Analysis

2019 Argentina MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Honda's Race Pace, Ducati's Revelation, Yamaha's Race Pace, And How The Rain Means None Of This Matters

Qualifying in MotoGP is always important, but at the Termas de Rio Hondo track in Argentina, it matters just that little bit more. That would seem odd at such a fast and flowing track, but the problem is that the circuit doesn't get used much. That leaves the surface dusty, and without much rubber on the track to provide grip. Over the three days of the Grand Prix weekend, the three classes gradually clean up the track and put down a layer of rubber, adding to the grip.

The trouble is, because it is practice and qualifying, most of that rubber gets laid down on the racing line, as everyone tries to find the quickest line around the circuit. Stray from that line, and you are quickly back in green, dusty tarmac, with nary a hint of rubber on it. The grip is gone. "That's an important thing, because if you go 1 meter wide, you feel the bike like it is floating," is how Danilo Petrucci describes it.

That's why qualifying matters so much. If you start from the first couple of rows, you stand a chance of getting in the leading group, and biding your time until a safe opportunity presents itself. But if you don't qualify up front, or you mess up the start, then you have to take your chances out on the dirty part of the track, and hope your luck holds.

Run wide at your peril

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2019 Argentina MotoGP Friday Round Up: Honda Highlights The Rules, Ducati Find Some Pace, And Quartararo Impresses Again

It feels as if MotoGP has been talking about nothing but aerodynamics for a while now. It has been growing in importance since the advent of spec electronics made winglets a viable method of managing wheelie control, but the protest and subsequent court case against Ducati's use of its swing arm-mounted spoiler has meant we have spoken of little else since then. The decision of the MotoGP Court of Appeal did nothing to quell the controversy, but then again, whatever decision it made was only going to make the arguments grow louder.

But there is reason to believe that we are approaching the endgame of Spoilergate. On Friday night, reports say, Honda submitted its design for a swing arm-mounted spoiler to Technical Director Danny Aldridge, and had it accepted. This would not normally be remarkable, were it not for the fact that Honda had also submitted the same spoiler on Thursday night, and had it rejected as illegal.

How did this happen? On Thursday, Honda presented the spoiler, saying it was to generate aerodynamic downforce, reportedly. That goes against the guidelines issued by Danny Aldridge, and so he had no choice but to reject it. On Friday, Honda submitted the same spoiler, but told Aldridge it was to increase the stiffness of the swing arm, according to British publication MCN. Because that is not prohibited under the guidelines, Aldridge had no choice but to allow it.

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Aero Wars Ignited In Argentina: Ducati Defends, Aprilia Accuses A Broken System

If anyone thought that the decision of the MotoGP Court of Appeal would bring the controversy over Ducati's swing arm-mounted spoiler to a close, they were severely mistaken. When the paddock reassembled at the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina, the media – sparse in number, due to the astronomical cost of attending the race – had the opportunity to question the various factories involved in the controversy.

How happy they were with the decision of the court varied, understandably. But there was one thing that united all five manufacturers involved, no matter what side they were on. Ducati on the one side, and Aprilia, Honda, KTM, and Suzuki on the other all felt the process fell far short of what is needed to manage the burgeoning field of aerodynamics. That meant that precious budget, destined for developing the bikes, was being spent on lawyers to represent the factories in court.

And even though the FIM MotoGP Court of Appeal has spoken, the feeling lingers that this is the beginning of something, rather than the end. The parties are just as far apart as ever, the decision of the court serving as a basis for division rather than something the rival manufacturers can unite around. For Ducati, the decision was a vindication of what they had been saying. For Aprilia, the decision didn't address the underlying problems, and was merely one FIM body backing up the decision of another.

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Crunching The Numbers: Will The Ducati Panigale V4R Have Its Revs Reduced In WorldSBK?

Alvaro Bautista came to the WorldSBK championship and has been unstoppable. Since figuring out how to get the right feeling from the front end of the brand new Ducati Panigale V4R, he has won all six races held so far – four full-length races, and the two new Superpole sprint races held on Sunday. His winning margins in the four full races were 14.983, 12.195, 8.217, and 10.053 seconds. He won both sprint Superpole races by over a second as well.

Naturally, that kind of domination attracts attention. The WorldSBK series is meant to be a close battle between bikes based on road-going motorcycles, and as modification of the standard bikes is limited, there are mechanisms in the rule book for keeping the disparity between the different bikes racing to a minimum, giving any manufacturer which sells a 1000cc sports bike a chance to be competitive.

To ensure this, the rules have a section on balancing performance between the different bikes competing. The method of balancing performance has varied over the years, but the current rules use only the maximum revs to try to keep the bikes close. The maximum rev limit is set when each new model is homologated, following a formula described in the rules, and explained by WorldSBK Technical Director Scott Smart in a video on the WorldSBK website. The short version is that the bikes are limited at 1100 RPM above the point at which they make their peak horsepower.

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Analyzing The Ducati Aero Appeal: The Process, The Future, And Where The MSMA Goes From Here

Tomorrow, at 11am CET, the MotoGP Court of Appeal meets to consider the case of Ducati's swing arm spoiler, fitted to all three Desmosedici GP19s raced at the opening MotoGP round in Qatar. Three trained lawyers are to hear the case put by Aprilia, Honda, KTM, and Suzuki, that Ducati's spoiler breaches the technical guidelines set out by MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge.

The Court of Appeal is hearing the case after it was rejected twice on the Sunday evening of the Qatar race. The FIM Stewards first rejected the protest submitted by the four manufacturers against Ducati, which the four manufacturers appealed to the FIM Appeal Stewards. After hearing evidence, the FIM Appeal Stewards decided more expert evidence and background data was needed to make a decision, and so referred that decision to the highest court inside the FIM, the FIM MotoGP Court of Appeal.

At the heart of the appeal is the belief that Ducati's spoiler creates an aerodynamic downforce. This is a violation of the technical guidelines issued by Danny Aldridge during preseason testing, which banned aerodynamic parts being attached to the rear swing arm unless they were being used to deflect water, protect the tire from debris, or cool the rear tire.

Testing uncovers problems

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2019 Qatar MotoGP Race Round Up: From Masterful Management To Youthful Recklessness

For a place which 95% of the paddock hates going to, Qatar certainly knows how to make us want to come back. The area between Doha and the Losail International Circuit has been a mixture of noisy construction, omnipresent sand and dust, and an ever-changing and convoluted road system (the route to the track regularly and literally changing overnight) ever since I first went to a race there in 2009. But once at the circuit, the track layout serves up some of the best racing in the world.

Fittingly, the title sponsor for the Qatar round of MotoGP was VisitQatar, the Qatari tourist office aimed at stimulating inbound tourism to the Gulf peninsula. To be honest, the best thing VisitQatar could do to attract visitors to the country is just play all three of Sunday's races on a loop. In the Moto3 race, the first eleven riders all finished within a second. The first five riders in MotoGP finished within six tenths of a second. And the winning margin in all three races was five hundredths of a second or less. These were races decided by the width of a wheel, the winner in doubt all the way to the line.

The MotoGP race was a thrilling affair, a close race from start to finish, with wild passes as far as the eye can see. Riders jockeyed for position, vying to make their contesting strategies pay off. Yet it still left some fans feeling empty, with the impression that they were being cheated of an even better race if the riders has been willing and able to go flat out as soon as the lights went out all the way to the end.

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Analyzing Ducati's Aero Attachments: Four Factories Protest, But Are They Legal?

Andrea Dovizioso's victory in the opening race of the 2019 MotoGP season at Qatar is currently subject to appeal. Dovizioso raced in Qatar using the aerodynamic components previously debuted by factory Ducati teammate Danilo Petrucci at the Qatar test, and used by Petrucci and Pramac Ducati's Jack Miller during practice at the Qatar MotoGP round.

After Dovizioso won a thrilling, close race by a margin of 0.023 seconds from Marc Márquez, the top five finishing with six tenths of a second, but the race was the first time Dovizioso had used the new aero parts. That prompted four factories – Aprilia, Honda, KTM, and Suzuki – to lodge a protest with the FIM Stewards, claiming that the aerodynamic device attached to the swingarm (see the tweet from MotoMatters.com contributor Tom Morsellino below) is illegal.

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2019 Qatar MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Freezing Desert Nights, And The Promise Of Red Hot Track Action

You don't expect to be cold in the desert. On Friday evening, most of the paddock were wandering around in short sleeves and t-shirts until after 9pm. On Saturday, people were pulling on jackets shortly after sunset. By the time MotoGP finished, people were starting to lose feeling in their hands.

It wasn't just the temperature. The wind had picked up enormously on Saturday, blowing sand onto the track in places, and blowing any residual heat from ever nook and cranny around the circuit. It was not the normal chill of the desert evening. It was cold.

That caused more than a few problems during the evening. Session after session, class after class, riders fell, mostly at Turn 2. That is the first left hand corner for nearly 2km, after the final right hander before the long straight, and then hard braking for Turn 1. That is a lot of time for the front tire to cool down, especially when there is a hard headwind blowing down the main straight, whipping the heat from the tires.

Horses for courses

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2019 Qatar MotoGP Friday Round Up: Explaining New Tech, Viñales' New Crew, And Not Moving The Race Start

And so hope and expectation meet reality. On Friday, we could stop fantasizing about just how good this season might be, and see for ourselves just how close the field is in the premier class. Well, how close it is outside Marc Márquez' insane record-crushing lap in FP2, made following Maverick Viñales around and using him as a target. It may only be Friday, but Márquez beat Johann Zarco's pole-setting lap record from last year by three tenths of a second. And they will only be going faster again tomorrow.

Any concerns that Marc Márquez might ease himself back into MotoGP, nursing the shoulder he had operated on last year until it was back at 100%, were laid to rest. "No, I ride full attack. I am riding full attack, I am pushing," Márquez said.

Viñales, who knew that Márquez had been following him when he made his fastest time, joked about it being a magnanimous gesture towards a weakened rival. "Yeah, I knew he was there, but I know he is injured, so I tried to help him a little bit... " the Monster Energy Yamaha rider joked. "Maybe I helped him too much! But it was important to see where our competitors are, so at the moment, we have to put the head down and work, work, work. They are ahead at the moment, some tenths ahead, so we need to keep working really hard."

From development to practice

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The Comprehensive 2019 MotoGP Season Preview: High Hopes And Realistic Expectations

It is tempting before each season to say that this is going to be the best season ever. It is a phrase that oscillates somewhere between hope and expectation, though more often than not, it is hope which has the upper hand. The 2019 MotoGP season promises to swing the balance back toward expectation, as the sport goes from strength to strength.

The reason MotoGP went from having 17 bikes on the grid in 2010 and the races decided virtually by qualifying position is simple. Thanks to a mixture of coaxing and cajoling, bribing and bullying, Dorna managed to get most of the rule changes they wanted. First, a switch back to 1000cc, bore limited to impose a theoretical rev limit (which has remained theoretical, as revs soar back above 18,000). Next, the adoption of spec electronics, forced through with the threat of CRT bikes, along with a promise by the factories to supply bikes at an affordable price.

Then the introduction of the more user-friendly Michelin tires. The concession system, whereby successful factories have engine designs frozen, giving less successful factories a chance to catch up. And finally, an influx of talent to fill a field of closely competitive bikes.

Close as you like

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