Is Moto2 To Blame For A Lack Of Grip During MotoGP Races? Probably Not, Believes Guy Coulon

It is a common complaint among MotoGP riders after the race on Sunday afternoon: the track never has the grip which the riders found on previous days during practice and qualifying. The riders are quick to point the finger of blame at Moto2. The spectacle of 33 Moto2 machines sliding around on fat tires lays down a layer of rubber which adversely affects grip during the MotoGP race.

Andrea Dovizioso was the latest rider to add to a growing litany of complaints. After finish sixth at Mugello, the Ducati rider told the media that the rubber laid down by Moto2 made it hard to obtain the same level of grip as they found during practice. 'Everybody complains about that,' Dovizioso said, 'the rubber from Moto2 makes the grip less'. Because free practice and qualifying for Moto2 always takes place after MotoGP, but the Moto2 race happens before the premier class, it meant that track conditions were different.

Dovizioso was open to suggestions of reversing the order of practice for the Moto3 and Moto2 classes, with Moto2 preceding MotoGP and Moto3 following, rather than the other way round, Moto3 practice taking place ahead of MotoGP, and Moto2 going last. The idea behind this would be to have MotoGP practicing in the same conditions as the race, once Moto2 have left their layer of rubber on the track. 'It would be an interesting test if Moto2 and Moto3 would swap,' Dovizioso said. It is a suggestion which Jorge Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg has also made on a number of occasions, the Dutchman have complained of differing grip conditions repeatedly for several years now.

But are MotoGP's grip problems really caused by having to race after Moto2? Or are there other factors at play, which are not being taken into account? To get an expert opinion, we asked legendary Tech 3 crew chief Guy Coulon. As crew chief for Tech 3's MotoGP and Moto2 riders, Coulon has experience and understanding of both classes, and how set up for the bikes changes over the three days of practice.

Coulon is not convinced that Moto2 is what is causing the different grip conditions for the MotoGP race. 'Grip for the Moto2 race [at Mugello] was also less,' Coulon said. Having extra rubber on the track could be a contributing factor, but there were many other factors to be taken into consideration. As ground temperature goes up, so grip comes down, Coulon explained, with temperatures usually different on Sunday than preceding days. 'Riders were already complaining about the grip during the short practice session [FP4] on Saturday afternoon,' he said.

There is another, less intuitive reason why riders don't experience the same levels of grip on Sunday, according to Coulon. During practice, riders spend most of their time on their own, working on a perfect lap. During the race, that is simply not possible. 'In the race, the riders are following, so they can't ride their own style,' Coulon told us. During the race, riders are concentrated on the other bikes around them, rather than on themselves. They are looking for places to pass those ahead of them, defend against those behind them, or are following the lines of the riders in front. That is a crucial difference, forcing riders to ride differently, and meaning that they spend a lot of their time taking different lines during practice. The feeling of grip is different because they are riding differently, Coulon believes.

The most convincing argument for Coulon, however, is the feeling of the track during the tests. If the rubber laid down by Moto2 is a problem for grip, why does a track always have more grip during a test after the race. 'Why was there more grip on Monday morning after the Jerez race?' Coulon wondered rhetorically. The track has a layer of rubber from all three races, which in theory should mean it has even less grip. And yet riders usually say they have more grip on Monday than they have had all weekend. If rubber was a problem, then tests on Mondays should be worse, not better.

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I read Dovi's comments after Mugello and was doubtful.

When they go to a dirty or little used track like Qatar all the riders complain about a lack of grip on the first day. All of them say "it will be better once some rubber is laid down."

Similarly at those tracks everyone says the grip is better on Saturday and more so on Sunday. But, hang on a minute, weren't there Moto2 bikes on track the day before?

They can't have it both ways, either bikes riding round lays down rubber and helps the grip or it doesn't. I could understand if they said that there was too much grip after the Moto2 race but not less.

Like Irongut, I have often read/heard comments from riders to the effect that tracks get better once they have some rubber laid down on them (same with F1 cars, when they go to places like Monaco etc.) so now I'm a bit confused as to how the equation rubber/grip works. I'd appreciate it if someone could provide a technical explanation.

In some ways, practice is like a pickup game in stick and ball sports. Only another streetballer ever understood my pride in the battering I took winning pickup basketball games. People seemed more universally sympathetic about the hand I broke crashing out of a real, though inconsequential to them, motorcycle race.

Doohan was right: either you try as hard as you can during practice or you're just riding around, taking up valuable track space. Coulon is also right: your end goal during practice is completing a fast lap, not completing the last lap first.

Changing the practice and qualifying orders would be an interesting experiment, but I'd bet Coulon's opinions would bear out.

They will be complaining that all tracks need to be at sea level to optimise engine output next....

These guys are professionals and I know they will examine every option for improvement, but this is one area where they should just get on and ride the thing.

Even if it was an issue (and I tend to think Coulon is right) the commercial aspects of the event sequence has to be more important. Also, is a 30 minute race going to make so much difference after all the practice sessions?

They have to cope with temperature variations, rain, wind etc. I should think that the 'wrong sort of rubber' was something less than problematic. figure out how much rubber laid down on the tarmac is optimal. What I do know is that it is the same for every rider out there. The teams are always seeking that perfect set up, which from everything I have read and witnessed rarely ever happens. Every rider on the grid is riding around some form of problem or another. The problem for Dovi is not the rubber laid down on the track from Moto 2, but the big red bike that he is sitting on. I cannot imagine the frustration of the rider knowing full well they can go faster than what the bike is allowing them to go however, I believe Dovi's frustration is being pointed in the wrong direction.

Other than the other factories, I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to see the Ducati get better.

Exactly apex.
"There seems to be a difficulty from Moto2 rubber laid down right at the turn in point making the front end feel vague."

When temps are low I like the feeling of a track after a race wknd when there is a bunch of rubber on it. When temps are high it feels greasy. Following car races on cool Spring or Fall days was neat as they would leave rubber on weird lines, making places off of the racing line sticky for the adventurous...then a bunch of marbles just outside of their lines where they tossed tire snot bits.

I sincerely wonder if Dovi with discouragement from his team to voice criticism re his bike, and discouragement from struggles with getting that thing into a corner knowing full well what previous bikes of his behaved like, if he is left with this sort of outlet statement.

Go Ducati! Get it on the podium! (Go everyone but HRC!)

Perhaps if some of these Grand Pricks riders spent a season or two searching for traction on Australian and US dirt-tracks, they would suddenly find the uniform grip levels on tarmac surfaces a wonder to behold...

Or we could get Misano to re-create the varying track surfaces that place had in the late 1980s, water it, and send them out to feel for traction there.

I doubt that Marquez is complaining, and I don't think Stoner ever complained about this mysterious changing grip. But then, they were real pros who found traction pretty much wherever they looked - except on cold tyres in a couple of notable cases.

Many of these riders already Train on dirt tracks. Also a few years back i remember reading Pedrosa riding on a sand covered surface to improve his rain riding abilities. And Stoner was too busy complaining about everything else, he probably did complain about this but just not voiced it as much as Lorenzo.

the track offers more grip on monday! why? motogp races the last race! easy!

It's not extra rubber on the track, it's the type of rubber. You've got Dunlop compounds on Moto2 and Moto3 machines. You've got Bridgestone rubber on the MotoGP bikes. The tire compounds can be incompatible, and therefore make the track surface seem slicker until the new rubber is laid down over the old.

This is well-known in U.S. auto racing circles, where multiple classes race on the same day on the same track. When NASCAR goes to the Northeast and races on the track with the Super Modifieds, they are running Goodyears that are slick as snot when you first try to run them over the rubber left by the SM's Hoosier tires.

You can have Guy send me a check for furthering his knowledge of GP racing.


Still doesn't explain why a MotoGP rider will say that a dirty or little used track will have more traction on Saturday after 4 sessions on Dunlop tyres the previous day. Guy should hold off on that cheque.

I'd guess it's the sked. On Saturday, the MotoGP riders are out after only one session of Moto3, which will put less of the "bad" rubber on the pavement (bikes are lighter, tires are skinnier, engines less powerful). Then it's Moto2, Moto 3 and three straight MotoGP sessions. By the time that last Q session rolls around for the MotoGP guys, the rubber that's on the track is what's been left by two prior MotoGP sessions.

That's compared to immediately following the Moto2 riders on Sunday.

That would also explain why grip is better on the Monday tests after a MotoGP weekend. They're going back out onto the Bridgestone rubber they laid down the day before.

My thoughts.

If that theory is true, then FP2 & 4 should offer the least amount of grip as moto2 & 3 will be on the track b4 motogp.

I've had this experience many times racing powerful track bikes. Basically you get stuck behind someone a bit slower, and you start getting all hamfisted with the throttle and get slides everywhere. The first couple of times I did it I thought it was the tyre, but quickly realized it was me. The hard part was to dial down that GOTTA-GET-PASSED anxiety, smooth out the throttle and get good drive. Of course very hard if some one continually parks their quicker bike on the apex of the corner, and warp factors you off the turn.

The less powerful the bike less I've noticed it. But did notice that the front seems to get looser as I am chasing harder in the corners to try and outbrake and maneuver past fore mentioned big power bikes.

Given all these guys are riding at 100% all the time, you'd have to imagine that the fastest guy to adapt will over come quickest and benefit. Probably this is playing further into of the favor of MM93. His rate of adaption to Motogp and various conditions, and the fact that he has less baggage to carry into how to ride a MOTOGP machine mostly likely mean he will accept it fast. Then try different techniques to get over it.