• The first Grand Prix of the Moto GP season takes place this Sunday at the Losail circuit in Qatar (4 p.m.).

  • After Fabio Quartararo's first world championship title, the counters are reset, and the Frenchman fears his Yamaha's speed deficit compared to his competitors.

  • Orthopedic surgeon Olivier Dufour, who operated on Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco for compartment syndrome, details the consequences of this race for performance on the drivers.

Speed, more speed, and more speed.

The suits are ready, the final settings are being fine-tuned on the bikes and the riders are sharper than ever.

MotoGP is back this weekend for the first Grand Prix of the season in Qatar (Sunday, 4 p.m.), after a four-month winter break "which passed very quickly", according to Frenchman Fabio Quartararo, world champion for the first time in his career the previous season.

But as

El Diablo

explained Thursday at a press conference, "we're all starting from zero and we're going to have to be fast all season long".

And perhaps he even more than the others, faced with the speed deficit of his Yamaha, which he has continued to deplore since the first pre-season tests in Indonesia.

“We expected a little better in terms of the speed of the bike,” he complained again before this first GP.

Because all the other machines seem to have progressed, like the Suzuki on speed, or the Ducati, winner with Pecco Bagnaia of the last two GPs of the last season.

It is Johann Zarco who holds the speed record with his Ducati Pramac on this Losail circuit in Qatar, with a top speed of 362.4 km/h.

"I operate more and more track motorcycle riders"

Pilots who always want more power to perform, often to the detriment of their body.

The surgeon Olivier Dufour, who notably operated on the two French pilots for compartment syndrome during the previous season, makes this observation:

“I've been operating on this chronic effort compartment syndrome for 30 years, and I used to operate on motocross, quad and jet-ski pilots.

But for the past four years or so, I have been operating more and more track motorcycle riders.

»

Chronic effect compartment syndrome is caused by continuous bending of the fingers and causes blood flow to stop in the veins and then the arteries of the arm.

“You can have very physical sports in which there is not this syndrome, like the inflatable for example.

Climbers can suffer it, with chronic effort, but they can also reverse the grips and thus rest one arm, then the other.

This is not possible with motorcycle riders who must constantly hold the handlebars,” explains the orthopedic surgeon.

Pilot speed and position

And for him, the multiplication of this syndrome in MotoGP, in particular, comes from the increase in the performance of the machines.

“The bikes are much more powerful now, with a lot of restraint.

Especially when turning to the right, with the curved handlebars, there is an ulnar tilt, the ulnar muscle stops the flow at the level of the artery due to the excessive pressure in the arms.

The muscle is much too compressed and that stops the venous flow.

So you shouldn't build your forearms, but rather drive with your thighs, be very mobile and not hold on for thirty minutes,” he advises.

But not always easy to apply at speeds of more than 300 km/h, punctuated by more violent braking.

These ever-higher speeds also force riders into different positions, with knees, elbows and even shoulders closer to the track.

After knee protection, elbow protection has been added and Olivier Dufour is betting on the next appearance of shoulder protection, as both the machines and the pilots are pushing the limits.

"Unfortunately, we don't have much choice"

Consequence of this compartment syndrome, more than the cause: the difficulties to brake.

Like when Fabio Quartararo gradually tumbled in the standings during the Jerez GP in May 2021. “The brakes are much more efficient than before, especially with the carbon brakes, which no longer require them to be squeezed like crazy.

Compartment syndrome will cause the pilot to be tense on the handlebars, with great difficulty in extending his fingers, and reaching for the brakes.

It will change their reaction times, and the braking distance.

Which can be very dangerous.

Fabio was first in Jerez and then he fell to 13th place because of this syndrome.

I operated on him, and then he finished second, then first, then World Champion”, says Olivier Dufour, proof of the consequences of this syndrome on driving.

The pilots are obviously aware of the consequences of this race for power on their bodies.

“Unfortunately we don't have much choice.

Up front, the bikes are getting faster and faster so there is a race for performance,” Fabio Quartararo confided to us shortly before his World Championship title.

And to see the insistence with which he complained about the lack of speed of his Yamaha, this need for speed is vital to becoming world champion.

The top 19 riders held together in less than a second during testing in Mandalika, Indonesia.

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