MotoGP's 'fantastic three' might face a surprising threat - The Race
MotoGP

MotoGP’s ‘fantastic three’ might face a surprising threat

Jun 5 2022
By Simon Patterson

Going into Sunday’s Catalan Grand Prix, there’s a ‘fantastic three’ of MotoGP riders who stand in the way of anyone else winning.

Polesitter Aleix Espargaro, Italian Grand Prix winner Pecco Bagnaia and championship leader Fabio Quartararo (coincidentally, also the font row for the race) look to have better long-run pace than anyone else when the lights go out.

That’s the view, at least of Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco, who will start the race from right behind the trio in fourth – but believes that if he has a successful warm-up and first lap then he might join them.

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“The top three are kind of the fantastic three at the moment, and I’m just behind,” said Zarco.

“I have to try and improve myself, and if I can get a little stronger then I have a good chance for the race tomorrow.

“I think I can have the pace for the podium, because in FP4 the feeling was great. Starting in front will be very useful, and you will immediately need to take your position and then see the behaviour of the others.

“As long as you can go fast with a little margin, it’s perfect to have some air to finish the race, before going a little faster at the end.”

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While Zarco’s expecting to see all of the front row in front of him, he’s also pretty certain that it’ll be the polesitter Espargaro who’s in best shape of all as he looks to have found a second chance at the special sensations from the Aprilia RS-GP that took him to a career-first win at Termas de Rio Hondo in April.

“Aleix is pretty strong,” Zarco added. “It seems like the track – almost like Argentina – is good for him, with these long corners where you are a long time on the gas, he is quite fast, sector two is maybe the best sector for him.

“But he has less advantage than in Argentina. So if we, the other riders, can stay with him and fight with him, we cannot be sure who can win.”

But Espargaro isn’t the only Aprilia rider who believes that they have the pace to do very well when the lights go out on Sunday afternoon.

The polesitter’s team-mate Maverick Vinales has been steadily chipping away at the process of adapting himself to the Aprilia in recent races, waiting on a qualifying breakthrough that he believes he might have finally found at his home race, though he starts only eighth.

Admittedly missing out on the chance to be on the front row after messing up his shot at a fast lap in Espargaro’s slipstream, Vinales is nonetheless delighted that he finally feels he can fight at the front – as long as he can replicate his strong starts of earlier in the season when action gets underway.

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“Today we wanted front row, and we’re not satisfied,” he admitted. “We wanted more. I couldn’t make it with the second lap of the tyre, and I didn’t make corner one.

“But it was a good day, because we tried the bike well, we tried the tyres well, and we’re ready for tomorrow.

“The start in Mugello worked very well, and here it will go well too.

“In the start I am very fast, especially in the second part of the start, and it is a very long straight here.

“I’ll start eighth, and let’s see how many places I can make up. The target is fourth or fifth on the first lap.

“Then it is a long race, very long, and I feel very competitive in the last laps of the race. We’ll see what happens.

“It’s a tough job because we want to be in the front, but we know it takes time. Every weekend we are better.”

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