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 2016 change
At Valencia last week Michelin more or less matched Bridgestone’s lap times, albeit at the cost of a pile of trashed carbon-fibre and scuffed leathers.
Making exact comparisons between lap times with the French tyres and the Japanese tyres is fruitless, because most riders were also testing Dorna’s compulsory software.
In brief, Marc Marquez was the fastest man on Michelins, four tenths quicker than his best race lap, but half a second off his qualifying best. Maverick Vinales was the best improver: second fastest in the tests, 1.6 seconds better than in the race and two tenths quicker than in qualifying. Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi struggled most, both slower than their race pace.
The stopwatch numbers made the Michelin men happy, the complaints they received from riders about lack of front feel (the main cause of the many accidents) less so.
What Michelin may or may not know is that they have only a year or two to show what they can do – to make Marquez and the rest go faster than ever before – before Dorna put the brakes on. Dorna’s long-term desire is to reduce corner speeds. Not because they think that 65 degrees of lean angle is too much but because riders are running out of room to crash.
Very soon the fastest tracks – Phillip Island, Mugello and Brno – won’t have enough runoff. Bikes are hitting barriers, sometimes riders too. Most famously, Rossi’s Yamaha vaulted the Armco at Brno a couple of years ago, narrowly missing a BMW car chauffeuring VIPs around the track access road. That’s what you call a VIP experience.
There are two solutions to this problem. You either take Mugello and those other tracks off the calendar, because topography and costs make it prohibitive to continually expand gravel traps, or you reduce corner speeds.
It’s a no-brainer, to me at least. MotoGP’s fastest tracks are the best. They produce the best action and the best racing. Look at Valencia, a typically modern ‘intestinal’ racetrack that winds its way around itself, leaving nowhere to overtake (never mind the conspiracy theorists of recent weeks).
Dorna’s Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli has a favoured solution: to reduce wheel rim sizes to reduce contact patch, grip and therefore corner speeds. Compared to changing bore and stroke or rewriting rider-aid software, it’s a breeze.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.