Misano MotoGP: run for cover, here comes the Martinator!


Jorge Martin has his eyes firmly set on the 2023 MotoGP world title – his Misano victory was ominous. But the real heroes of the day were walking-wounded locals Pecco Bagnaia and Marco Bezzecchi

Jorge Martin on the podium with trophy after winning 2023 MotoGP San Marino GP at Misano

Martin’s second win of 2023 – for various technical reasons he may be reaching his best, which is a worry for points leader Bagnaia


MotoGP’s 12th round of 2023 went ahead under a cloud, following the death of IRTA CEO Mike Trimby at his hotel on Friday evening. Trimby was the man who built the foundations of modern MotoGP: he fought for improved track safety, made sure the riders got paid better, organised the teams, with his fellow IRTA founders, and centralised television rights, so the entire championship could be broadcast around the world. He was MotoGP’s last link to those pioneering days. Motor Sport would like to extend its deepest sympathy to his wife Irene and all his IRTA colleagues.

Jorge Martin was an unstoppable force at Misano, crushing everyone with pole position and two start-to-finish victories that put him within striking distance of reigning champ and championship leader Pecco Bagnaia. If I was Bagnaia, I’d be worried.

After his second victory double of 2023 Martin brushed off suggestions that he’s now a title contender. “I’m not even a factory rider, so it’s not on me to win the championship,” he said. “I don’t feel like I have that responsibility.”

Total nonsense, of course. He’s merely taking the pressure off his shoulders and piling it on Bagnaia’s shoulders, although Bagnaia is now incredibly good at handling pressure.

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Martin has always been blindingly fast and crazy-spectacular — no one hangs off a motorcycle further than The Martinator. “Sometimes my left hand [when he’s turning right] isn’t even touching the handlebar, maybe with just one finger!” he told me a while back.

All the former Moto3 world champion has lacked is consistency and finally he may be building that regularity, which we will go into in a minute.

But first, why Martinator? A cheesy nickname, sure, but of course it comes from the (very) 1980s movie The Terminator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cybernetic assassin.

Martin has killer instinct seeping from his every pore

Martin may not know it but he’s not the first racer to be called after Schwarzenegger’s post-apocalyptic killer. Back in the early days of four-stroke MotoGP, Team Roberts rider Nobuatsu Aoki was nicknamed the Nobinator by team doctor Dean Miller.

Aoki was fast and talented, but he needed something more, so every time he went out to race, Miller would slap him on the back and remind him, “You are the Nobinator”. In other words, go out and kill.

Aoki wasn’t a killer, but Martin has killer instinct seeping from his every pore, just like Marc Márquez.

The 25-year-old Spaniard from Madrid (unlike most Spanish MotoGP stars he’s not Catalan, which is why he drapes the Spanish flag around his shoulders when he wins) finished ninth overall last year: four poles, four podiums but no wins. In other words, Martin was a bit all over the place, because his Pramac team had to run Ducati’s first attempt at its 2022 engine, which was very hard to handle, while factory riders Bagnaia and Jack Miller got a friendlier version.

MotoGP paddock pays tribute to Mike Trimby at Misano

The entire paddock came out on Saturday evening to remember the most important man in the creation of MotoGP: IRTA CEO Mike Trimby


This year Martin has the exact same bike as Bagnaia. After crashing out of two of the first three races he started getting his act together: second at Le Mans, second at Mugello, then victory at Sachsenring, beating Bagnaia in a straight duel.

He was on a roll, but then he wasn’t. He messed up his next three qualifying sessions. At Assen he slid off on his out lap, at Silverstone he was too worried about giving someone a tow and at Red Bull Ring he had his fastest Q2 lap cancelled due to yellow flags. All tiny things, but that’s all it takes in MotoGP these days to put you on the third or fourth rows.

And as his crew chief Daniel Romagnoli says, “You must be minimum on the second row now, otherwise you are finished.”

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There was another reason all was not well. The Pramac team started this season using Ducati’s Aprilia-style ground-effect fairing, not the diffuser fairing used by the factory team. Then Martin started switching back and forth, trying to find the best solution, but instead confusing himself.

“At Silverstone we started using the other [diffuser] fairing, then we came back to the first fairing,” he explained at Misano. “Then I decided to stop trying different fairings, because I want to keep the same bike and I think it’s working well now.

“With this fairing [the diffuser fairing] I feel more weight on the front and that helps me a bit in fast corners. Maybe it’s a bit worse stopping the bike but the good thing is I feel more front contact.”

Keeping your motorcycle the same – not always changing set-up and parts – is very important in motorcycle racing, because the more intimate you become with your machine’s behaviour the better you feel it and the more you know how it’s going to react when you’re teetering over the limit — which is where you need to be if you want to win.

And there’s another reason why Martin is now sticking with the same fairing as Bagnaia: “It’s the mental side, because maybe when you have different parts you think maybe you’re not using the right parts when Pecco wins. Now we have the same bikes and that’s good.”

Bezzecchi and Bagnaia chase down Jorge Martin in 2023 MotoGP San Marino GP

Injured Bagnaia (No1) and Bezzecchi tried like hell to better winner Martin but they couldn’t quite do it


No doubt about it, Martin is coming for Bagnaia. He now stands 36 points behind the series leader, with 296 points available from the last eight races.

Martin’s Saturday and Sunday victories were no great surprise, but the fact that he didn’t run away with either race, while being chased by two walking-wounded Italians was.

One week after getting run over by Brad Binder at Catalunya, Bagnaia was in serious pain and riding with two arms and one leg, because he couldn’t put much weight on his injured right leg. This is a problem because motorcycle racers use their feet to control the bike – loading the footpegs to steer, control traction, change direction and so on – as much as they use their arms.

There was a theory that Bastianini may have saved Bagnaia’s life

Probably the truest words he spoke all weekend was after the first day of practice. “I need a beer,” he said. Instead it was painkillers and mind over matter.

On day one Bagnaia struggled to put his right leg in the correct place, so he could use the rear brake, so his crew repositioned the brake lever. Also, he couldn’t dangle the leg on the brakes, a trick riders use to lower their overall centre of mass and balance the machine.

“After a few laps, using only my arms to ride, I was destroyed,” he said after Sunday’s race. And yet that didn’t stop him chasing Martin, even trying to overtake in the early stages. Incredibly, he stayed second until two-thirds distance, when VR46 buddy Marco Bezzecchi finally got the better of him.

Bezzecchi was also in pain, racing with a left hand mangled in Catalunya’s first corner multiple pile-up, caused by Bagnaia’s team-mate Enea Bastianini. By the way, there was a theory going around the Misano paddock that Bastianini may have saved Bagnaia’s life: if the fallen champion had had the full grid bearing down upon him after he crashed exiting Turn 2 he might’ve been in even bigger trouble.

Racers counter-steer with their hands to turn into corners, so Bezzecchi was struggling with his left hand at clockwise Misano. He would’ve been better off if the track still ran anti-clockwise, as it did before Wayne Rainey’s career-ending accident thirty years ago.

Jorge Martin with Marco BEzzecchi and Pecco Bagnaia on podium at 2023 MotoGP San Marino GP

Martin flanked by Italians Bezzecchi and Bagnaia, who enjoyed a bit of trash talk in the post-race media conference


“It was tough,” said the winner of the Argentine and French GPs.

At least the two Italians – who practically have their own grooves worn in the Misano asphalt through frequent training runs on their Panigale superbikes – were able to laugh away the pain in the post-race media conference with a little trash talk.

“This weekend you’ve been overtaken on the outside twice,” Bagnaia laughed at Bezzecchi.

“And you finished third, right?” shot back Bezzecchi.

Beyond the pain, both struggled with something else. MotoGP’s nightmare front-tyre problem/minimum pressure regulations.

Since the rules were enforced for the first time last month in Austria, riders have to start with their front tyres at very low pressures in the hope that the pressure won’t reach the point where it reduces the tyre’s footprint and therefore grip.

This is easy enough to do if you have fresh air in front of you – like Martin did at Misano – but if you are following other bikes your front tyre will overheat and go over pressure.

“I stayed a lot of laps behind Pecco, so I struggled with pressure,” said Bezzecchi who did get past Bagnaia once before he made it stick, but because his front was over-pressure he nearly crashed and Bagnaia came back through.

“With the pressure I wasn’t able to stop the bike. The bike became more physical, more difficult to stop and to turn. So I started riding more with my body and I started suffering, so said to myself, ‘I must pass Pecco’. The pain was a lot but once I passed him [and Bezzecchi’s front tyre cooled] the bike became better and better. I knew I had to suffer.”

Bagnaia had the same problem while chasing Martin. “With the new regulations my front tyre pressure was too high, so it was impossible to do something,” he added.

If Martin was astonishing – his lap times wavering by no more than a few tenths throughout much of the race and never making the slightest mistake – and Bezzecchi and Bagnaia were heroic, what about MotoGP part-timer Dani Pedrosa?

Dani Pedrosa on carbon fibre KTM at MotoGP Misano round in 2023

Pedrosa’s third race since 2018 had him riding KTM’s new carbon-fibre-framed RC16 to a superb fourth place


The five-years-retired 31-time MotoGP winner stunned everyone when he finished seventh in April’s Spanish GP at Jerez. This time he finished fourth in the sprint, just two-tenths off the podium, and fourth in the GP, closing on Bagnaia.

KTM’s 37-year-old test rider might have gone one better but for a couple of issues. He struggled to bring his rear slick up to temperature in the early laps – due to his 51kg body weight – and then he had a huge highside while closing on the two Italians.

Pedrosa’s performance also confirmed that KTM knows a bit about frame-making. He ran the factory’s first carbon-fibre frame and it worked brilliantly out of the box, as well as saving two kilos, a significant weight loss. Maybe KTM full-timer Binder will race the frame in India next week?

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Binder crashed out of Sunday’s race while chasing Bezzecchi. I’ll give you three guesses at the likely cause…

“The pressure did go up,” said Binder, who remounted to finish 14th. “For sure the tyre was cooking – it wasn’t way over, but it definitely contributed [to the crash]. When you have three bikes in front of you it’s a guarantee. You can more or less handle the temperature but when the pressure goes through the roof that’s when it gets dodgy.”

Pedrosa had the opposite problem, which was no problem until his tyre-pressure data was examined. He spent all but the last few laps with some space ahead of him – so his front slick stayed at a reasonable temperature, so the pressure didn’t go up. In fact it didn’t go up enough, so he was nicked for running below the minimum pressure for more than half the race. But this was his first offence, so he got off with a warning, not a time penalty.

Last weekend at Catalunya it was Maverick Viñales who was under pressure. That was also his first offence, so no sanction. In theory riders and teams are getting better at controlling their front pressures, but only if the race goes as they predicted. KTM assumed Pedrosa would spend most of the race in the pack, so they started him with a low pressure, but he ran alone.

Marc Marquez leads midfield pack in 2023 MotoGP San Marino GP at Misano

Grippy Misano helped give Marc Márquez to his best result of 2023 – here he leads Miguel Oliveira, brother Alex, Luca Marini and Raul Fernandez


If the opposite happens – a team assumes its rider will run at the front or alone it will set his pressure slightly higher, but if he ends up in the pack the pressure will go so high that he will lose grip, either forcing him to slow down or causing him to crash. And this is supposed to be a safety rule…

Aprilia went to Misano following its best-ever weekend in the premier class: factory veteran Aleix Espargaró won both races at Catalunya, a first, while team-mate Viñales finished second in the grand prix, the factory’s first one-two.

So how did Aprilia go from hero to zero in the space of a week – Viñales fifth at Misano, Espargaró 12th?

This was Márquez’s best result since Phillip Island last year!

Too much grip! Catalunya is very, very slippery, which suits the sweet-handling Aprilia. It can use more corner speed than the Ducati and KTM, which gives it more speed down the straights, while the Ducati and KTM spin their rear tyres like crazy.

Misano’s super-grippy asphalt gave Ducati and KTM what they’d lacked at Catalunya.

“We don’t have the torque that Ducati and KTM have,” explained Espargaró. “So when there is no grip and everyone is limited by the electronics and the traction control then our bike looks better. But when all the bikes can put all the power to the ground it’s impossible for us to follow the Ducati or KTM because we lose a lot of ground on acceleration, so this is a difficult track for us.”

Honda may not have the speed of Ducati or KTM but its RC213V was also helped by Misano’s grip. Lack of traction is one of the main reasons for the bike’s current grim form, so the grippy asphalt brought Marc Márquez alive on Sunday. Seventh might not be much to shout about for a six-time MotoGP king but this was his best result since Phillip Island last year!

Next stop India, a new home for MotoGP. Hopefully. The Buddh track hasn’t been homologated yet. It’s due to be homologated the day before practice starts.