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 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.
This is true across all areas of MotoGP engineering, but none more so than in the category’s holy grail of tech: mid-corner turning.
Getting the motorcycle turned in the middle of the corner is currently the biggest factor in faster lap times. This is for two reasons.
First, if the rider can turn the bike quickly mid-corner he minimises the time he must rely on Michelin’s front slick, which doesn’t have the grip or the turning of the old Bridgestone front.
Second, if he can turn quickly he doesn’t have to stay on the side of the tyres to keep turning, so he can point the bike out of the corner and lift it onto the fatter, grippier part of the rear tyre. This allows him to open the throttle wider and faster, without exceeding the mechanical grip of the tyre or the anti-spin capabilities of Dorna’s lower-tech traction control.
He, therefore, gets through the corner faster and more safely, while stressing the tyres less, so it’s a win-win-win.
There are all kinds of ways of making a motorcycle turn faster, most obviously with revised chassis geometry. Johann Zarco, for example, runs unusual settings on his Yamaha M1 to get the bike turned super-quick. But as the factories dig ever deeper into engine and chassis dynamics, there are two areas of development that are particularly interesting.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.