In MotoGP, Fabio Quartararo will have to fight to defend his crown against the Italian armada

Can the title escape Ducati this season in MotoGP, the premier category of speed? With eight riders benefiting from the powerful engine manufactured in Bologna (Italy), including two in the official Ducati team and two in the successful Pramac satellite team, the Italian armada is in a strong position. Its leader, Italy’s Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia, finished last season with a bang, winning four of the last six races.

At top speed, the Ducati would be around 10 km / h faster than the Yamaha of Frenchman Fabio Quartararo, crowned in 2021. “That’s enough to get overtaken in every straight line”comments Olivier Jacque, world champion in 250 cm3 in 2000. “The lack of top speed of his machine will force Fabio to take a lot of risks”, fears Régis Laconi, winner of the Valencia Grand Prix in 1999.

Worried about this situation, the Niçois declared in January that he did not rule out the possibility of leaving the Japanese team at the end of 2022 if he considers that his motorcycle is not competitive. Despite these remarks, many in the paddock make the Frenchman the favorite to his own succession, because having the most powerful engine is not a guarantee of success in speed motorcycling.

“It’s not always the fastest bike that wins. The proof is that the title eluded Ducati last year”, underlines the former pilot Randy de Puniet, consultant for Canal+. For Christian Sarron, world champion in 250 cm3 in 1984, Fabio Quartaro will be hard to beat. In the history of motorcycling, Yamaha has rarely had the fastest engine, but that hasn’t stopped it from often winning the world championship.he explains. Many other factors come into play, such as the quality of the chassis, the braking, the rider, the team… Despite a lack of point speed, Yamaha is still the best! »

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Regularity bonus

An opinion shared by Hervé Poncharal, boss of the Tech 3 team. “The Yamaha is easier to ride than the Ducatihe said. Fabio knows his machine by heart, his team is efficient and entirely at his service, and he has demonstrated the quality of his driving and his mental strength throughout last season. » Another aspect plays in favor of the Frenchman. “At Ducati, there are 3 or 4 riders who can win. At Honda and Yamaha, there is only one. These teams will be able to concentrate their efforts on a single driver.analyzes Mr. de Puniet.

In MotoGP, consistency is key because of the points scoring system. When the winner of a Grand Prix scores 25 points, the second 20, the third 16… up to 15and, which scores a point. This is why a retirement is difficult to make up for in the world championship standings. In 2021, despite a thunderous end to the season, Bagnaia failed to catch up on Quartararo. A scenario that could happen again because the Italian is far from being as regular as the Frenchman.

Beyond these nuances, there are deep cultural differences between Ducati and Yamaha. “Conservative, the Japanese team makes small improvements over time, rarely revolutions”, explains Olivier Jacque. The Italian team, on the other hand, does not hesitate to try technological bets. It was she who was at the origin in 2015 of the first aerodynamic fins (prohibited since). It was also the company that launched the first “steamless” (frictionless) gearbox in 2020 to save time when changing gear.

His latest innovation is called the “holeshot device” (height variator). This is a mechanical device that allows the rider to lower the center of gravity of his motorcycle to decelerate less when cornering. After successfully using it on starts, then on corner exit, Ducati is now testing it on corner entry. The objective is always the same: to go even faster.

If this innovation is much talked about in the paddock, it is difficult to measure its scope. Last season, Ducati missed its start to the championship because its riders had trouble assimilating the new features of their bikes. It is also not certain that the new version of the “holeshot device” will be used from the Grand Prix of Qatar, on March 6th.

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Long and indecisive season

The season promises to be long (21 races against 18 in 2020) and undecided. Rarely have the performances of the motorcycles in the running been so close. During the pre-season test sessions, around 15 drivers were held within three tenths of a second. If the Ducati have confirmed their current form, the Suzuki, Honda and Aprilia teams have shown that they will do better than figuration this year.

An unknown disturbs the game of predictions: the health of Marc Marquez. Victim of a serious accident at the Spanish Grand Prix in July 2020, the six-time world champion has still not regained all of his physical means. While her recent double vision issues have been resolved, her right arm remains sore.

“At 28, he is now a fragile driver”, believes Olivier Jacque. With the Honda RC213V, however, the Spaniard will have an entirely new machine this season, which is easier to ride than the old Honda. It could allow the Spaniard to fight for the title again.

The start of the season could be decisive in the race for the title, in particular because the first races, like the Grand Prix of Qatar on March 6, take place on fast circuits, on which the Ducati will be able to express their power. And as the contracts of many pilots expire at the end of 2022, some will take all the risks to be at the forefront.

A domination of the Ducati could also do the business of the other French rider present this year in MotoGP, the experienced Johann Zarco (31 years old), who defends the colors of Pramac. “This year, two French pilots can claim the world crown”concludes Hervé Poncharal.

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