Cal Crutchlow

Sachsenring MotoGP Preview: Who Can Prevent A Marquez Perfect Ten?

There are two things which any motorcycle racing fan needs to know about the Sachsenring circuit in the east of Germany. The first is that the track has an awful lot of left-hand corners, which all flow together into one long turn, the bike spending a lot of time on its side. The second is that Marc Márquez has started from pole position and won the race since 2010, nine years in a row, in 125s, Moto2, and MotoGP. These two facts are probably not unconnected. Marc Márquez loves turning left, his win rate at anticlockwise circuits hovering around 70%. If a track goes left, there is a more than two in three chances that Márquez will come out victorious.

Márquez is especially good at the Sachsenring. The reigning champion starts every race as the man to beat, but the German Grand Prix is different. Here, riders speak of how close they hope to finish to him, rather than how they are going to beat him. His name is penciled in on the winner's trophy, the race almost, but not quite, a formality.

Even though the race is something of a foregone conclusion, the track itself is a fascinating circuit. On paper, it seems far too short and far too tight to be a MotoGP track, the bikes barely cracking sixth gear, and spending little time at full throttle. But that doesn't mean the track isn't a challenge.

Up and down, round and round

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Assen MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Corner Speed, Conditions, And Consistency - Is The Championship Nearly Decided?

When we say that conditions make a huge difference in MotoGP, we usually meant that a track which was drenched in rain, or a one which was drying and changing, effected the outcome of the race. But there are a couple of race tracks in the world where the wind can have a huge impact on the way a race plays out. One of those places is Assen, where the wind sweeps up from the south east unimpeded by any geographical obstacles and straight into the faces of the riders coming out of the Strubben hairpin and heading down the Veenslang back straight. (Though like all of the straights at Assen, it isn't really that straight. It weaves and winds down to the fast right at the Ruskenhoek.)

On Sunday, the wind, which had picked up significantly compared to the day before, produced three barnstormers of races. It kept a huge group together until the end of the Moto3 race, it produced a thrilling Moto2 race decided in the last laps, and it even helped to bunch the MotoGP riders up, and create drama for most of the race.

The wind, combined with the fact that Assen has so many high-speed changes of directions make it immensely physically demanding. Hustling a MotoGP bike from side to side is never easy, let alone when you have to do it at over 200 km/h. The laws of physics turn momentum into an unstoppable force which you have to overpower if you are to make the next corner.

Physically draining

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Assen MotoGP Preview: Worshipping At The Cathedral Of Speed

Four weeks after press releases full of rolling Tuscan hills, the cliché machine is running out release after release containing the phrase "The Cathedral of Speed". There are of course good reasons to employ a cliché (and press releases usually benefit from trite language, as their objective is to promote the team and its sponsors, rather than the literary skills of press officers), but to call Assen the Cathedral of Speed is to raise the question of whether it still really deserves that moniker.

Much has changed since the first ever Dutch TT in 1925. The first thing that changed was the very next year, in 1926. The first circuit ran over public roads between the villages of Rolde, Borger, and Schoonloo, but the council in Borger refused to pave one of the sand roads on the original course. So in 1926, the race was moved to Assen, run between the villages of De Haar, Hooghalen, and Laaghalerveen to the south of the city of Assen.

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Tom's Tech Treasures: Aero And Frames From The Barcelona Test, Part 1


Valentino Rossi's finger-operated rear brake
Peter Bom: To be able to apply the rear brake deep into right-hand turns (where space to operate the foot pedal runs out), some riders are experimenting with the idea of operating the brake with one or two fingers of the left hand. Valentino Rossi is one of those riders, trying the system at the Monday test after the Barcelona race. The current state of technology in MotoGP, and especially the type of tires being used, makes using the rear brake crucial at various points around a circuit. The rear brake is used particularly to help the bike turn mid-corner. The question is now whether we will see more riders use finger brakes, and at more points in the track.


Spirit level on Dani Pedrosa's rear wheel
Peter Bom: A spirit level in the rear wheel, at a right angle to the direction of travel. Never seen one before or heard of one being used outside of endurance racing, where the wheel stand is asymmetric to be able to stand the bike up horizontally in a pit lane which is not horizontal. I would take an educated guess that the MotoGP teams use a spirit level to ensure the rear wheel is horizontal to be able to zero out the accelerometer sensors, especially the lateral sensor.

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The Comprehensive Barcelona MotoGP Test Round Up: New Frames, New Aero, And Usable Updates For Assen

The Monday post-race MotoGP test in Barcelona felt unusually important, unusually busy, even unusually productive. It seemed like a lot of manufacturers had brought a lot of parts to test, more than just the usual electronics updates, setup tweaks, minor component updates. There were new frames, exhausts, fairings, and even a selection of tires for the riders to test.

Conditions were perfect: hot, sunny, dry, almost identical to conditions on Sunday, making the work of testing easier. A little too easy, perhaps: with a layer of Michelin rubber on the track, the grip was outstanding, far better than it was during the weekend. The nature of the surface at Barcelona is also such that it takes rubber easily. Which is not necessarily the blessing it may seem.

"This morning was very, very fast," Valentino Rossi said. "Until 12:30 you can make a very good lap time. In the afternoon it was hotter, for sure. But it looks like the track is better than yesterday, especially at the end."

The siren call of good grip

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Barcelona MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Crash That Changed The Championship, And Hope For Yamaha Yet

On Saturday night, I wrote that it was impossible to make sense of the times set in practice, to judge who had pace and who didn't, who could be fast for the full length of the race, and who could only be quick for a few laps. There were too many confusing factors: different riders running different tires at different times. Distilling that into a clear picture of what might happen was impossible.

I was right: it turned out to be impossible to predict how the race would turn out. But I was not right because of some great skill in reading between the lines of the timesheets. I was right because of something I had completely overlooked. Sometimes, weird stuff happens and throws everything into disarray. A wildcard, a joker, and any predictions you might have made go right out of the window.

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Mugello MotoGP Race Round Up: Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

The first person you have to beat is your teammate. It is a truth universally acknowledged in the paddock. After all, they are on the same bike as you, with the same support, so the only difference between your results and theirs is down to ability - in theory at least. Beat your teammate, and your team will prioritize you over them when it comes to contract renewal time, will pay you more money, will send more resources your way. If you're in a factory team, the engineers will listen more carefully to you, and more likely to follow the direction of development you set out.

Teams use this same philosophy to motivate their riders. They encourage internal competition, hoping the two riders will push one another on to greater heights, to risk more for better results. Trying to win a race is motivation enough, but adding the frisson of showing up your teammate adds that little bit extra, the icing on the cake. And reward enough should a rider fall short of winning. So far does this internal competition go that for most teams, the order in which rider quotes appear in the press release is determined by who is ahead in the championship, or who finished ahead during practice, qualifying, or the race.

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Mugello MotoGP Preview: Speed, Danger, And Beauty - The Magic Of Mugello

Once upon a time, every Mugello press release started with the same words: "Nestled in the Tuscan hills, Mugello is the jewel in the crown of MotoGP race tracks". After a few years, that cliche became too much even for the writers of press releases. And yet the basic statements in those press releases are as true today as they ever were. There is, after all, a reason cliches come about.

For Mugello is arguably the most beautiful race track on the MotoGP calendar. The circuit is wedged in a valley, the track snaking its way around one side up towards the head, then off along the other side, and down toward the dip between the Arrabbiatas, and the track entrance. It is set against a backdrop of steep Tuscan hills, covered in a mixture of woodland and pasture. It is a bucolic setting for one of the greatest race tracks in the world.

What makes it truly great, of course, is the fact that it is large enough for the MotoGP machines to stretch their legs. The official top speed recorded at the track is 356.5 km/h last year, but the speed trap is at a point where the bikes are starting to brake. Dorna don't like people to talk about just how fast the bikes really go at Mugello, and Brembo are said to be reluctant to state the real speeds reached. There is good reason to believe they are hitting around 360 km/h already, and it could easily be even faster.

Racing, reflected

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Le Mans MotoGP Race Round Up: Taking Victory, Beating Marquez, And Finding More Speed

The key to success in MotoGP is adapting to the tools you have been given. That means understanding what the bike will and won't do, and how to get the most out of it. It means understanding how to make a tire last, where to use the available grip, and how to save wear as much as possible. It means knowing what your crew chief needs to know to give you the bike you need. And it means understanding where a track will give you an advantage, and where to minimize your losses.

The 2019 MotoGP field is an object lesson in just how difficult this can be. Johann Zarco went from chasing podiums on the Tech3 Yamaha to competing for points on the factory Red Bull KTM. Jorge Lorenzo went from being a red hot favorite on the Yamaha to struggling on the Ducati to winning on the Ducati to struggling on the Repsol Honda.

Their prospects of success on these bikes are down to their approach. Lorenzo learned on the Ducati that he had to change his riding style, and if he did, Ducati could tweak the bike to bring it closer to something he could use, and eventually a bike he was capable of winning on. He is now going through that process again on the Honda. Zarco has tried and failed to get his head around the fact that the KTM will not ever be a Yamaha, and he cannot try to ride it like one. He persists in trying to be smooth, while Pol Espargaro wrestles the RC16 ever further forward.

Change is the only constant

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