Leon Camier turned a lot of heads at Indianapolis in his first ride on the Drive M7 Aspar Honda production racer. The Englishman was drafted in to replace Nicky Hayden while he recovers from surgery, but despite it being the first time he rode a MotoGP bike, the Bridgestone tires, carbon brakes, and the Indianapolis circuit, Camier was very quickly up to speed with the other Open class Hondas.
Having a fast rider come in to MotoGP from World Superbikes allows a number of comparisons to be made. Among the most interesting is the difference in technology and tires. At Brno, Camier explained the difference in feel and cornering between the World Superbike Pirellis and the MotoGP Bridgestones. The front tire, especially, is a completely different kettle of fish, requiring a different style, and therefore different set up.
"The main [differene] for me is the tires and the brakes," Camier told us, "the tires being the biggest one. It's just that you have so much more front grip and with angle that you can brake and turn in with the brake on. [The front tire] is adjusting itself to be able to do that."
That difference presented a major challenge, Camier explained. "If you don't have enough weight on the front tire late in the corner, the bike doesn't turn. So you have to be able to go in fast enough to be able to load the bike that late on in the corner. Which is hard, because you need the setting to be right for that."
This was the stage at which Camier and his crew had arrived. "That's what we are trying to find at the moment, trying to find the right balance for that. At the minute, the bike's quite soft, and I can roll round the track quite nicely, but to go faster, I need to start braking later, turning in with the brake on, and bury the front tire."
Burying the front tire was the key to going fast. With the World Superbike Pirellis, the key was to brake, release the brake to allow the tire to resume some of its shape, and then use this shape to get the bike to turn. Respected MotoGP journalist Mat Oxley, also present, put the historical example of Simon Crafar riding Dunlops during the 500cc era. Crafar, Oxley said, would use the point at which the bike deflected back to its normal shape to help hook the bike round the corner, and assist turn in.
Camier recognized this from World Superbikes. "That's more like a Pirelli," Camier said. "You go in with the thing absolutely buried, and you have to sort of get it up off the tire for it to come into a more normal shape to turn." The Bridgestones are the opposite, Camier said. You do not wait to stop braking before turning in, you turn the bike into the corner when the front tire is loaded up under braking. "This turns when it's flattened," Camier said. "And it does turn. But the grip is so much more as well. It takes some getting your head around."