Honda vs Yamaha: Cal Crutchlow Helps Explain Why The First Corner Decides The Race

Jorge Lorenzo has won the last two MotoGP rounds in utterly dominating style. Though his win at Mugello was by a greater margin, the victory at Barcelona was one of the most impressive of his career. Afterwards, both Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg and Monster Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow said of the Barcelona win that it was probably one of the best races he had ever ridden. Lorenzo had made only one mistake, the Spaniard said afterwards, and it was so small it did not even show up on the data.

As he had done at Mugello, Lorenzo ensured that he won the drag race to the first corner, aggressively outbraking Dani Pedrosa to take the lead. From that point, he held the Hondas at bay until Dani Pedrosa finally broke, the Yamaha man going on to win by nearly two seconds. It was the second race in a row which Lorenzo had led from the start and gone on to win the race. In fact, all three of Lorenzo's wins, at Qatar, Mugello and Barcelona, have come in the same manner: Get into the first corner in the lead, push hard in the early laps, and ride as perfectly and as fast as possible throughout the entire race. There is simply no one else in the world capable of riding a motorcycle for 25 laps at full speed as well as Jorge Lorenzo at the moment.

As impressive as Lorenzo's wins have been, the one thing they have lacked is spectacle. There has been no drama, no battles, no need to defend, and the only place Lorenzo has needed to attack has been off the line, an area perhaps aided by the new clutch Yamaha have been using for this year. Does Lorenzo not enjoy the battle, is he incapable of holding his own in a battle, or is it down to the bike? It is a question which is debated by fans around the world, with an answer apparently hard to give.

The real explanation lies in the design approach which Honda and Yamaha have taken, and the way the bikes force their riders into a particular approach. The Honda's strength is horsepower and acceleration, as it always has been. The goal of HRC's engineers has been to build a bike which stops and starts well: stable on the brakes, to allow riders to wait as long as possible before applying the anchors, and with strong acceleration to get out of corners quickly, and good top end to motor past their rivals. For Yamaha, the focus has been on maneuverability and handling, as it always is. The goal is to make a bike that is as easy as possible to manage under all conditions. The Yamaha makes good power - top speed is only down a fraction on the Honda and Ducati - but horsepower is a secondary consideration.

These two approaches also mean that Yamaha and Honda use the tires differently. The strength of the Yamaha is that it can carry a lot of corner speed for a long time, gaining time through the corners, and getting the maximum out of the edge grip of the Bridgestone tires. The drive of the Hondas means that they use the fatter section of the tire, a centimeter or two inside the edge. The difference in approach is visible in riding styles, with Lorenzo smooth and flowing, while Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez hammer into the corner hard, get the bike stopped, turn it as quickly as possible and then lever it up, so that they can get on the gas and start to accelerate. The two different styles also mean that each bike can have an advantage at different circuits, depending on which tire Bridgestone have brought. If the tire has been built for edge grip, the Yamaha will do better; if the tire is aimed at providing drive, Honda benefits. Though Bridgestone try to provide a tire which allows as broad a range of riding styles as possible, finding a perfect balance is hard at some circuits.

Yamaha's decision to build a bike which can carry as much corner speed as possible is a tactical one. In theory, maintaining a high corner speed is the fastest way around the track: any speed lost in braking has to be gained again in acceleration. Minimizing the speed lost means the bike can exit corners faster, and needs less horsepower and acceleration, placing less stress on engines and using less fuel. With limited resources, however, Yamaha have spent more time focusing on handling and corner speed, and less time and money working on acceleration. There is nothing much wrong with the Yamaha engine, but when compared with that of the Honda, they are clearly outgunned.

Yamaha's focus on corner speed is both its strength and its weakness. With less power off the bottom end of the rev range, the Yamaha is at a disadvantage if forced to give up its corner speed. Where the Honda powers out of the corner, the Yamaha is simply not as quick.

After the Barcelona race, Cal Crutchlow explained to reporters how he saw the advantages and disadvantages of Yamaha's design philosophy. His problem, he explained, was that he kept getting stuck behind the Hondas, and that made it hard to ride the bike the way it needed to be ridden. "When you're with other riders, that's the problem," he said, "When they brake, you're in their air, or they take different lines, they brake in different places. Don't forget, when you're racing somebody, you normally brake where they brake. Or a little bit after if you want to pass them or whatever. So you get lured in to what they do." 

The only way to avoid this, Crutchlow explained, was to get out in front at the start and lead from the beginning. "You don't really see Lorenzo coming from behind and passing any more," Crutchlow said. "He leads in the first corner and that's it, finito." This is also the weakness of the Yamaha, and the reason the Hondas posed such a threat, Crutchlow said. Lorenzo only really has one way of winning. "I don't think the Yamaha is able to come from behind any more. I think we lose if they're ahead, we lose on acceleration a little bit," the Tech 3 man said. "We saw in Qatar, when I was sat behind the Hondas, if you're behind them, it's so difficult to ride behind them. If you're in front of them, like Jorge was, or [if you have a clear track] like Valentino was coming from 5 seconds back, you ride your own race, you can easily [go faster]. It was the same in Mugello: at the start of the race, we couldn't ride behind them, and then as soon as they slowed at the end of the race, I could come up on them, because I've got clear track [ahead of me]. That's very similar to what the way Lorenzo rides when he's alone in front."

This does not mean that there is only one style which suits the Yamaha, however, Crutchlow explained. "If you look at mine and Valentino's style, we're very similar, but we're different to Lorenzo. And up to a certain point, we can go as fast as Lorenzo, so it can be ridden in a different way. It's just the way Lorenzo rides it, as I've said many times before."

This clash of design philosophies does not bode well for Yamaha in the long term. At Qatar, Valentino Rossi could get past Marc Marquez and hold off his attacks, but then that was the Spaniard's very first MotoGP race. At Jerez, Marquez showed how to use the Honda's horsepower to make up for mistakes. Three times he overshot the hairpin at the back straight, and three times, he was back with Jorge Lorenzo within a few turns. Some of that is down to the Honda, though a large part is also down to Marquez' incredible ability to recover from mistakes. While making up for mistakes is possible on the Honda, it is a much more difficult matter on the Yamaha: Valentino Rossi got into the first corner too hot at Qatar, and it took him many laps to start closing the gap again.

Though the Yamaha is still arguably capable of setting the fastest theoretical lap around the circuit, their reliance on corner speed means that Jorge Lorenzo needs to get into the first corner in the lead. If Dani Pedrosa or Marc Marquez can get ahead of him, it is very hard to retake the position. Lorenzo may be able to brake later, but if he does so, he will lose out on acceleration. Though Yamaha have worked hard to improve this area, it remains the weakest point of the bike compared to the Honda. It could end up being the Yamaha's Achilles heel.

Jorge Lorenzo has won the last two MotoGP rounds in utterly dominating style. Though his win at Mugello was by a greater margin, the victory at Barcelona was one of the most impressive of his career. Afterwards, both Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg and Monster Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow said of the Barcelona win that it was probably one of the best races he had ever ridden. Lorenzo had made only one mistake, the Spaniard said afterwards, and it was so small it did not even show up on the data.As he had done at Mugello, Lorenzo ensured that he won the drag race to the first corner, aggressively outbraking Dani Pedrosa to take the lead. From that point, he held the Hondas at bay until Dani Pedrosa finally broke, the Yamaha man going on to win by nearly two seconds. It was the second race in a row which Lorenzo had led from the start and gone on to win the race. In fact, all three of Lorenzo's wins, at Qatar, Mugello and Barcelona, have come in the same manner: Get into the first corner in the lead, push hard in the early laps, and ride as perfectly and as fast as possible throughout the entire race. There is simply no one else in the world capable of riding a motorcycle for 25 laps at full speed as well as Jorge Lorenzo at the moment.

Comments

Sometimes tea leaves

Are just a mess of stuff at the bottom of a cup and don't have any inner meaning. As I think this article is reading a little too much from just a few races.

The Yamahas and Hondas have always focused on their respective strengths but through the years both bikes have been capable of winning the race when not being in the lead after the 1st corner. If anything of concern has recently changed it is the tires. I also don't know if I agree with talk about winning from 2nd or 3rd position as 'coming from behind'. I like to reserve that label for more than 1 or 2 passes. Maybe 1 or 2 rows of passes. Both Pedrosa and Lorenzo (to a lesser extent) have shown the ability to pass closely (I don't even need to mention Marquez's capabilities here!) and if it has not happened in 3-4 races I'm sure there is a reason other than 'suddenly Yamaha's design brief is flawed.' Its not as if Lorenzo has not won from the front before. As far as Crutchlow sitting behind the factory Hondas at Qatar, its always harder to pass someone than to catch them, even when on the same bike, let alone a satellite version of a bike whose factory version is slightly down on power. He's getting faster but still seems very much on the edge. I think when he makes the next step mentally it won't matter that he is on a satellite bike, he'll be in the mix of the top 3 all the time.

>>Minimizing the speed lost means the bike can exit corners faster, and needs less horsepower and acceleration, placing less stress on engines and using less fuel.

Then why does it seem that the Yamahas are using more fuel and engines? One possible flaw in that reasoning could be that the Yamaha is spending lot of time spinning faster through the corners and since the internal inertial loads are the majority of engine stress is it really a less stressful approach? Then again, as the King once said, 'there's only one engine company in Japan' and maybe that accounts for the performance differences.

If anything this article highlights the need for a very public bashing of the single tire system. Statements like 'The two different styles also mean that each bike can have an advantage at different circuits, depending on which tire Bridgestone have brought' are completely correct and a crying shame. All this money is spent developing motorcycles around highly unusual tires they have minimal input on and of which they don't even know which will be used at each track before the season starts. Its funny (sad) how since a spec tire was introduced to stop the tires from being a major factor in results now the tires are _the_ deciding factor.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 109

tires and being in front

It could be argued that it is just as hard for a Honda to pass a Yamaha when trailing from behind. The Honda have to play catch up exiting the corner, and ofcourse this does play into their strength but it doesn't mean it's an easy task. As seen in Mugello and Catalunya, the Honda cannot simply be willed into passing someone as inch perfect as Lorenzo.

While the concept of the spec tire seems like a way to level the playing field, we have seen in every way shape and form that it does the complete opposite. What's horrifying is that it reduces the number of solutions for a winning bike and is probably one of the biggest factors to this processional racing.

I'm still dumbfounded over the "cost reduction" of creating a spec tire. It's probably the cheapest material on the bike next to the internal fluids, and even more so, it can be shipped in mass quantities for fairly cheap as tires don't exactly require the same shipping containers/weight as a motoGP bike/engines etc..

Yes, a free tire system can be exploited via "overnight specials" and what not, but that is simply the teams with the money willing to spend the extra *nth amount, surely a team like LCR or Tech 3 could afford such specials if they had a stronger chance at winning a race, which would bring bigger sponsor money reinforcing the strength of the team.

Instead, we are left with a vicegrip on performance vs. cost for the stronger teams, stabilizing the standings and virtually giving a monopoly to those with the capabilities to exploit the remaining loopholes in the system, which are the electronics.

The rules need to become more "hands free" instead of this decaying "welfare for the weak."

Total votes: 95

C O N T R O L tyres

I agree with thecosman and FlyinLow27 - the tyres are the determining factor. It is not for nothing the Bridgestones are called the CONTROL tyre.

Let us also not forget the rider who lobbied very hard behind the scenes for just this situation, the one who has had a long term contract with Bridgestone as "Tyre Developoment Advisor."

This is perfect for Dorna as it can control who wins and who loses a championship by influencing the decision on the tyres from weekend to weekend.

Is it a coincidence that after Casey Stoner announced his retirement early last year the front tyre the Honda guys were very happy with was suddenly taken away and replaced by a new, softer construction front? Dani and Casey were angry about that but Dani paid for Casey's announced retirement. There was no way that Dorna wanted a rider going into retirement as the champion. They wanted a defending champion, and so the softer construction front tyre stayed.

Of the two Honda riders, Stoner did best on the softer construction front early on but then his crash at Sachsenring trying to pass Dani for the lead, and then at Indy, robbed us of any chance for a three-way title battle. After that it was Jorge who became "the accountant" and Dani the chaser.

Now Stoner is gone, Rossi wants the stiffer construction front back.

And what Rossi wants, Rossi gets - as has been evidenced time and time again.

Who knows, maybe that will help "the show".

Personally, once the Bridgestone deal comes up for renewal, if Dorna really wanted to improve the show, it would open MotoGP up to other tyre manufacturers - on the proviso they provide tyres to any team that wants to use them at a reasonable fee. We don't need 1000 Euro tyres to match the 1000 Euro Honda pistons in Moto3 now, do we?

Total votes: 98

Lots of conspiracy theories

Lots of conspiracy theories that don't hold any water there.

Casey crashed last year because he was losing ground on Dani Pedrosa and was pushing too hard. Dani was ahead of him in points before the crash ending his title chances, before, not after. And the softer front certainly wasn't hindering Pedrosa at that point, he was flying around the tracks and was dominating.

Everything is still Valentino Rossi's fault and you are still talking about a rider that doesn't race in this series any more.

Total votes: 75

Speaking of theories that don't hold water

Do you mean Stoner was losing ground in the title or in the race? Stoner was leading the title going into Sachsenring before he made a mistake setting up a pass on the last lap. The 'gap' from Pedrosa to Stoner over the last 10 laps shows why Stoner wanted to pass.

0.305
0.082
0.132
0.102
0.142
0.170
0.141
0.141
0.077
0.080
0.115

Its a hard track to pass at, fair play to Dani. Stoner was looking unstoppable at Indy before he got caught out on the dodgy turn 13 tarmac which caused Hayden and Spies to have heavy tumbles at the exact same turn. To suggest Stoner crashed because he couldn't keep up with Pedrosa certainly doesn't hold water. No way would Dani would have dominated the second half of 2012 competing with Stoner on his best tracks. While they were teammates Stoner had 50% more wins than Pedrosa as well as more total podiums, points and of course a title.

Total votes: 67

going into sachsenring,

going into sachsenring, stoner was leading the points table tied up with lorenzo. but lorenzo had had 4 wins to stoner's 3 by then, so actually lorenzo was leading the title going into sachsenring despite a DNF one round earlier (at assen, that is).

Total votes: 54

Go back and read what I said.

Go back and read what I said. Stoner's injury, that he forced himself, ruined his title chance. That was at Indianapolis. And going into Indy, before he broke his ankle, Dani Pedrosa was ahead of him points, so yes he was losing ground to his team mate.

Dani Pedrosa 182 (before Indy)
Casey Stoner 173 (before Indy)

Total votes: 69

'Stoner's injury, that he forced himself'

All riders crash a few times during the year. Whether they get hurt in the crash or not is luck. Sometimes a small stack can have big consequences or vice versa. In 2011 Stoner had a big highside at Assen, which he was able to walk away from and he went on to win the title. Jorge ground his finger off in a lowside at Phillip Island in the same year. To say that being 9 points behind Pedrosa forced Stoner to hurt himself is nonsense. And Stoner was more than capable of demolishing that gap at the remaining tracks on the calendar, which were his favoured circuits. Whether he would have won the title or not who knows but he would have been a serious contender and there's no way Dani would have won as many races with Stoner there and Jorge forced to race for wins as well. I think we'll see this year just how much Jorge had in reserve at the end of last season.

Total votes: 58

Spot on Chris

Had Jorge not lead into the first corner he'd have found a way past Dani eventually, even if he had to wait for Dani's tyres to go off. When Honda wins everyone sings the Honda domination song, and when Yamaha win everyone sings the exact same song. How many Yamaha titles wil it take before someone admits they actually may have built the best bike?

As far as tyres go, it seems the grass is always greener. If you bring back tyre competition fans will just complain when they're favourite rider doesn't win and doesn't have the same tyre as the winner had, whether that was the deciding factor or not. The moaning when Rossi didn't have Bridgestones was deafening, even though Michelin finished 2nd and 3rd in the 07 championship.

Total votes: 94

Agreed

Anyone who suggests a return to the tire competition as a solution has a very short term (or selective) memory. The debacles that were 2007 and 2008 can still be smelled...and they stunk. Not to mention, would ANY rider in their right mind what to ride for Tech3 when they were spinning Dunlops?? Good grief. A tire competition doesn't work because it takes too much control away from what's important to this sport. The riders and bike manufacturers.

The solution is to stick with one supplier, but the tires have got to be better. If Bridgestone can't do, get a new one.

Total votes: 90

The BSB races at Knockhill

The BSB races at Knockhill last weekend were interesting in the light of Chris' comments. Two riders pulled away at the front, passing was minimal, and the gap back to the rest of the pack was massive - more than five seconds back to third in Race One, eight seconds in Race Two.

So far this season in BSB, one rider has won 75 percent of the races. And all of the wins have gone to teams that have dominated the series for years, that have massive budgets, and that boast openly of their ties to the Japanese factories.

In other words, the results are similar to what you see in MotoGP. Yet BSB and MotoGP seem to be made of entirely different cloth - production-based machine versus prototype, spec ECU versus lightly restricted electronics, etc.

One thing they have in common - spec tires.

Total votes: 82

Jorge was doing in 250s too

I remember a few races in his 250 days where he would just hit the front, then ride a perfect pace to the chequered flag, dropping the pack. Incredible concentration and precision.

Total votes: 74

Acceleration maybe

But not horsepower. As Ramon Forcada has pointed out, the Yamaha has quite enough power to flip over backwards until very high speed. If the Honda has more power, it's only an advantage above 250km/h.

Which is not to say the Honda doesn't accelerate better, due to better control of traction, maybe different weight distribution or wheelie control.

Total votes: 85

Lorenzo...

There is one guy who could give Jorge a run for his money when it comes to riding a Motogp bike perfectly as fast as possible for 25 laps...

Unfortunately that guy stopped racing after the 2012 season....

Total votes: 107

actually

Dani was holding up the Honda end of that fight better in that certain rider's last year even before the Indy mishap. All these guys' (aliens so to speak) are so close that their relative competitiveness to each other waxes and wanes from track to track and string of fortune or misfortune. Right now Lorenzo has hit a groove. Let's hope Dani's cuts just as deep.

Total votes: 99

I agree with the dude that said

these goofy spec tires are killing the sport. Different bikes have always had different strengths and weaknesses, but now with these spec tires it seems like the fastest bikes are from the factories with the most money to throw at working around them. It sucks.

Get rid of all the rules and just keep it simple. MotoGP should just be about getting around tracks for a certain distance as fast as possible on a certain amount of fuel and two wheels. If Ducati can do so w/a 1500cc V-twin, let them do it and have that direct line to their road bikes. If Yamaha can do it on custom tires that let their riders hit 65 degrees of lean safely let them do it. If someone wants to use a dual clutch transmission let them do it. Someone wants to use a turbocharger let them do it. All these stupid restrictions are killing the sport and the innovation it's supposed to generate for riders like us

Total votes: 93

be careful what you wish for

I think if the gloves truly came off Honda would develop things at a pace that other factories wouldn't get a notion of for years. If that were the case they might be on a level in a couple years that makes the disparity of the Ducati to the Yamahas and Hondas seem downright competitive.

Total votes: 86

Honda will have the

Honda will have the developmental edge no matter what... at least until Audi loosens the purse strings. But as is, Bridgestone's current tires are kind of an impediment. You look at all the bikes, they are not much faster now than in 08 with the 800cc lumps and free tires- maybe 1 to 2 seconds slower, despite having like a 30-60HP deficit. Ducati is really suffering with this- they have thrown out everything and the kitchen sink and their bike still sucks. I would bet big money their monocoque frame could work great with tires designed for it, potentially ushering in a new era and stimulating innovation. But as is the focus in development is getting around the weaknesses of the tires.

To be fair though Bridgestone has their work cut out for them. I don't know if MotoGP bikes have ever been this powerful. It's the high demands of the techno 800cc bikes high cornering speeds with record breaking power. Still though, manufacturers should be able to get tires built around their bikes strength/weaknesses, not the other way round, IMO.

Total votes: 80

The package, the weather, the rider, the track.

All seem to need to be stacked in the favor of one camp or another on any given day. Without a doubt JL99 is the epitome of precision and consistency. Pedrosa as well has shown a recent flawless streak in a Honda kind of way. The onboard cameras from the following bike in recent races where either rider dominated and won are prime examples where if one or the other has it all working in their favor it's no chance for the other.

In the last couple races from Dani's bike you could see a fixed gap to JL up to the corner and into entry. By exit JL's momentum had gained a bike length or so before Dani could wind it on to scratch back what was lost before the next corner. This is what the article points out. If the track isn't a stop and go type of affair JL can keep a Honda from striking distance even if the follower has a similar pace.

If the shoe is on the other foot and the fates are kinder to the Hondas then JL is just as hopeless to attack. We've seen from his on board where Dani rockets away from him on every exit no matter how hard he tries or closes up in the corner.

The exception to both of these runaway from the lead scenarios are when you can disrupt the strengths of the rider/bike. Rossi is a prime example and unfortunately only in capable enough form to do it in Qatar this year. His hallmark strength on the brakes and ruthless passes are the Yamaha antidote to the Honda point & squirt. If you can toss it up inside the Honda they have nowhere to pull the trigger then you're away to exploit the Yamaha's natural lines. Lorenzo did as much this year but executed that type of move in the first corners of the first laps. A contrasting example at play was Crutchlow stuck behind the Repsols in Qatar where Rossi made short work of them. You can't beat the Hondas playing the Yamaha game when you're behind.

Conversely if you have to make a Yamaha rider take defensive lines from a Repsol Honda you're in big trouble as Lorenzo experienced from Marquez.

In the end it's all about who has that gnat's breadth of edge on a given weekend. If you have it you can exploit your bike's strengths and deny the opponent his. It's such a close game even if it doesn't look like a furious fight the outcome still comes down to who is best prepared, setup, and has the racing gods flipping a coin wether it's a Honda or Yamaha weekend.

Total votes: 81

I'm a little confused...

...not by your comment, I agree with it, but it lead me to ponder the below...

Why was it that Rossi just shoved his way past the Honda's when supposedly you can't? They were decisive, precise, calculated, well lined up, hard, but fair passes.

Rossi wasn't playing the Yamaha game and he wasn't playing the Honda game, he was playing the Rossi game.

That's not a 'Rossi is oh so wonderful comment', the fact is, he was a bit quicker and he just used his ruthless race craft to put his bike in front of someone else that we've seen him do repeatedly over the years.

Why can't Cal do this? He certainly talks the talk. Surely after 6 or 7 years on a Yamaha, Jorge should have no issue in doing this?

We can see a lot of critique about Rossi having lost a couple of tenths of pace, but you give him a sniff and he will be past and I have little reason to believe that he won't win any scrap he is involved it. Why don't the others seem to be able to take the passes, are they too scared? Are they too respectful?
Is it more that Rossi, when he has an opportunity, his mentality is to get past, much like we see from Marquez? Or is it that these bikes are too difficult to over take on?

I'm not sure which side my belief is right now... is it the bikes or the riders?

I am just not sure that what we are seeing is simply the result of not having a 'Rossi' or a 'Simoncelli' at the top recently, willing to risk to win (although that statement sounds silly out of context... these guys do 210mph on 2 wheels, what bigger risks are there?!).

The bikes do have differing stregths, of that, there can be no doubt, but I don't know if it's a simple as the article suggests.

Total votes: 104

The difference...

is that Rossi never tried to pass a Honda at the end of the straight. All passes were on turn 4, if I remember correctly. And this is what the Yamaha is good at. Use a twisty section of the track to gain on your opponent and when you're just behind them release the brakes a bit later and dive into the next corner. Cal has done that himself on Bradl in Texas and Dovi in Mugello, although I think Bradl left the door open there. In fact even in the Honda vs Honda cases this year Marc has always passed Pedrosa (the opposite hasn't happened yet) in a slow-ish part of the circuit (Texas, Mugello, near-miss in Montmelo's turn 4), with the exception of Qatar. My point is that yes, it may be hard to pass a Honda down the straight even on a Honda, you'll get frustrated and that may disrupt your rhythm, but that doesn't mean you're stuck behind them. Great scrappers (Rossi, Marquez) will find Honda's weak spot, usually in twisty sections, and strike when and where it makes sense to.

So, in my view it's a combination of bike and rider. It's Lorenzo's style to hit the front, not Yamaha's. Crutchlow has always had problem with passing in MotoGP, it's one aspect that he needs to improve. Riding a satellite Yamaha sure doesn't help, but last year he couldn't even pass Dovi on the same bike even though he was clearly faster in many cases. I think he's been working on it this year, though. In Texas, Le Mans and Mugello he was quick and efficient with passing riders in front of him. Perhaps the view of this article is just part of the story, as the different overtaking records of riders on the same bike can attest to.

Total votes: 81

My feeling after reading this

My feeling after reading this article is that one is trying to understand why a certain rider takes a certain route (or call it adopts a style) in fighting for victory. While Rossi does seem well past his best, one should remember that the resurgence of Yamaha had everything to do with him. And Rossi was never the greatest in qualifying and even if he was way back on the third row at the start or if he had slipped back during the start, he was able to methodically tick off riders in front of him. And except for 2007 when Stoner was literally untouchable there wasn't single rider in MotoGP who could hold Rossi behind forever. Rossi was riding the Yamaha then and many times relegated Casey Stoner to a position behind his own without too much ado. What has undone Rossi is his colossal ego and the move to Ducati, which was further complicated by his desire to be one up on Stoner by making the Ducati rideable. That did not happen and Rossi lost quite a bit of his halo.

But that is not the point of the post. Till such time the lead rider of MotoGP was Rossi and he indulged in overtaking and when he had the company of the likes of Loris Capirossi who did not hesitate to get into a brawl for overtaking and were ready for physical contact during a race hard racing was somehow acceptable. But with Rossi's fading into oblivion and the emergence of Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and the the bespoke Lorenzo, the first corner became most important since none of the lead riders were willing to put overtaking moves until the rider in the front made a mistake and left the door open. They preferred to lead for the front and win the face from lights to chequered flag. What contributed to this was also the fact that the scrappers from USA who were in WSBK have also become a rarity on the GP grid and all the MotoGP riders were more or less graduates from the lower categories of GP racing (Rossi was too, but Rossi under the tutelage of Burgess changed his riding style for the 500cc first and MotoGP later).

The graduates from the lower categories rode the 500s and later MotoGP bikes as they rode the 250s, which meant that they carried higher apex speeds. Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa are from this school of riding though Stoner is a little different because he did have some dirt track racing experience in Australia. In the name of safety the attempt to reach the first corner first and clear off from there became a norm. I doubt very much if this has anything to do with the Honda - Yamaha approach to race bike building. Lets face it, right from the 500s days the Yamaha relied more upon chassis handling and rider expertise to win while Honda believed that their bikes could win in the hands of any reasonably talented rider. In the 500s days Honda made bikes with a single crankshaft that put out more power and early at that. Yamaha had twin crankshafts and the power from its engine was supposed to have been sapped in the process of turning the extra crankshaft and therefore it took all of Wayne Rainey's thinking and riding ability to beat Mick Doohan to a World Championship. I therefore think it is the riders approach and not the companies approach that defines how a bike is being ridden.

Total votes: 92

But didn't

Dovi switch from the Honda to the Yam and show that its not an impossible feat?

Total votes: 75

some...hehe

stoner had "some" dirt track racing experience ? how about "won everything there was to win in dirt track in all categories in Australia" which is a little more factual and also helps to understand how he could ride with shoddy tyres/bikes etc..

Total votes: 86

Oh no ...

Re:
"[...] (Rossi was too, but Rossi under the tutelage of Burgess changed his riding style for the 500cc first and MotoGP later)"

So, now is it not only Rossi "developing" bikes, it is Burgess "developing" riders, too?

Total votes: 64

And somehow all this leads to

And somehow all this leads to bad racing. Its not even racing anymore, one chap gets ahead,don't matter if its an HRC or Yam, keeps the lead and finishes the race. Some position changes do occur but they are more likely to happen when someone crashes or misreads a corner and goes in too hot. Where is the spectacle?

Also it seems that the M1 is adapted and built around their top riders suggestions and preferences whereas the HRC is built as a good package overall.I bet that Lorenzo would most likely be still as quick,if not quicker, if he jumps on the Honda but it would not be as easy if Dani was to step on a Yam.

Total votes: 74

Tyres more than bike

I would suggest that the main issue is the front tyre. If the riders had more confidence in the front end they might stick their nose in more often.

Having only viable choice for the rear is also an issue but going away from a single tyre supplier is not the answer - it did not work before so why now?

Total votes: 66

Having read all the comments thus far...

I would say there's a few things which have been overlooked.

First thing is that the underlying opinion came from Cal who actually races the bikes and therefore I'd put more faith in his opinion than any of my fellow armchair experts that have headed off on all sorts of speculative conclusions and assumptions

The second point is that whilst there was a recognised shift towards softer compounds last season (and we all know all the background to those debates) all the bikes are carrying an extra 3 kilos this year and that must surely have an effect on braking, corner speed and race distance durability.

Casey was quick to spot the shortcomings of the new compounds last year and I believe the extra 3 kilos are ramming the message home to the rest of the field this year.

Total votes: 83

Science &Technology

and Bridgestone's are the cause. It’s complex. Like everything today differences are understood scientifically and the sophistication of the solutions has grown. It's in every area of our lives. The days when a rider alone could make the difference are long gone - they are still very important, but the difference they can make is less than it was.
The only major standardised component in MGP that has an effect on the individual bike chassis is the tyres.
The control tyre rule seemed viable in the context of the superbike experience and for a year or two it worked, because some were quicker to find a solution to the performance conundrums than others. Now they all have a pretty good idea, the playing field is levelled, and the problem now is that some designs suit the control tyre better than others - the only engineering answer to that is , in effect, a de-facto single make (i.e. design solution) series. When you cannot use power or fuel, and the brakes are all the same too, how can you get an advantage? (Smaller riders - HRC have that boxed-off too).
Rider performance is a head game, and if you ask any rider their main issue of concern is tyres or confidence in the tyres. Racers may be a step or 10 ahead of the road guys but the issues are the same – yes, chassis issues also play a big part, but tyres create so much advantage/disadvantage when you like them/or not. Telling someone to 'man up' and ride it is an old-fashioned attitude.
Modern riders, who can lap to within a 1/10th of a second over a 120+ second lap don't need to be told where the tenths are. Both bikes and riders are covered in sensors, but the riders are more complex, and variable.
Only by removing technology and introducing fair variables can the human element be brought to the fore again (and I mean the one on the bike not the team in the garage/factory). Electronics need to be simplified, tyre choice opened-up (it could still be one make), and any rider weighing more than 10kg less kitted-up than the average should carry weight compensation of their choice.
I would also like to impose all-weather brake discs and some other things, but I've said enough already.
All this would give riders/teams the chance to be closer or pick their performance advantage. We would get better racing.

Total votes: 60

Fix it with tyres, I doubt it

A few people seem to think it could all be fixed if only we could get back to the "good old days" of free tyres.

First, there's a few things to remember: For most of the last 20 years, there was a de-facto single tyre. It was made by Michelin, and it came in "factory" and "privateer" grades. If you got the privateer grade, you were screwed. Then there was a brief period when Bridgestone were on near parity, now it's all Bridgestone, but Eugene Laverty is guaranteed the same quality tyres as Jorge Lorenzo.

Second, for those who claim the Ducati could be fixed "in two weeks" with a new tyre... I suggest you are dreaming. If Ducati knew exactly what tyre their bike needed to be competitive, that would mean they'd know exactly why the current tyre doesn't work for them. And they could modify the bike to fix that. I've seen no evidence they have such a clear understanding of their problem.

The fact Ducati won in 2007 with Bridgestone, and a bunch of other happy coincidences, is in no way evidence that they could win again with a different tyre. I'd suggest they got lucky back then. In fact the conventional "wisdom" is that they need a more flexible front... which is what Bridgestone introduced last year, to the dismay of Honda and Stoner in particular. I didn't notice a great leap forward from Ducati at that point.

Total votes: 81

Perfect Graham, said it far

Perfect Graham, said it far better than the post I started then canned yesterday.

Having worked as a mechanic and setup engineer on four wheels, that's exactly how it is.

People have short memories, who on earth wants to go back to the Saturday night specials ?

There's no way someone like Crutchlow on a satellite bike would be anywhere near the front boys if we went back to 'special' tyres, it just couldn't happen.

Total votes: 64

Ducati

The Ducati would be fixed in two weeks (or less). When the grip balance is off, Ducati describe the problems to Bridgestone, and the engineers in Japan start working on tires to cure the imbalance, pumping, chatter, etc. At each round, Ducati have an array of tire carcasses and compounds to play with as part of their setup. Since Ducati were the most competitive Bridgestone team, Ducati enjoyed that kind of competitive edge through 2007.

With the control tire, Ducati are responsible for designing an adaptable chassis that can be accurately adjusted and setup for a variety of conditions. Ducati Corse apparently lack chassis personnel who can develop around the Bridgestone control tire, and they don't have a great deal of experience with aluminum twin spar frames. Bernhard Gobmeier, the new general manager at Ducati Corse, is a former department manager of chassis development at BMW Motorrad, including development of the S1000RR chassis, which rides on Pirelli control tires in WSBK. The reason for his hire seems self-evident.

Total votes: 54

Its not like tires can be a main tuning aid...

>>First, there's a few things to remember: For most of the last 20 years, there was a de-facto single tyre.

This is a literally correct but factually incorrect statement. Yes, for a long time there was one dominant tire manufacturer in the sport but that tire manufacturer made many different spec tires tailored to specific riders and bikes, tracks, and weather. Each manufacturer was free to pursue the bike development direction they thought best with the support of their manufacturer tire provider. Each rider could get a tailored solution. Not every rider got the weather and tarmac optimized Sat night specials but it was not just one guy that did. It was far, far, far from the 2 compounds and one carcass stiffness offered today. And yet in this era of one dominant manufacturer (Michelin), Bridgestone was able to catch and surpass them in a matter of only a few years. That's what open rules and competition fosters. Then the rulemakers stepped in and made Michelin work outside their area of expertise (making highly specific tires) by limiting tires and having them pre-selected. Michelin were not able to adapt quickly enough and their riders bailed out. A great example of rules stifling competition. And development.

>>Second, for those who claim the Ducati could be fixed "in two weeks" with a new tyre... I suggest you are dreaming.

Tell that to the person that said it, Bernhard Gobmeier, the guy that turned BMW's superbike effort around. He likely knows a thing or 2 about tuning a chassis to control tires.

>>If Ducati knew exactly what tyre their bike needed to be competitive, that would mean they'd know exactly why the current tyre doesn't work for them. And they could modify the bike to fix that.

Knowing how to fix a handling problem by tire tuning does not mean that you know how to fix the same problem through other means. Tires are the most important part of a the suspension. A non-suspension bicycle or motorcycle with tires handles fine but a suspended bicycle or motorcycle with no tires is useless.

>>I've seen no evidence they have such a clear understanding of their problem.

That's the whole point, they don't know how to fix it in the chassis and BS is not allowed to give them technical assistance to help them fix it in the chassis. The mono tire rule removed one of their major tuning aids and they have not been able to adapt yet. Its a very similar situation to the tire rule.

>>The fact Ducati won in 2007 with Bridgestone, and a bunch of other happy coincidences, is in no way evidence that they could win again with a different tyre.

Another point against the spec tire rule.

>>I'd suggest they got lucky back then.

Yes, lucky to sign Stoner.

>>In fact the conventional "wisdom" is that they need a more flexible front

Since not may people know the details of the spec tires or of Ducati's detail design I would think conventional wisdom is useless. What Ducati needs is a custom designed tire. The details of that tire's characteristics I think only BS has a good handle on.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 68

In any case...

Brakes and suspension are free. Yet the "head game" means all the riders want Brembo and Ohlins, 'cos that's what is on the bikes at the front. Is it even remotely plausible that free tyres would lead to a miraculous parity?

Total votes: 65

I think tires are the key! Freeze them! (not literally)

I have no issue with a spec tire, since the last time there was more then one brand it got ridiculous, specially made tires, etc. What I think should happen is that there should be a freeze on tire development. That would allow the manufacturers to really develop their bikes to the tire specs, would save Bridgestone some money, and might allow things to get back to what they are supposed to be about, the motorcycles, not which one goes best on the tires that are brought each weekend. There is already a spec tire, so it's not like Bridgestone is trying desperately to keep on top, this way they could focus more on consistency in the product.

I think it would be interesting to see what the riders thought of an idea like this, as I remember Ben Spies saying something similar last year. If I remember right he said he would like a 20% grip reduction for all tires, which would level the field and get rid of chatter issues for some.

Total votes: 57

Tyre specs. are frozen

That's the problem, or one of them.
They may well offer very high grip levels that could usefully be reduced.

The present situation where teams can optimally use only the one tyre is an effective freeze. The lack of development by Bridgestone under the current agreement (it seems to be in their contract, so they cannot just act unilaterally) is an effective freeze.

The CRT tyre may be an option for them but its still an effective freeze as they have no other choice.

It's choice the teams need - it doesn't have to be a free choice, but Bridgestone (or whomever the next supplier is) and Dorna need to agree what specifications need to be offered and let it include options that cover the rider preferences, not just one tyre type per team.

That means carcass as well as compound options, unless the teams say that's not necessary with the proposed spec. By all means produce a compound that has durability, consistency, but less overall mechanical grip. If that means near-race-long durability to accept the abuse of heavy throttle hands for most of the race that sounds good to me. Perhaps with less mechanical grip the forces will be reduced to the point that more chassis/riders can get nearer the front and these processions will be a bad memory.

Also bring back a 1 lap qualifier to shake the grid up a little more.

Total votes: 55

All worse tires will do is

make for more crashes. A drop in grip would have to come with a drop in HP, which would make for a drop in lap times, which really just flies in the face of what MotoGP is supposed to be about.

Let folks have custom tires, but let them do testing in the offseason and make them lock into a tire 2-3 months beforehand. Then let folks who either don't have the $$$ to develop their own tires or are on satellite factory bikes try out other folks tires and go from there. Factories will retain their advantage over everyone else in development time, but everyone will have tires that are better for the bikes which will result in more competition and better racing.

The lock in is bad. Tire shape for example is big for front end feel and these guys have no say in it.

Total votes: 55

Personal opinion:

and nothing else, I've always believed control tyres have no place in any Premier WORLD Championship class of motor sport.

Nothing I've seen since their introduction has convinced me to change my mind. With the current set up factories will always win and the privateer / satellite teams will always compete for the scraps, anyone who thought control tyres would change that basic truth was a romantic fool to start with.

The only way you could turn it on its head would be to make every team 'non factory' Factory's would sign up to supply the engines for the race teams (prepared to supply a minium no. of bikes) and the teams use there own chassis or buy from the likes of Kalex / FTR / Suter / GPMS etc.

Until the factories don't control the teams you'll never change the the processional nature of some races.

Total votes: 68

Perhaps 'slower' is better, not worse

It's all relative.
1-2 secs. a lap is +/-1%, which I couldn't spot without repeat video/timing to compare them. Bikes will be proportionately slower in the corners, yes, but it's overtaking and related action (most) people are looking for. We may have got used to lap times falling, but unless we want to see tracks disappear because they become obsolete for safety reasons then the 'ever faster' has to be substituted for 'better racing' at some point. Tracks like Mugello and Monza could go the way of Brands Hatch GP and F1 tracks will be all that is left.
Classic racers do not go faster every year and yet they produce great racing (a bit too slow at this level I admit!).
Choosing tyres months ahead of their use date/the season is a safety issue as well a major cost one - temperature, weather etc. will play a part. Taking a whole team off to suitable climates to sort out tyres will be beyond many and just create a wider gulf.
Racers crash because there's no 'feel', not less grip - they can make a given tyre go for as long/fast as its capable of as long as they have ‘feel’. That's tyre management. If they choose the wrong tyre that could condemn them to crashing to try to cope with it.
If they have choice they use the one that suits them that weekend – covering bike development as well as tyre safety.
Slower sounds boring, but if technology was used to create more-equal performance then the riders could show their real mettle. Look at WSB - they have problems, but the 'racing' is usually better and Melandri and Biaggi have shown it's neither easy nor simple for an ex-MGP pilot to get one of those to the front. And it's not slow.

Total votes: 72

Catalunya is a pretty good

Catalunya is a pretty good indication of what you'll get if you reduce tire performance across the board. It was slick, greasy, and no one circulated anywhere near qualifying times. And you wound up with what? The teams with the best riders and the smartest crews and best equipment figuring out how to adapt.

It's pretty funny to me in F1 watching Pirelli try to come up with a tire that Red Bull can't adapt to but other teams can.

*Gets out soap box and carefully climbs on top*

Variations in results come from variations in situations. The more things you make spec, the fewer variations in results you can expect, and therefore the more goofy rules you have to make to try to force variations.

*climbs down from soapbox*

Total votes: 65

Factories

Agreed. But how do you keep the back door closed?
Someone will always have more or better resources, or designers than the rest.
However, Yamaha has shown that even the most lavishly resourced teams such as HRC can be pushed and defeated. Again, it's all relative - they must have enough to be competitive otherwise they will just look second-rate, and perhaps there will always be a top 3 or 4 teams. However, unless someone tries to make it more equal then only the natural cycle of rider and other team personnel changes will make a difference - and that is too slow for MGP!

Total votes: 65

It's not supposed to be equal

THAT is what world championships are about. The best guys win.

And most of the time, except for a few short intervals which are falsely remembered as the norm, the winner wins by miles.

The problem with MotoGP is that it has simply become dominated by the bike, rather than the rider. The possibility to over-ride the bike, Schwantz style, has gone. You no longer win swinging between 95% and 105%, because at 101% you'll lose time and at 102% you'll crash. It is a discipline that rewards perfectly uniform 100% effort.

Total votes: 63

+1, especially this

+1, especially this part:

"And most of the time, except for a few short intervals which are falsely remembered as the norm, the winner wins by miles ..."

And honestly, how well did that riding style work out for Kevin? Love the guy, but how many races and titles did he throw down the road? And when he did win the championship, I remember him saying that year that he had started to settle for points, that it wasn't all win, spin or stick a hole in a fence. In other words, was it ever really possible to over-ride the bike and nail down the throne?

Total votes: 62

Catalunya

Perhaps - but if you reduced/eliminated traction control, required all-weather brake discs and other things as well, put the control literally in the riders hands, then perhaps the race wouldn't have ben so processional...

Total votes: 58

It's all down to Oil & Tyres!

Modern oils have created the high performing engines we see today.
Modern tyres have created the incredible lap times of recent years (I remember watching GP's when it was worth mentioning the lap record had been broken, not an 'obligatory' statistic!)
A bike can utilise a tyre differently, but a bike still has to be built around the tyres. Honda & Yamaha have found ways of using the tyre, Ducati have not!

Total votes: 60

I think Casey said it a few years back

the racing is like it is mostly because he and his peers made so few mistakes. If you make a mistake the chances of catching the guy ahead dimishes to almost nothing if he doesn't make ANY. Rossi dominated in an era where mistakes could be recovered from because the other riders made plenty, in fact Rossi has said several times that he was uncertain if he could ride at the level of DP and JL this year. They have had two years of taking their bikes to the very limits while Rossi spent the last two years not trusting his machinery and just trying to make sure he stayed in one piece.

So respectfully, I would say it is down to the rider not making mistakes. How many mistakes would be made if you gave them shocking tyres, fewer electronic aids and maybe steel brakes I don't know.

Total votes: 62

Tyres

Last year Dennis Noyes did a great interview with HRC Boss Shuhei Nakamoto. Here is an interesting part about the tyres and what Mr. Nakamoto thinks about this:

DN: So, I ask you, if instead of representing Honda you were representing the championship and the championship has two problems, increasing cost and the other is the 'show'… If you were in charge of the championship and not of Honda racing, what would you do to solve these problems?

SN: First of all I would change the tire rule. Single tire rules means that nothing happens, but (with open rules) at some circuits one company makes a better tire and at other circuits another company makes a better tire. This means that there are changes, surprises, improvement. But with single tire rule this never happens. Fast rider, fast machine, win all the time, like now. Before it was different, as when Tamada won in 2004 with the Bridgestone tire (in Rio de Janiero and Motegi) with satellite team when other riders are using Michelin tires.

http://moto-racing.speedtv.com/article/motogp-noyes-notebook-one-on-one-...

Total votes: 70

IMO

The tires have been the problem the whole time.

When the tire rules were balanced in 2007, it was Michelin who were caught with their pants down. Bridgestone could not produce the overnight specials as often as Michelin could because of factory location hence, BS was used to building a tire that had a wider operating temperature. Given time, Michelin would have been able to figure this out. There was a reason BS was winning in RIO and Motegi, it's because they could do the same thing Michelin was doing throughout Europe. Since the Golden Boy of Moto GP had lost for two consecutive years, DORNA couldn't wait for Michelin to catch up, thus the change to the spec tire. I don't ever recall anyone complaining when Michelin won the Championship for (IIRC) 17 consecutive seasons.

The pace at the front is blistering. There's not much passing going on because it's impossible to pass when both riders are at the very limit of the machine and tires. Trying to stuff it inside with both riders on the edge will do nothing but cause a crash.

I enjoy watching perfection as much as I do a good battle and I am sure I am in the minority there. I also enjoy the technology side of the sport. Face it, unobtanium is cool as hell.

Total votes: 63

Rossi was already on BS tyres

Rossi was already on BS tyres when they went to a single tyre manufacturer.!...If anyone had an advantage of tyre rule changes then it was the riders already on BS who had years of data and BS specific bike building experience. When the rule was changed so that michy had to provide the tyres upfront it was an unmitigated disaster for all michy users and probably cost Rossi the 2007 title given how easily he won in 2008. Rossi probably had the worst of the new tyre rules back then, it was certainly not to his advantage to put everyone else on the tyres both he and Casey were already on..
Despite Jorges two wins on the bounce Yamaha are in serious trouble. Dani is still leading the championship, yet last year he was 40 points behind Jorge at this stage. Dani's strongest part of the season is definitely the second half. If anything, rather than being dominant, Jorge is struggling even more than last year to hold onto the coat tails of Dani.. Time will tell if Jorge can turn around last years results in the 2nd half , but the first half of the season so far, would suggest anything but.

Total votes: 53

It's the same in other sports!

Don't worry, it's not confined to riders making little or no mistakes in MotoGP, the same thing has happening in other sports too with the top participants achieving near perfect performances day in, day out.
As long as my boss doesn't start expecting the same level of performance from me, it's all good ;-)

Was it because of this post I jinxed Federer & Nadal at Wimbledon???

Total votes: 73

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