The Desmosedici is adorned with so much downforce aero that the bike requires more physical effort to throw from one side to the other, but this year the GP21 and GP22 are equipped with narrower fairings, which helps.
“The new aero package makes the bike better at this track but it’s still bloody physical,” said Miller. “Towards the end my legs felt like they were hanging off and my ankle wasn’t working, so I was having to use my whole leg to change gear. The wind made it rough too – one lap you’d get through the first sector well, then the next lap you’d arrive at Turn 4 and the wind would blow you towards the oil that had been spilt there, so you crossed the oil, the front moved and you held your breath. But I feel that’s what it’s like every lap here.
“It was hard work out there. I got the lead to 0.7 to 0.8 seconds [around laps 11/12/13] and then I made a couple of slight mistakes. I just missed the apex at Turn 11 [vital because the corner precedes the back straight] a couple of times and Enea was back on me and blitzed me on the back straight, so I said, be calm and see what I can do towards the end. Then the next lap at Turn 11 he went deep and I nearly ended up in the car park!”
Rins was a delight to watch on the GSX-RR, running rings around the Ducatis on the brakes and into corners, where his more rider-friendly motorcycle allowed him to do things of which his rivals could only dream. And the GSX-RR’s minimal downforce aero also helped through the zigzags and other changes of direction, where he could move the bike from side to side quicker and more easily than his rivals.
Quartararo didn’t let his slug of an engine get him down
“I didn’t expect the podium because usually in the first laps I’m able to recover a few positions, but not today,” said Rins after his first podium since Silverstone last year. “I was trying to push a lot on the brakes, but Enea was so smart – he was saving the tyres and then he started to push and it was difficult to go with him, so I maintained my pace, then arrived to Jack.”
All Rins had to do was make sure his brain didn’t blow a fuse as one Ducati after another came steaming past on the back straight, lap after lap. He even kept his sense of humour, joking afterwards, “please can the bike that ripped the stickers off my bike on the back straight please give them back to me before leaving the track!”.
He finally pounced on Miller at the penultimate corner, relegating the long-time leader to third, and beating team-mate Joan Mir for the third race in a row, something he managed three times in 18 races last year. The 2019 COTA winner attributes his improvement to better physical and mental preparation during the winter.
‘When I have the power I will have better results.’… Not a difficult message for Yamaha to decode
“When I heard Alex’s Suzuki I was, like, here we go again, déjà vu from last year, but this time it was Alex so we had a nice clean battle,” added the Aussie, referring to his 2021 COTA barging match with Jan Mir. “Alex fired it in deep at the second last corner, I kind of went to cut back but as soon as I grabbed the gas the bike went sideways and it didn’t go forward.”
Rins’ podium was Suzuki’s 500th in the premier class. The company scored its first at the 1970 Austrian GP at Salzburgring, where New Zealander Keith Turner finished second, a whole lap behind winner Giacomo Agostini and his MV Agusta. Turner’s bike used a home-tuned T500 road bike engine in a homemade frame. Different times.
Not only did Bastianini win Sunday’s race, Pramac’s Martin took pole on Saturday, so Miller is fully aware that his factory ride is under threat for 2023, but he’s as chilled as he can be about it.
“I’m just here riding my motorbike, doing the best I can, that’s all. If I can get a job next year with Ducati I’ll be more than happy to stick around. I love the group I’m with. But now it’s focus on this year, focus on trying to do the best I can.”
Rins, Mir and the rest of the pack, early in the race
Obviously the silly season is already in full swing but I won’t bore you with the details. As far as I’m concerned, wake me up when everyone has signed. Until then it’s all stuff and nonsense – or in modern parlance, clickbait.
Fabio Quartararo showed once again that he certainly deserves a faster bike with a fighting ride to seventh, just behind comeback-kid Marc Márquez and Pecco Bagnaia, who once again under-performed.
Quartararo’s Yamaha YZR-M1 suffered a 6mph/10km/h handicap on the back straight and finished eight places ahead of the next Yamaha, proving once again that he is the only Yamaha rider that can extract the maximum out of the M1. Or as former 500cc world championship runner-up Randy Mamola said, “He’s the blue Márquez”.