WorldSBK Jerez Preview: Too Hot To Handle?

Lord Almighty,
I feel my temperature rising

Higher higher
It's burning through to my soul

Elvis wasn’t singing about WorldSBK racing at Jerez this weekend when he covered Burning Love almost 50 years ago, but he might as well have been. During the course of this weekend’s races the rider’s will face an incredible challenge due to the conditions.

With air temperatures hovering close to 40°C in recent weeks the difficultly is in keeping a cool head and avoiding your core temperature be rising at an alarming degree. The moment that the body temperature starts to rise, even for an elite athlete, they are running on borrowed time. When a critical point is reached the body transitions into survival mode, and suddenly the typically razor-sharp racing brain takes a back seat to surviving until the end of the race.

To combat this we’ll see riders keeping cool with air blown into their faces while they sit in the shade with cold towels wrapped around their necks and wearing ice jackets. The aim of the game is to get your body temperature as low as possible before going into battle and then hope that you’re body can deal with the heat when the action gets underway.

"I was cooking!"

The heat may not burn through your soul at Jerez like Elvis fears but it will certainly burn through the skin. In conditions like those riders will face this weekend they’ll struggle to deal with the heat. During last weekend’s MotoGP race Pol Espargaro put it best by saying:

“I was cooking! I’ve never felt anything like this. My hands have never been burning like this in my life. After 14 laps I was completely cooked. I was just riding to try and finish in front of the guy behind. I was trying to breathe on the straights because I couldn’t take in the air. I’ve never felt this before, even when I was injured. It was super hard.”

During the race the biggest threat is traffic. If you’re stuck in the middle of the pack, and riding in the slipstream of the bike in front, the heat rises incredibly fast. It can be as much as 10°C hotter when you’re in the bubble. Without “fresh” air the body has no chance to recover. Lungs will be burning and even being able to catch your breath will be tough for riders. It becomes a battle of survival rather than a battle of speed.

Hot asphalt

Jerez in mid-summer is no joke. Last week, track temperatures soared to over 60°C in places and almost turned the asphalt into a skating rink at times. The greasy, slick surface became treacherous, and on Sunday we saw lots of crashes. For WorldSBK, using Pirelli tyres, it will be interesting to see how riders manage the race. Will they be aggressive and try and split the pack or will someone hit the front in a bid to control the pace?

The key to any race in conditions like this is to manage your approach and try to be smooth. Spinning up the rear tyre - especially through Turns 4, 5, and 11 - will see the tyre temperature soar and a rider left scrambling for grip. Some riders are traditionally very strong at this and last year the home hero Alvaro Bautista was the master, as he lapped half a second faster than the chasing pack.

His lightweight frame made the difference. With less load being pushed through the rubber and a complementary riding style, it added up to two race wins for the former MotoGP rider. Braking early on corner entry, he didn’t over load the front tyre and his slow entry allowed him to focus on maximising his exit speed. This style works fantastically if he’s out in front but is tough to make work in the middle of the pack where he’s likely to be this weekend.

Fresh air please

When you’re racing in the pack,the physical toll on the rider increases, but that also goes for the tyre. With no fresh air to cool the tyre, the internal pressure rises too. As this happens the grip falls away in a cycle. You need to make your moves when opportunities present themselves.

You also need to make sure that you get the most out of your single-lap pace and qualify well. Being on the front two rows of the grid becomes crucial. Avoiding the pack at any cost is imperative.

Jerez in July will be a test unlike any we’ve seen in WorldSBK but the action this weekend should be thrilling once again.


This is part of a series of articles published in partnership with RacingLowdown.com, run by MotoMatters.com contributor Steve English.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, supporting us on Patreon, by making a donation, or contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.

Source: 
year: 
2020
round_number: 
2

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Comments

We are back! SBK back in action today after almost five months break since Sunday March 1st at P.I.

I'm still pondering Jerez I & II GP races. Now it's WSBK round 2.

If round 1 at Phillip island is anything to go by Jerez should be very entertaining.

SBK 2019 at Jerez was the turning point for Alvaro Bautista. AB19 won two races from memory but also crashed. AB19 crashed out of the lead of the race at the start of lap 2. At that time Alvaro was miles ahead in the championship.

Jonathan and Alex Lowes had a coming together in the last corner. Now they are team mates & Lowes is leading the championship. Interesting dynamic there this weekend & season.

It's going to be HOT!

The CEV (Spanish championships) are racing at the circuito de Catalunya this weekend. So I guess the covid problems in Barcelona are not insurmountable. Hopefully MotoGp will run at Catalunya when that rolls around on the calendar.

 

You talk about heat? How about the SUZUKA 8 HOUR Race.  I covered a few in the 1990's.  That was murder.  So hot. Some of the teams even had small kiddies swimming pools at the back of the pits, for a rider to cool down in , after his stint. The riders had to do a number of stints during the day.  I drank heaps of POCARI SWEAT Drink to keep hydrated. Maybe it was Aquarius ... That's right. Manufactured by Coca Cola... 

Why don't riders get a suit cut slightly large in the upper body so they could put one of these on underneath it before each session?
https://www.ezcooldown.com/products/complete-boodycool-hybrid-cooling-vest

Why not pave a track with portland* cement concrete?  Not only would it be cooler due to the lighter color, but it is a non-viscous material and does not contain lighter petroluem fractions that can volitalize in hot weather.

Can Steve English start a parc fermé interview with a word other than "Well"?

*Lower case per the Portland Cement Association.