Analysis

Covid-19 And MotoGP, Where Are We Now? How Marshals May Be The Next Stumbling Block

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, pictured here at Brno 2019

On the day that practice was supposed to get underway for the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, we are still a very long way from any racing happening. Instead of riders warming up for the fifth race of the season, they are preparing for the third eSports race of 2020, to be played on the brand new MotoGP 20 computer game. It is also the first Virtual Grand Prix, featuring riders from all three classes, instead of just MotoGP.

It's something, for many fans, but it's not the same. Seeing bikes battle it out for an hour so in a computer game, and enjoying the banter between the riders, is entertaining, but it misses the visceral pleasure of real racing. Three days of practice, the roar of engines, the squeal of rubber, the scraping of kneepads over asphalt, the smell of hot oil. The carpet of yellow flowers which line the grass around the Jerez circuit. The party in downtown Jerez, with bikes riding up and down, and fans crowding the bars and restaurants, their deafening chatter about the events of the day making conversation all but impossible.

When will those days return? Nine or so weeks into the global lockdown due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it is clear that a return to what we traditionally think of as a motorcycle race is still some way off. That's the bad news. But the good news is that it is looking increasingly likely that there will be some form of world championship motorcycle racing this year, as countries start to look at lifting restrictions on travel and events. There appears to be reason for cautious optimism, though the SARS-CoV2 virus is still very much in the driving seat. Plans are starting to be made, but they are at the mercy of the virus. If the disease flares up again, those plans get torn up and Dorna moves onto the next lot.

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Tech Briefs: Tyres, Or How Evolution Brings Revolution In WorldSBK

In the era of control tyres in WorldSBK Pirelli has shown that it’s no excuse to halt development

In racing, you’re always competing. You’re battling against the clock and you’re battling against your rivals. Performance and pushing the boundaries is the key to success. But what happens when you are a control supplier to a championship? For over fifteen years that’s been the conundrum for Pirelli.

It’s very easy to look at tyres in a control era and think that development has stood still. Why would a tyre company want to push to the limits when the only time they’ll be noticed is if something goes wrong? For Pirelli, the sole tyre supplier to WorldSBK since 2004, the goal is to ensure development keeps pace with the evolution of current road-going machinery.

A control tyre doesn’t have to mean a lack of development. Recent years have shown the opposite, with changes to the profiles of tyres and the introduction of a host of “development” tyres in 2019. The goal for Pirelli for these tyres is to develop them into the tyres that customers can buy in the shops for use on track days and in club races. The goal for Pirelli has always been to produce production tyres from their involvement in WorldSBK for their customers.

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Coronavirus Update: The Challenges Facing MotoGP And WorldSBK In 2020 And Beyond

No news is good news, at least as far as the current outbreak of COVID-19, or the coronavirus is concerned. And for thirteen days – nearly two whole weeks – we went without a change to the calendars of either the WorldSBK and MotoGP calendars. Given the speed at which the world has changed over the past two weeks, that is almost an eternity in normal time.

The same could not be said for other motorsport disciplines. For two weeks, we have been inundated with cancellations and postponements. The Le Mans 24 Hours Endurance motorcycle race has been postponed until August. The Daytona 200 and Daytona TT flat track races were postponed until October. The Merzouga Rally has been canceled, the route of the Silk Way Rally changed. The Isle of Man TT was canceled, Supercross and MXGP had rounds canceled and postponed.

The TT wasn't the only iconic event to be canceled. F1 canceled Monaco, probably the most prestigious race on its calendar, and postponed the races at Zandvoort and Barcelona, joining the Bahrain, Vietnam and China races in being pushed back to the second half of the year. The Le Mans 24 Hours car race was put back until September.

Changing day by day

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Tech Briefs: Chatter, Or When Harmony Overwhelms A Motorcycle

Jack Miller, Ducati, Misano 2019 MotoGP round

If you eavesdrop on a rider and his team debriefing in a garage during a session you’ll invariably hear a comment about chatter. It’s the oldest enemy for a rider because it robs confidence. With the bike moving underneath them they can’t open the throttle and the problem exaggerates the longer it continues.

But what exactly is chatter? It’s a harmonic imbalance created by vibrations and frequencies on a motorcycle. Man and machine need to be in perfect harmony to go racing but sometimes it’s the imperfect harmony of frequencies can upset everything for them.

"The word chatter gets used a lot, but a lot of the time, it's not strictly accurate," says former Moto2 crew chief and technical expert Peter Bom. "It's applied to everything which shakes and vibrates, but in the original sense, chatter was caused by the front or rear tyre (or both). Improved tyre construction has eliminated a lot of what used to be called chatter."

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Dorna Press Release: Carmelo Ezpeleta - Dorna Working To Ensure Modified Calendar Is Only Consequence Of COVID-19 Outbreak

Dorna today issued the following press release, containing a letter from CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, concerning their ongoing plans for the 2020 season:


Letter from Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta
Friday, 20 March 2020

Dear all,

Today, the OR Thailand Grand Prix was set to be getting underway in Buriram; the race weekend that was meant to be the second of the season. The entire MotoGP™ paddock and family was supposed to be doing what we love the most: racing. We would have loved to watch the riders from each category fighting it out on track and delighting us to another last corner battle like we’ve come to expect from Buriram.

We would have loved to see the many international members of the paddock back hard at work for our fans; both those who travel from all over the world to join us trackside in Thailand and those who, like they do every race weekend, follow us faithfully from every corner of the globe.

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Coronavirus: The State Of Play, What Happens Next, And Why

The outbreak of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has wreaked havoc on many things: public health, international transport, the global economy, and much more. But as MotoMatters.com is a site about world championship motorcycle road racing, we are concerned above all on the effect it has had on the MotoGP and WorldSBK seasons. As of Friday 13th March 2020, Dorna and the FIM had postponed the Buriram, Austin and Argentina rounds of MotoGP, and the Jerez round of WorldSBK, and were forced to cancel the MotoGP class at the season opener at Qatar.

Things have changed so fast over the past two weeks that it is almost impossible to keep up. As Twitter racing wit SofaRacer put it, "A month ago, the state of Marc Márquez’ shoulder was the big talking point of the season. Halcyon days." Since then, a small, contained outbreak of a new flu-like disease has gone from a curiosity in a remote location far from any traditional racetracks to a global pandemic, sweeping through the racing heartlands of Italy and Spain.

Pace of change

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Coach Them Up! - A Closer Look At Rider Coaching

WorldSBK riders are embracing the role of track spotters and rider coaches, but what do they actually do?

The SAG Team Moto2 rider coach Alex Debon at the 2019 Sepang round of MotoGP

If Tiger Woods needs a swing coach, it stands to reason that even a world class motorcycle racer needs a coach too. Gone are the days where riders eschewed coaching; now they are embracing it. In paddocks, like in any walk of life, keeping up with the Joneses is a factor of life. When one rider makes a change, it forces others to do the same.

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2020 Qatar Race Day Subscriber Notes: A Plan for Moto3, Why Night Time Is Tough On Tires, And Where Next For MotoGP?

The 2020 Grand Prix Motorcycle Road Racing Season is officially underway. On Sunday, we had two races to kickstart an uncertain and disrupted season. The star attraction may have been missing, with MotoGP sidelined due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus, and Italians banned from entering Qatar, but Moto2 and Moto3 delivered, as they so often do.

So here is what we learned from the opening round of MotoGP (the series, not the class) at Qatar:

  • Moto3 – why having a plan matters
  • Moto3 – harsher punishments are starting to bite
  • How the changed schedule threw Moto2 a curve ball
  • Echoes of Moto2's debut season to kick off the second decade of the class
  • Why the opening Moto2 race may not mean a lot down the stretch
  • What difference a change of management can make
  • How Remy Gardner's steel discs can light up the desert night as well as carbon
  • What next for MotoGP?

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2020 Qatar Saturday Round Up: American Poles, Dunlop's New Front, Scooter Brakes, And Where We Race Next

It has been a decade, but it is here at last. The last time a rider from the United States of America took pole position in a Grand Prix was in 2010, at Indianapolis, where Ben Spies set the fastest time in qualifying. The last time an American rider was fastest in the intermediate class was Kenny Noyes at Le Mans in 2010. 2010 was a good year for Americans in racing.

Are we likely to see a revival of Americans in Grand Prix racing? Unlikely, given that there is only one rider from the US current in the entire series. But that doesn't preclude seeing a lot of success for the US this year. Joe Roberts has found something this year. The American Racing team (owned, ironically, by someone who is not American) have taken a big step forward with the Kalex, and the bike suits Joe Roberts' riding style much better than the KTM did.

He proved that during the test here last weekend, where he was inside the top ten, and half a second behind Jorge Navarro, the quickest rider at the test. Roberts stepped it up a gear on the race weekend, being fastest on Friday, breaking the lap record at the track, and leading Marco Bezzecchi by a quarter of a second.

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2020 Qatar Friday Round Up: New World Riders, Riding At Night, And KTM Gets Faster

There is nothing like the sight of racing motorcycles entering a track for timed laps to bring a circuit alive. If yesterday, the atmosphere was best described as eerie, the baritone roar of a pack of Moto3 bikes was enough to snap the MotoGP paddock out of its malaise. We went from wandering around looking lost to watching the timing screens, and jumping out of the way of bikes as they entered the pits.

Walking up and down pit lane, and with a chance to focus on Moto2 and Moto3 exclusively, a few things catch your attention. First, the luxurious space afforded to the MotoGP teams: each MotoGP rider has a garage to call their own, giving bikes, riders, and mechanics plenty of space to move around in. The Moto2 and Moto3 riders have vastly less room, with three two-rider teams squeezed across two garages. That forces mechanics to squeeze Moto2 bikes (as wide as most MotoGP machines) in between concrete pillars and the thin partition walls used to separate the teams, and give them somewhere to display their sponsors' names.

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