2013 Barcelona MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Pedrosa's Scorcher, Lorenzo's Engine Travails, And Vinales' Penalty Points
Cal Crutchlow called it right on Friday. "We know the Hondas take a little bit longer to set up, but when they come out Saturday morning, they normally take a second off." It was more like half a second on Saturday morning, but by the afternoon, Dani Pedrosa took nearly 1.6 seconds off his best time on Friday, smashing the pole record which had stood since 2008. That was a lap set on the supersoft qualifying tires still used at the time, which had Nicky Hayden happily reminiscing about the fun to be had on the sticky one-lap rubber.
It was an extraordinary lap by Pedrosa, though the Honda man himself was not overly impressed. When asked if it was his best lap ever, Pedrosa acknowledged that it was good, perhaps one of his best, but still not as good as his lap at Valencia at the end of last year.
Pedrosa's blistering record lap was not the only excitement during qualifying, which turned into an intriguing session. It started off with Jorge Lorenzo taking off out of the pits in his customary fashion, only to cruise back in again after his first full lap. The clutch on his Yamaha M1 had destroyed itself, and so he had to leap back on to his second bike and try to set a time on that. That machine never felt the same as his number one bike, and so Lorenzo didn't quite have the confidence to push as hard as he hoped to. That left him third on the grid, but at least still on the front row.
2013 Mugello MotoGP Friday Round Up: Examining Marquez' Crash, And Yamaha's Fears Of Honda Improvement
There are a lot of things that make Mugello special. Its location, in the heart of Tuscany, a sumptuously beautiful part of the world; its layout, fast, flowing, winding naturally up and round the valley it is set in. The wide open nature of the track, all third and fourth gear combinations which require the perfect combination of intelligence, talent and sheer courage that make it close to the perfect test of skill. It is fast, it is flowing, and it is undulating.
Even the front straight isn't really a straight, but a rolling sinew of asphalt that winds down to the first corner. You come down out of the last turn, hammer on the gas, shifting up to sixth as you go, and ride up the rise towards the crest. Drift right then left through the slight kink in the straight which becomes something resembling a 330 km/h chicane, then just as your front wheel floats free over the crest, you need to get it back down again and get on the brakes for the first corner, the 90 km/h San Donato. The straight and the braking area are immensely difficult to get right, and a simple error can leave you hurtling into the gravel. Or, in the case of Marc Marquez, drifting towards a wall.
Each rider has their own technique, but subtlety is the key to getting it right. Jorge Lorenzo told the press that he does not really brake over the crest nor use rear brake to keep the front down, but instead rolls off the throttle a fraction. This puts the front tire back in contact with the tarmac, and allows him to brake at full force for San Donato. Dani Pedrosa's technique is slightly different, but achieves the same result. "You never really hit the brake at once," he said, "you squeeze and put the pressure a little after."
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2013 Mugello MotoGP Preview: Of Yamaha's Travails, Rossi's Hopes, Ducati's Dreams And Honda's Domination
Mugello is arguably MotoGP's crowning glory. The location is stunning, in the verdant hills of Tuscany, a few miles north of Florence, one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world. The track itself is gorgeous, and beautifully laid out, rolling round the valley in which the circuit is set. It is one of the few tracks left at which a MotoGP bike can fully stretch its legs, even a 260+ horsepower fire-breathing 1000cc Honda RC213V. At the end of the front straight, as riders drift right then left for the slight kink of the pit lane exit just before the track drops off for the spectacular first corner at San Donato, the bikes approach the magical barrier of 350 km/h. An obstacle that has not yet been cleared, but one which must surely fall in the near future. A lap of the circuit passes in under 1'48, an average of 175 km/h, or nearly 110 mph. It is verily a temple of speed.
It may seem odd, then, that the fastest bike does not necessarily win at the circuit. Of the past ten editions of the race, seven have been won by Yamahas, a bike which has never been the fastest in a straight line. While speed is not the secret to the circuit, a glance at the list of winners over the years reveals exactly what is: Valentino Rossi has won seven times at the circuit in the premier class (as well as twice more in the support classes), Mick Doohan won here six times, Jorge Lorenzo won twice, and the list of one-time winners includes Dani Pedrosa, Kevin Schwantz, Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner. To win at Mugello is simple: it is merely a matter of being one of the very best riders in the world.
MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We will be featuring sections of Oxley's blogs, posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website, over the coming months.
The race to arm MotoGP’s private teams with higher-performance CRT bikes is gathering pace. Last summer Honda announced that they will sell a lower-cost version of their RC213V and then two months ago Yamaha confirmed that they will lease YZR-M1 engines from 2014. At Le Mans the whisper going round the paddock was that Aprilia are working on a pneumatic-valve spring cylinder head for their RSV4 CRT engine, which could be ready by September.
Ask Jorge Lorenzo if there is one thing which the Yamaha needs to allow him to compete with the Hondas, and he will tell you it is a seamless gearbox. The system used by Honda on the RC213V allows the riders to shift gear while the bike is still leaned over, without upsetting the machine. It is an important factor in the Honda's better drive out of corners, as Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez, Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista can shift gear earlier and make optimum use of the rev range to accelerate harder.
That Yamaha is working on a seamless gearbox is no secret, with Yamaha's test riders currently racking up the kilometers around tracks in Japan, testing the reliability of the maintenance-intensive system to the limit before using it in a race. Recently, however, Spanish magazine SoloMoto published an article suggesting that Yamaha has already been using its new seamless gearbox since the beginning of the season. In evidence, the magazine pointed to an apparent difference in fuel consumption between the factory Yamahas and the satellite bike of Cal Crutchlow. While both Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi made mistakes at Qatar, only Rossi was able to recover, and then battle with Marc Marquez for the podium. The theory put forward by SoloMoto was that the smoother transition between gears gave both better drive and lower fuel consumption, as the ignition is cut for a much shorter period, wasting less of the limited gasoline the MotoGP bikes are allowed.
With the 2013 MotoGP season just a few hours away, it's time for a quick recap on the rule changes which come into effect this year. Though the technical rule changes are minor - slightly more significant changes are to be made for 2014, but that is a story for another day - the change to qualifying is significant, and will have a real impact on all of the practice session, albeit indirectly.
So here's what has changed for 2013:
The engine allocation for the MotoGP prototypes has been dropped from six engines per rider per season to five engines. The request for the reduction came from the factories themselves, in pursuit of further engineering challenges applicable to production bikes.
The reduction in engine allocation is unlikely to have a drastic effect. In his championship year in 2011, Casey Stoner only used five engines all season, and in 2012, Jorge Lorenzo managed relatively comfortably after losing a brand new engine at Assen in a first-corner crash. Even the penalty imposed on Valentino Rossi for taking an extra engine in 2011 was down to his desire to use a different frame, one for which his original engines did not have the necessary mounting points.
Back by popular demand, and bigger and better. The MotoMatters.com 2013 Motorcycle Racing Calendar is on the presses and getting ready for delivery. The highlight of the calendar is, as always, the fantastic photos taken by Scott Jones, and to give them the room they deserve, we have increased the size of the calendar by 10%. The larger size means the calendar will make an even more dynamic impact on your wall. If the calendar was great in previous years, it's absolutely fantastic in 2013.
For years Phillip Island has been a track I'd planned to go to, but for one reason or another, it was a trip I'd not been able to make happen. I was ticking off other top locations such as Catalunya, Mugello, Assen, places that were Bucket List items for me both as a race fan and a photographer. But PI wouldn't cooperate.
As soon as Casey issued his surprise announcement that he was retiring, I knew I had to make it to Phillip Island. This time there could be no excuse: I had to see Casey ride at his home track, and this was my last chance. Fortunately for me, there was still some money in the bank from the Elbow Down edition to pay for airfare and expenses. And my wife, whose patience and kindness seem to know no bounds, agreed to manage the childcare without my help yet again this season. I booked the trip and held my breath.
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