2014 MotoGP Jerez Post-Race Test Round Up: Engine Braking, Soft Tires, And Beating Marquez

The first MotoGP test of the season at Jerez is a tough one for the factories, coming as it does after three flyaway races on three continents, followed by a one-week hop back to Europe. Teams and engineers are all a little bedazzled and befuddled from all the travel, and have not had time to analyze fully all the data from the first four races of the season. It is too early in the season to be drawing firm conclusions, and crew chiefs and engineers have not yet fully exhausted all of their set up ideas for fully exploiting the potential of the package they started the season with.

As a result, they do not have a vast supply of new parts waiting to be tested. The bikes that rolled out of pit lane on Monday were pretty much identical to the bikes raced on Sunday. The only real differences were either hard or impossible to see. Suspension components, rising rate linkages and brake calipers were about as exotic as it got. The one area where slightly bigger changes were being applied was in electronics strategies, with Yamaha and Honda working on engine braking, and Honda trying out a new launch control strategy. That new launch control system did not meet with the approval of Marc Marquez, however, and so will probably not be seen again.

Most of the teams spent their day revisiting things they had tried briefly during practice, but not really had time to evaluate properly. That paid dividends for Movistar Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo and Monster Tech 3's Pol Espargaro, both of whom tried out the softer of the two tire options available. Lorenzo was extremely positive about the soft rear, having finally put a lot of laps into one. They had tested the tire before, Lorenzo told reporters, but felt that the tire dropped too much after three or four laps. With hindsight, they had abandoned it too early, Lorenzo explained, as although the performance dropped off quickly, after that drop it stabilized. The harder rear tire, which Lorenzo had raced, had dropped off less in the early laps, but had continued to deteriorate as the laps accumulated. It was a valuable lesson learned, Lorenzo said, and from now on, they would be going back to the softer tire as their preferred starting point at each race, instead of trying to make the hard tire work.

Pol Espargaro had the same experience, he told the press. They had also concentrated on the harder tire all weekend, but this had been a mistake. When he put the soft tire on to try it out properly, it felt so much better than the hard. Espargaro, too, now has a direction.

All of the Yamaha riders worked on electronics, and especially on engine braking. The aim, Bradley Smith explained, was to maximize the braking from the fat rear tire, which puts much more rubber on the road than the narrower front. It was a delicate balance, as too much would send the bike sideways and unsettle it, something which the Yamaha did not cope with very well, unlike the Honda. Clear improvements had been made, and Smith had tested a stronger rear caliper to try to assist the braking.

Valentino Rossi's focus was on improving acceleration, trying to maximize engine torque out of corners. That was one place where he felt the Yamaha was lacking, and though engine development is frozen, a lot of work is going on in trying to boost power in certain parts of the rev range though electronic mapping strategies. He had also worked on his qualifying pace, putting in a couple of short runs at the end of the day. The aim, he explained, was to try to qualify on the front of the grid, the one point where he felt he was struggling. With Le Mans, Mugello and Barcelona coming up, tracks which suit the Yamaha and where Rossi has gone very well in the past, Rossi is keen to try to take the fight to Marc Marquez. Beating him would be hard: the Honda is a little better than the Yamaha at the moment, but the biggest difference was Marquez himself, Rossi said. There will be tracks where it would be possible to beat the Spaniard, Rossi said. 'We always have to keep trying.'

It wasn't just the Yamahas working on braking, Marc Marquez had also spent some time on that. He had tested a larger rear disk with better cooling, to help him slow down. What use was a rear brake to him, when he spent all his time braking with the rear in the air, one journalist asked. Marquez laughed, but replied that the rear brake was especially important in the fast corners, where corner entry is key. They had also tested suspension and geometry changes at the back of the bike, to help in the same area. All of this had been aimed at fixing the problems Marquez had had at Turn 5 all weekend. It was the one sector of the track where he had lost time to his rivals, and so had been cause for concern. They had learned some important things for other tracks with similar sectors, Marquez said.

Dani Pedrosa had other priorities. Over the past 18 months, Pedrosa and his crew have been changing the bike to make him stronger in the second half of the race, an area where he had been weaker. Those changes had paid off, as he demonstrated clearly at both Argentina and Jerez. That success had come at a price, however, and cost Pedrosa his lightning starts and early pace. He and his team had been working on redressing the balance, sacrificing a little bit of late pace to recover some of the ground lost early on. It was a delicate balancing act, Pedrosa conceded, but he was confident they had achieved at least part of their objective.

The factory Ducati team were absent, having scheduled a private test at Mugello instead. The rumor mill is already running at full steam fueled by speculation on exactly what they will be testing. A radically revised chassis? A new engine? Nobody at Ducati was letting on. Test rider Michele Pirro had nothing radical on show, though the two protuberances on the tail of his GP14 led to speculation once again that they could be inertial dampers, or possibly some form of sensor. Inertial dampers might be used to cancel out some of the rear pumping the Ducati is notorious for, but whether such small dampers would have a sufficiently large effect on a massive weight is open to question. If they make their way onto the Ducati race machines, then we might find out more.

The next test will be after the Barcelona race, and that promises to be far more interesting. The test, in mid-June, could see a raft of genuinely new material turn up. Needless to say, the gearheads are already licking their lips in anticipation.

Test times here.

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GpOne put up some interesting photo's the other day, most interesting was that Marc is using a very obvious ride-by-wire throttle, while Dani is using good old throttle cables (Rossi too).

I assume the cable'd throttles are still not connected to the butterflies, but the computer instead, but David do you have any more info?

... Dani told HRC to stick their RBW throttle up their backsides after it stuck him into the haybales and out of the championship at Motegi in ??2010?. OK, surely there is still ECU control over the butterflies but I reckon Dani might have demanded some sort of mechanical override on the closing.

GpOne put up some interesting photo's the other day, most interesting was that Marc is using a very obvious ride-by-wire throttle, while Dani is using good old throttle cables (Rossi too).

I assume the cable'd throttles are still not connected to the butterflies, but the computer instead, but David do you have any more info

Photos not photo's and cabled not cable'd.

Why does nobody use the damn things correctly? I'm curious. Why didn't you use cable's instead of cables? But you did type photo's instead of photos?

Explain yourself!

Why don't you become a teacher. We are some 5.5 billion that do not have english as first language. Please concentrate on the big picture though, not details. Where do I sign up, teacher?

Sorry for the heinous grammatical mistakes. Unfortunately I am a native English speaker so I cannot use that excuse.

I blame studying engineering in school for causing my writing skills to atrophy :).

He was using a type-by-wire keyboard. ;)

I suppose you walk around with a constant change in tone/pitch to reflect your frequent use of exclamation points? Perhaps you can explain why you didn't use a coordinating conjuction with a semicolon and also, please explain why you used two contractions and forgot to add (ed) to damn.
Thanks - we wait with baited breath for your answers.

Just making sure i'm logged into motomatters and not a grammar site.

Interestingly, riders tend to like the feel of a cable, because it makes them feel in control. Engineers like the RBW because it allows them to make different adjustments. Aprilia, when developing the RSV4, met in the middle, the cables are attached to two of the intakes (front two cylinders I think) and the rear are RBW.

These bikes run 2 throttle plates in series.... even if one is mechanically controlled, the other will be computer controlled, just like a street bike. This is for better control over airflow, obviously, but is interesting. I'd be curious to see the photo as I find it strange that they would run 2 setups.

My bike has a cable throttle but my car has a DBW throttle.... thanks to a stupid stock map on my bike my car has far superior throttle response.

maybe quit yanking the throttle wide open in the bike and it will respond better. ;) That's the beauty of DBW throttles, they can be tuned to maximize the engines response while delivering as linear a response as possible. If you yank the throttle wide open you could actually bog the motor down, but if you do it on a DBW system, you're telling the computer that you want maximum available acceleration, and it will respond as such. That doesn't mean it's going to open the throttle all the way.

Apparently there's no difference for the rider but Marc prefers it because it's easier and quicker to replace.

All of the bikes use ride-by-wire throttles, but the older type use short cables which connect to a spring-loaded servo somewhere else. Both butterflies (primary and secondary) are opened and controlled electronically.

The electronic throttle being used by Marquez (and on the RCV1000R production Hondas) is built to replicate the feel of a spring-loaded throttle. But it works identically to the cabled throttle on Pedrosa's bike. The only difference is that the servos measuring throttle movement are in a different place.

were Rossi has gone very well in the past
tracks were it would be possible to beat the Spaniard

*where on both counts. :)

Rossi always seems to give the most detailed information about what is being worked on. What they would like to improve, while everyone else seems to be vague, and give broad general statements. I always look forward to hearing what he is testing. It gives great insight. Everyone else you have to read between the lines and wait for David or some one else to reveal things through pictures or inside information.

Did not think any of the riders would still be on a ride by wire system. I had read an article years ago stating that the Factories were going to take that away. Glad to hear there are still riders using it.

I come here to read about MOTOGP racing and don't mind the occasional misspelled word or improper use of punctuation. Nuff said!

I found it a bunch easier to not notice the writing shortcomings of posts than the posts pointing them out. The former didn't even register. The latter I would prefer folks enjoyed on their own hollering at their screens and whatnot. Keep posting a bunch though, this place is a GEM because of all of you.

Interesting that Rossi is working on fine detail while Lorenzo and pedrosa are trying to solve more basic setup issues. Rossi seems to be back in a place that he can build from and is slowly getting stronger. Before I'm shouted down for his 3rd place in this test, he's not and perhaps never has been the fastest rider out there, just one of the cleverest. I would bet a small sum that he'll be the one that beats Marquez this year, albeit only once or twice. All it will take is for Rossi to have everything going for him and Marquez to have a slightly difficult weekend, as they all do from time to time.

Anyway, so much for being too old at 35! Such tosh.

It is sad to see posts that are correcting other peoples' posts because these tend to break the flow of the discussion. Unless something is really atrociously written, I guess we can just over look most of the mistakes. And to those who point out small differences like "it should have where but you wrote were David", can be completely avoided. My own feeling is that there are very few people on this forum who are seriously grammatically challenged or spelling challenged, so ideally let us not get into those please. And please, please do not take offence to what I am saying. I have made posts here which when I have seen again have had embarrassing bloopers and all of you have been most tolerant. Thanks and lets move on to all things motorcycle racing.

At Argentina and Jerez, Rossi looks to be getting better and more comfortable with the M1. If this trend continues, I think he'll have #2 in the Championship locked up for sure :) I think he might be the best "normal alien" this season compared to the "new alien" #93 :)

It's been four races, so far. Means there's 14 races left.
Even if this is an overstated phrase, but still: Anything can happen. And gp-history teaches us: it ain't over til it's over. :)

Actually if history of the sport teaches us anything it's that this kind of domination will surely continue the rest of the season. Not saying #93's gonna win every race, but he will certainly dominate the season. My prediction is he will get Championship #2 this season.