Lorenzo Secretly Doing Test Starts At Catalunya

Jorge Lorenzo's record of front row starts this season has been incredibly impressive. He has qualified on the front row of the grid at every race this year except for Phillip Island, a fact that sorely disappointed the Spanish prodigy. But despite his impressive qualification record, Lorenzo's starts are still one of his weakest points. Lorenzo has had trouble getting off the line, and often found himself having to battle his way past other, faster starting riders before he was in a position to battle for the lead.

According to the leading Italian website GPOne.com, Lorenzo has been working to solve the problem, but with testing limited, he has been forced to turn to other means. Reportedly, Lorenzo visited the Circuit de Catalunya track at Barcelona twice, specifically to work on his starts. The Spaniard used a modified version of Yamaha's R1 streetbike, which raised problems of its own. According to GPOne.com, differences in the clutch, power delivery and suspension are such that it (unsurprisingly) behaves completely differently to his Yamaha M1 MotoGP bike. However, Lorenzo has persevered, feeling that any practice is better than no practice, despite the differences.

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I think one of the underlying reasons why Dani gets such great starts is due to his low weight.

Certainly, Pedrosa is helped off the line by the fact that he weighs less than anyone else. But all of the Hondas are fast off the line. Randy de Puniet keeps shooting through the field, Andrea Dovizioso has shot forward a few times too, as have the Gresini boys.

There is more to it than weight. As David points out, Pedrosa is not the only Honda getting great starts. Additionally, getting a good start is less affected by weight than it might appear. In fact, additional weight can help in that it can be used to keep the front wheel down and to improve rear wheel traction. With bikes that have more horsepower than any of them can use off the line, I would be willing to bet that Pedrosa's weight is actually more of a hinderance than a benefit.

Very good points, which I had thought of before I posted, but I was more or less thinking how his weight would help with acceleration when sheer horsepower, his weight and 'compactness' (aerodynamics) play more of a roll (at > 90 kph?) than the limits of tire traction and wheelie-ing-ness from the start line.

I didn't put that much thought into his weight being a hindrance more than being helpful, but I suppose it all balances out at different parts of the track.

I'm thinking Dani just opens the gas and dumps the clutch and the computer does the rest. Notice when he forgets to turn it on :)

I bet if they made him carry a few bricks he wouldn't be mister hole-shot. You almost never see a tire spin up on the start. I can't imagine that more weight would help a start. This makes no sense at all.

In fact I wish they would include rider weight in the bike min weight, before all the riders are knee high and 100lbs like Mister P. I'll bet Big Ben wouldn't mind that either.

Also, this R1 testing highlights one of the many flaws of this very limited testing. They are going to spend the money anyway. I long for the good old days when you could bring your best, a rider could actually get seat time pre-season and we didn't have all these half-assed "money saving" ideas (closed engines in a prototype class!) that do nothing except redirect money that is spent anyway.

"I'm thinking Dani just opens the gas and dumps the clutch and the computer does the rest. Notice when he forgets to turn it on :)"

Completely wrong. See my answer to r_mutt below.

Anyone remember that this use to be one of dani's weaknesses?!

And the time he flipped this bike on a pratice start at Phillip Island?

I think it was a failure in his launch control system, or that the team had forgotten to do something that was needed.
Pedrosa has never been a slow starter in the premier class, but he was pretty inconsistent in 06 with the 990s. These last two years hes been the fastest off the line, this year so much so that I think it would be better for them to skip the "qualifying" laps and focus on race setup in the last 20 min on quali, since he practically always gonna be into turn 1 from anywhere in the two front rows.

How extensive are the testing limits? NASCAR controls testing by limiting the number of times to any track in the Winston Cup, Busch, and regional series. So if a NASCAR team wants to test at the local bull ring, they very well can do so. What data they get from there might not be of much value, but they are allowed to test. I do not know what kind of limits F1, WSBK, or the IRL have.

I guess my next comments are based on what the answer to the above is. Assuming the testing restrictions are similar to NASCAR, then why can't Lorenzo just take his M1 to the local airport (Sebring anyone?) and practice launches? Are the testing limits so strict that Yamaha cannot even turn on the engine or have Rossi take his M1 for a spin around the block? It seems to me that there has to be SOME way that Lorenzo can take his actual bike and practice launches; he should not need to use a modified R1.

Any clarification or further explanation on what a testing ban means would be much appreciated.

You can read the rules for yourself on the FIM website (an invaluable resource). The rules basically say that contracted riders can't test at racetracks on the calendar. There is no reason that Lorenzo couldn't go test his starts at, say, Imola or Almeria, except for two important reasons: 1. Expense; and 2. Noise regulations. You could take a WSBK machine to Almeria (which is in the middle of nowhere) and test it, but if you took a MotoGP bike, you'd fall foul of the noise police. What's more, any test with an M1 would not be secret, unless it was held on the moon. Those bikes produce 130dB, and can be heard for miles and miles around. 

The holeshot is Yamaha's biggest weakness. If Yamaha can master this, there will be more podium finishes for the tuning forks. I've watched Ben Spies take the holeshot at Miller and by turn one he's gone. But the past races Ben killed it and ended up getting 5th or 4th. Same thing with Jorge, if he gets stuck in the back by turn one he has to fight and be too aggressive to pass then makes a mistake and eats gravel. If my guess is correct, I think Yamaha will find a cure by 2011.

these are all valid points but does no one else share the view that practicing starts witha modified R1 shows a despearate aproach to lorenzo's title chances. a modified R1 would share very few characteristics with an M1 motogp bike, let alone the difference in horsepower, so why is he bothering. using a different bike would surely just add confusion and personally i think he is good enough to be 6th or 7th into the first corner and still win the race, as long as he has a good approach to it. surely practicing starts now is not the best way to get focussed and relady for malaysia?

launch control? what's to practice, reaction time? you don't need a bike to practice reaction time. perhaps the launch control systems on bikes is harder to program than cars.

Launch control in cars is fairly simple. You have a very limited number of factors to deal with: the weight of the car, wheelspin, weight transference of the vehicle from front to rear, the available grip. This simplicity is down to three factors:
1. the driver accounts for less than 10% of the vehicle weight (in F1, anyway, assuming 60kg driver and 600kg car);
2. the driver is a completely static factor in the car. He can't shift his weight to alter the car's center of gravity;
3. the car has two huge rear tires to transmit drive to the road, rather than one very thin one.

A rider accounts for about 30% of the total combined weight of rider and bike (60kg and 148kg), and what's more, he is a highly mobile chunk of mass. He can vastly alter the bike's center of gravity by shifting a couple of inches forward or backward, or even just leaning forward or backward. He can make subtle adjustments in milliseconds. He can also alter the amount of rubber on the road by the angle the bike is that. Start to drift in one direction or another and the bike is no longer on exactly the center of the tire, and the bike can have more or less rubber on the road.

The dynamic role which the rider plays is one of the factors which plays havoc with all forms of electronic traction control systems for bikes. Riders can completely screw up the calculations by moving around. Launch control helps for sure, but it is still just a minor factor in getting off the line. It really is down to power delivery and the rider's ability to get that power down off the line.

I'm going to assume, or at least infer, that much of the problem is related to the relatively inconsistent power delivery resulting from the fuel maps they have to use with the current fuel limits.  I'm guessing the bikes, as part of the "launch control" program, allow for a different power curve than for any other part of the race...  or maybe they don't.  Either way, they would still probably rely on some part of the fuel map that already exists for a template, which doesn't allow full power in the lower part of the rev-range at the slower speeds of a standing start.

You would think the engineers would have figured out how to program the bikes to deliver as much power (in this case, torque) as possible until the bike is inclined 5-10 degrees and until the rider touches the brakes, then revert back to the fuel map designed for that track.  Obviously, that's not as easy as it sounds...

Edit: this is meant to be under DE's comment but if you click 'Reply' under a given comment when not logged in, it returns you to the bottom of the comments page.

A very good account of the variables involved, but by no means complete. The rear tyre is a major factor too... the faster it spins, the more its diameter increases, changing the gearing ratio and forcing the computer to vary its calculations accordingly. Furthermore, with each gear change the parameters also change - the tyre briefly reduces its diameter, the computer adjusts, and as soon as the power comes back in the diameter goes up again and the computer has to compensate. And as per David's comments a simple lean one way or the other also has an impact, not just because of the change to the contact patch, but also because of the curvature of the tyre in the east/west plane - equivalent to another change in the gearing...

There is also the flow-on effect from these rapid changes to the diameter of the tyre, on the action of the rear suspension - it is set up to a specific ratio, x movement at the axle equates to y response at the linkage. The variation in tyre diameter sends the damper outside the range of the pre-defined set-up, which is optimised for cornering rather than launching... this is all measured at micro (if not macro) levels, but it all adds up.