the championship, where he would remain for the foreseeable future…
Following on from the Portuguese GP, MotoGP headed to Jerez where we saw a 5th different winner in 6 races with Pecco Bagnaia coming out on top ahead of Fabio and Aleix. As well as Pecco’s first win of the season, we saw 5-time World Champion (2 x 250cc, 3 x MotoGP) Jorge Lorenzo inducted as a MotoGP Legend.
Perhaps the biggest news to come out of Jerez though was the news – or rather the rumour – that began circulating on Monday evening following a one-day test. Rumour had it that Suzuki were going to pull out of MotoGP (and a five-year deal) at the end of the season. Dorna released a statement the following day to say that they had been in contact with Suzuki to remind them of their contract, but there was still no word from Suzuki.
Suzuki did finally release a statement the day before the French GP got started. It was a brief statement that confirmed that they were in discussions with Dorna regarding leaving the championship, citing the current economic situation and changes in the automotive world as reasons for the decision. Suzuki’s decision – which frankly seems absurd, they were MotoGP World Champions the season before last – leaves Joan Mir and Alex Rins suddenly without jobs as Livio Suppo had been quite vocal about hoping to retain both riders earlier in the season. It’s not only the riders either, there is a vastly talented crew behind each of those riders who would now all be looking for jobs at the end of the year.
There was also drama surrounding tyre pressures as the championship reached France, with tyre pressure rules having been breached in the MotoGP class according to a story from Mat Oxley. It turns out that there has been a kind of gentleman’s agreement in place whereby the MSMA and Michelin simply don’t disclose or sanction any breaches. Running a lower tyre pressure can give more grip and a better performance across race distance, and when it was pointed out to Pecco that he had been below the minimum pressure when he won in Jerez, he said that if it was illegal, he would have been punished but he wasn’t.
It was then put to Fabio that Pecco had been below when he won, and Fabio simply replied that he may well have been in the same situation when he won in Portugal. Seems to have been swings and roundabouts really, but MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge did say that they are working on a “unified sensor and receiver system” for the future.
As we raced in France for the first time with a French MotoGP champion on the grid, poleman Pecco Bagnaia crashed out of the race while Fabio Quartararo extended his championship lead with a 4th place finish. The race was won by Enea Bastianini who recorded his 3rd win of the season, ahead of Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro who took Aprilia to 3 consecutive podiums for the first time in their premier class history.
Up next was the mighty Mugello, and despite the fact that the top 3 in the championship – Fabio, Aleix and Enea – were covered by only 8 points, it was a much quieter affair than we are used to in terms of crowd numbers. While a lot of speculation suggested that the lack of ticket sales was due to Valentino Rossi’s retirement, another factor was almost certainly the cost of the tickets – reportedly almost double what it would cost to attend a GP race elsewhere.
There was a rather misogynistic 10 Euro discount for any females wishing to attend though, which made me roll my eyes so hard I’m fairly certain I saw my brain…
There was a lot going on at Mugello – the Ducati riders led a ride-in to the track, Max Biaggi was inducted as a MotoGP Legend, and Valentino Rossi’s number 46 was retired.
This was also the weekend that the Pramac team ruined one of the nicest liveries on the grid as they took on a new title sponsor – Prima – whose colour of choice is purple. Just, no. Purple, red and white is not a good look.
Repsol Honda called an exceptional press conference on Saturday to announce that Marc Marquez would travel to America to undergo another surgery on his arm, in a final bid to resolve the issues it was causing him, with Marc stating that he simply couldn’t continue riding like this. The surgery would see Stefan Bradl stepping in for Marc for a few rounds as the Spaniard completed a recovery and rehabilitation program.
For the first time since Jorge Lorenzo and James Toseland back in 2008, we had two MotoGP rookies in 1st and 2nd on the grid as Fabio Di Giannantonio took pole ahead of Marco Bezzecchi.
It was Pecco Bagnaia who took the win from Fabio Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro. I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing – Aleix Espargaro was on the podium for the 4th race in a row, had won a race, and was 2nd in the championship only 8 points behind Fabio. You’d have got cracking odds on that at the start of the season!
Aleix looked to continue his good form as he headed home to the Catalan GP, and he put himself in a great position by taking pole on Saturday afternoon. The race had barely started when chaos reigned at turn 1, with Taka Nakagami entering the turn far too fast, crashing and wiping out Pecco Bagnaia and Alex Rins. It was an awful looking crash, with Taka’s head making contact with Pecco’s rear wheel as he crashed. Thankfully, everyone escaped serious injury, but Rins did break his wrist while Taka was kept in hospital for observation.
Alex Rins was – quite rightly in my opinion – furious when he was interviewed about the incident post-race. Rins was highly critical of those in Race Direction, even going as far as saying that he didn’t think they were fit to be in MotoGP. Both Alex and Pecco said that they felt that the “no further action” decision was the wrong one as Taka had ended both of their races while he was basically out of control.
Back on track, Fabio was leading Aleix by 6 seconds as the final lap began, but suddenly Aleix slowed down – had his bike broken when he looked set to score a 2nd place? It quickly became clear that there was no bike issue for Aleix – he was celebrating and waving to the crowd. A lap early. It didn’t appear to be until he was passed at pace by Martin, Mir, Zarco and Marini that Aleix realised his mistake and got himself back up to speed. He managed to pass Marini and crossed the line in 5th place, but he was devastated.
Aleix said post-race that the mistake was his own – but did say that the circuit tower said L0 as he came into the straight so he thought the race was over.
Fabio took his second win of the season ahead of Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco, and headed to the Sachsenring with a 22-point lead over Aleix.
The Sachsenring would be seeing a new winner in the MotoGP class for the first time since 2013 such had been the dominance of Marc Marquez at the German track. Pecco Bagnaia took pole position, but once again he crashed out of the race – his 4th DNF of the year so far. Fabio Quartararo had a 5 second lead on the final lap as he scorched to victory ahead of Zarco and Jack Miller.
While things were looking good for Fabio, things were looking decidedly not good over at Honda. Alex Marquez, Taka Nakagami and Pol Espargaro all failed to finish the race while Stefan Bradl – still subbing for Marc – crossed the line in 16th place, meaning that for the first time in 40 years, Honda had failed to score in a premier class race.
Things weren’t looking all that good for Pecco Bagnaia either. Having finished 2nd to Fabio last season, Pecco was hotly-tipped to take the fight to Fabio again this season, but as the MotoGP paddock headed to Assen for the final race before the summer break, Pecco was a staggering 91 points behind Fabio. Not an insurmountable number of points of course, but there were some already saying that that was Pecco’s championship done for 2022.
But this is MotoGP – where anything can happen – and there were still 250 points up for grabs…
Pecco took pole in Assen, and went on to take victory ahead of Bezzecchi and Viñales, but the real talking point of the race was the incident between Fabio and Aleix. On the 5th lap of the race, Fabio attempted to pass Aleix but crashed and ran Aleix out into the gravel. Aleix remained upright, but did drop down to 15th place while Fabio picked up his Yamaha and re-joined in 24th.
As Aleix battled his way back through the pack, Fabio pulled into the pits citing traction control issues, but the team sent him back out on track. Fabio then suffered an even bigger crash, being thrown over the handle bars and looking in considerable pain as he walked away from the crash. Fabio explained post-race that the second crash had been caused by the lack of traction control, he also said that the airbag system he runs is a one-charge system meaning that as his airbag had gone off in the first crash, it didn’t deploy in the second. It really makes you wonder about the wisdom of sending him back out. Surely if airbags are mandatory for riders, then there should be a rule regarding what happens once the airbag has gone off – if it’s a one-charge system and the airbag goes off, you should be out of the race.
My favourite quote of the season came from Brad Binder in Assen, who had been the victim of a superb overtake from Aleix on the final lap who swept past Brad and Jack Miller in one go. Brad was asked post-race if he thought the move was over the limit and he replied “to be honest, buddy, f***ing hats off to the dude.”
Hats off indeed, as Aleix managed to finish the race in 4th place! Fabio headed to Aleix’s garage to apologise, which Aleix accepted with a hug before heading off to parc ferme to congratulate his team mate on his podium and Aprilia’s best combined result with 3rd and 4th.
Later on the Sunday, it was announced that Fabio would have to serve a long lap penalty at Silverstone for the move on Aleix. Yamaha tried to appeal the decision but they were rejected, so they released a statement calling out the inconsistencies in the application of penalties in MotoGP. Honestly, good for Yamaha. Sure, by the letter of the law, Fabio deserved a penalty as he impacted Aleix’s race – something that Fabio himself admits – but by this point of the season there had been 3 far worse incidents of riders impacting each other’s races that had all received no penalty.
The lack of consistency from the stewards this season has certainly been one of the most frustrating things about MotoGP in 2022.
So, our MotoGP heroes headed off on a 5-week summer break where Pecco Bagnaia found himself on the wrong side of the law when he drove drunk and crashed his car on a roundabout following a night out in Ibiza. There was absolute radio silence from Ducati and from the championship as a whole which was disappointing. I wasn’t expecting him to be railroaded or anything like that, but it would have been nice to hear that this kind of behaviour isn’t the kind of example MotoGP riders – or you know, decent human beings – should be setting.
It was confirmed over the summer break that Suzuki would indeed be leaving the championship at the end of the season, having reached an agreement with Dorna.
Andrea Dovizioso confirmed ahead of the Silverstone weekend that he would be retiring from MotoGP, but rather than sticking it out until the end of the season, he would be bowing out after his home race in Misano. Fair play to Dovi for basically saying nah, I’m not riding around on that thing for the rest of the year! Taking Dovi’s seat in the RNF Yamaha squad from Aragon onwards would be Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow.
Silverstone marked the debut of new aero on the Ducatis. Dubbed the ‘stegosaurus’, the new aero sits on the back of the bike and would gradually make its way onto the other manufacturers bikes by the end of the season.
Fresh from his brilliant ride through the pack in Assen, Aleix Espargaro suffered a huge high-side that slammed his feet into the ground during FP4 – he was stretchered to the side of the track before being transferred to the medical centre where he was declared fit and allowed to continue with the weekend.
Johann Zarco claimed pole position, and Aleix was able to qualify in 6th place. It was Pecco Bagnaia who went on to win the race ahead of Maverick Viñales and Jack Miller. With two victories on the bounce, and a DNF and an 8th place for Fabio, Pecco had sliced the deficit to Fabio to 49 points in two rounds.
As we arrived in Austria, there was much buzz about the return of Marc Marquez – although the Honda rider wasn’t there to race, but to connect with the team and have meetings with HRC, the mechanics and engineers to see if everyone was on the same page regarding development and performance.
There was also a lot of talk about the new track layout – there has been a chicane added following the horrendous accident between Zarco and Morbidelli that almost wiped out Rossi and Viñales back in 2020. The biggest news this weekend though was the news that from 2023 MotoGP will be introducing sprint races on Saturdays. There was a mixed reaction from the riders, with some in favour and some against the idea, but the thing that seems to bother them most is that the news was leaked and then announced before they had been told about it. It appears that there was no consultation with the riders at all.
On track, Enea Bastianini – who had already won 3 races this season – secured his first ever MotoGP pole, and would be joined on the front row by Pecco and Jack. Pecco went on to win his 3rd race in a row – becoming the first Ducati rider to do so since Casey Stoner in 2008 – while Fabio Quartararo had a much better race to finish in 2nd place ahead of Jack Miller.
We rolled on to Misano, and Dovi started his 346th and final GP race in front of his home fans, while it was announced that reigning Moto2 Champion Remy Gardner had lost his seat at KTM, and that was a messy situation. Remy said he’d been told he was unprofessional, Pit Beirer denied that, then Remy’s dad – 1987 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner – waded in and blamed Remy’s manager for the breakdown between Remy and KTM, prompting Remy to release a statement saying it wasn’t his manager’s fault.
It’s a real shame that Remy hasn’t been given a second season to prove himself in MotoGP, but MotoGP’s loss is certainly going to be World Superbike’s gain.
It being Misano, there was a number of special home-race helmet designs being unveiled across the weekend – Dovi had a lovely one with bits of designs from various helmets he has worn throughout his career, while Bezzecchi, Di Giannantonio and Bastianini all had lovely designs too. Then there was Pecco Bagnaia. Pecco decided to pay tribute to a sporting hero of his – fair enough, you might think, until you realise the sporting hero being honoured is none other than garbage human being Dennis Rodman.
I had a bit of a rant about this at the time, so I won’t go on about it here, but it’s really disappointing to think that Pecco – and the people around him – believes that sporting achievements can balance out things like domestic violence, sexual assault and numerous drink-driving offences.
Anyway, Pecco went on to win the race ahead of Enea and Viñales, while Fabio finished in 5th place. Andrea Dovizioso ended his career with a 12th place before removing and signing his gloves and knee sliders and lobbing them into the crowd.
Aragon was up next, and was the first of a gruelling 5 races in 6 weeks. Marc Marquez was back in action following his surgery, and we also saw the return of Cal Crutchlow in place of the retired Dovizioso. While Pecco had been chipping away at the gap to Fabio in the championship, this weekend saw the title fight blown wide open.
On the first lap of the race, Marc had a slide and slowed slightly as he tried to correct it and with nowhere else to go, Fabio slammed into the back of Marc and suffered a massive crash as a result. Thankfully Fabio was able to get up and walk away, albeit with massive abrasions on his chest and stomach, but before we could get our breath back there was another crash as Marc and Taka collided, with Marc once again remaining aboard his Honda as Taka was sent sliding along the track. He was incredibly lucky not to be collected by any of the following riders, but his fingers were badly damaged and in need of surgery.
As if Fabio’s day hadn’t been bad enough, the marshal carrying him back to the paddock collided head on with another scooter. Thankfully Fabio had his helmet on so the damage was minimal.
With Fabio out of the race, it was Enea Bastianini who took the win from Pecco Bagnaia with Aleix in 3rd place. Pecco’s 2nd place combined with Fabio’s DNF meant that Pecco was now only 10 points behind Fabio in the championship.
Next up was Motegi, and for some reason someone thought it was a good idea to schedule races in Spain and Japan on consecutive weekends. There was therefore no track action on Friday morning to allow for the arrival of all of the freight.
The weather at Motegi was awful, with thunder and lightning accompanying rain so heavy that MotoGP riders lost a session to allow time for qualifying to take place. The weather had settled by Sunday, but it was by no means an easy day for the top 3 in the championship.
Aleix Espargaro – at this point 3rd in the championship – discovered an issue with his Aprilia on the warm up lap so he dived into pit lane to switch to his second bike which meant he had to start the race from pitlane. It turned out that the team had forgotten to turn off the fuel-saving map used on the sighting lap, and Aleix finished the race with no points in 16th place.
Pecco Bagnaia crashed out of the race – and was very lucky not to wipe Fabio out in the process – while Fabio could only manage an 8th place finish. 8th isn’t too bad when you consider that his closest rivals failed to score, but Fabio would certainly have preferred to have gained more from the misfortune of Aleix and Pecco.
Away from all of the drama for the top 3, it was Jack Miller who took the victory ahead of Brad Binder and Jorge Martin.
Following on from Japan was a trip to Thailand where the weather on Sunday was less than ideal. Unless of course your name was Miguel Oliveira who seems to be becoming MotoGP’s new rain master. It was Marco Bezzecchi who took a first pole position for himself and for the VR46 team, leaving team mate Luca Marini as the only Ducati rider not to have secured a pole position this season.
The weather was so bad on Sunday that the Moto2 race was red flagged, and then red flagged again on the sighting lap as they attempted a re-start. The original race was declared a result and half points were awarded. After a delay of around an hour, MotoGP riders were sent to the grid with an extended pit lane opening which allowed them to complete a few sighting laps to get an idea of the track conditions. Wet, the track conditions were very, very wet.
Miguel Oliveira took his second wet weather win of the season, and was joined on a soggy podium by Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia. Fabio Quartararo was only able to finish in 17th place, meaning the gap back to Pecco in the championship was now only 2 points as the paddock headed to Australia.
It was in Australia that we saw the usually level-headed Miguel Oliveira disengage his brain and complete a practice start BEFORE the chequered flag in Q1 before proceeded to cruise around the rest of the lap on the racing line, getting in the way of Enea Bastianini who had a fast lap disrupted and lost a potential slot in Q2.
Australia was also the scene of the quite possibly the most disgusting display of neglect I’ve ever seen from Race Direction. Jorge Navarro crashed and was unavoidably hit by Simone Corsi, and while Jorge was conscious, he was clearly in a great deal of pain and unable to move himself to safety. The Moto2 race carried on for two full laps as Jorge sat on the grass at the edge of the corner with no helmet on. He was finally stretchered away as the bikes came through for a third time, but where the hell was the red flag? It was awful to watch, and must have been terrifying for Jorge who had broken his femur, hence why he was unable to move himself out of the way.
Thankfully, following surgery Jorge is now on the mend, but Race Direction are incredibly lucky that no one else crashed at that corner while Jorge was awaiting assistance. They should be ashamed of themselves.
The Australian GP was definitely a contender for the best race of the season – there were 11 riders within 2 seconds of each other 15 laps into the race and the battling within the pack was fantastic to see. Fabio Quartararo however had an absolute disaster of a race, crashing out of the race and losing the lead of the championship which he had held since Portugal.
Alex Rins took the race win ahead of Marc Marquez who scored his 100th premier class podium, while Pecco finished 3rd to take the lead in the championship. Now 14 points ahead of Fabio, Pecco had managed to pull off the biggest comeback in premier class history (since the current points system was introduced in 1993).
The paddock rolled on to Sepang where Pecco would have his first opportunity to take the title. Fabio’s weekend didn’t get off to the best of starts with a crash in FP4 seeing him break his finger. Jorge Martin had qualified on pole for what was a very tense race as the championship sat on a knife-edge. Pecco won the race, but Fabio held on for a podium in 3rd place meaning that the points difference was 23 points in Pecco’s favour and with 25 points available for a race win, Fabio had managed to take the title fight down to the season finale in Valencia.
Jorge Martin was on pole for the 3rd consecutive race, while championship contenders Fabio and Pecco would be 4th and 8th on the grid. The race itself saw battles up and down the field, but it was the one for 4th early in the race that was the most eye-watering. Jack and Fabio were having a back-and-forth battle, with Jack sailing past Fabio on the straights only for Fabio to pass him back in the corners, and when Pecco joined the battle there was contact between the two championship contenders that saw a wing sent flying from Pecco’s Ducati!
Aleix Espargaro, who had been in the top 3 of the championship since round 3, saw his hopes of taking a 3rd place finish in the championship fade away as he pulled out of the race with a mechanical issue. There was only 1 point between Aleix and Enea heading into the race, so unless Enea also failed to finish, 3rd place would be going to the Gresini mounted Italian.
In what can only be described as a bittersweet ending for Suzuki, it was Alex Rins who took the final race win of the season, having led the race from start to finish. Alex was joined on the podium by Brad Binder and Jorge Martin.
Fabio Quartararo finished in 4th place, with Pecco Bagnaia crossing the line in 9th place to take his first MotoGP World Championship. Enea Bastianini finished just ahead of Pecco in 8th to secure 3rd place in the championship behind out-going champion Fabio.
When you look back at the season, I think you would have to say that Assen was the turning point. They headed to Assen with 172 points to Fabio and 81 to Pecco – a difference of 91 points, but from Assen to Valencia (the same number of races) Fabio scored 76 points to Pecco’s 184.
Some would say that Pecco stepped up and started getting results, while others would say that the wheels fell off for Fabio with DNFs and poor results hampering him. Honestly though, it was probably the two factors coalescing, and to be fair to Fabio with the Yamaha against the Ducati it was a bit like rocking up to a gun fight with a knife, and it was a wonder that he had managed to build up such a lead in the first place!
Following the race, Fabio spoke candidly about his hopes for next season, but also placed the ball firmly in Yamaha’s court – he is doing all he can to be at his best, but he needs Yamaha to step up and provide him with a more competitive bike. He wasn’t too impressed after the post-season test though, stating that Yamaha had much more work to do before next season.
I do hope that Yamaha come through for Fabio and give him – and team mate Franky Morbidelli – a bike that is more competitive than we have seen this season. I also hope that Franky has a better 2023. For me, he has been one of the biggest mysteries of 2022. You could put his performance in the last few races of 2021 down to the fact that he had moved teams mid-season – having been promoted to the factory team following the whole Maverick Viñales debacle – and he was recovering from major knee surgery, but this season, he has been way below where you would expect him to be.
Franky was runner up to Joan Mir in the championship in 2020 and you don’t just lose talent overnight, so I’m hopeful that an improved bike from Yamaha will mean a more successful season for Franky…
In a season where the sport arguably felt the loss – certainly in terms of ticket sales – of Valentino Rossi following his retirement last season, it was rather fitting the Champion was one of his VR46 Academy riders. It was also a VR46 rider who was the Rookie of the year too, with Marco Bezzecchi majorly out-performing his fellow rookies to take the title by 87 points. Valentino may no longer be in the paddock, but his legacy continues.
It has been another fascinating season of MotoGP, and we don’t have too much longer to wait until the action gets going again with pre-season tests in February and March before the 2023 season kicks off in Portimão at the end of March.