Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP's big 2016 change

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


MotoGP's big 2016 change

At Valencia last week Michelin more or less matched Bridgestone’s lap times, albeit at the cost of a pile of trashed carbon-fibre and scuffed leathers.

Making exact comparisons between lap times with the French tyres and the Japanese tyres is fruitless, because most riders were also testing Dorna’s compulsory software.

In brief, Marc Marquez was the fastest man on Michelins, four tenths quicker than his best race lap, but half a second off his qualifying best. Maverick Vinales was the best improver: second fastest in the tests, 1.6 seconds better than in the race and two tenths quicker than in qualifying. Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi struggled most, both slower than their race pace.

The stopwatch numbers made the Michelin men happy, the complaints they received from riders about lack of front feel (the main cause of the many accidents) less so.

What Michelin may or may not know is that they have only a year or two to show what they can do – to make Marquez and the rest go faster than ever before – before Dorna put the brakes on. Dorna’s long-term desire is to reduce corner speeds. Not because they think that 65 degrees of lean angle is too much but because riders are running out of room to crash.

Very soon the fastest tracks – Phillip Island, Mugello and Brno – won’t have enough runoff. Bikes are hitting barriers, sometimes riders too. Most famously, Rossi’s Yamaha vaulted the Armco at Brno a couple of years ago, narrowly missing a BMW car chauffeuring VIPs around the track access road. That’s what you call a VIP experience.

There are two solutions to this problem. You either take Mugello and those other tracks off the calendar, because topography and costs make it prohibitive to continually expand gravel traps, or you reduce corner speeds.

It’s a no-brainer, to me at least. MotoGP’s fastest tracks are the best. They produce the best action and the best racing. Look at Valencia, a typically modern ‘intestinal’ racetrack that winds its way around itself, leaving nowhere to overtake (never mind the conspiracy theorists of recent weeks).

Dorna’s Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli has a favoured solution: to reduce wheel rim sizes to reduce contact patch, grip and therefore corner speeds. Compared to changing bore and stroke or rewriting rider-aid software, it’s a breeze.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

Total votes: 67
Total votes: 111

Back to top

Comments

Loving the articles that circulate during the winter time, thought provoking and intriguing at times... only time will tell what will happen next year with the aliens resuming battle alongside their attempts at mind games...

Total votes: 92

As the author says, the last time Casey Stoner was on Michelins he had problems, so now he appears to want to come back, he might want to rethink that!

Total votes: 122

but I think Casey's main problem with the Michelins was the fact that the team didn't always give him the tyre he chose - AND they "forgot" to tell him.

Interesting article Mat, many thanks.

Long long long ago the aliens were defined by their ability to firstly manage their tyres and secondly to adapt to the tyre once it had gone off. It didn't usually make much difference to the start of the race but it often provided a large degree of uncertainty towards the end.

I'm wondering if new compounds and ways of building carcasses has all but eliminated the dramatic drop in tyre performance and instead we will see Michelin forced to use inferior compounds that have less grip from the get go.

Dunlop touring elite springs to mind, pretty sure it was made of concrete and they painted it black to look like rubber :-)

Total votes: 102

His main problem was trying to go as fast as the guys getting the 'Saturday Night Specials'.
He was as fast, but didn't have the grip the 'illuminati' were getting...... :-)

Total votes: 101

You're absolutely right with trying to keep up with the "illuminati" (great description!) and being poorly equipped to do so.

But he was also being shafted by Michelin. In his book he describes going through practice and qualifying, feeling great, only for Michelin to say "Sorry, this is the tyre you will use for the race" and fit something he hadn't used all weekend! It explains a lot.

Interestingly he also describes watching Rossi during that famous last race of 2006. Rossi had put himself on pole, only for the fastest guy all season to go backwards as soon as the lights went out, and then crash. To Stoner this looked awfully familiar to his own experience with Michelin. Michelin (and MotoGP) would have had a lot to gain from increasing their profile in the 'States....... Who knows, but it's an interesting observation.

Total votes: 97

Instead of reducing the contact patch, which is already small, why not make all runoff areas uniform. Deep sand seems to slow down the bikes and riders better than gravel. If that's a true statement, why not make all traps out of sand and get rid of materials that are prone to allow skipping.

Total votes: 103

Dry sand is soft, wet sand is hard and very difficult to manicure. Once it's wet it stays wet for days as well.

Total votes: 94

Interesting overview of the new rubber supply in the top class. While the significance of this vital component can never be emphasized enough, I have a hard time getting excited about it or finding it more interesting than it is - which is not very much. One just hopes they do their job without affecting the outcome of the really interesting part of this awesome diversion: the fight to see who the best rider in the world is at the moment. But I guess we discount tyres at our peril. What I wish is probably the same as most racers in that Michelin don't go through a spell that becomes a period of peril for the riders like happened with Bridgestone. But that perverse portion of the population who watch racing to see someone crash will probably not be disappointed in the beginning, especially I fear when they get to that most treacherous short tract of intestine of all in Germany, where the characteristics we've glimpsed will surely satisfy all the twisted curiosities out there. As always, may the best man win - minus any rubber stamp decisions by the new French court of final resort who once again have final say on what gets enacted into law in our favourite sport. But as Michelin Man said long ago: "Let me issue and control a nation's rubber supply and I care not who writes the laws."

Total votes: 87

Spokes100 has a point, but it should be remembered that when Stoner was on Michelins (2006) he was not on the BEST Michelins. The ones he got were the second or even third best, with a chap named Rossi getting the Overnight Specials. Next year it's an even Michelin playing field, isn't it?

Total votes: 109