Photos

Sat, 2017-02-25 14:58
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Melandri's back, and as fast as if he had never been away


That's one thing the new Honda Fireblade does well. Saves on tire wear too


Which is a serious concern, especially on the left side


Thousand yard stare


Sure, the same three riders were on the podium, but this really didn't feel like 2016 all over again


Alex Lowes gets ready


A familiar look


Technique


All Italian


Nicky Hayden's "I'm not entirely convinced" look


Josh Brookes has a point to prove. Didn't manage to make it in race 1


Baptism of fire for Stefan Bradl. The Honda CBR1000RR still needs a lot more development before it's truly competitive


Take me to your leader


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Wed, 2017-02-22 13:16
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"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."


Throne


Josh Brookes is on a mission to prove a point, on a privately funded Yamaha YZF-R1M


Warning from the Surgeon General...


Lorenzo Savadori is looking a good deal more dangerous this year after switching to the SMR Milwaukee team


Stefan Bradl on a Red Bull Honda. Still a lot of work to do for the boys at Ten Kate


The real energy drink


The biggest obstacle between Jonathan Rea and a third WSBK title. Insurmountable?


Time to relax with a quick Sodoku before the next session


High hopes for Alex Lowes in 2017


The business end of an MV


Tuning forks


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Sat, 2017-02-18 13:21
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The mystery box. Now Danilo Petrucci has one


Watch out. Marquez is ready


Marquez better watch out. Viñales is ready too


A quick peek inside Suzuki's aerodynamic ducts


Johann Zarco has impressed down under


Redding. Loves life


Jack Miller at home. In several sense of the word


The dark horse emerging from testing. Alvaro Bautista


Now that's what I call braking


And that's how you keep the brakes warm enough to brake that hard


Alex Rins hadn't looked good after Valencia. His prospects have turned around completely at Phillip Island


The Brains Trust: Crew chief Silvano Galbusera, data engineer Matteo Flamigni, and some old Italian guy


Go time


Corner speed is still an issue for the Ducati. But not that much of an issue, obviously


Jonas Folger, making Hervé Poncharal look like a genius


The rough and tumble of a factory rider, visible in Pol Espargaro's leathers

 


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Wed, 2017-02-15 23:40
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He may be old, but he's still plenty fast


99 problems


A novel way of keeping the bike narrow. External clutches


Marc Marquez is impressively consistent at Phillip Island


Bradley Smith is having to completely relearn riding a MotoGP bike. The KTM is the very opposite of the Yamaha


Michele Pirro: not just a test rider, now Jorge Lorenzo's track analyst


Impressive once again from Viñales


Lukey Heights: stunning at any time of year


Andrea Iannone has taken to the Suzuki like a fish to water


Trying. Always trying.


Test start time


That's plain rude, Jack Miller!


Aleix Espargaro plays peekaboo


Tough day for Sam Lowes. This was one crash


Sliding along the tarmac


Then hitting the grass and sliding


Looks fine on one side...


Not so much on the other


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Tue, 2017-01-31 17:56
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What looked like a wasted day quickly turned around at Sepang. Tuesday started wet, the streets and circuit taking a while to dry after Monday evening's torrential rain. Sepang's weakness was once again exposed: the track took a long time to dry, wet patches remaining on the track for several hours. It was not until 1pm that a few riders started to venture out, and by 2pm, the track was full with riders trying to make up for valuable lost time.

Some riders made use of the conditions, as far from ideal as they were. Jorge Lorenzo put in ten laps in the wet, and Johann Zarco put in eight laps. The reason? To help build confidence, for Lorenzo in the wet, for Zarco, to try to figure out what a MotoGP bike is capable of.

Zarco rode a pair of wet tires to destruction, feeling how the soft, moving rubber exaggerated every movement of the bike. It served as a sort of magnifying glass for how a MotoGP bike behaves, amplifying the feedback and making it much clearer to fully understand, Zarco explained. By the end of the run, he had learned a lot, and made a massive step forward.

How much difference had it made? When the red lights came on for the end of the session, Zarco's name was still fifth on the timesheets, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider less than a tenth behind Valentino Rossi, and half a second behind Maverick Viñales in second. The Frenchman had found a way of understanding where the limits lay, without pushing himself over the edge.

Trust the timesheets?

The timesheets made for interesting reading at the end of the day, both in terms of headline times, and in underlying pace. Three different manufacturers graced the top three places, the top nine consisting of a Suzuki, four Yamahas and four Ducatis. Marc Márquez was the first Honda rider in tenth place, over a second behind fastest man Andrea Iannone, and nearly seven tenths slower than Viñales.

Iannone was quickest by a considerable margin, well ahead of Viñales and the remarkable Alvaro Bautista on the Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati. Bautista has taken to the GP16 like a duck to water, showing strong pace on both days of the test. Rossi headed Zarco by a fraction in fourth and fifth respectively, then came an armada of Ducatis, captained by Hector Barbera. The Avintia GP16 man was quicker than both factory Ducatis, Andrea Dovizioso less than a tenth quicker than Jorge Lorenzo. The second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider, Jonas Folger, took ninth, with Márquez rounding out the top ten.

The headline times do not tell the full story, however. Iannone's time was a single fast lap, set pushing on a soft tire. Maverick Viñales did his best lap as part of a string of three laps in the 1'59s, the only rider other than Iannone to get under the two-minute mark. Iannone managed it only once, however, not three times in a row.

Viñales had by far the best overall pace. In addition to the three 1'59s on a new tire, he also did nine laps in the 2'00s. Only Alvaro Bautista did more two-minute laps, racking up ten of them, but Bautista did not get under two minutes on Tuesday. The two Tech 3 riders both managed six laps in the 2'00s, though Folger's laps were slower than Zarco's. Marc Márquez, meanwhile, may have been only tenth, but he also managed six laps in the 2'00s, at the same kind of pace as Valentino Rossi's four two-minute laps.

Obviously fast, and secretly fast

What conclusions can we draw so far, however preliminary they may be? Maverick Viñales is genuinely fast, and spent the day working on his race pace on worn tires. The parts Yamaha have brought for the M1 (apart from the fairing, but more about that later) are aimed at exactly that: conserving the tire in the second half of the race, to be able to maintain the pace for as long as possible. On Wednesday, weather permitting, Viñales will take the new frame and try to use it for a full race simulation.

If Viñales is fast, Marc Márquez is probably also quick, though he is hiding his speed a little while he works on the Honda's engine and electronics. Márquez was clear that this was his only focus at the test, and in reality, the only problem the bike really has. The chassis is fine, but the engine is still too aggressive, and lacks grip. Despite switching from a screamer to a big bang configuration, the rear tire still spins until it grips, and when it grips, it wants to loft the front wheel.

That was what Andrea Dovizioso had seen while following the Repsol Honda rider. "I don’t know if Marc have a really used tire so it’s difficult to know the real speed but he didn’t have a lot of grip and acceleration," the Ducati rider said. "He was very good in the braking," he added, always a strength of Márquez.

Omertà

"The problems of the wheelie and the acceleration is still there," said Márquez. The problem was different, but still present, much to the frustration of all the Honda riders. When asked about the new engine which Honda have brought, Cal Crutchlow did his best to emulate former Malawian dictator Hastings Banda, repeatedly answering "I can't tell you that," to our questions. The timesheets told us all we needed to know, he hinted.

Yet Márquez was still optimistic, despite the issues which remain with Honda's new engine. They were working hard at sorting out engine maps and electronics to help control the bike, he said. That was mainly a matter of time on track, and time to work through the data to figure out what is going on. Though the complaints he is making are familiar – we heard them at Sepang in 2016, and a year before in Sepang in 2015 – Márquez believes there is a bright side to his current situation. Is the situation better or worse than Sepang last year? "At the same time last year here, yes, we are in a better way," Márquez replied.

The wings are back, in a fashion

If Honda's work is largely happening unseen, as engineers crunch numbers and enter matrices full of values to control the behavior of the bike, Yamaha tested a highly visible development at Sepang. Anyone who had applauded the banning of the wings as a blow for aestheticism found themselves cruelly deceived.

Images had been doing the rounds on the internet, of a double-walled fairing with a large section stuck on the upper half, including vanes inside it. When I first saw it, I wrote it off as a poor fake done using Photoshop, the Movistar upper clearly not fitting with the black carbon fiber test fairing.

But on Tuesday morning, Italian website GPOne.com published shots taken by Italian photographer Mirco Lazzari, of Yamaha test rider Kouta Nozane's M1 sporting the exact Movistar-liveried fairing pods on top of his CF test fairing. Confirmation soon came from pit lane, MCN's Simon Patterson quickest off the mark, and then Crash.net's Peter McLaren also capturing the new fairing, a copy of which he kindly provided to us.

Yamaha's 2017 aerodynamic fairing

The clearest demonstration of what has changed came in this side-by-side comparison photo from Malaysian photographer Hazrin Cric. The upper half of the fairing has had a sort of side pod attached to it, containing a series of vanes, to provide downforce to replace the now-banned winglets.

Legal and devious

Does this violate the winglet ban? I checked with MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge, and he was categorical. "No," he told me. "The fairing is a single surface, with nothing sticking out." As long as the fairing is a single, unbroken plane from top to bottom, with no appendages sticking out from it, there were no problems. Yamaha had submitted the design to Aldridge before testing, and he had approved it.

It would be foolish to believe that Yamaha are the only factory to be working on such a design. There has been widespread speculation that factories would turn up with double-walled fairings with aerodynamic forces generated internally, rather than externally. Ducati have hinted at having some form of aerodynamic help to replace the winglets, and Aleix Espargaro told us yesterday that he had tested a "very strange fairing" in the wind tunnel for Aprilia. The rest will not be very far behind. Pandora's box has been opened, and the plague of aerodynamics is now blowing on the wind.

The truth will out, at some point

Does it work, though? Both Movistar Yamaha riders had been banned from talking to the media about it. When asked about testing the new fairing, Maverick Viñales was blunt: "I tested it but I can’t say anything," he told us.

Valentino Rossi was a little bit more forthcoming, but not much. "They tell me I cannot speak about the new fairing. But sincerely speaking, first of all, it is very beautiful! I like it," he said. "It don't make a lot of difference, but it is more beautiful. So we will continue to use and try also tomorrow."

Of note is Rossi's emphasis that the fairing did not make much difference. Both Rossi and Lorenzo said the same about the winglets Yamaha tested at Aragon in 2015, and started using in earnest last year. By the end of the season, they had rather changed their tune, saying that losing the winglets would have a big effect on the bike. A pinch or two of salt may be in order when it comes to official pronouncements from riders on the efficacy of aerodynamic appendages.

Lorenzo picks up speed

While all eyes were on Yamaha's new winglets, Ducati's new rider had made a serious step forward. Jorge Lorenzo had closed the gap to the leaders, and was just a few hundredths of a second behind his teammate Andrea Dovizioso. The improvement had come with time on the bike, and with getting to understand it better. He was more comfortable with the GP17, he said, and that had been a big help.

Improvement had come in large part due to adapting better to the way the Ducati brakes, he said. "Today I could brake later and better, to stop the bike in less meters, and this has been a huge improvement," Lorenzo said. There was still a lot of work to be done, of course, but at least he was over what he described as 'the shock' of struggling on the first day. "Still a long way to arriving to the limit with this bike on this track, but we are much closer, and the progression has been huge."

The teams have one more day to test on Wednesday, if the weather can hold. So far, all is well, with the roads outside my hotel, just a few kilometers from the circuit still dry, and no sign of rain on the horizon. The forecast is not looking good, with rain due to start at around 10am, just as the riders are due to take to the track. But on the other hand, every forecast I have seen this week has turned out to be completely wrong. So anything can happen tomorrow. And probably will.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2017 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

Fri, 2017-01-20 13:51
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The launch of the Ducati MotoGP team was full of surprises and left plenty to talk about. There will be much more news on the site about that later today and tomorrow. For now, here is a massive gallery of launch photos, with a lot of close up shots of the bike.


The 2017 Ducati MotoGP team


The #04 bike


The #99 bike


Based on the chassis, this appears to be a 2017 chassis with 2016 bodywork in 2017 livery


All photos taken at a slight angle, to prevent other factories from measuring


Old fairing. Aero secrets to be revealed later


Mounting blank for tail camera


Carbon fiber goodness


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Tue, 2016-12-13 00:34
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We have had a lot of people asking us over the past few weeks whether we will be producing our usual 2017 MotoMatters.com Motorcycle Racing Calendar. The good news is that the answer is yes, we will. The bad news is that we are running badly behind in production, meaning it will not be ready in time for Christmas. 

The current plan is for printing to start in the next few days, but that will probably mean it will not be ready to be shipped in time for Christmas. We do hope to be able to ship in time for the start of the new year. As soon as we have a production date, we shall put the calendar on sale on the website. 

2017 MotoMatters calendar, back cover

The calendar follows the usual format: large, beautifully printed, with photos from Scott Jones and a calendar grid showing the MotoGP, World Superbike and Isle of Man TT schedule. Calendar layout will continue to use the European format, with the week starting on Monday, to make race weekends a lot clearer. There will not be a version avaiable using the US week layout.

2017 MotoMatters calendar month layout, June

More details coming soon. Please check back regularly for an update.

2017 MotoMatters Calendar, Maverick Viñales

Thu, 2016-11-17 21:44
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There was a lot of interest in the Ducati garage at Valencia. With good reason


Dani Pedrosa was one of the few riders who wasn't wearing neutral leathers. It was very nearly different


The Marc VDS riders got the same chassis Cal Crutchlow has been using all year. It made a huge difference. Jack Miller was a lot quicker


It might be Spain, but it's still cold at Valencia in the morning


Andrea Iannone, Chemical Brother


Dear Yamaha: Please can Maverick keep his test livery all year? Yours, every MotoGP fan on the planet


After both Rins and Iannone went down at Turn 12, impromptu meetings of the Safety Commission broke out in pit lane


S is for Suzuki


The Old Dog has a Young Pup to contend with


Jorge Lorenzo was relaxed and happy at the Valencia test. This should worry everybody not called Jorge Lorenzo


Takuya Tsuda, doing the donkey work for Suzuki


He wasn't fast, but he was happy. Bradley Smith showing that KTM need to work on their anti wheelie


Desmo Dovi


Tough start for Alex Rins. He fell, and injured his T8 and T12 vertebrae


Jonas Folger made a very solid debut on the Tech 3 Yamaha M1


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Sun, 2016-11-13 09:43
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Last time out for Andrea Iannone at Ducati. He wants to go out with a bang


Jorge Lorenzo will be taking over Iannone's bike. The pressure is on to win on it


Special, stunning livery for the Aprilias, in support of an Aids charity


Dani Pedrosa is back, but his collarbone still needs icing


The wings don't always prevent wheelies, thankfully


No reason for concern. Rossi starts from the front row


End of a great working partnership. Aleix Espargaro and Tom O'Kane worked very well together during their time at Suzuki


KTM RC16. A sting in the tail?


Gone by Tuesday


Bradley Smith's helmet - a tribute to all things British. Well, all things London


Marc Marquez' normal operating procedure - front wheel in the air and crossed up


New motorized assistance for Yamaha. Unsure whether it will catch on


Currently yellow and black. On Tuesday, switching to the colors he is riding over


An old master


You want corner speed? Jorge Lorenzo has corner speed


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Thu, 2016-11-03 10:01
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Electronics in MotoGP remain a complex and fascinating subject. To help explain them to us, we had Bradley Smith talk us through the various options at his disposal on board his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1.

In the first part of this interview, published yesterday, Smith talked to us about the different electronics settings he has during practice and the race. In the second part, the Tech 3 rider talks us through how he and his team, under the guidance of crew chief Guy Coulon, arrive at those settings. Smith walks us through the different options available, and how he arrives at the right settings to use at a particular race track

Q: The buttons on the right hand side: pit and stop buttons?

Bradley Smith: So pit and stop is quite straightforward. Stop is stop, pit limiter is pit limiter. When pit limiter is on, we get some lights coming up on the dashboard. Again, it's set at an RPM that we work out is going to be 60 km/h for that track, based on your gearing. So they may have to adjust that a little bit, because the circumference of the wheels changes with rain tires and intermediate tires. So we want to make sure that in case of flag-to-flag, we have the maximum.

Also we're asked to try it all through the weekend, to make sure that we're right on that limit, because 1 km/h all of the start straight is quite a long way, so it's something we analyze quite closely. Then you bring in a bit of tolerance with the radar guns and this, that, and the other. You try and bend the rules as much as you can, but no one wants a stop and go, so you have to stay within the limits. You only go as far as what you think you can get away with.

Q: Do you have different electronics map set ups for flag-to-flag races?

BS: Basically, we will put an emergency switch on there, for example in switch 3. The emergency switch will be, in case we're out on slicks and it starts to rain and you go, I really need help right now, then you can go to it. I had that in Misano [in 2015], didn't use it. I used the slick setting and did everything with my right hand. But I think it all depends on the track at that moment, how much confidence you have, because in Misano, I didn't even think about it. I was so concentrated on what I was doing, I didn't even think about it, too busy trying not to fall off. It all depends on that moment. Usually in flag-to-flag, we already know if we are starting on slicks. If we start on slicks, the spare bike will have wet tires with a rain map. The rain map will be a similar scenario to what you have in the dry. So for me personally, I usually start off with the strongest TCS, and then get softer and softer.

Q: What do you mean by "strongest TCS"?

BS: The strongest working. So you have to remember that TCS can work in two ways: it can work strong, or it can work a lot. So you have two ways of doing it: the spike in which it cuts, or the frequency of cuts. So you either get one really big cut, or lots of smaller ones. So it depends on the rider, or the grip, or the character of the engine. It depends on what you decide to do. So for me, strongest TCS would mean the most amount of cutting of the power to prevent slides.

So basically, we start off on the strongest, and then go weaker and weaker. Because basically, you want to start off in the safe setting and test the grip, and if the grip looks OK, you can go softer and softer. With engine braking, we probably start off with the strongest, and then go softer and softer as well. Because if the speeds come up and you start to roll through the corner, the last thing you want is a whole load of engine braking at that point and you ending up going sideways.

And then you can all do it by lean angle and bank angle: I want this number here, or this engine braking at this point, and a little bit softer there, and when I'm at that angle, I want it a little bit less, and when I go to that angle I want it more. It's a real science.

Q: So all of these variables have to be baked into a single map, and then varied between settings?

BS: Yes. So that's why you see us super busy after sessions. We've seen Valentino even more so than usual through Matteo's [Flamigni, Rossi's data engineer] Instagram, doing lots of those type of meetings. Because that's finally what you're doing, you're not talking about setting any more, you're talking about dialing in the electronics. Because that's what's making the difference at the end of the day at this level.

The chassis and stuff like that, still chief mechanics and engineers are making a difference, but there's a lot of things you can overcome with the electronics, even though they've gone to a more basic system. I think the more basic system has placed even more importance on the rider and the people there. Because when it was the really sophisticated system, it was easy to do. Now it's a basic one, we have to spend more time on it and be more precise, and pinpoint it.

Which is why I believe the factory teams have even more of an advantage this season, because they have guys who are able to do it. Me as a rider, I've got to go, I've got to explain to my guy, and my guy is trying to do three people's jobs in one. So he's trying to tap everything into the system, and sometimes that's just too much to ask, it just doesn't work.

Q: Back to switching maps, do you get messages on your pit board telling you when to switch maps?

BS: Only during free practice if your rider is a little bit forgetful and needs a little prompt, or it's something you really want to try and you make sure the rider tries it. That's the only time, because the team doesn't know what the bike feels like, and it's down to the rider. Sometimes you actually want it to spin. You want it to spin because it continues to drive forward, or sometimes you want it to spin because you can turn inside the guy in front of you.

The other thing you've got to remember is that if you go too strong, you're kind of limited to what the bike does. You get to the maximum angle, you touch the throttle even a little bit, and the TCS starts to cut in. You can't turn the bike, you can't do anything. And the power only comes when you pick the bike up. So you ride around with your hands tied.

Q: So you're restricted to the speed of the bike, you can't do anything extra?

BS: Yes, which is no problem at all when you are setting a rhythm by yourself, because if you're setting a fast rhythm, that's OK. But if you're in a battle, and you need to square up the inside of someone, you can't do it like that. And then you're even more tied, because you can only do what your bike allows you to do, and if the other bike accelerates away from you, you can't be creative. And one thing as a rider, when you're all doing the same lap times, sometimes you need to be creative.

Q: Any other buttons?

BS: There used to be a button for lights, but because of how important it is that when the rain map get sent to the ECU, the light automatically comes in.

Q: What about the lights?

BS: These are all shift lights, and this is the warning light from IRTA themselves. So anything we get from IRTA telling us red flag, black flag, those type of things, that's all we see at the moment, it's coming on that one. They're just different colored LEDs. So like blue will come up if you're a slow rider. Black doesn't come up, but some orange ones do. It's basically to do with the black flag and orange circle. It's quite sophisticated, I've looked at the actual thing, and I'm like, please narrow it down to only some! Because otherwise you get confused...

But red flags are super important. Like with Dani's crash in Austria (during FP1), that means that, it's not only the sector time, because the track is split into more than four sectors for IRTA, so that means that pretty much next corner, you're going to have the mark. And especially with those red flags incidents, it's really super important that we have that.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2016 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

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