- Aleix Espargaro: ‘A couple of new things’
- Fabio Quartararo: ‘We will have a new fairing’
- Raul Fernandez: ‘In the Sepang test I used it and I was fast’
- Jack Miller: ‘We don’t need to be doing 365 over that thing’
- Marc Marquez: ‘In FP1 we’ll understand where we are’
- Joan Mir: This track is completely the opposite’
Factories roll out upgrades as MotoGP faces the faster straight on the calendar at Mugello this weekend.
Brad Binder equalled Johann Zarco’s official MotoGP top speed record when his KTM reached 362.4km/h in Free Practice for the 2021 Italian event.
As it transitions out of technical concessions for 2023, Aprilia remains the only manufacturer that is allowed to make design changes to its engine during the racing season.
Unsurprising, the factory has chosen Mugello to introduce a more powerful version of the 2022 RS-GP engine, alongside aerodynamic upgrades.
Aleix Espargaro: ‘A couple of new things’
“We have a couple of new things,” said Aleix Espargaro, currently second in the world championship and newly confirmed alongside team-mate Maverick Vinales at Aprilia next season.
“We have a new engine for this weekend. We also have quite big aerodynamic things. I don’t think I’ll be the first to test it tomorrow, maybe it will be [Savadori], but it looks promising and I’ll try tomorrow afternoon.
“Hopefully it can give us some tenths to fight for the top.”
The Spaniard added: “We know that if we compare [our engine] with the Yamaha we are in an advantage, if we compare with Ducati I think still we need to improve a little bit. Let’s see if the improvements they bring here are enough to be in line with the best engines in the world.
“But sincerely the top speed is not really the most important thing in the world. For sure it’s better to have top speed than not! But the proof is that Fabio won last year here from pole position with the slowest bike.
“So yes, it’s very important, especially this year because if you do a bad start it’s impossible almost to overtake the Ducatis. But you also need good traction, good acceleration. I would say Mugello is the most difficult track of the world. Very, very technical. It’s not just about top speed.”
Fabio Quartararo: ‘We will have a new fairing’
Aiming to take full advantage of the technical parts of the track once again will be reigning champion and current title leader Quartararo.
The Frenchman’s Yamaha was 13km/h slower than Binder at Mugello last season, a deficit he hopes hasn’t grown over the winter. Quartararo is pinning his straight-line hopes on the introduction of Yamaha’s fairing upgrade.
The revised fairing is expected to be similar to the older M1 design, offering less downforce but also less drag. The version used since Qatar will also remain available.
“We will have a new fairing,” Quartararo confirmed. “Like Aleix said, if [his] new engine can give a few tenths, we hope for a few tenths or even a second with that fairing!
“I hope I will have more-or-less the same k difference as last year, because we know other manufacturers improved quite a lot. But I think that Sectors 2 and 3 are our strong points. Our bike is really good there.
“It’s not a bad track for us but if we are find ourselves in a bad position after the first lap it can be bad. So it’s kind of 50-50. Let’s see how it’s goes but I guess the next two [Mugello and Catalunya] are going to be tough.
“All I can do is give my best. I’m pushing myself the hardest I can, but let’s see what we can do. I feel confident. Mugello is one of my favourite tracks so let’s see if we can get a great pace, great qualifying and then we’ll see on Sunday.”
Raul Fernandez: ‘In the Sepang test I used it and I was fast’
Another team expected to go back to the future with its aerodynamic tweaks is KTM, whose fairing upgrade is also expected to be based on the factory’s older design.
“Here we will have a new fairing and then in Montmelo something more on the bike,” said Tech3 rookie Raul Fernandez. “Here we just have the new fairing and I think it will be interesting for me and for my riding style.”
The young Spaniard is keeping his fingers crossed that the fairing will improve his front-end feeling on the bike.
“I need something to feel more with the front tyre. And maybe this fairing – it’s not new, it’s the old one – we can go one step more because in the Sepang test I used it and I was fast,” Fernandez said.
“Maybe now I use again and I will be fast again. I hope!”
Factory KTM’s Miguel Oliveira, who rode to second place at Mugello last season, added: “We have an aerodynamic update that we think can help us. Last year we also had a couple of things like the frame that really helped us turn around the next few races and we hope it will do the same for us here. Little things can add-up a lot and that’s what we are hoping.”
Jack Miller: ‘We don’t need to be doing 365 over that thing’
While all eyes are on Ducati in terms of top speed, factory star Jack Miller hopes the top speed record won’t be broken again this weekend.
“I’d like to hope not! The jump is already pretty scary,” Miller said of the crest that cuts across the main straight. “We don’t need to be doing 365 over that thing.
“But you never know. The bikes are getting faster every year. And the wall on the inside of turn one is getting closer and closer every year! So it’s a possibility, but we have to wait and see.
“We talk about the Ducati speed and all the rest of it but it’s been equalled by KTM, so we’re not the only ones out there,” added the Australian, currently the subject of KTM rumours for 2023.
Le Mans winner Enea Bastianini suffered a bizarre incident just before the start of last year’s home race, when the then Avintia rider running into the back of Johann Zarco as the Frenchman warmed his brakes.
‘Bastia’ returns with three wins under his belt from seven starts on the Gresini Ducati – and equipped with a rear ride-height device.
“This year is again different for me [here] because I have the device on the rear. Last year it arrived in Austria,” he said, adding of the famous twisting Mugello front straight: “I think it’s nice. I like also to try to jump! But not too much!”
Marc Marquez: ‘In FP1 we’ll understand where we are’
Over at Honda, Marc Marquez is hoping that the slow turning problems that have hampered the new RC213V at recent stop-and-go tracks will turn into an advantage through the highspeed Mugello curves.
“It looks like in the fast or the flowing corners this new bike is working a bit better. So let’s see. Tomorrow in FP1, straight away we will understand where we are,” Marquez said.
“With this new bike it’s completely different. In race tracks that we feel very strong [before], we are struggling, and in race tracks like Qatar that was our weak point, we did a great weekend.”
Like his team-mate, Pol Espargaro didn’t mention any specific upgrades but did reveal he will revert to a ‘normal’ set-up after trying something ‘very different’ for the past two weekends.
“From the Jerez test we tried a quite different bike. Very long. With different ‘add ons’ to change some things and to see if it was working,” he said. “But in Le Mans where I’m normally very fast it didn’t work out, so we are going to come back to the normal bike.
“We’ll see but it’s going to be tricky, especially with how many Ducatis are on the grid. With this highest [speed] straight it’s going to be very, very tricky.”
Joan Mir: This track is completely the opposite’
Meanwhile, Suzuki’s Joan Mir hopes the overtaking problems experienced by much of the field at recent races will be reduced at Mugello.
“Nowadays with the problems that we have, the front overheating and to stop the bike [in the dirty air] hard with the wings and everything, the stop and go tracks are where it’s quite difficult to overtake in the braking area,” he said.
“So this track is completely the opposite. You don’t have to be good in the braking, you have to be good on corner speed, to find the flow, to get a good line. That’s so important in this track, and that’s why this track is good for overtakes, and for the show.”
The 2020 world champion, who like team-mate Alex Rins is now in search of a new team for next season, said he hadn’t been surprised by Aprilia’s decision to re-sign both riders.
“They have two good riders on their bike, and I expected this,” Mir said.
The Spaniard remained quiet in terms of his own options, rumoured to be headed by Repsol Honda, saying only: “I think that we deserve a factory bike”.