Editor's Blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP's roulette wheel

Riders want a more consistent tyre from Michelin, but a faster tyre? That's the last thing MotoGP needs

MotoGP is more unpredictable than it’s ever been, because the grid is more closely matched than ever and because each rider’s tyre choice can make or break his race. This is great for fans.

However, there is one cause of the unpredictability that isn’t so great. In recent months many riders have complained about getting dud tyres from Michelin. Quality control is vital in racing, because, if a rider tries out tyre B and finds it works better for him than tyre A or C, he will fit a B for the race and know exactly what lap times he will be able to run, to within a tenth or two.

But if there is a glitch with the tyre carcass or rubber, his whole race will be thrown out of kilter, like he’s gambled his result on a roulette wheel. This problem isn’t exclusive to MotoGP, it also happens with Dunlop in the lower Grand Prix categories and with Pirelli in World Superbike. And tyres have been failing for as long as people have been racing, all the way back to Brooklands and the Isle of Man TT in the early days of the 20th century.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Ducati's cornering tool: press to turn

Ducati’s fastest three MotoGP riders all use a thumb-operated rear brake, 25 years after Mick Doohan introduced the system to Grand Prix racing

Look at this photo of Jorge Lorenzo riding through a right-hander during preseason testing. He’s at the apex, or thereabouts, with his knee on the asphalt and his elbow almost kissing the kerb. He is already looking out of the corner, working hard to turn the bike as quickly as possible, so he can segue into the acceleration phase. Now look at his left thumb: he’s at pretty much full lean, but the thumb is operating the rear brake via a custom-made thumb-brake lever.

Most of us would crash if we used the rear brake in the middle of a corner, but the brake is an essential cornering tool for most top racers, who use it in many ways that everyday motorcyclists don’t.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The wisdom of Dovi and a marauding Márquez

So much to talk about from Qatar, so let’s work our way through the weekend like Andrea Dovizioso would if he was a journalist

Dovizioso was remarkable from Friday afternoon to Sunday night – cooler, calmer and more confident than I’ve ever known a championship contender. He applies science to his racing, working his way through problems logically and methodically until he achieves the result his calculations have predicted. If he thinks fourth place is the best he can achieve, he will be happy with fourth. If he thinks a win is possible, he will be happy with a win. And he was.

All weekend the Italian’s comments must’ve been a worry for his competitors, even though everyone knew that Dovizioso and his Desmosedici love Losail, finishing second on their last three visits.

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Guest Video Blog: Freddie Spencer Analyzes The Season Opener At Qatar

MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. After every MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.

The MotoGP season got underway on Sunday, and so Freddie Spencer takes time to sit down and analyze what went on under the floodlights at Qatar. Fast Freddie has a few comments on the problems caused by the new schedule at Qatar, before going on to discuss a fascinating qualifying session, which suggested that Marc Marquez would be the man to beat.

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Guest Video Blog: Freddie Spencer Answer's Questions And Reviews Preseason Testing

MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. Every week after each MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.

A new season means another season of video blogs by the legendary 500cc champion Freddie Spencer. In this blog, Fast Freddie answers a number of questions sent in to Motor Sport Magazine podcast he did with Mat Oxley, then goes on to examine the state of play in MotoGP after preseason testing. He runs down the different manufacturers, how Honda have started strong, how Jorge Lorenzo has been up and down, and how Yamaha have lost their way.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP 2018’s Holy Grail

Marquez… Zarco… Dovizioso… Rossi: this year there’s one performance factor they’re chasing more than any other: mid-corner turning

Motorcycle racing has always been about walking a tightrope. For the riders, at least. Now in MotoGP it’s the same for the engineers.

MotoGP’s new tech reality, ushered in by control software and Michelin control tyres, has narrowed the set-up window to little more than those arrow-slits you see in castle walls. Engineers must work harder than ever to unlock the secret to going fast, by getting the motorcycle within that narrow range, then asking the rider to find his way around any remaining imperfections.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How ominous is Márquez's preseason pace?

Honda had a poor preseason in 2015, 2016 and 2017, but this time it looks like Marquez, Pedrosa and Crutchlow are in seriously good shape

During the last few seasons Honda has struggled through preseason testing and launched into the new season with distinctly unimpressive results at the season-opening race. And yet last year and the year before Marc Márquez turned things around to win the championship.

So far, this year is very different: Honda was the dominant force at the first two tests, showing super-fast race pace and taking two of the top three positions at Sepang and three of the top four positions at Chang in Thailand.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - What's going on at Yamaha?

The factory team seems in disarray, so could Johann Zarco be Yamaha’s greatest hope for this year’s MotoGP crown?

The Movistar Yamaha team seems to be digging itself an ever-deeper hole. Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi completed the second tests of the year in eighth and 12th positions. Their lap times weren’t a disaster, but more worryingly, both riders were confused by their inability to get closer to the front, which is always a bad sign.

On Sunday evening Viñales seemed so lost that it was hard not to feel a bit sorry for him.

“By a long way this is the worst test,” he said. “Even Sepang, that was the worst one since I’ve been at Yamaha, then today it’s even worse. I don't know… Honestly, I don’t know. We are struggling as a factory team, so I don’t know. I don’t know what to say. It’s difficult… We are missing a little bit in all areas. I’ve used different chassis, different engines, different electronics, but there is no solution, so I don't know. Honestly, I don't know... Maybe it’s better to ask Yamaha…”

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoE: Make some noise

Next year MotoGP gets its first new world-class championship in more than half a century, but the electric MotoE series must sound great

Within the next few months MotoGP fans will see a MotoE machine ride a few demo laps at a Continental Grand Prix: perhaps Jerez, Le Mans, or most likely Mugello, because both MotoE’s Energica motorcycle and the series sponsors Enel are Italian.

So far the MotoE World Cup hasn’t got fans agog with excitement, mainly because an electric motorcycle race doesn’t involve a quarter of million earth-shaking petroleum explosions. In other words, MotoE is too damn quiet, for the moment, at least.

But the championship is hugely significant in all kinds of ways. MotoE is Grand Prix motorcycling’s first completely new world-class category since the 50cc class born in 1962.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Will Lorenzo be 2018 MotoGP champion?

Of course he could be. Those who last year suggested Ducati had paid too much for the wrong man failed to see that 2017 was merely an overture

Last March, in the Arabian desert, I thought that Jorge Lorenzo was going to pull off the biggest surprise since Valentino Rossi won the 2004 Africa Grand Prix. Lorenzo and his new Ducati hadn’t had the best of times at the first two preseason tests, but when they tested at Losail, they were less than two-tenths off the fastest time.

The problems that had affected Lorenzo and the GP17 at Sepang and Phillip Island disappeared at Losail, which is a very particular kind of a racetrack. Lorenzo loves the layout and so does the Ducati (between them they’ve won six races there), so I believed they could win the race. But then that biblical storm hit, leaving Lorenzo way back on the grid.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “That’s how crazy KTM people are!”

In our final technical analysis of all six MotoGP factories we look at KTM, the Austrian brand that made excellent progress in its rookie season

When the 2018 MotoGP grid rides out of the Sepang pit lane on Sunday morning there will be no need to speculate which factory has made the biggest forward strides since last year’s first preseason tests.

It’s rookie MotoGP brand KTM, of course, because it’s much easier to move forward when you’re just starting out than when you’re trying to find that last tenth of a second.

During the first four dry races of 2017, KTM’s deficit to the race winner averaged out at over 40 seconds. During the last four dry races, the gap had shrunk to just over 20 seconds. If KTM can repeat that performance this year it will reduce the gap to 10 seconds. Then, if the company signs a MotoGP winner for 2019, it could fight for race victories.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Aprilia’s central focus in 2018

Aprilia had an up-and-down 2017, so what does the Italian factory need to do to make Aleix Espargaró and Scott Redding competitive in MotoGP 2018?

Aprilia is MotoGP’s underdog; the factory with the smallest race department of them all.

Racing manager Romano Albesiano has 70 staff working with him at Noale, which is considerably less than most of his rivals. Suzuki probably has MotoGP’s second smallest race shop, although the company won’t reveal numbers.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Suzuki catch up?

Suzuki’s MotoGP effort seemed to go backwards last year, so what must the factory do to close the gap to the front-runners?

Suzuki has a lot to do in 2018, mostly to erase the memory of a gloomy 2017. Any factory team fighting back from difficult times is under a lot of pressure; but probably none more so than Suzuki, where the factory management has never seemed that dedicated to Grand Prix racing. Unlike Honda and Yamaha, Suzuki has drifted in and out of the premier-class over the past few decades, so this year Andrea Iannone and Álex Rins need some good results to keep the Suzuki Motor Corporation signing off budgets.

Suzuki returned to MotoGP in 2015 after a three-year absence and scored its first-ever dry-weather MotoGP victory in 2016. The all-new GSX-RR was a superb motorcycle: rider-friendly, fine-handling; all it needed was more grunt and fully sorted electronics.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Yamaha give Rossi a winning bike?

Valentino Rossi’s chief engineer Silvano Galbusera explains what went wrong last year and what needs to go right this MotoGP season

Yamaha has a lot of work to do: the factory needs to win back the MotoGP world title and (for the sake of Dorna and millions of fans) build a bike good enough to keep Valentino Rossi racing for another season or two.

Achieving both those goals will keep Yamaha busier than any of the other factories, because it’s got to dig Rossi and Movistar team-mate Maverick Viñales out of a big hole. Last year was one of Yamaha’s worst MotoGP seasons, with just four wins from 18 races. But it wasn’t only last year that was bad. Since the start of MotoGP’s new technical era – different tyres and electronics – Yamaha’s win rate has slumped by more than 50 per cent. Indeed the factory won fewer races in 2016 and 2017 combined than it did in 2015 alone.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Ducati: all about the middle of the corner

The second in our series of tech investigations into all six MotoGP factories: this week we reveal the main aims on Ducati’s 2018 R&D list

Last season Ducati played its best MotoGP campaign since its glory days with Casey Stoner. The factory won six races, fought for the riders title to the final round and very nearly made it into the top two of the constructors' championship for the first time since 2008.

It’s been a long road through the wilderness since Ducati lost Stoner’s racing genius. Ducati Corse engineers have had to throw away many of the Desmosedici’s unique features to make the bike competitive again. First, the screamer engine was replaced by a big-bang configuration when Valentino Rossi arrived, then the carbon-fibre chassis went before he was gone.

After Gigi Dall’Igna joined, crankshaft rotation was changed to improve steering. Now the factory is working to make the Desmosedici more like the other bikes through the crucial mid-corner phase.

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