Americas MotoGP: Bastianini ‘effortlessly’ glides to win number two


Enea Bastianini’s Qatar GP win might’ve been a fluke. His defeat of Jack Miller and Alex Rins at COTA proved it definitely wasn’t

Enea Bastianini in 2022 MotoGP Americas GP

Bastianini’s late-race was typically fast – turning with his front tyre to save the rear


Jack Miller knew what was coming, because he’s been there before.

The factory Ducati rider led three-quarters of Sunday’s Americas GP, heading for a much-needed first victory since Le Mans last May. Then with nine of 20 laps done his pit board started telling him the story he really, really didn’t want to hear: Bastianini + 0.9, Bastianini + 0.6, Bastianini + 0.2.

And that was that, on lap 16 of 20 the young Italian and his lilac GP21 drafted past Miller’s scarlet GP22 on the back straight and disappeared into the distance, building a one second gap in just two laps, leaving Miller to deal with the burgeoning presence of Álex Rins and his blue Suzuki.

Bastianini definitely has something very special going on. After the race he said he rode “like a bastard”, but from Miller’s point of view (and no one had a better view) the youngster “looked effortless”.

“He’s a pocket man, a small bloke, so he’s very, very fast on the straights”

Bastianini’s relentless progress reminded Miller of last year, when the Aussie had no answer to the rookie and his GP19, however much the ancient Italian relic might’ve pumped its rear suspension, bruising the rear tyre each time Bastianini got on the gas.

“He did the exact same thing to me on the GP19, except it was for sixth place or something,” grinned Miller. “That’s him – he’s unreal with the way he uses the throttle. In some ways he doesn’t use the rear of the bike, which is my big problem. I’ve always used the rear to turn. He’s able to ride in a very smooth and consistent way and that’s best for tyre management. If I could try and emulate his style…”

This blog has described Bastianini’s riding technique before. He uses the front to turn, which allows him to save the rear tyre for later in the races, when he appears to magic more grip than his rivals.

COTA’s (mostly) new surface was much grippier than before but still very bumpy, with plenty of corner-entry bumps which had your heart in your mouth just watching, as the front suspension loaded and unloaded, riders fighting to stop the front tyre from tucking under.

Once again, Bastianini had the right technique for the bumps. The whole motorcycle is a spring, or rather a combination of many springs: the frame, the swingarm, the triple clamps and so on, all of them compressing and rebounding, over bumps and during braking and acceleration, so the rider must also be a spring to work in unison with the motorcycle.

Rins Bastianini and Miller on the podium after the 2022 MotoGP Americas GP

Three happy cowboys: Rins, Bastianini and Miller


“Enea has a particular style where he sits very central and his head goes to on the angle,” added Miller. “You look at him and he lets the bike move around under him and stays really firm and really calm on the bike. And he’s a pocket man, a small bloke, so he’s very, very fast on the straights.”

Of course every riding technique is a compromise, just like every motorcycle is a compromise, so Bastianini is by no means perfect.

“My feeling is I’m really fast in corner entry, especially in long braking zones,” he said. “But I pay for this in the middle of the corner – where the data tells me I’m slower than Jack and Jorge [Martin], so I have to improve this.”

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Bastianini won his first MotoGP race in Qatar five weeks ago and after Sunday’s win his face still wore the slightly bemused, embarrassed look under the press-conference spotlights. He’s such a quiet, humble young man that it’s hard to believe the transmogrification that takes place when he climbs aboard a racing motorcycle and clicks his visor shut.

Even he doesn’t quite get it: “When I’m inside my helmet I’m really motivated – I don’t know why”.

“In the race I tried to save the tyres and my body, which is critical here, especially in the first sector. When I saw Jack go I thought I could try to win but I didn’t know if I could. In the middle of the race when Alex tried to overtake me many times I understood it was the moment to push more and… nothing. At the end I won the race. It’s amazing for me. Incredible, incredible, really incredible.”

MotoGP is in a very special place at the moment, not only because the grid is packed from front to back with super-quick motorcycles and super-fast riders, but also because there’s not one arsehole among them. They’re all hired killers, of course, but as far as I can see there’s not one spiky ego or narcissus on the grid, which isn’t normal.

Bastianini’s COTA victory was also Ducati’s first COTA success and the first time this year that the Squadriglia Bolognese has really come into force. All but one of the six bikes on the first two rows on the grid were Ducatis and the early laps were all Ducati. That’s quite a turnaround, from the hardest bike to ride, to one of the easiest, especially on the bumps.

Alex Rins leads Enea Bastianini in the 2022 MotoGP Americas GP

Rins was great to watch as he enjoyed the GSX-RR’s advantages


Getting the suspension set-up right, helps, of course. At COTA most riders used softer springs with more preload to keep the bikes better controlled as the forks and shock compressed over the bumps. And perhaps Ducati found a bit more stability on the bumps by using less high-speed compression/rebound damping and more low-speed damping.

Not that the race was a cruise for the Ducati riders. COTA is MotoGP’s most physically demanding racetrack, with 20 corners, including that silly minimoto-style zigzag in sector one, and five corners taken in first gear, which isn’t grand prix style, is it? And, of course, plenty of scary bumps that demand huge mental and physical power.

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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.

Fabio Quartararo in the 2022 MotoGP Americas GP

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.”

Alex Rins and joan Mir at the head of the pack in the 2022 MotoGP Americas GP

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”.

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“I think we made a really good race and I enjoyed the battle with Marc, even if it was for sixth position,” said Quartararo. “When you ride behind an eight-times world champion you always learn – Marc will be a title contender and I will be a title contender. I’m happy because even though I had less power I pushed myself to the limit and when I have the power I will have much better results.”

Not a difficult message to decode for Yamaha management.

Martin struggled badly with grip, limping home eighth, seven days after he so nearly took the win in Argentina. Meanwhile Termas winner Aleix Espargaró was beaten to tenth by Aprilia team-mate Maverick Viñales, but not too unhappy because COTA was always going to be tough for Aprilia.

KTM struggled all weekend with corner-entry grip, feel and turning. Its riders were “in handcuffs” said one KTM engineer, who hopes that COTA is such a unique track that the RC16 will be better at upcoming circuits.

And now to Europe for the next 12 races.

“This championship is so long and so many things can happen,” concluded Miller. “I’m the tenth rider on the podium and we’re at the fourth race, which says it all. This championship is wide open and the real championship will start when we get back to Europe.”