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.
Fabio’s rear-brake trick
MotoGP riders use the rear rake more than ever – Quartararo is one of the best at loading the rear tyre so he can get more stopping power from the rear of the bike
The four main controls on a MotoGP bike – throttle, clutch, front brake and rear brake – are tools that can be used for jobs other than those originally intended. The throttle can be used to steer the bike, the clutch can be used for traction control (at least before electronics took that job) and so on.
The busiest tool of them all is the rear brake, which riders use to stop the bike, to steer the bike and to reduce wheelies. In other words, before the corner, through the corner and out of the corner.
Both Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi tell us that Fabio Quartararo’s crucial advantage is how he uses the rear brake to help him get stopped quicker than anyone else. This doesn’t only save time on the brakes it also sheds more speed in a straight line, so he doesn’t have to risk so much on trail braking into the corner.
It’s also one of Marc Márquez’s great skills. Watch Márquez braking into a slow corner and the rear tyre is skittering left and right, locking and unlocking. Then he uses the rear end like a rally driver, awaiting the perfect moment, when the rear kicks out (as opposed to in) to flick the bike on its side and point it at the apex.
During the Bridgestone era many riders hardly used the rear brake to stop the bike because the front slick was so strong they could get all the stopping power they could handle through the front discs.
That’s no longer the case. While Bridgestone’s front slick was better than its rear, Michelin’s rear is better than its front; so riders really need the rear tyre to help them get stopped. Most MotoGP riders lock the front tyre, or have the tyre on the verge of locking, every time they hit the brakes.
This is why rear-brake technique is more important now than it’s ever been. And this is why riders like Bradley Smith, who was one of those riders who kept away from the rear brake, struggled with the switch to Michelin.
It’s not just about how the rider uses the rear brake, it’s about how he plays with the bike to keep the rear tyre in contact with the asphalt, because if he allows the front end to dive too much, the rear tyre will lift and become useless during the braking phase.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.