Jack Miller

Crunching The Numbers: Predicting Race Outcomes - Which Session Matters Most?

It is no secret that FP4 is my favorite part of a MotoGP weekend. Every Saturday afternoon I watch the live timing carefully for signs of which MotoGP rider has the best race pace, usually pinging comments back and forth with Neil Morrison over WhatsApp. Once the results PDF is published, I pore over the Analysis timesheets, showing times and sector times for each lap, as well as which tires were used, and how fresh or used they were.

Based on that information, plus the outcome of qualifying, listening to what riders have to say and discussing the day with others, I try to make as informed a guess as possible of what might happen in the race. I try to estimate who looks to have the best race pace, based on lap times set in longer runs on very used tires. And if a rider hasn't used older tires – switching between two different rear tires, for example – I try to estimate whether their pace on used tires drops off more than the times in FP4 show.

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Sepang MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Pressure, Tows, Bumps, And Championships

There is a cliché about sports events having a "pressure cooker atmosphere", but in the case of the Sepang MotoGP race, it is almost literally true. A combination of withering heat, completely saturated humidity, and incredible pressure is cooking up an explosive climax to the MotoGP championship.

With a championship on the line, the pressure is plain to see. In the previous 18 races, Pecco Bagnaia had just 12 crashes. On Saturday, he added another two to that tally. Fabio Quartararo has had six crashes in the 18 races before this weekend, and added another during FP4, fracturing a finger in his left hand in the process. Likewise Aleix Espargaro, who has added another two crashes this weekend, taking his total to 13. For the record, the current crash leader is Darryn Binder, with 22.

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Sepang MotoGP Friday Round Up: Rain Ruining Plans, The Dangers Of A Wet Q1, And Aprilia Coming Up Short

The weather in the tropics is always a gamble. At some places, you can set your clock by the rains during monsoon season. If it's 3:45pm, you're about to get soaked. At others, you only know that at some point during the afternoon, a lot of rain is going to fall. It might rain at 1pm. Or it might rain at 5pm. But of one thing you can be certain: a hard rain is gonna fall, and it will flood the track.

Friday at Sepang the rain came shortly after 2:15pm, less than a quarter of the way through the Moto2 FP2 session. Light at first, then more heavily, then a torrent of water from the heavens, forcing a red flag, and a delay of an hour.

It caught everyone by surprise. The forecast had been for dry weather through the afternoon, and teams had made their plans accordingly. That meant that in FP1, a lot of riders didn't bother putting in a set of soft tires to chase a fast lap, expecting to improve in the afternoon.

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Phillip Island MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Secret To Great Racing, How To Win A Tire Conservation Race, And The Power Of Leadership

If there is one thing which is bound to rile up the fans and get them complaining, it is the prospect of a race which requires the riders to carefully manage their tires. "Let them race!" people cry. "It should be a test of who goes fastest, not who can save their tires!" The clamor invariably ends up with a single, indignant demand: "Bring back the tire wars!"

If you needed proof of the wrongness of that opinion, you need only look at Sunday's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. In a race where tire preservation was paramount, we saw countless passing maneuvers throughout the race, a pass for the win on the last lap, and the first seven riders finishing within a second of one another. Yes, you read that right. The top seven were within one second. 0.884, actually.

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Phillip Island MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Record Falls At Last, Managing Tires, And Controlling Wildlife

It has been a long time coming, but Jorge Lorenzo's pole record from 2013 has fallen at last. Lorenzo's 1'27.899 was MotoGP's most long-standing record, the then factory Yamaha rider smashing the previous pole record, set by Casey Stoner in 2008 by seven tenths of a second.

Why did Lorenzo's record stand for so long? Those with a long memory will remember that Phillip Island was last resurfaced at the end of 2012, with Stoner being used as a consultant on the project. The new asphalt increased the available grip by a massive amount. Fergus Cameron, managing director of the circuit at the time, told the New Atlas website, "On a scale of 0-110 on a friction coefficient test the old surface was at 54 or 55 and the new surface is at 78, so the new surface is much grippier."

The Omnishambles

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Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up: Coping with The Wind, And Turning With The Rear

Phillip Island is going to Phillip Island. A truth universally acknowledged, that whatever you thought the weather was going to do at the glorious racetrack overlooking the Bass Strait, the weather systems powered by the mighty Southern Ocean will always have a mind of their own.

So the day started off bright and relatively sunny, confounding forecasts of rain on Friday. "The thing in this country is that is it so difficult to predict the weather," Pecco Bagnaia said. "It was raining a lot yesterday but then it was completely dry during FP2 so it is difficult to know."

The rain from Thursday had left a lot of water around the track, but the strong wind had dried most of the track out, bar a couple of sections where water ran across the surface, including at the last corner and around Siberia. It made FP1 extremely difficult. "Coming back to the Island after three years was quite nice," Alex Rins said. "Sincerely FP1 was so difficult and so dangerous. With two-three wet patches crossing the track and it was on the limit for those conditions and with some kerbs full of water."

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Buriram MotoGP Subscriber Notes: Rain Setups, Tire Pressures, And Team Orders

After a weekend of waiting, the rain finally came on Sunday. It had been forecast for Friday, but Friday stayed dry. It was forecast again on Saturday, but Saturday was dry as well. In the run up to the Grand Prix of Thailand, Sunday had looked like offering the best chance of remaining dry. But that forecast proved to be wrong as well.

The trouble started as the Moto2 race was about to get underway. A few raindrops on the grid quickly turned into a downpour. After a brief delay, the organizers started the race, but it would only last 8 laps before conditions forced Race Direction to red flag it, spray and standing water making it impossible to complete the race safely.

Several abortive attempts to restart the race followed, but when another downpour started as the Moto2 bikes got halfway round the track on the sighting lap to the grid, the red flag went out again and the race was called. With less than two-thirds distance completed, half points were awarded, much to the consternation of anti-decimal faction of the MotoGP paddock who abhor the ugliness of a points table which does not consist solely of integers.

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