The frame on one of Valentino Rossi's Yamaha M1s
Peter Bom/David Emmett: At both Assen and the Sachsenring, Valentino Rossi had two different frames on each of his Yamaha M1 bikes. One with a weld on the frame, one without (below). According to Maio Meregalli, the two frames are identical except for the weld (which is present, but has been ground down). This changes the flex a fraction, and gives a very slightly different feedback. At Assen, Rossi only used the frame with the visible weld.
Note also the rubber band being used as a brake lever return spring. Rossi is now the only rider using a rubber band instead of a steel spring, something which used to be common but is now rare. The spring/rubber band is there to give the riders enough resistance, a 'good' rear brake feels quite heavy. The spring is available in a variety of spring rates or stiffnesses (see the color at Honda), and the preload can be adjusted as well. No such nonsense with this old-school rubber band on a multi-million dollar racing motorcycle.
Jorge Lorenzo's recovery is proceeding slower than hoped for, and will be forced to miss the next two MotoGP rounds. The Repsol Honda rider fractured two vertebrae in a crash at Assen, an injury which came on top of the battering his back took in a crash at the end of the Barcelona test two weeks before that.
After Assen, Lorenzo went back to his home in Switzerland to recover, and spent a week in a back corset to help the fractured vertebrae heal. But that process is not going as fast as hoped, and so Lorenzo has agreed with the Repsol Honda team that he will not take part in either the Czech round of MotoGP in Brno, nor the Austrian round at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
MotoGP’s latest rookie revelation talks about controlling wheelspin with his right wrist, saving front-end slides and how his doldrum years made him a better rider
Why do you think you’ve had more immediate success in MotoGP than you had in Moto2 and Moto3?
I think that to be fast in this category you don’t only need a good bike. You need a good bike and good people around you: good mechanics, a good crew chief, everyone must be a family. Also the Yamaha suits my riding style – it’s the bike that needs to be ridden really smoothly. I remember Jorge Lorenzo rode the Yamaha really smoothly and that’s why he won a lot of races. I think I’m quite a smooth rider, that’s why it’s all going well.
“The Suzuka 8 Hours is draining,” explains Alex Lowes. “The starting grid ceremony, the hour long stint on the bike, the conditions. Nothing about it is easy but almost everything about the weekend is special. It’s an amazing feeling to have one of the biggest manufacturers in the world supporting you. When you’re on the bike for the final hour and come across the line to win the race, it’s an amazing feeling.”
The 28 year old WorldSBK star sits third in the championship and heads to Japan as the three-time defending winner. With an enviable record at the 8 Hours - which included leading the opening hour of his 2015 debut aboard a Suzuki - the lap record holder is out to win again. He also knows that winning the race could have a huge impact on the next step of his career.
Without a contract confirmed for 2020, Japanese New Year comes at the perfect time. The 8 Hours is the turning point of the calendar for Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki. This is the race that they want to win more than any other. It’s easy to underestimate the great Japanese race and think that MotoGP titles have taken preference for the manufacturers, but make no mistake this is still the centrepiece of their season.
Switchgear on Johann Zarco's KTM RC16
Peter Bom/David Emmett: Color-coded buttons (with labels) on the left handlebar of Zarco's KTM, green for traction control (TC), red for engine brake (EB), colors chosen for self-evident reasons. The thumb lever with the N on it below the handlebar is used for engaging neutral. You do not want to engage neutral while on track, so it is locked out and impossible to engage during normal riding. The position of this lever varies per rider: Zarco is not using a thumb brake, so can mount it on the left handlebar.
Triple clamp and left and right handlebars on Johann Zarco's KTM RC16
Peter Bom/David Emmett: ' There is a lot to see here. On the right handlebar, Zarco has two buttons, again color-coded. The blue button (LC) is for launch control. What the green button (CE) is for is not clear, though the most likely explanation is either the engine kill switch or the pit lane limiter.
Note the slotted top triple clamp. That is one way of managing flex, something which Yamaha also uses. Look carefully at the small locking bolts running in the slots behind the triple clamps. This is a way of ensuring the two handlebar clipons are in exactly the same position on each side.
The WorldSBK season has simply exploded with bizarre chapters since the last time this wee column was punched out.
The gleeful anoraks will remember it, at least, as a season of three roughly unequal parts. The early third when Alvaro Bautista came in from MotoGP like a tiny trophy typhoon and forced everybody else back onto the cold shelter of their tech basements to try and find something – anything – that could match the rev-ravishing Ducati. That whole red effort huffed, puffed and blew all their houses of hope down flat, right up until Imola.
Even at that serpentine circuit, which snakes uphill and down and has tricky entries ready to punish the reckless, Bautista took a deep breath, accepted he was not finding his way around it like 11-year Superbike man Rea (not on his first visit anyway) and took his medicine in the form of minor points losses. Second and third and then once cancelled wet race for everybody. Hardly the stuff of nightmares...
Like Eldorado, the perfect MotoGP bike doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean Ducati’s Gigi Dall’Igna can stop searching. We spoke to him at Assen
Ducati likes to build a MotoGP bike around its engine. The factory literally did this for its first nine seasons in the championship, when the Desmosedici was essentially an engine bolted to a steering head and swingarm.
Focusing on horsepower can make a lot of sense, because it’s easier to overtake in a straight line than around a corner. So that’s always been Ducati’s way – build a bike that allows its rider to get through the corner as best he can, then pull the trigger.
Miguel Oliveira's eighteenth place finish at the Sachsenring equaled his worst result of the season, his previous eighteenth place finish coming at Jerez. But while his position at Jerez was a fairly accurate reflection of his performance at the Spanish track, the Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider's finish at the Sachsenring belied his actual pace.
Oliveira crashed at Turn 3 on the second lap of the race, wiping the winglet from the right hand side of the KTM RC16, before remounting to chase down the field. The pace Oliveira set in that chase was impressive: take away the 31 seconds he lost in the lap 2 crash, and the Portuguese rider would have been close to Pol Espargaro on the factory KTM, and within sight of a top ten finish.
After the race, I spoke to the Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider to find out what happened, and how his race had gone, as well as taking a brief look at the first half of his season. But we started off with that second lap crash.
Press releases from the series organizers, some of the WorldSBK teams, and the MotoAmerica organizers after the races on Sunday at Laguna Seca: