One second is a lifetime on a racetrack. At the highest levels of international roadracing, that critical measurement can mean more than a change in finishing order; it’s the difference between a factory ride and unemployment, a bright future and early retirement. At the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit, a second was the difference between the sweet taste of victory and an also-ran.
Suzuki factory rider Álex Rins needed 24 months of intense bike development to lap the 16-turn, 3.34-mile circuit a full second faster—1:55.069 versus 1:56.157—than Maverick Viñales did on his way to the race win in 2017, the first year of the current Michelin spec tires. And even then, despite leading three laps, Rins only finished fourth in this year’s grand prix. One spectacular lap in the middle of a 22-lap race holds only so much value.
MotoGP is a game of strategy: Ride as fast as possible without scorching your tires. Times in the early to middle stages of the race often vary by as much as a second from the outright best lap, sometimes more. At Qatar, the leading pack dropped the hammer during the final quarter of the race, freeing itself from the rest of the field when it mattered most. After 42 minutes of racing, 0.6 second—the tiniest fraction of the overall race time—separated the top five.
One Mississippi—147 feet at 100 mph. “I tried to be there,” second-place finisher Marc Márquez said after the race, “to push a little, and just be there until the end.” Exactly.