MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
MotoGP’s big change
The balance of MotoGP is set for a dramatic change as the bias moves from the front of the bike to the rear
Next week MotoGP undergoes its biggest technical shakeup since the arrival of the four-strokes back in 2002: one-size-fits-all rider aids, Michelin tyres and plenty else.
Which will have the greatest effect on the racing? No contest: it’s the tyres, the final interface between motorcycle and racetrack.
The switch from Bridgestone to Michelin will change the whole balance of MotoGP, because over the past seven years MotoGP riders enjoyed a front tyre that was better than the rear; now they have a rear that’s better than the front.
When Bridgestone took over MotoGP the bikes and the riders had to change. This is the way racing works: if your equipment gives you an advantage in a certain area then you must exploit that advantage.
Bridgestone’s front slick was so good that bike design and ultimately riding technique evolved to get the maximum out of the tyre. Michelin’s MotoGP technical director Nicolas Goubert, who last worked in MotoGP in 2006, watched the changes with interest.
“After Bridgestone came in the riders and the factories maximised their performance in the braking area,” he says. “The engineers evolved the bikes in that direction by changing the centre of gravity and so on to allow riders to gain maximum time during braking.
“And of course riding style evolved with that, with Marc Marquez pushing even further in that direction so everyone had to follow that way. Even if a rider makes so much of the braking area that he loses a little time from the apex onwards it doesn’t matter, because he gains so much in braking that he gains overall. Also, straight-line speed has increased, so the speed at which you can decelerate from those higher speeds becomes key, plus if you want to overtake somebody it’s easier to do that in corner entry.”
Now MotoGP commences a new journey, in the opposite direction, and no one knows who’s going to be ahead this time. Hopefully the shift in bias from front to rear and thus from corner entry to corner exit will be wonderful for fans. Because however jaw-dropping it was to watch Marquez tuck the front to help pivot the bike around the apex of a corner, it’s always going to be more fun watching riders getting funky with the rear, as Marquez, Jack Miller and others illustrated during November’s Valencia tests.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.