Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s big 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 change

The balance of MotoGP is set for a dramatic change as the bias moves from the front of the bike to the rear

Next week MotoGP undergoes its biggest technical shakeup since the arrival of the four-strokes back in 2002: one-size-fits-all rider aids, Michelin tyres and plenty else.

Which will have the greatest effect on the racing? No contest: it’s the tyres, the final interface between motorcycle and racetrack.

The switch from Bridgestone to Michelin will change the whole balance of MotoGP, because over the past seven years MotoGP riders enjoyed a front tyre that was better than the rear; now they have a rear that’s better than the front.

When Bridgestone took over MotoGP the bikes and the riders had to change. This is the way racing works: if your equipment gives you an advantage in a certain area then you must exploit that advantage.

Bridgestone’s front slick was so good that bike design and ultimately riding technique evolved to get the maximum out of the tyre. Michelin’s MotoGP technical director Nicolas Goubert, who last worked in MotoGP in 2006, watched the changes with interest.

“After Bridgestone came in the riders and the factories maximised their performance in the braking area,” he says. “The engineers evolved the bikes in that direction by changing the centre of gravity and so on to allow riders to gain maximum time during braking.

“And of course riding style evolved with that, with Marc Marquez pushing even further in that direction so everyone had to follow that way. Even if a rider makes so much of the braking area that he loses a little time from the apex onwards it doesn’t matter, because he gains so much in braking that he gains overall. Also, straight-line speed has increased, so the speed at which you can decelerate from those higher speeds becomes key, plus if you want to overtake somebody it’s easier to do that in corner entry.”

Now MotoGP commences a new journey, in the opposite direction, and no one knows who’s going to be ahead this time. Hopefully the shift in bias from front to rear and thus from corner entry to corner exit will be wonderful for fans. Because however jaw-dropping it was to watch Marquez tuck the front to help pivot the bike around the apex of a corner, it’s always going to be more fun watching riders getting funky with the rear, as Marquez, Jack Miller and others illustrated during November’s Valencia tests.

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

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Comments

Mat says the front end problem was fixed with the GP15 and has the potential to gel very well with the Michelins this year, but after reading a great point made by superbike planet below, I wonder if Ducati have potentially made in error in choosing their new test rider who was a demon on Bridgestones.....but Michelin....not so much.

Have to say its made me way more interested in seeing Casey ride the Duc again even more so than before.

"Possibly the most random, undeniable and pertinent fact to keep in the back of your mind for the next few days:

While his Wikipedia page states that "... (many) consider Casey Stoner to be the fastest and most talented rider to have ever raced a motorcycle" Stoner never won a MotoGP race while he rode on Michelin tires."

( http://superbikeplanet.com/2016/Jan/16012827.htm )

Would be to add "because they did their very best to make sure the top echelon of riders got the best tyres, and often gave him race tyres he didn't even practice on."

Furthermore, whilst Mat's point is probably true, that control tyres don't reduce costs, they do even up the competition a bit these days, compared to the 'Saturday night specials' era.

When Casey was on Michelins he was also on a satellite bike. He managed to get a pole position in his second race, finished on the podium once, and was in the top 8 for every race that he finished.

His success started when he changed to Bridgestones, but it was also the year he changed to the factory Ducati team, and the formula changed to 800cc. There were many variables.

People always said that his time on dirt bikes taught him to steer with the rear -which worked so well for him on the Bridgestones- but there's not much front traction on dirt either...

The same Casey Stoner who damn near won his 3rd ever MotoGP race, on Michelins, only to be pipped by Melandri 1 corner from the flag. And as you mention, on a privateer entry no less.

I really can't see him having too many problems.

I like the clarity re the significance of the 2016 change as alike the arrival of 4 strokes. A few mentions now here and there re Pedrosa. Perhaps the lighter riders will benefit relatively from less "smash" of the softer front construction. He picks the bike up early to drive out of corners. Maybe this is his year? But the Honda is the bike that has the greatest change to make...will they? How the heck can that stiff forward biased 2015 chassis work w the Michelins for the saps starting the season on it? Ouch.

Mechanical grip will offer feel that the new electronics won't. Suzuki and Yamaha both have reasons to smile. Lorenzo and edge grip seems unclear...he won't upset the front getting to the apex, but will he find the edge grip he needs? His transitions are SO smooth, but he is so sensitive to small deficits in edge grip.

Ducati - they already have a drive out of the corner fast bike with heaps of power. If that is where we are going instead of the braking zone for relative gains, then perhaps that says something substantial. Last season Iannone showed something battling that revealed a potential for greatness. Maybe he and Ducati can manage an adaptation to the sum of the tires, electronics and a changing complexion of on and off track dynamics. Happily apart from shite stewing around 3 of the front runners. Ready to take command of corners after apex. Cool headed and aggressive. Making the most of opportunities as they arise and ready now to force them to occur. Look good to you too? Ready to see some red paint on some Japanese fairings?

Didn't win a MOTOGP on Michelins? Well, let's see. His first year in MOTOGP was on a LCR Honda, non factory bike, and LCR's first year in MOtOGP. Please, not talking Moto2, Moto3 and the like, just MOTOGP, please. I know LCR was racing 250 before racing the upper class, MOTOGP, please.

He did fairly well his next year and, imho, it had not all that much to do with switching from Michelins to Bridgestones.

So Stoner is to be discredited for not winning on a non factory Honda, using Michelins, in his first year of MOTOGP???? The list of riders who did win in their first year on a NON factory bike must be pretty small. I wrote 'non factory' bike.

Memory says Jorge Lorenzo used Michelin tires in his first year, 2008, and although he was spectacular wining the first pole of that year, had a habit of falling down the rest of the year breaking bones in his body. Factory bike with Michelins it was for Jorge, Rossi on Bridgestones.

I'm presently a Lorenzo fan for the way he conducted himself last year and raced faster than his team mate. A non choker if there ever was one .

Go ahead a quote where someone "discredited" stoner as you put it. I believe an interesting fact was pointed out. He's never won on Michelin tires (something you didn't disprove). Weather you decide that upsets you or not is your business but lets not go drumming up things that weren't said.

I remember hearing Neil Spalding in the Faster documentary (not 100% if thats the right movie but im pretty sure) talking about how the Bridgestones were basically designed to suit the Ducati in 08 and it was the Yamaha and Honda that had are harder time adapting. Ill have to look for his explanation when I get home later.

was not made by Superbikeplanet so much as the one you made yourself:
"I wonder if Ducati have potentially made in error in choosing their new test rider who was a demon on Bridgestones.....but Michelin....not so much."

As was coorectly pointed out Stoner as a rookie stuck a privateer bike on pole, on Michelins, in his second ever MotoGP race, and was one corner awaway from winning at his 3rd ever MotoGP race, on Michelins, save for a last gasp effort from Melandri.

So it's difficult to fathom how Ducati have made an "error", but I'm happy to discuss any options you may see as a better choice. Had you been in Gigi's blood red boots, who would you have chosen instead?

I definitely think Dani is one to watch this year.

He's finally fit, had a good end to last season, has experience on the Michelin style of tyre, and he's a rider who maximizes exit speed from the turns already due to his riding style.

Assuming the Honda isn't a complete basket-case, I expect him to be a serious contender for the title, and based on last year, would even consider him to be more likely to be the leading HRC rider.

Privateer bike, let's call it a Customer bike. I do agree that it is harder to win on a customer bike.