Behind the fairing of the Kalex (Marc VDS)
Peter Bom: A typical winter test photo. The wiring hasn't been tidied up and isn't very neat. Below the clutch lever, you can see a sensor which measures the movement of the steering damper. This isn't part of the ECU strategy (yet), but it does tell the data engineer a lot about the position of the bike, for example, if the bike is getting sideways when braking.
It may be December, and the world of motorcycle racing may be retreating into hibernation for a few weeks, but news does keep cropping up from time to time. So before we also take a break for the holiday season, here is a quick round up of the news stories you may have missed.
The week started off (or ended, depending on when you start counting) with a fascinating and honest appearance by Jorge Lorenzo on British MotoGP broadcaster BT Sport's season review show. The Spaniard spoke frankly about the reasons he left Yamaha, the struggles he faced at Ducati, and how he pondered retirement before turning it around.
Lorenzo made his reasons for leaving Yamaha clear: he had run out of challenges to chase. "There was a time when I was in Yamaha that I was not learning so much anymore, because I'd achieved my dream from when I was a little kid, which was winning the MotoGP World Championship. I won it three times with Yamaha, so I didn't have any more things to achieve, no, and I was feeling a lack of motivation."
No easy move
Under the tank of the Yamaha YZR-M1 (Petronas)
Peter Bom: A dummy fuel tank on the Yamaha R1 as used by the mechanics to start and warm up the bike in pit lane. The real fuel tank is constantly measured for weight (= amount of fuel) to calculate fuel consumption. It was with a fuel tank like this that things went horribly wrong at the Suzuki pit box in Sepang. Fuel leaked out from a leaking hose and the bike caught fire.
Petrucci has yet to win a MotoGP race, but Ducati’s latest factory rider is super-fast and few are better at describing what they do on a bike
You’ve been through some big technical changes in MotoGP: starting out on a CRT bike with a streetbike engine, then changing bikes, tyres and electronics
In reality, I had a Superstock bike during my first three years in MotoGP! So I only really started racing in MotoGP when I joined Pramac Ducati in 2015 and got my first real MotoGP bike.
Riding technique has changed a lot because we now have different tyres and different electronics. The way you use the throttle now is very, very different to how it was when we had the factory software before 2016. In 2015 it was easier to open the throttle out of a corner because the electronics were better. Now the rider has to manage the throttle much more, mostly because of the electronics, but also because the tyres are different.
Ever since the Superbike Commission - the rule-making body for WorldSBK - announced back in October that a third race would be added to the WorldSBK schedule, we have wondered exactly what this would mean for the class, both in terms of championship points and qualifying position for the second WorldSBK race, held on Sunday. On Tuesday, the FIM issued a press release containing the missing details for the coming season.
The new schedule impacts both qualifying and the races. The current two-stage Superpole has been abolished, replaced with a single Superpole session for the World Superbike and the World Supersport series. Those qualifying sessions will set the grid for the WorldSSP race on Sunday, and WorldSBK race 1 - the normal length race - on Saturday, and a new, 10-lap sprint race to be held on Sunday.
The 10-lap sprint race - to be named the Tissot Superpole race - will set the first 9 positions of the grid for the second full-length race on Sunday afternoon. Positions 10 and onwards will be set using the qualifying positions from Saturday's Superpole session, presumably taking account of riders who qualified inside the top 9 but crashed out of the Superpole race on Sunday.
There are a few books which every MotoGP fan should have on their bookshelves. As many editions of Motocourse as you can afford, of course, for a review of each year, as it was seen at the time. Michael Scott's MotoGP, The Illustrated History, for a grand overview of the history of Grand Prix racing. Mat Oxley's Age of Superheroes, for a closer look at the previous golden age of GPs, if you can get your hands on a copy. And Rick Broadbent's Ring of Fire, a look at the heady days at the end of the 990cc era in MotoGP.
Neil Spalding's MotoGP Technology belongs in that list. Part history and part technical reference work, MotoGP Technology takes a detailed and in depth look, not just at the current batch of MotoGP bikes and how they work, but also why they work. It is, if you like, a work on the engineering theory behind the design of a racing motorcycle, but also a guide to how the manufacturers racing in MotoGP have put that theory into practice.
The off season is a good time for motorcycle racing organizations to do a spot of housekeeping. There is time to look back over the year, and figure out what was missing from the rules, and what was unclear, an issue made more pressing by the number of rule changes in recent years. And so that is what the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, did, at a meeting in Madrid on 30th November.
Though it took a 3-page press release to cover all the changes made during the meeting, most of them are fairly minor in their effect. The biggest change was not even in the press release, although that is because it is a consequence of the switch from Honda to Triumph engines in Moto2, and from the Honda ECU to the spec Magneti Marelli electronics kit. That switch means that the Moto2 technical regulations need to be updated to reflect the situation going forward from 2019. Nothing in those changes is new, however: the changes have long been debated and agreed between the FIM, IRTA, and Dorna, as well as the suppliers and chassis builders for the Moto2 class.
There’s no prize money at Valentino Rossi’s annual 100km dirt-track race, but the racing is just as vicious as MotoGP
Perhaps one day Valentino Rossi will work out how to sit back and rest on his laurels. But he’s not there yet.
Eleven weeks before his 40th birthday and two days after MotoGP’s longest-ever season of racing and testing, he was back at it: racing motorcycles around in circles (and hurting himself), because that’s what he likes doing.
Marc Marquez has had surgery on his left shoulder to fix the recurring problem of dislocating that shoulder. The surgery was carried out by Dr. Mir, together with Dr. Victor and Dr. Teresa Marlet, at the Hospital Universitari Dexeus in Barcelona on Tuesday.
The surgery, which involved grafting a section of bone onto the head of the humerus, is meant to stop the shoulder from being dislocated so easily. This has been a problem which Marquez has had for a number of years now, the issue getting worse every time the shoulder popped out. The problem had become so bad that Marquez managed to dislocate his shoulder when he reached out to receive the congratulation of Scott Redding, after the Repsol Honda rider had wrapped up the title at Motegi. He partially dislocated the shoulder twice more at Valencia, after crashing.
Marquez will require some time to recover from the surgery, six weeks of rehabilitation being needed before he can start to train properly. At the Jerez MotoGP test, Marquez had expressed his concern about the loss of training time, and the recovery period. "The plan is surgery next week, and then recovery all the winter," he told us last Thursday. "Because it's a long recovery, and I will not arrive at Malaysia maybe 100%, it will be tight. So all the winter will be concentrated on my shoulder, and then I will have all of February and March to work on my physical condition."
The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and after a week of testing at Jerez over four different classes of bikes, Steve English, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett get together to discuss what happened, who brought what, and what it all means for the 2019 season.
We start first with a rundown of how the various factories fared in the MotoGP test, starting with Yamaha, and their development dilemma, and the very different opinions which Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales have of the 2019 Yamaha M1. We then move on to discuss Ducati, and the myriad tricks Gigi Dall'Igna has up his sleeve, including the return of the torque arm for the rear brake and aerodynamic additions to the rear seat.
It is hard to overstate just how radically the internal combustion engine changed the world. It led to a revolution, because they ease and speed with which people could move from point to point caused a radical change in the way they thought about the world. The steam engine had opened up the world of work and communal travel, but its bulk and complexity made it impractical as a means of individual transportation.
The internal combustion engine, in which light oil fractions were burnt by means of controlled explosions inside of steel cylinders, was more compact and more suited to personal transport. When Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach assembled the first "Reitwagen", a vehicle which is a motorcycle despite its own intentions, to paraphrase Melissa Holbrook Pierson. The world fell in love with the freedom which the internal combustion engine brought, and the speed which it made possible.
Of course, once one motorcycle had been built, the second would follow shortly afterwards, and once two of anything exist, the human compulsion to compete takes over. Racing followed motorcycle development as sure as night follows day. And as racing followed motorcycle development, so motorcycle development followed racing, a process which continues to this day.
This story, of how the obsession with speed and competition drove the early years of motorcycle racing, and how those developments both influenced and were influenced by the societies in which they existed, is the subject of Mat Oxley's book, Speed: The one genuinely modern pleasure. In this meticulously researched book, Oxley traces motorcycle racing and competition from its earliest origins, an alcohol-fueled postprandial contest on a bicycle racing oval at the stately (and, post hoc, aptly named) Sheen House, all the way through to the death of the obsessive and eccentric Eric Crudgington Fernihough in Hungary, who died trying to beat the land speed record set by Ernst Henne. It follows the long and winding trail to go from speeds of 44 km/h of that first race to the 279.5 km/h which Henne set in his supercharged 500cc BMW streamliner.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the final test of 2018 at Jerez:
NAKAGAMI LEADS HONDA ARMADA AS TESTING CONCLUDES IN JEREZ
And the winner is... Takaaki Nakagami! Or at least the LCR Honda rider's name sit atop the timesheets at the end of the final day of the final MotoGP test of 2018. Which both counts for a lot, and counts for very little at the same time. The fact that Nakagami was able to do the time is proof that the 2018 Honda RC213V is a much better bike than the 2017 version which the Japanese rider spent last season on – see also the immediate speed of Franco Morbidelli, now he is on the Petronas Yamaha rather than the Marc VDS Honda. It was also proof that Nakagami – riding Cal Crutchlow's bike at Jerez – is a much better rider than his results on the 2017 bike suggest. And puts into perspective that this was the bike which Marc Márquez won the 2017 MotoGP title on.
But it also doesn't really mean very much. Testing is just testing, and the riders don't necessarily have either the inclination or the tire allocation to go chasing a quick lap time the way they do on a race weekend. Nobody wants to risk it all just to prove a point and get injured just before they go into the winter break. And with the top 15 within a second of one another, and the top 7 within a quarter of a second, the differences are pretty meaningless anyway.