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Interview: Bradley Smith, Part 1 - On Bikes, Adapting Riding Styles, And Why MotoGP Aliens Don't Exist

Bradley Smith is perhaps the most eloquent explainer of racing a MotoGP bike in the Grand Prix paddock. The Red Bull KTM rider marries a keen intellect and deeply analytical approach to riding, to a willingness to speak at remarkable length about the nuts and bolts of racing. Those journalists who want to know the hows and the whys of motorcycle racing make a beeline for Smith if they need to understand what is going on out on track.

During his daily 5-minute media debriefs, there is not much time to dive into a subject too deeply. So when I got a chance to conduct a longer interview with Smith, I made the most of it. With the Englishman leaving the Red Bull KTM team at the end of the season, his time is a little less strictly controlled by KTM's PR machine. Which is how I ended up spending over half an hour talking to Smith about a whole range of subjects, and having time to go into them in great depth.

In part 1 of this interview, Smith looks back at his MotoGP career so far, and talks about how different bikes affected his ability to perform. He discusses just how much riders adapt their styles through the course of a weekend, and a race. Taking the example of Jorge Lorenzo's use of the back brake, he explains how he was forced to use the brake to help him get around the limits of MotoGP electronics. And Smith explains to me why he doesn't believe in the concept of MotoGP Aliens, and what Casey Stoner and Marc Márquez are doing which makes them different.

Q: What I want to talk about is basically the technical side of riding. Let's start with how has the sport changed since you've been in the class? You came in on a satellite Yamaha on Bridgestones, and then you switched to Michelins, and then you switched to a factory team on a brand new project. What have you had to learn along the way? How have you had to change your approach, style, everything?

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CormacGP Shoots Aragon: The Race In Spain Was Mainly On The Plain


The second half of 2018 is turning into a repeat of 2017: Dovizioso vs Marquez


Pol Espargaro was back in fine style, until he fell and rebroke his collarbone


Dark days for Movistar Yamaha at the moment


Story of the race: Jorge Lorenzo went down at Turn 1, and blamed Marc Marquez for it. Race Direction disagreed

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CormacGP Shoots Misano - Racing Beauty On The Rimini Riviera

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.


Flying on Friday and Saturday, but when the grip went, so did Maverick Viñales' chances of a podium


Miller Time

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Interview: Valentino Rossi's Data Technician Matteo Flamigni - "When I Check The Data, Valentino Is Right"

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?

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Tom's Tech Treasures: Up Close With MotoGP Bikes At Misano

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.


Thumb rear brake lever on Jorge Lorenzo’s Ducati GP18


Aerodynamic (large version) fairing used at Misano on Andrea Iannone's Suzuki GSX-RR

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Interview: Veteran Crew Chief Gilles Bigot, Part 3 - On Giving The Rider The Bike They Need To Go Fast

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.

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SilversTone: Tony Goldsmith's Photos From Before The Flood


Storm clouds gather over Silverstone. The storm would break on Sunday


If anyone could claim to have lost out at Silverstone, it was Maverick Viñales. The Spaniard was back to his old form during practice


Of course, Viñales only lost a chance to win a race. Tito Rabat lost the rest of his 2018 season after going down on some standing water

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Crunching The Numbers On The 2018 Championship: Is It The Honda, Or Is It Marc Márquez?

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.

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Yamaha's Worst Qualifying In Years: How It Happened, And How Yamaha Are Going To Fix It

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.

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