Le Mans MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Winning Tactics, Overheating Front Tires, What Yamaha and Ducati Want, And The Impossibility Of A KTM Aluminum Chassis

There are lots of ways to win a motorcycle race, but most racers are only capable of applying one. Some riders can only win they can break away at the front, and have a clear track to ride clean, fast lines. Other riders can't maintain a pace on their own, so have to sit behind a fast rival and wait until the end of the race to pounce. Some need to sit in a group and exploit the dynamics of that group to create the right moment to strike.

Great riders can adapt to any type of race. If they need to break away, they break away. If they need to sit with another rider and wait, they wait. If they need a group to drag them along, they sit in front of a group and slow the whole thing up to control the race and wait to pounce.

The truly great riders can manage all of this, and understand what is needed in any particular situation. They don't just adapt to a type of race, they create the race they need in order to win. It can render them nigh on invincible, as they control the race. They write the rules, and force everyone else to play along with them. Then they rewrite them again, and leave their rivals on the back foot.

Finding a way to win

That is what is happening with Marc Márquez at the moment. He seems to have found another gear, as Honda changed the bike to address the RC213V's biggest weakness last year. In 2018, the bike braked and turned exceptionally well, but lacked a bit of top speed. For the 2019 bike, Honda went chasing power, massively enlarging the air intake and airbox and tweaking the exhausts. That has necessitated relocating a bunch of parts which were packed away under the tank cover, altering the weight distribution and the balance of the bike. The pay off has been a boost in horsepower, and gains in top speed. But braking stability and front end feel has been compromised, the front not feeling as planted on corner entry. It is still very good, just not as good as last year.

At Le Mans, Marc Márquez gave a demonstration of how to ride the 2019 bike. That means more corner speed, less hard braking, and making use of the acceleration and top speed of the bike. The objective now is not to try to hang with the riders, and dive underneath them at the last minute. Now, it is to break away and lead, where possible, or else use the acceleration and horsepower of the new Honda to pass out of corners and along the straights.

Reading between the lines of Marc Márquez' statements to the press conference after dominating the MotoGP race, it seems that this is the compromise forced upon him by the new bike. Last year, they had to run the harder front tire to be able to withstand the exceptional braking forces required to win. This year, the Honda needs a softer tire to get some more feeling from the front, but that means they can't rely on the exceptional braking of the bike in the same way.

Changing priorities

Jack Miller had followed Márquez for a while, and even passed him for the lead. The time he had spent racing against Márquez had allowed him to appraise the strengths and weaknesses of the bike. "Nothing really overly impressed me in braking," the Pramac Ducati riders said. "I felt I could catch him in most of my braking zones. The Honda seemed really good out of the last corner, it seemed to really acceleration and drive out of there really well." Catching a Honda in braking is almost unheard of. A Ducati losing out to a Honda in acceleration is even more rare.

Márquez gave away quite a bit in the press conference. "Today I was using the soft front tire, and that means that you cannot afford to overheat the front," he said. "Then this is a little bit when Ducati and Yamaha are using the soft and we were not able to before. Now we are able to, because we are using the same tires and the bike is turning better. But last year we just tried to find the right time on the brake point. This year maybe we lose a little bit the brake point but we gain in other areas. This is the way. Always the brake point means risk. Risk means difficult to be constant. Now we are able to play in a different way on the brake point and find the lap time in other areas."

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Very interesting insights into the Honda camp, both bike and riders. It's been clear all season that the Honda is now more than a match for the Ducati as far as acceleration goes, and there's not much in it for outright top speed either. So I was wondering where the hell Crutchlow was, seeing as Marquez has been braining them all season. I understand it now. And it would also appear that the Honda is now more of a Lorenzo bike than it used to be, so let's hope Lorenzo feels the same way and can put it at the front in the next few races.

Well done KTM! and come on Rins, you're required at the front of the field.



KTM best ever dry result can't hide the fact that all 3 other KTMs finished last (except for Mir which started from pit lane 1 min after the start).

Well as you rightly say, no. However, it is going to take some monumental rider on a similarly brilliant bike to do it. Dovi is consistently nearest, but he needs a great day to beat MM, not a normal day. The Yamahas won't get there this year, MV should be brilliant but is incredibly inconsistent (and a tad unlucky), and VR, still good at 40 bar the poor qualifying, but he'd need a significantly better Yamaha to be consistently at the front and even if he was, I'm not sure the temperament would hold, MM seems to intimidate him.

Rins should be better, also a great talent.

But really, its constantly MM and the rest, and that's the way it is. The battle is for 2nd. 

Ducati showing their strategy. Let the satellite bike beat up MM, then have Petrux try and beat up MM. All the while Dovi is saving his tires. Too bad they have put their eggs in the Dovi basket. Simply won't pay off. By his own admission, Dovi can't win on an equal bike. 

I think this is a valid criticism right now surely. But, I think it best to wait until after the next two races where Ducati has dominated the last two years.  If they cannot convert there it's over. 

Looking at the last few years, nobody could beat Marquez on an equal bike. That Honda looks evil, the other two guys on it scrape around the top 10 or crash most of the time (include Dani last year with his best finish of 5th), yet Marc can ride it. Marc seems to be in the same state that Rossi was from 2001-2005, he just has has more ability on tap, need another second a lap? Bang, there it is, wobbles and slides be damned.


As for Dovi not paying off for Ducati. 32 podiums, 12 wins, it has already paid off. They just have the same colossal Marc Marquez shaped roadblock that everyone else has between them and the title trophy. Short of Marc hurting himself it's hard to see anyone beating him, but at the end of 2005 Rossi seemed pretty unstoppable too.

new challengers appear every year.  This year, it looks like FQ20 might have the right ingredients to step up and take the fight.  MM will be challenged....some day. 

... driven home again and again how inadequate the M1 is this year. In this current era of MotoGP, having a bike that is inferior to nearly every other bike in acceleration and top speed creates an impossible situation for Yamaha. If you have almost no chance to pull along side at the end of a straight, passing opportunities are reduced to only a few high-risk areas on any given race track (and that’s being generous). Yamaha is lagging behind badly, full-stop.

Perhaps you are being a bit harsh on Yamaha.  In practice Vinales matched Marquez, in the race Quartararo did.  They need a rider who can put it all together, consistently.

Interestingly, in the race at Le Mans Marquez's top speed was the 5th LOWEST, below all Yamahas except Rossi's.  Crutchlow and Lorenzo were 7kph faster than Marquez on the straight.  Didn't help them much...


Where is the speed trap positioned? It's more about late braking than actual speed.

On the other hand, when you look at the race from the helicopter it's another story.... The power and acceleration of honda and ducati match almost perfectly while the yamaha is left standing almost a lifetime back...

Yamaha is still hopelessly lagging behind. 

FP1 Fastest Yamaha

FP2 Fastest Yamaha

FP3 Fastest Yamaha

Q1 Fastest Yamaha

Warmup: Fastest Yamaha

Race fastest lap: Yamaha

David's roundup on saturday after qualifying: "It is unfortunate that Viñales is stranded back on the fourth row, for both FP3 and FP4 showed that it is Viñales who had the pace to go with Márquez from the beginning. If he had qualified on the front row, Viñales could have proved to be a formidable obstacle to Márquez, but with the Repsol Honda rider on pole, Viñales has his work cut out to get near enough to Márquez before he disappears. Viñales has so often shown that he has incredible speed and potential, but he is also a master at making things incredibly difficult for himself."

If that is a bike that is "still hopelessly lagging behind" I would hate to know how you would describe Suzuki, KTM or Aprillia.

Watching this race, three times, I came away with a few thoughts and comments:

1) the only guy that can beat Marc.....is Marc! The commentators kept saying that Vinales, or Quart would had something for Marc IF.....they had gotten a better start, qualed better/etc. BS! They're 'assuming' Marc was pushing/at his limit during the race. That's 'assuming' alot! Just like the last race, he got out front, ran consistent lap times, which a few could do.....for awhile. Then they slowed, while he continued with the same lap times. IMHO, Marc could've gone faster, IF he needed too. He didn't, so he just continued running mid 32's. 

2) the Ducati is the best 'overall' bike. The Yam, Sus, the other RCV's are no where, or need perfect conditions, to be competitive, but not tphe Duc's. They're always up front of every race. The Marc haters better hope to hell he doesn't sign w/Ducati for 2021. If he does, the rest of the MGP grid will wonder where the hell he went....with all due respect to Neil Hodgson. 

3) Dovi looked depressed after the race. It appears he knows he can't beat Marc, over the course of the season. Gigi looked like he knows the only way to beat Marc is to hire him. 

4) David, I got into a little argument with a fanatic, who is also a Marc hater. My contention is without Marc, or for that matter, Casey, Honda would be no where, championship wise. Without the exceptional other worldly skills of Marc, they wouldn't have won squat over the last 6 years. IF you take him out of the WC, since '13, how would it have shaped up?

Cannot agree more. For all the talk about how great the honda is, there is quite a gap between the first honda and the next. Jorge is still learning, Cal is still moaning, but  Marqez manages to ride around the bike's limitation every time.  Nobody is going to stop him this year. Dovi may be great rider but when watching him, he appears to have thrown everything he has into his races and it is not good enough.  Ducati better start looking for their next challenger. 

My contention is without Marc, or for that matter, Casey, Honda (or ducati) would be no where

well over a decade and they both owe their championships to just 2 riders.

let's face it, Honda and Ducati have been very hard to ride and you need a very very special rider to make a knife edge cut in the direction you want EVERY TIME.

Not just for the sake of the argument but with some facts. In no way you can compare the Ducati pre-Gigi and the Honda that was ridden by Hayden, Dovi, Pedrosa. Those were two completely different animals. And Stoner managed to tame the beast and then moved on to another better bike and won again a championship.

Moreover, ypu are being uttery unfair towards Dani Pedrosa who could have well won one if not two championships on the Honda if he hadn't been probably the unluckiest guy with the highest number of broken bones  in recent motogp history (barring mortal injuries of course) 

last but not least from 2014 the  honda is a bespoke bike tailored around one person and one person only. And as it happens this person has a specific almos inimitable riding style. It works wonders with him. Less so with the others.

This doesn't take anything away from the utterly amazing qualities of Marquez but there are some facts that cannot be ignored. 

Your comment about what Marc has left in reserve, that he doesn't bring out unless challenged, reminds me of Rossi's days on the Honda.  Remember the PI race in 2003 when he got a 10 second penalty for passing under yellows, so he rolled out record breaking laps for the next 21 laps and opened up a 15 second buffer ahead of Loris - saying it was the first time he'd every run a race at 100% for the duration.  I feel like this might be where Marc is this year, he could be winning by larger margins if he really wanted to.  This year he's decided that leading from the first lap is the way to win, and with the exception of Qatar (and Texas) that's what he's done.  It was an interesting note that Jack, at Le Mans, was the first rider to overtake Marc since Qatar.  What could he be doing if someone was actually pressuring him for the whole race?

    Marc seems to be lapping as slow as possible whilst staying ahead, the rest  are going as fast as possible trying to keep up. Who knows what he could have done if the need arose. Marc always seems to have a plan B and probably C+D as well!

Or 300 Ponies through a 180 Pony gate.

Just my 2-cents, but I think Yamaha is a lot closer to challenging for wins than is commonly accepted. Yes, they are down a bit on BHP, but the real question is: How much does that really matter?

A MotoGP bike is always going to be either Traction limited (more applied force than grip) or BHP limited (more grip than applied force). The latter is actually a rare case that seldom occurs, which is to be expected when applying 280+ BHP to a rear contact patch the size of a delicate man's hand. So why do Yamaha appear slow compared to some other Brands?

When coming out of a slower turn (which are the hallmarks of modern racetrack design), let's say the rear tire contact patch can transmit 180 BHP of thrust into forward motion without excessively spinning the rear tire. The bike+rider that accelerates the best will be the one that can apply power the closest to that 180 BHP limit, through rider inputs (that are then filtered through the ECU package). If you apply 160 BHP you are wasting traction and are slower. And if you are applying 200 BHP you are polishing the track, and again slower. And, at least for the 180 BHP example, it really doesn't matter whether your available BHP is 200, or 235, or more. Hit the 180 BHP target and you are a rocket. Hit anything else and you are a paracarro. Yamaha has made a great deal of progress since the disasters of 2017-18, but they have a lot further to go. The other bikes are hitting the target better than the Iwata products do.

And the other bikes may have bigger hands. If Honda and Ducati are using the fatter part of the tire, where Yamaha is still on the very edge of the rear Michelin, then it is not just who is hitting the target best, but what number that target represents. If the contact patch being used by Ducati and Honda will take 195 BHP, where Yamaha's is still at 180, the latter is going to leave the former behind. Kevin Cameron had (another) great piece where he addresses the softer construction of the current Michelin tires (vs. the previous B-Stones) and why the extreme edge of the tire's contact patch is no longer such a great neighborhood to live in.

The Yamaha chassis may be one version out of date. Mat Oxley addresses this with a great description of why chassis may need to get even softer (laterally) to make peace with the current Michelin tires. And while Yamaha has always been known for a very compliant chassis (at least starting with the Furusawa Shogunate), they may need to go softer yet. They may also need to get a bit shorter and a smidge taller to better load the rear Michelin during acceleration. No, they (probably) don't need to be as short and tall as Marc's current Honda, but something between where they are now and HRC's dimensions may do nicely. We may see this after Brno, when they are reported to be rolling out their 2020 M1 Prototype. Whether any of next year's chassis will then be raced the second half of this year remains to be seen.

Top speed can be deceptive. If you accelerate off the turn leading onto a longish straight better than I do, you will carry that advantage all the way to the point where aerodynamic loads become so high that it becomes a paved dyno run. And as Jeremy Burgess stated "you only use top speed once a lap". And again, until you attain speeds where you are no longer traction limited, it is not about how many ponies you have in left the corral, but how many you were able to herd through the corral's gate in the allotted time.

So what can Yamaha do between now and 2020 to improve their situation?

  • Keep working on the electronics. They have made huge gains this year, but they were starting from way behind some other teams. There is a lot more to be had further sorting the sparky bits.
  • If the reliability (or fuel consumption) of the M1 Motor is not an issue, allow the four lads to use the Q-Session Party Mode settings for the remaining races (I am guessing it is really about allowing a more aggressive throttle response than a shot of Nitrous when the switch is turned to "Q"). Quartararo let slip that he was a very naughty boy and did just that after his poor start at Le Mans this weekend. Seemed to work just fine for him, and you have to love a youngster who understands how much easier it is to ask forgiveness than permission.
  • Immediately after Sachsenring strap Vale on his M1 and load both of them into the nearest available 200 mph wind tunnel. And leave them there until you have a significant improvement.

What they should probably not do?

  • Go chasing increased engine performance via a re-tuned airbox/exhaust system. Leave the baseline alone until you have fully optimized the ECU settings for the current specs. Introducing additional variables was certainly part of the issue in 2017-18, and they need to stick to the path they are on.

Because, in the end, it does appear they are (finally) heading in the right direction, and are providing the necessary resources to eventually succeed. But I think it is fair to accept that they had a lot further to go than the bikes that have already won races this year, and when you find yourself in that place, you must accept that there are no shortcuts, easy answers, or demon tweeks that will substitute for a solid year of very hard work. It looks to me that they are about three-quarters there. Cheers.

PS - Geez, David, I can't believe you tossed the aluminum tube option at Sebastian Risse...I would have loved to have seen his expression. Well done! (And I hope you took the oppurtunity to launch at least one "You see what I have to put up with Sebastian? Do you? They are all experts and they are all barking mad").

PPS - I am not sure Herr Risse understood that the tube OD doesn't change, rather it has a thicker wall that is then...actually, you know what? Tell him to subscribe. Cheers.

Normally it's David who has me reaching for my dictionary, now the subscribers too? : ) "Paracarro", excellent.

Enjoyable and interesting insights into the Yamaha, thanks Jinx.

Remember, aluminum isn’t necessarily lower strength than steel (it depends on the alloy) but it is ALWAYS 1/3 as stiff (for the same size). Making an aluminum tube the same stiffness as steel, with a thicker wall and the same outside diameter, actually adds weight, as you need more than 3x the wall thickness due to the reduced efficiency of adding material a smaller distance from the center of the tube (moment of inertia proportional to radius squared). So, surprise surprise, Herr Risse is correct that the tube diameter would have to increase along with the wall thickness, when using aluminum. Not a lot, but enough to make packaging difficult. Still, interesting idea Jinx, and kudos David for bringing it up, and KTM for answering. 

Good stuff, mate. Some of this is covered in the original post, but you have done a much better job of clarifying the issue than I did. All this is just a thought experiment, and a fairly non-intuitive one at that. But my thinking was this:

Assume one of the GP16's main tubes was 1.8" OD. with a .06" wall thickness. These numbers have no basis in reality, just part of the thought process.

As you correctly pointed out, just switching to aluminum as a material has no huge advantages (though would be perhaps easier to fabricate), and may very well carry a slight weight penalty.

But the goal of the thought experiment was not material substitution, but rather to think out loud if there were an easier way to introduce anisotropic properties to the RC16 Trellis (to allow a reduction in stiffness laterally while maintaining the vertical stiffness they have now). To do this we would have the ID of the 1.8" OD aluminum tube machined as an ellipse (or any variation of that which might be desired). The wall thickness of the new aluminum tube would be .23" in the vertical direction, and .14" horizontally. There is no real significance to these values other than they appeared to be at least back of the envelope rational to explain the concept, and would provide an equivalent weight with the steel example. I have no intention of crunching any numbers beyond this. I may be a tedious little man, but I am not that tedious. So what does this mean?

  • KTM knows more about frame design than I ever will.
  • Unless you are trying to have a significant reduction in lateral stiffness (beyond that which KTM can attain with their steel tube designs), there is no point in even thinking about this.
  • Hey, its just one tube! What matters is the entire system that KTM has designed, and that is very much dependent on multiple factors not addressed here. You can design an anisotropic trellis frame without doing any of this.
  • It's not about aluminum vs. steel. It is rather a thought experiment about ease of fabrication where the issue is; how do you further reduce the lateral properties of a thin wall steel tube if it is already .06" wall (or less). Aluminum was selected because: It's legal per the MotoGP rule book, and it's very inefficiencies (increased wall thickness) turn into a plus when you start making the ID eccentric with the OD. If anyone seriously looked at this they would probably wind up with a tapered quasi-ellipse ID, and it would probably not be centered on the OD. But the rationale was that (at least to me) it seemed easier to machine a significantly eccentric ID on a thicker aluminum tube than a thin-wall steel tube (which may be flirting with buckling issues if it gets much thinner laterally).
  • Of course, if we could beg, borrow, or steal just a bit more space, increasing the aluminum tube OD, even small amount  (i.e., 1.9"-2.0" OD for this made up example) with a subsequent reduction in wall thickness (both directions), would improve the efficiency (as you and Sebastian Risse have stated). Much more than that and we should probably be looking at a spar (for better lateral packaging, though with some degradation in internal air flow).

But I very much appreciate your insights and response, even though we all know that the only real outcome of this was some mild entertainment, and the knowledge that the senior KTM Technical staff had a chance to practice their face-palm move. Cheers.

All very interesting. David, great notes.

I remember a long time ago, old style spoked wheels were being switched over to one piece wheels.

Every racer was switching, because they were lighter, stronger, had no flex, and they looked FAST. You could not go racing with old style wheels, people would not take you seriously...

I have been wondering, wouldn't spoked wheels be more useful today, with the angles achieved.

A spoked wheel can be tuned like a musical instrument according the whatever is needed. I am sure you can induce any amount of flex needed. Different thickness spokes, different materials, different tightness.

I can even see twin rear shocks being more useful nowadays, also due to the angles taken by those bikes.

Marquez looks unbeatable, he races as slow as he needs to win. 

Looking forward to the next races.

Just because you may differ from another person's views (which appears to be the case with you and Mat Oxley?) does not mean he does not think, and certainly does not justify juvenile insults (IMHO).  I personally find Mat's comments far more technically coherent than some of the drivel spouted in these comments.  And yes, I am a mechanical engineer.

Totally misinterpreted, mate. Might be an engineer job hazard eh?
I like Oxley. And Jinx. Just no way whatsoever that the two would be confused if you know much at all about them.

Calvin, I don't know anything about Motoshrink or Jinx apart from enjoying their thoughts as shared on David's great website and information forum, I just took Motoshrinks Laconic comments to be playing on the obvious characteristic that Mat Oxley is an ex racer and thinks rhymes with Jinx. It's obvious everyone on this site "thinks", else we'd only be on crashdotsomethingorother ...
{I'm an engineer too and I think engineer stereotypes can be just as wide of the mark as any other}

As much as i enjoyed the race i was disappponted by almost every rider barring Pol Espargaro and quartararo.

I have a question: most French websites quote quartararo saying that he switched on "qualification mapping that boosted his speed" : i am puzzled...

I still regret that Lorenzo left Ducati and i fear that Dovi will never get back the sparkle and the hunger necessary to bring the fight to Marquez. This championship is done and dusted. 

Waiting for the long round up

I should really stick to the great motto "engage brain before operating mouth/keyboard" 

Usually i write my comment and leave for last  reading Jinx great  comments  like good cognac after a meal ..