Of the deluge of content produced around MotoGP and motorcycle racing, two articles I read stood out today. Both on topics which are highly current: the first, by Mat Oxley, on how Kalex designs and builds their chassis. The second, by former commentator and veteran journo Julian Ryder, is a perspective on penalties, and the policing of a sport like motorcycle racing.
First, to the piece by Mat Oxley. In it, he talks to Alex Baumgaertel, one of the two main people behind Kalex. Baumgaertel explains in detail Kalex' philosphy of motorcycle chassis design, and what they are looking for and trying to attempt when they build a chassis and a swingarm. All of Kalex' parts are machined from solid, rather than heated and pressed, as Kalex believes that allows them to preserve the properties of the aluminum being used. The stiffness stays as designed, the crystal structure of the aluminum alloy unaffected by the heat or pressure used in pressing frames.
The downside of machining is that it is an expensive and time-consuming process. Machining from billet leaves a lot of waste (which is recycled, melted, and turned back into aluminum billet) but requires an expensive CNC machine to run for between 24 and 48 hours continuously. The machined parts are then welded together.
Baumgaertel also explains how they build their swingarms. These always look huge, but in fact they use a lot of material but machine it down to form very thin sheets: mostly between 5mm and 1mm in parts. As ex-Moto2 crew chief Peter Bom likes to say, the Kalex swingarms are so thin that it feels like they would dent if you were to flick them with your finger.
Naturally, Baumgaertel doesn't mention the Honda chassis Kalex built for HRC. He isn't able to, thanks to non-disclosure agreements which are standard in these sort of cases. But there is plenty in the article to give the reader an idea of what Honda are hoping to achieve. Baumgaertel dissects what the chassis is doing in each part of the corner, and what the bike needs to be able to perform.
I have a selection of photos from the Jerez test, taken by ace tech spy Niki Kovács, which include several shots of the Kalex chassis on Stefan Bradl's bike. Those will be posted soon, along with other highlights from the test.
The second piece I'd like to highlight is by Julian Ryder, over on Superbikeplanet. Ryder lays out clearly and concisely the problems with policing the rules facing MotoGP as a sport. With references to history, he points out that a large part of the sport at the highest level is self policing. Riders who consistently push over the limit can find themselves on the receiving end of punishment.
But Ryder also sets out the issues which MotoGP has created for itself. With the advance of technology, it has been able to detect rule-breaking in real time. The downside of this is that it creates a lot more work for Race Direction and the Stewards, but it also creates natural injustices. When automatic systems can detect a bike exceeding track limits by mere millimeters, handing out penalties feels more like an injustice. The point of penalties for exceeding track limits is to prevent riders from gaining an advantage, but the point at which riders actually start to benefit from that is a very gray area, and not the artificial binary which technology allows.
The biggest issue Ryder highlights is the utter lack of transparency which surrounds MotoGP penalties. Penalties are handed down with no explanation and no accountability. Fans, media, teams and riders just have to accept the justice dispensed without question.
The whole piece is well argued, though I would counter that in-race penalties also have a positive side. They have an immediate and irreversible effect, leaving a clear and indisputable result. Of course, for this to work and be accepted, it requires absolute trust in the FIM Stewards. That can only come with accountability.
An example: if Valentino Rossi had been given an immediate penalty during the race at Sepang in 2015 - at the time, the rule book would have allowed a ride-through penalty as appropriate, though now he would more likely be given either a single or double long-lap penalty - then a lot of the drama and controversy could have been avoided. No penalty at Valencia, no appeal to the CAS, and a straight and clear race for the championship at the final round.
One other point in Ryder's piece. He mentions the incident between Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer at Anderstorp in Sweden which ended up deciding the 1983 500cc championship. "We still don’t really know what Freddie did to Kenny at Anderstorp in 1983," Ryder writes.
Actually, we do, though it helps if you speak Spanish. Legendary journalist Dennis Noyes, in his podcast Radio Ocotillo, recounts how Spencer outbraked Roberts in the penultimate corner of the race and ended up running both riders off track. Highly recommended.
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Don't mention Selangor
Kropotkin has made reference to that incident between those two racers who aren't racing bikes at the moment. Eight years on it may be acceptable to revisit the errors of judgement involved.
Has race direction improved and developed their protocols and procedures? Can RD handle another serious clash of personalities?
Doesn't look like it from where I'm watching.
The sport needs better systems, more clarity and a predictable, consistent approach to transgressions.
Racers will push the limits wherever they can gain any advantage.
Fast Freddie and King Kenny would have sorted it out differently forty years ago.
Considering Marc's points…
Considering Marc's points deficit and that the Honda will probably not give him the chance to emulate Peco's charge of 2022, they may as well run the entire weekend as a test session. Any number of weekends if it means progress.
I still think that the penalties from Jerez were exactly what the the riders and a lot of 'fans' have been screaming for, for a few years now. They just don't like the reality.
In reply to Considering Marc's points… by WaveyD1974
I’m pretty sure MM said this…
I’m pretty sure MM said this exact thing at the beginning of the season and then proceeded to chuck it into the gravel while taking 2/3rds of the podium with him.
In reply to I’m pretty sure MM said this… by SATX_west
Well, pole and a podium…
Well, pole and a podium showed him a different way. It was only race 2 round 1. One very typical MM overextension but with consequences. If he had missed Oliveira it would have been just another MM spill and forgotten already.
Good references, both
Saw them both elsewhere. Ryder's was especially good, I thought, but then I've always been a fan of his writing.
Interesting comment from Peter Bom about the Kalex swingarms.
I don't think I know another journalist/website who would so clearly recomment other places to read stuff. Big hats off to you, Mr. Emett, as Neil would no doubt say.
In reply to Good references, both by larryt4114
I continue to experiment…
I continue to experiment with what I am doing here. If my objective is to inform, then sharing articles from other sources is better than restricting the site to what I can produce myself. I would like to do a little more analysis and commentary, and that may entail a bit more blogging, rather than straight journalism. And that means sharing interesting stuff I find.
One day, I might even figure out what I'm doing...
100% concur -- David knows a…
100% concur -- David knows a bigger tent lifts all boats, or something to that effect
Although I think Morrison wouldn't be able to resist the opportunity to say "Chapeau" once again.
Race Direction could work with the commentators.
Great articles. Thanks for sharing. I do like the referee analogy and it made me realise just how many televised sports do infact make the viewer aware of what the breached infringement is or could be, and then provide a brief explanation of why a penalty was or wasn't issued. Generally you just take that onboard and move on. Sometimes they get it wrong, and when they do, pretty much everyone knows it.
I'll say it again
I've been saying for the last 3 seasons that Race Direction and the FIM Stewards need to be made to hold a press conference after every race and explain why certain penalties were issued, why others were not, and cite the exact regulations used. The key to solving this increasingly untenable situation is to bring it out into the open, with full explanations and accountability.
The problem from Day One has been that Race Direction and the Stewards operate with complete authority, behind closed doors, with absolutely zero accountability. There has never been a scenario in all of human history where total power and zero accountability has ever worked well.
In reply to I'll say it again by Buddykitchen
Who would ever agree to be a race steward under those conditions? Made to stand upon the plinth while the assembled crowd throw rotten vegetables at you? Working for a sport you (probably) love and ending up hated by all and sundry for it? I'm personally amazed that Spencer has not thrown in the towel given what it's done to his slightly whacky but none-the-less previously revered name. The other two fly right under the radar due to being unknown in the racing world, while Freddy cops the lot.
Along with PPP I also listen to the podcasts by the-race and crash - it helps while away the hours commuting. Both sites have a tendency toward the tabloid and the personalities are sometimes polarising, but one of them (I think Huewen on Crash) recently had a similarly good spiel somewhat in defence of Spencer and the stewards, or at least playing devils advocate. The gist of it was that the problem is mainly in the communication, don't make the stewards themselves face up to the jeering crowd, but employ a press officer to professionally communicate the whys and wherefores of each decision. Maybe then we and the riders and teams might start to understand what the basis of the decisions are (rightly or wrongly).
In reply to I'll say it again by Buddykitchen
I agree with Bregan. In many…
I agree with Bregan. In many ways a stewards press conference would be interesting. For those interested in the judgements it would be entertaining and informative. Beyond that I cannot see it serving any other purpose.
On the question of accountability; who would they be accountable to ? When a stewards press conference and accountability are mentioned together it suggests that the stewards would be accountable to the recipients of the explanations....complete utter disaster. They obviously cannot be accountable to any competitor. The competitors cannot be trusted to act as one in a unified manner. As much as I admire many of the journalists covering MotoGP there are other journalists I wouldn't trust to judge a cup cake competition. They cannot be accountable to the fans. Have you seen the complete madness written after every race ? Dorna might well use any influence to promote whatever gets more people talking about or watching MotoGP.
If the stewards are guilty of making a mockery of their jobs then they need only answer to the FIM. The rest is just entertainment.
For those of you interested…
For those of you interested in seeing how Kalex manufactures their chassis, here's a video of a Moto2 frame being built.
In reply to For those of you interested… by David Emmett
Thanks David great content…
Thanks David great content.
I was staggered to read that the entire Kalex company consists of "less than ten people". Wow, supplying basically all of the Moto2 grid and making frames for HRC... all with ten people!
In reply to For those of you interested… by David Emmett
Thanks for the video Kropotkin. Wow. High performance engineering can be beautiful to.
So Kalex is where the best aluminium alloy welders go. As I was once a metalworker and welder I find this stuff awesome!
Note the peanut shaped hole in the headstock, for changing the steering stem angle and position.
Also note the inspection of the finished frame after welding. Checking dimensions very precisely.
A ten person company that rules Moto2!
Reading about Honda engaging…
Reading about Honda engaging Kalex to build chassis makes me think of Wayne Rainey using both Yamaha factory and customer ROC chassis on the factory Yamaha team back in the early 1990's. I don't remember much except that Yamaha had problems with chatter and, if I remember right, the factory chassis was just way too stiff.