until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP

Why a 15-place British GP charge produced so little joy

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

For a MotoGP bike that is famously reticent to overtake its rivals, a 15-place charge over the course of 15 laps at Silverstone should in theory be cause for celebration at Yamaha – even if it ended in a subsequent loss of one of those positions and a hideously clumsy crash in trying to get it back.

But while Fabio Quartararo was happy with the quality of his performance in the British Grand Prix, he was hardly over the moon – and the crash had nothing to do with it.

“I cannot be more optimistic just because I made this kind of race,” said Quartararo.

“I had not a bad-bad feeling, I know where is the problem. But I just give my 100%, tried to fight.

“But… you know, the only one I could really overtake was Franco [Morbidelli on the other Yamaha].

“Because we use the same bike and I can carry the same line as him. But when you are behind all the other bikes, you catch them on the brakes, then they go on acceleration, you have never an opportunity to overtake them.”

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Quartararo is, of course, somewhat hyperbolic, as he has tended to be when describing his M1’s inability to fight other MotoGP bikes. His Club corner overtake on Franco Morbidelli – badly struggling at that point in the race, with the rain picking up – at the end of the 12th lap was not Quartararo’s only valid, successful move in the grand prix.

But it was certainly not as swashbuckling a charge as the headline number may suggest.

Quartararo had qualified in last place, a ridiculous seven seconds off in a wet session that completely spiralled out of his control – and so much of the damage done there was already undone on the opening lap.

Joan Mir and Raul Fernandez were taken care of right off the line. A less-than-optimal wide trajectory through Abbey nonetheless allowed Quartararo to jump Takaaki Nakagami – and the other LCR Honda of Iker Lecuona was dealt with at Village.

Pol Espargaro was dispatched with a move set up around the outside of Brooklands. The other Tech3 Gas Gas, Augusto Fernandez, was overtaken in the final sector, one of the 11 places lost by Fernandez on a brutal opening lap.

And with Jorge Martin having been sent to a different postcode by Brad Binder back at Abbey, all that amounted to Quartararo ending the opening lap in 15th.

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Fabio Di Giannantonio was then immediately taken care of at Village. But amid all that, some separation had formed mid-pack. Yet while it took Quartararo only a lap or so to arrive on the back of Marc Marquez, he had to wait until the eighth lap to launch his Yamaha past the Honda into The Loop.

In the meantime, some ‘free’ gains elevate him further – Marco Bezzecchi crashing out, Alex Marquez having his Ducati give up on him, Jack Miller getting sent almost out of the points by Maverick Vinales.

Next up for Quartararo was Enea Bastianini, but this didn’t go to plan. A lunge at Village took him wide – which left him vulnerable to a successful attack out of Aintree by a recovering Martin. Bastianini did at least oblige a lap later by running wide at Copse and handing Quartararo the position.

Three more positions were gained in the next couple of laps, but they all seemed massively conditioned by the arrival of rain, with Morbidelli, Johann Zarco and Luca Marini all hugely vulnerable at that point in the race.

Marini, however, gathered himself up to stay with Quartararo and launched a counter-attack, breezing past at Chapel. He fought him off in the final sector, and Quartararo – perhaps frustrated by the ease with which Marini had reclaimed the position, perhaps just impatient – rammed into the side of him in a desperate-looking move. His race was effectively over, though its general chaos allowed him to still claim a point after exchanging his damaged bike for a functional, albeit wet-tyre-shod, version in the pits.

“Coming from 22nd to seventh I think was great,” said Quartararo. “Then what happened happened.

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“It was difficult, because you overtake one rider and he overtakes you looking at you on the straight, it’s frustrating.

“But… it’s the best race I could do. We didn’t finish at this position but we know we arrived and the pace was there.”

“It was not even a mistake,” Quartararo added – somewhat dubiously – of the Marini collision.

“When you are struggling that much to overtake a rider – it happens to Marc [Marquez] also – but you are that much on the limit that you have to test [try] many things.”

A more conventional grid position, Quartararo believed, may have allowed him to slot in behind the leading quintet (Aleix Espargaro, Pecco Bagnaia, Binder, Miguel Oliveira and Vinales) and Martin in sixth. But even that would’ve been attrition-aided, what with Martin having to recover from far back, Miller doing likewise and Bezzecchi and the younger Marquez dropping out.

“For me the issue is when the track is really low on the grip, we are struggling so much,” said Quartararo. “Aleix made the fastest lap of 2m00.2s, and last year was almost one second faster [a 1m59.3s by Alex Rins].

“So the grip was much better.

“But we are losing so much in the grip [relative to others]. I had no opportunity to fight with the top guys.”

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There was, though, a silver lining in Quartararo’s eyes – the new fairing that he was equipped with for the grand prix, seemingly because ‘why not’, and found himself liking, at least before it ended up torn off his bike and wrapped around his front wheel after the Marini collision.

“We tried the new fairing. We went with a different rear shock, different swingarm that we already tested, another setting in the rear. A bike that I never tested.

“I said, ‘We have to give it a try, especially to see how the fairing is on the handling’. And in this track I think it was good to see because it’s many changes of direction.”

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Those other changes are unlikely to become his new base, but the fairing will be on again in Austria, also because its impact on how the bike wheelies still needs to be studied.

“I think we have to make more tracks to really see the benefit of this,” added Quartararo. “But what is true is it was not worse.

“Usually I think during the pre-season we tried three fairings, and three fairings were clearly worse. This one looks like it’s the same or better.”

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