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A veiled warning to MotoGP from its oldest sponsor – The Race

Repsol, the MotoGP team’s oldest title sponsor, appears to have issued a veiled threat to series bosses in an article on his fan site.

The article published by Honda’s main MotoGP backer highlights growing dissatisfaction both within the paddock and the fan base with the direction the series is heading amid claims that some of the show has been lost lately.

Highlighting three key areas to which considerable attention has been given in recent months, Repsol’s article singles out aerodynamic developments, ride height devices and an ever-expanding schedule as problem series promoter Dorna must take the ahead in the resolution.

Although published on Repsol’s website, the positions expressed are likely to reflect Honda’s sentiments as well – and some of the points are known to be definite bugbears for Honda’s six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.

“This season, the situation has exacerbated, to the point that it is more and more complex to overtake,” we read.

“The implementation of new technologies, such as the massive use of aerodynamic elements, or systems that modify the height of the bike to improve acceleration efficiency, make overtaking more and more difficult.

“From now on, you no longer depend solely on the potential of your engine and your skills.

“You drive faster and brake in less time, which makes it much more difficult to gain enough time and meters to perform the overtaking maneuver safely.”

It’s a common refrain, and one that’s becoming more and more common throughout the grid.

The huge expansion in aerodynamics, seen as a silver black hole by many in the paddock, has both left more traditional Japanese manufacturers behind, tipping the balance in favor of European brands in 2022, and brought the Formula 1 phenomenon of “dirty air”. ‘ in MotoGP, making it increasingly difficult – and, for motorcycles, dangerous – to overtake.

The use of ride height devices that raise and lower both the front and rear of the machines when exiting corners (although front devices are banned for 2023) further exacerbate the somewhat professional racing situation, not least in the way they overload the front tyre, increasing pressure, leaving riders with limited feel and actively trying to prevent overtaking.

They also create, as Repsol was keen to point out in their article, greater physical pressure on the riders – which is a key issue for Repsol and Honda in particular given Marquez’s long and slow recovery from injury during the course. of the last year.

“An essential detail of this technology is its influence on the physical appearance of the pilots”, continues the author of Repsol.

“Runners’ forearm muscle injuries are on the rise, a common problem for most runners.

“A lot of the blame for this discomfort lies with aerodynamics. Spoilers and other devices that apply a lot of load to the bike make bikes physically harder to ride.

“The aerodynamic improvements introduced in recent years in MotoGP are not a contemporary invention.

“As they began to become commonplace with most manufacturers, Shuhei Nakamoto, Vice President of HRC and Visible Team Leader Repsol Honda, revealed that the Japanese manufacturer had already been working on similar designs 30 years earlier. early with 500cc bikes, and they had proven very competitive.

“Nakamoto ensured that almost two seconds per lap were saved compared to conventional 500 bikes. Yet they were a disaster for the rider’s arms because they couldn’t ride continuously at that rate.

The third area highlighted – that the longer-than-ever calendar means runners are less likely to take risks and prioritize consistent finishes – is something most would disagree with.

However, even in this claim there is a grain of truth, with the originally planned 2022 21-race schedule leaving little time for recuperation or recuperation, slowing riders down by meaning some spend the whole season nursing injuries from one form or another.

It would be easy to dismiss Repsol’s claims as nothing more than the groans of a sponsor who has spent most of his time in the series very accustomed to winning, with names like Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Marquez all racket win victories in his colors.

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But there is a truth lurking in his complaints, evidenced in the fact that since the arrival of ride height devices in particular, the nature of racing has changed.

2019, the last full season without them, is perhaps best known for a series of last-round duels between Marc Marquez and rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo, as the Frenchman took over as the antagonist of the Spaniard Andrea Dovizioso, another rivalry remembered for the final. corner clashes.

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Since then, the last-lap duel has become something of a relic, with only a handful of battles decided in the closing stages of the races.

Instead, what we’re seeing more and more are breakaway winners, with big margins at the end and a lot less spectacle as a result.

And while the competition is arguably tighter than ever, with hundredths of a second separating the grid most weekends, there’s also a discussion to be had about whether more winners are better.

The modern golden age of MotoGP was undoubtedly the years when only four riders could win – but these four “aliens” (Rossi, Stoner, Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo) were at war with each other every weekend.

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Just look at the Superbike World Championship, which is currently enjoying a renaissance in 2022 not because of the number of potential winners on the grid (in fact, the distribution of talent there is enormous), but rather because there are three close protagonists in the form of Toprak Razgatlioglu, Alvaro Bautista and Jonathan Rea.

It’s highly unusual in MotoGP to hear a team or sponsor use their platform to issue a coded warning as Repsol apparently did with their latest article – but it’s a warning MotoGP stakeholders need to take. seriously.

The Spanish firm have been flirting with an exit from the Championship for years, which hasn’t been helped by Marc Marquez’s intermittent absence since July 2020.

But dismissing Repsol’s very real complaints as something attributable to that and that alone, not a sign of a bigger problem in the sport also highlighted by Suzuki’s unexpected departure at the end of 2022 , would be a stupid mistake to make.



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