2015 Sachsenring MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Why The Hondas Are Fast, And Who Can Stop Marquez Or Kent

Is the run of Yamaha domination about to come to an end? After winning seven out of eight races, the Yamaha YZR-M1 certainly looks like the best bike on the grid, so on paper, it should continue to crush the opposition beneath its wheels at the Sachsenring. After all, the strength of the Yamaha is its ability to carry corner speed and get drive out of corners, and the Sachsenring has barely a straight line in its 3.7 kilometers. Yet after two days of practice, it has been the Hondas which have ruled the roost in Germany. The bike which is supposed to have problems looks untouchable, with Marc Márquez looking untouchable, Dani Pedrosa the best of the rest, and both Scott Redding and Cal Crutchlow showing real promise.

Why is the Honda so fast at the Sachsenring? Two reasons. Firstly, the circuit only has a couple of the types of corners where the Honda has struggled. It is only in Turn 8 and Turn 12 where the riders are braking almost straight up and down, the rear stepping out and becoming difficult to control. "Where we have a problem here is only two corners," Marc Márquez said at the press conference. "The rest is just with the gas, and there we don't have the problem." Those other corners are where the Hondas are making up the time. And they are making up the time because the track lacks grip.

One of the enigmas which we in the media center have been struggling with is whether the Honda does better in cold weather or in hot weather. But after much discussion with a bunch of people who are much smarter than we are, we came to the conclusion that the temperature of the track is irrelevant. It is not whether it is hot or cold that matters to the Honda, but whether the track actually has any grip. On a good track with plenty of grip, the Yamahas can carry corner speed and use the excellent mechanical grip of the bike to their advantage, and make a break. If such a track then also has a lot of sharp corners, where the Honda riders are struggling to control the rear under braking, and get it to slide controllably, then the Yamaha simply walks away, as do the Ducatis, and perhaps even the underpowered Suzukis. All three of those bikes can exploit mechanical grip, to carry corner speed and get drive as the riders lift the bike up from the edge of the tire into the traction area, where it can dig in and push the bike forward.

The Honda doesn't have any of that. The bike spins the rear until it grips, and then it launches the front wheel towards the sky. It behaves the same whether the track has grip or not, unable to take advantage of the conditions. When the Yamahas have drive, they disappear into the distance. But at a track like the Sachsenring, which is lacking real grip in most of its corners, they can neither carry the corner speed, nor get the drive on to the next corner. The Honda doesn't lose any grip, because it never had any in the first place, whereas the Ya maha is fast when it can get the rear hooked up. The performance of the Honda is the same, regardless of the conditions. The Yamaha goes better the more grip it can find, and if it can't find much, it loses out.

This is also why both the Suzukis and the Ducatis were struggling. It was a particularly frustrated Aleix Espargaro who spoke to us after qualifying. The Spaniard had expected to be fast here at the Sachsenring, the Suzuki able to carry corner speed and exploit its ability to turn, while not losing out due to their lack of horsepower. When he arrived here, and they couldn't get the bike to turn: the lack of edge grip means they can't use the rear tire to help turn the bike, and the compromise they have to make on braking for Turn 12, at the bottom of the hill, means they can't soften the suspension to create a bit more grip. The front end needs a lot of support to survive the vicious braking forces as they swoop down the hill and start braking for the corner at Turn 11. But that support means it can't be made more compliant to compensate for the lack of grip.

Even the Aprilia has a similar problem, the rear wheel just floating in corners, rather than digging in on the edge of the tire. It was, said Alvaro Bautista, probably a lack of mechanical grip, with a little drop of electronics thrown in. Whatever the cause, the result was the same: a lot of headscratching over why the bike won't turn, while not thinking too heavily about the type of asphalt involved.

All this leaves Marc Márquez in a very comfortable position. Márquez has been unstoppable here in recent years, taking five wins in a row, each of them starting from pole. His pole time was deeply impressive, but his advantage over his pursuers is equally disconcerting. Márquez' race pace, his ability to string together long runs of low to mid-1'21s mean that this race could be over by the time the bikes get to the first corner.

The big worry for Márquez is that he is a rather mediocre starter. Even starting on pole doesn't guarantee taking the lead in the short drag to the first corner. At a track with only a couple of places to pass – down the hill into Turn 12, on the cut back into Turn 13, or at the end of the short main straight going into Turn 1 – the one thing you don't want to happen is to get stuck in traffic behind a slower rider. Given that, on the basis of race pace in FP3 and FP4 (and FP1 and FP2 as well, come to think of it), every rider is a slower rider than Márquez, the reigning world champion will have to be alert at the start, and try to enter the first corner in as good a position as possible. Once he does take the lead, the pace he has so far shown suggests that it will only be a couple of laps before he has gone. The race could be over very quickly on Sunday.

Three men are close to Márquez' pace, though still clearly his inferior. Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, and Jorge Lorenzo all have a very similar pace, and a very high pace indeed. All three look capable of taking the fight to Márquez, though none of them look very likely to come out of such a fight in any way, shape or form triumphant. Of the three, Pedrosa looks to be the most competitive, though Rossi is not very far behind. On paper, Jorge Lorenzo looks to be in slightly worse shape, but as his Yamaha teammate Rossi said, on race day he will be there.

Behind the aliens, the battle for supremacy among mortals will be very close indeed. Any number of names could be in the mix: Bradley Smith has shown solid pace all weekend, though he managed to slam his face into the top yoke this afternoon, as he got a little over eager on the gas going out of Turn 12 and ran wide. Cal Crutchlow, the two Factory Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro, even Scott Redding, finally coming in from the cold. Even Yonny Hernandez – dubbed by Cal Crutchlow Hero of the Day, for putting on an excellent display under difficult circumstances – could be in with a shot. Hernandez is doing well for the same reason the Hondas do well: he has such a particular style that likes the bike to be spinning and turning, which means he thrives when grip levels are low. Hernandez is a rider to watch on Sunday.

In Moto2, Johann Zarco is once again on pole, and once again looking to have the measure of the field. Zarco put in a calm and collected qualifying performance, also knowing when to back off and let the riders trying to follow him – Franco Morbidelli and Sandro Cortese – break their tow and go find someone else to hassle.

Such hassling will now come at a price, though the price is much higher in Moto3 than it is in the other two classes. On Saturday evening, Race Direction handed out a bumper crop of penalties, punishing a grand total of seventeen penalties for waiting for a tow during qualifying. Four men got hit in Moto2, all of them picking up a single penalty point. Mike Di Meglio also picked up a single point, for exactly the same offence. Only Hector Barbera incurred the further wrath of Race Direction, being handed down two points rather than one, as he is a bit of a serial offender.

It was Moto3 which bore the brunt of Race Direction's anger, with a grand total of 11 riders punished, all of whom were put back three places on the grid, and barred from the first 10 minutes of morning warm up. It was a harsh penalty, but after the severe talking to which all of the Moto3 class were given at Assen about the dangers of waiting on the racing line, it was a crystal clear message. Do not mess with us, Mike Webb and his team were saying. We are deadly serious about preventing this behavior.

Will it make a difference? It might, but the trouble is that the punishments are being handed out just before the summer break. Once the Moto3 paddock reconvenes, there will have been a four-week break from racing, and the riders will have had time to forget about many things, including how harsh the punishments which were handed out at the Sachsenring were. They might need to go through the whole process again at Indianapolis, hoping this time that the punishment will stick.

Danny Kent has never needed a tow. The young Englishman is leading the Moto3 title chase, and is looking back to his old, invincible self at the Sachsenring. Kent was six tenths a second or more faster than the rest of the field during free practice, and just half a second quicker during qualifying. He remained thoroughly unfazed by crashing out of Moto3 QP, when the combination of a sticky soft rear and a well-worn medium front turned out to be a little too optimistic, especially when was pushing hard to trying to get past a backmaker. Kent sat watching, knowing that nobody would get anywhere near his qualifying time. He needn't have worried. If Kent gets away cleanly on Sunday, the race is pretty much over.


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Comments

When was the last re-pave there? Was the assymetric tire run in Q by most riders?

How much is MM over riding the bike for those times? How consistent are his lines?

Is the super soft coming out for the race?

Danny Kent's unstoppable form in Moto3 brings me back to a question that's been bothering me of late: can performance in the top class ever be predicted by that in lower classes?

Even in the two stroke days, there were many riders who were specialists in the smaller classes, and never adapted to very well to the rest. It is always the exceptions to the rule (Rossi, Lorenzo, Marquez) who have done well in all three.

With the 2016 rules, we should be getting quite a few more competitive bikes onto the field. Furthermore, the new tires will throw a massive monkey wrench into every factory's plans, which will prove to be great fun for us spectators.

I look forward to Danny Kent, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartaro and the many upcoming stars to get proper rides in 2016.

In the meantime, let's enjoy the best racing we've seen in MotoGP since the golden era of the two strokes.

'Behind the aliens, the battle for supremacy among mortals will be very close indeed. Any number of names could be in the mix: Bradley Smith has shown solid pace all weekend, though he managed to slam his face into the top yoke this afternoon, as he got a little over eager on the gas going out of Turn 12 and ran wide. Cal Crutchlow, the two Factory Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro, even Scott Redding, finally coming in from the cold.'

I posted a comment responding to the article on Friday covering FP1 and 2 about Redding. It seems like people are keen to will Scott to results and expectations that he hasn't yet earned. I got down voted, which I expected amidst a bunch of comments that earned 5 star ratings. Ultimately, I am not interested in bashing a rider or talking trash about someone who quite frankly is able to ride a motorcycle at the highest level against the world's best competition. That being said, I am interested in the results and what may or may not come of those results this season and next. David wrote about Scott learning to relax on his Honda bringing about faster lap times on Friday, perhaps indicative of a turn in fortunes for Mr. Redding, finally comfortable on the factory bike that he coveted last year. I commented that it was a little early to be praising his practice session times and that we should wait until Sunday to assess his progress. He qualified 14th today. David, you mention him in this article in the company of riders who at this point, Scott can only hope to battle against. You don't mention either of the Suzuki riders, both of which are leading Redding in the points, nor do you mention Petrucci, who also leads Redding in the points and most likely will be battling with him tomorrow. I ran Redding's points from last year and coming into Sachsenring, he was at 28 points in the championship on the Open Honda. He is currently at 30 points this season.

Yes, in the English speaking MotoGP world, the British population is probably more receptive than Americans, Canadians, etc. British Superbikes is more a feeder for World Superbikes than anything we've got here in the states. (Go PJ!) But, can we stop and put Scott's performance this season into perspective? He should feel fortunate to have the opportunity to turn it around next season on the factory Honda. That is one of the hottest seats in the paddock, problems with the bike and all. At what point is it a stretch to talk him up?

about that friday FP1 lap. Was also set during a massive tow from Dani Pedrosa.

I'd love to will him to the top 10, just as much as I wish it was Hayden on that bike.

The realities are that it takes a NORMAL rider 3 years to get fully up to speed in motoGP before they can really show everyone how good they can be. Off the top of my head here's my list of those who needed 3 yrs to really shine...

Smith (All at Tech 3), Iaanone (Pramac, Factory Ducati), Dovizioso (Repsol, Tech3, Ducati), Crutchlow (Tech 3, Ducati), Bautista (Suzuki, Gresini Honda), Aleix Espargaro (Pramac, ART, Forward)

Except Dovi scored podium in his first season, won in the second. Crutchlow never finished lower than 8th in his second season. Pol Espargaro has been outperforming Redding in his Rookie season by quite some margin while having 1 year lesser experience. Same with Maverick Vinales.

All others riders that you mentioned were showing speed at least somewhat in-line with others using the same bikes, while Redding has been nowhere close to other Factory-rule Hondas.

On your earlier comment: You really consider a 4/5 rating from 9 total votes to be a sign of Redding partisanship among the general readership of this site?

I wouldn't consider it a sign of anything but a small sample size.

I cannot cover everyone, or do them justice. Not if I ever want to get any sleep. I am already down to five hours a night on a race weekend, and that's tough.

So what I try to do is write about riders who are either directly going to make an impact, or are interesting in another way. Up until this weekend, Redding had not done much, and has struggled with the bike. Here, he is suddenly quick. That is interesting and different, and I feel needs explaining.

I have not written about Bradley Smith too much this weekend because he is basically continuing to do a solid job, just as he has done all year. There is nothing really new to add there. Suzuki is something similar, but backwards, in that they are struggling with grip, and not surprising at the front.

Every time I finish one these pieces, I feel a massive sense of disappointment at how much I have had to leave out, just due to time constraints. There is not a lot I can do about it though. I will try to write a bit more about people I have missed over the summer break.

Who can stop Marquez?....Dani can. There is so much talk about Marc wins in Sachsenring..but actually Dani has 4 wins on this track in MotoGP class (Marc has 2). And lets not forget how Stoner lost to Dani in 2011 season in final laps fighting with Dani.

Last year advantage Marc had over Dani in FP1-to FP4 was even bigger then this year. And Dani finished only 1.4 seconds behind Marc.

Dani is more then capable to fight with Marc.

You were right - Pedrosa was the only guy who had a reasonable chance against Marquez. I assume he's still not back to 100% following his arm pump surgery, but he sure showed his mettle in the race, and as others have said, he is reknown for having strong results in the second half of the season. He'll be a factor in the race for the title, if not a contender.