Analysis

2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review Part 4: The Wildest Silly Season Yet

Why do they call it Silly Season? Its origins lie in the 19th Century, when a London publication found itself concocting trivial stories to try to pad out its pages. Its meaning has mutated to cover any story consisting mainly of speculation and rumor meant to fill empty column inches. And in motorcycle racing, it has come to mean the period of time during which riders and teams are negotiating over new contracts, and working on who will be riding where the following season.

This year, Silly Season has needed a new name. It has gone from beyond silly to being outright insane. In a normal year, riders touch base with teams at Jerez, start talks in earnest at Mugello, and sign contracts during the summer break, announcing deals at the first race after the break. But this is no normal year. As we approach the first race after the summer break of 2016, all but two of the twenty-three seats in MotoGP have already been filled, officially or unofficially, and Silly Season is basically over.

The madness started before the season had even begun. At the Movistar Yamaha launch in January, Jorge Lorenzo stated publicly that he wanted to sign a new deal with the team before the start of the season. Yamaha did their part, sending offers to both Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi in the period before the first race at Qatar. Lorenzo did not sign his deal, however. Valentino Rossi did. The seven time MotoGP champion has tied his long term future to Yamaha, and never seriously looked elsewhere. Yamaha and Rossi will be making money for each other for many years to come.

2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review Part 3: Aerodynamcs, or Snoopy & The Red Baron

One factor which could be having an effect on tires is the aerodynamics war which has seen wings sprouting from every forward surface of the fairing. The outbreak of strake cancer has seen the winglets massively increase in size and surface area, making the latest version on the Ducati Desmosedici GP resemble Baron von Richthofen's Fokker Dr.I triplane.

Ducati were the first to understand and seize on the potential of the aerodynamic winglets, debuting them at Qatar last season. There were met with some skepticism for most of last year, until Yamaha suddenly rolled out their own version of them at Aragon. In 2016, the winglet craze has infected the entire paddock, with the bikes of all five manufacturers now sporting some form of aerodynamic device.

Why did Ducati start fitting winglets? Because they work. One engineer who has seen the data told me that the effect was visible in it. The bike wheelies less when it has wings fitted compared to not having winglets. That reduction in wheelie means that wheelie doesn't have to be managed using the electronics to reduce power and torque. That, in turn, means the bike can accelerate harder out of the corner, reaching higher top speeds at the end of the straight. The other manufacturers have all come to the same conclusion, hence the outbreak of winglets.

2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review Part 2: Michelins Aren't Bridgestones

New electronics was just one of the changes for 2016. The switch from Bridgestone to Michelin has been a much bigger story in the first half of this season. The wildly different character of the tires has had a big impact on the championship, changing riding styles and rewarding some riders, and punishing others.

How should we appraise the first nine races with Michelin as official tire supplier? Their return has seen both ups and downs, highs and lows. In a sense, you could say it has gone very much as you might expect it to go, in that there were always going to be surprises they hadn't taken into account. As Harold Macmillan once said when asked what he feared most, "events, dear boy, events".

The biggest fear of the MotoGP riders after the Valencia test in November last year was Michelin's front tire. A spate of crashes – over twenty in two days, with almost everyone hitting the floor – where riders lost the front inexplicably was a great cause for concern. To their credit, Michelin worked to address that issue, bringing a much improved front to a private test at Jerez in November, and another iteration to Sepang. The front had grip again. It was no Bridgestone, but there was at least some predictability to it and some feedback from it.

2016 MotoGP Mid-Season Review Part 1: Spec Software - You Win Some, You Lose Some

Before the second half of the MotoGP season gets underway, now is a good time to take a look back at what happened in the first nine races, and how that reflects on the next nine. There has been plenty to talk about, with new rules turning results around, and riders transforming themselves to chase greater success. There have been plenty of surprises in all three classes, and more likely to come. Despite this, clear favorites have emerged in MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3. There is still everything to play for in all three championships, but betting against the leaders is looking increasingly risky.

New rules bring the expected and the unexpected

Fans and media were excited about the changes for the 2016 season. New tires and spec electronics should have shaken the field up, and made the racing closer. Halfway into the season, things haven't quite turned out the way we might have expected. The complexities of change have been shown to favor those best equipped to handle them. That, inevitably, means that the factory teams have done better than the satellite teams.

World Superbike Silly Season Update: Melandri's Back, Bradl Switches, Aprilia Arrives

While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing. With the Kawasaki riders' contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.

The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.

FIM Release Report Analyzing Luis Salom's Crash

The FIM have published a report into the crash in Barcelona, in which Moto2 rider Luis Salom lost his life. The report, which can downloaded from the MotoGP.com website, was drawn up based on information from Technical Director Danny Aldridge and Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli, as well as analysis of the data by an independent telemetry expert, Lluis Lleonart Gomez, who was appointed by Luis Salom's family.

The report reaches a number of conclusions. The first is that there is no evidence of mechanical failure on the part of the bike. The right clipon, holding the throttle and brake assembly, was found to be loose when the bike was examined after the crash. However, this could be put down to crash damage, as clipons often come loose when the bike hits the ground. Salom's bike slid on its right side before impacting the wall, and this is the most likely cause of that damage.

The rear wheel was also damaged, but data from the (compulsory) pressure sensors showed that rear tire pressure was at the recommended pressure of 1.5 bar when the bike crashed. The most likely cause of the rear wheel damage was when the bike hit the wall, the air fence not being sufficient to absorb the impact of the bike. On the CCTV footage, it appeared that the rear wheel hit the wall first, catapulting the bike back onto the tarmac runoff and hitting Luis Salom in the chest.

2016 Sachsenring Sunday Round Up - Of Intermediates vs Slicks, Gambling Right, and the Evils of Radio

It was a wild and weird weekend at the Sachsenring. The second in a row, after the bizarre and thrilling two-part race at Assen three weeks ago. The weather proved to be decisive, favoring the brave and the smart. And, perhaps, the lucky, but luck is always a part of racing. Sometimes the conditions come to you, and when they do, you have to capitalize.

That is precisely what happened in the MotoGP race at the Sachsenring – and in the Moto3 race as well, come to think of it. For motorcycle racing's big guns, they started on a soaking wet track with a light drizzle falling, but by the halfway mark, the first hints of a dry line were starting to form. That line would start to grow over the next few laps, and then it came down to two judgment calls: when to come in and swap bikes, and whether to gamble on slicks, or play it safe with intermediates.

Bike swaps are governed by circumstances as well as choice. Windows of opportunity open quickly, but they are often overlooked. The information the riders have to base their decision on is limited to what the team can convey via the pit board, and what they can glean from the jumbotron screens that line the circuit. They find themselves locked in battle with other riders, something which can easily devolve into a game of chicken. Unlike the game of chicken, though, it isn't the rider who blinks last who wins. It's the rider who blinks at exactly the right time.

2016 Sachsenring Saturday Round Up - A Weird Grid, Examining Lorenzo, and the Toughness of Q1

Starting on pole, or at least on the front row, is important at every race track, but at the Sachsenring, it is doubly so. There are very few passing opportunities at the German circuit: Turn 1, though it is not easy. Turn 12, after the run down the hill. And if you are smart, Turn 13, the final corner, but that is usually only possible if you have just been passed on the way into Turn 12, and the rider who passed you is now off line.

So a strong qualifying is crucial. Normally, that means the fastest riders make their way to the front of the grid. But not on Saturday. At the Sachsenring, a series of crashes meant that the grid had a strangely unfamiliar look. Three satellite riders on the two front rows, and two riders universally acknowledged to have the strongest pace well down the field.

At least they weren't crashing in Turn 11. With the sun out, the asphalt significantly warmer, and with riders having learned the hard way that they need to get the line right through that viciously fast corner, riders were instead finding different ways to crash. Andrea Iannone went down unexpectedly at Turn 1. Jorge Lorenzo hit the deck at Turn 8, then again at Turn 1, bringing his crash total for the weekend to three.

John Laverty's Pace Notes: Sachsenring 2016 - On Body Position, and Engine Braking

John Laverty is a former professional motorcycle racer, who raced three seasons in BSB. He is currently manager and rider coach to his brother Eugene Laverty, racing for the Aspar Ducati team in MotoGP. John acts as a track spotter for Eugene, checking what he sees on track from Eugene and other riders, and providing feedback to help the Aspar Ducati rider go faster. John will be contributing his insights into the things he sees at each track on a regular basis.

The Sachsenring circuit presents unique challenges for riders. For Eugene Laverty, it was the final sector, and the section between the two final corners. That was where John Laverty took me to start our brief tour of the German circuit, to see where he could help Eugene to improve and go faster.

John was looking at the body position of the riders, and in particular, the gap between the rider's backside and the back of the seat. "If you look at Rossi, he's right forward," John said. "And this is what I'm telling Eugene, he's sitting much further back. I know he's doing the right thing to try to keep rear contact, but I feel he is doing a lot on track to try to correct faults in the engine braking and chassis set up, which need to be sorted off track by the crew. They can adjust the bike settings to cure the problems."

He produced a handheld video camera, to film Eugene and other riders from the side, to show to Eugene later. This is something a lot of rider coaches do, though they use it only sparingly, often using the official footage.

2016 Sachsenring Friday Round Up: Turn 11 Again, Replacing the Sachsenring, and Marc vs Maverick

It was a wasted day at the Sachsenring. The day started cold but with a dry track, then, ten minutes into MotoGP FP1, a fine mist of rain started to fall, making already tricky conditions positively terrifying. A few journalists walked through the Sachsenring paddock up towards the end of pit lane, where the fences give you great views of Turn 1 and Turn 11.

Just as we arrived, Scott Redding's battered Pramac Ducati returned to the paddock in the back of a recovery trailer. When we turned around to watch the bikes coming through Turn 11 again, Jorge Lorenzo slid through the gravel towards us, his foot caught up in his bike for a while. While we were watching Lorenzo hit the gravel, we heard another bike scrape across asphalt and into the gravel. It was Stefan Bradl's Aprilia, the German having lost the front at Turn 11, just as Lorenzo had.

The rain continued, never really heavy enough to soak the track properly, only lifting towards the end. A few riders went out on wet tires to check their repaired bikes, coming straight back in again. The morning session was lost to the weather conditions. The afternoon session was a little better – at least it was dry – but the track temperatures meant that the tires never really got to the operating range they were designed for.

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