Another new feature on the site starting this week. After every round of MotoGP, the immensely talented Cormac Ryan Meenan of CormacGP will be supplying a selection of photographs from that weekend's event. If you'd like to see more of his work, you can follow him on Twitter or Instagram, or check out his website, cormacgp.com.
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Watch any session of MotoGP practice and at some point, you will see Valentino Rossi enter the garage, sit down, and start talking animatedly to two people. One, a balding mustachioed red-headed man, is Silvano Galbusera, the crew chief who replaced Jeremy Burgess at the end of 2013. The other, tall, slim, dark-haired, and invariably bearing a laptop, is Matteo Flamigni, Valentino Rossi's data engineer.
Together, this triumvirate work at perfecting a setup for Rossi's Yamaha M1, each with their separate roles. The data engineer seeking out where the bike can be improved, the crew chief finding ways to improve it, and the rider trying to extract the maximum performance from the bike, and telling the other two what he needs to go faster.
At Misano, I spoke to Matteo Flamigni at some length about his job, what it entails, and what it is like working with Valentino Rossi. Flamigni has been with Rossi since the Italian joined Yamaha back in 2004, and has formed a close, almost intimate relationship with the nine-time world champion, four of which Flamigni has had a hand in. We talked about his job, and how it has changed over the years; the precise nature of Rossi's feedback, and what Flamigni has taught Rossi through the years; and why the rider is always right.
Q: First of all, I'd like you to explain your job, explain what you do.
Matteo Flamigni: Basically I’m a data recording engineer, and I’m taking care of the data recording system on the bike. That means we have quite a lot of sensors on the bike that give you many, many different kinds of information. I record and I take all that information in my PC and I analyze that information and try to get the bike performing better and better during the weekend.
Q: Whenever I see you in the garage, it’s you and Valentino and Silvano. You seem to be the core?
Thomas Morsellino is a French freelance journalist and photographer, with keen eye for the technical details of MotoGP bikes. You may have seen some of his work on Twitter, where he runs the @Off_Bikes account. After every race, MotoMatters.com will be publishing a selection of Tom's photos of MotoGP bikes, together with technical explanations of the details. MotoMatters.com subscribers will get access to the full resolution photos, which they can download and study in detail, while readers who do not support the site will be limited to the 800x600 resolution photos.
In the final part of our mammoth interview with Gilles Bigot, crew chief to Tom Lüthi, the Frenchman takes a deep dive into the process of adapting to riding in MotoGP, and some of the problems Lüthi has had in making the switch. The greatest task for a crew chief, Bigot explains, is finding the right setup to give the rider what they need to go fast, and convincing the rider of the best way to get the most out of the bike they are riding.
Through his explanation Bigot meanders through a range of fascinating subjects. From the effect of exhaust valves on two-stroke 500s, via riding a MotoGP bike with the front rather than the rear, to helping Tom Lüthi adapt to the extremely aggressive Honda, and perhaps the mistakes made along the way.
Taken together with the other two parts of this interview – part 1, where Bigot discusses seeing a young Valentino Rossi adapt to four-stroke MotoGP machines faster than his rivals, and how patience can be a key part of adapting from one class to the next, and part 2, detailing Lüthi's specific problems in adapting to MotoGP – a clear and informative picture emerges of the many and varied details which go into the process of switching from one class to the next.
p>Marc Márquez has won 5 of the first 11 races of the 2018 MotoGP season, and leads the championship by 59 points. Honda lead the constructors' championship by 28 points from Ducati. And the Repsol Honda team leads the team standings by 8 points over the factory Ducati Team. So the 2018 Honda RC213V must be quite the weapon, right?
That is the case often argued by some fans. If Márquez has such a huge lead, then a large part of it must be down to the bike. There is only so far that talent can go.
Is it the bike, or is it Marc Márquez? This is a complicated question, a little tricky to untangle, but we at least have an approach which might give us a better idea of just how much of a factor the bike is, and how much of Márquez' success is down to his own doing.
For the Movistar Yamaha factory team, qualifying for the Austrian MotoGP round at the Red Bull Ring was an unmitigated disaster. Maverick Viñales qualified in eleventh place, while Valentino Rossi failed to make it out of Q1 and will be forced to start from fourteenth. It was the factory Yamaha team's worst dry qualifying result since Valencia 2007.
Comparing times from qualifying at Spielberg in 2017 with times from Saturday illustrate Yamaha's predicament quite clearly. Times for the front row riders between this year and last are pretty much identical, as were the times set by Johann Zarco in 2017 and 2018. But Maverick Viñales was half a second slower this year than he was last year, and Valentino Rossi was four tenths slower.
The problem is a familiar one. The factory version of the Yamaha M1 is difficult to control in acceleration, and uses up the rear tire too much. How badly that affects the bike varies from track to track, but the Red Bull Ring is the Yamaha's kryptonite: at a track where most of the corners are from low gear with hard acceleration, the M1 is losing out very badly.
Hubris is a dangerous, but necessary, affliction for any world class athlete. You need to believe that you're as good as anyone and better than most if you're to reach the top. That driving determination to prove the bastards wrong is one that is ingrained in the best. It's an unshakable belief that your will and skill can overcome anything.
Bradley Smith was never noted as a great talent on his route to the top, but he found a way to get there. Hard work, dedication and getting the most from himself was his ticket to MotoGP. Digging deeper was always the primary option for Smith coming through the ranks, and whether it was joining the Alberto Puig Academy as a 12 year old or racing a factory Aprilia in 125GP, Smith always did everything to get the most from himself.
Racing comes down to choices. The impact of decisions to make a move have reverberations as pronounced in the paddock as on the track. When Bradley Smith spoke at Mugello and said he'd retire rather than not race in MotoGP it was clear how slighted he felt by KTM moving on without him.