The Comprehensive Barcelona MotoGP Test Round Up: New Frames, New Aero, And Usable Updates For Assen

The Monday post-race MotoGP test in Barcelona felt unusually important, unusually busy, even unusually productive. It seemed like a lot of manufacturers had brought a lot of parts to test, more than just the usual electronics updates, setup tweaks, minor component updates. There were new frames, exhausts, fairings, and even a selection of tires for the riders to test.

Conditions were perfect: hot, sunny, dry, almost identical to conditions on Sunday, making the work of testing easier. A little too easy, perhaps: with a layer of Michelin rubber on the track, the grip was outstanding, far better than it was during the weekend. The nature of the surface at Barcelona is also such that it takes rubber easily. Which is not necessarily the blessing it may seem.

"This morning was very, very fast," Valentino Rossi said. "Until 12:30 you can make a very good lap time. In the afternoon it was hotter, for sure. But it looks like the track is better than yesterday, especially at the end."

The siren call of good grip

But it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by the better conditions. "Always on a Monday test, especially in the afternoon the grip was good, there was a lot of rubber, and everything works well," Marc Márquez said. "So we have to to understand this and pay attention to everything we try." A rider may test a part and come away happy with how it feels at the test, only to find it behaves very differently, and much worse when grip is lacking, or when the track is still covered in Dunlop rubber from the Moto2 race.

For a factory with concessions like KTM, they have a way of getting around the restrictions. KTM are staying on in Barcelona for a test on Wednesday. With the Moto2 teams testing on Tuesday, the KTM riders will take to a track in conditions which more closely resemble the race. The Moto2 bikes will have sucked up most of the Michelin rubber, and laid down a layer of Dunlop rubber of their own. The track which KTM will test on on Wednesday will feel a lot more like it does during the race on Sunday than it did during the Monday test. A smart strategy for a factory intent on catching up quickly.

So what were the various teams testing? For most of them, an intriguing mix of parts which could be used as soon as Assen, and others which are the first steps toward building a bike for next year.

Past, present, future

For Honda, the work for 2020 included testing parts from 2018. While Takaaki Nakagami tested Cal Crutchlow's 2019 Honda RC213V, Marc Márquez rode a hybrid 2019 bike with parts from Nakagami's fairing. "HRC did a mix of things to try to understand the direction for the future, and basically one of the parts that was the Nakagami fairing, so we put that one on. It was just to try a different mix of 2018 and 2019 and understand for the future."

One of the things Márquez is trying for the future is a partially carbon-covered frame. This is similar to the chassis used by Stefan Bradl both at Jerez and at Barcelona, but with the difference that the carbon fiber has been applied to only the upper part of the frame, rather than the entire frame. The idea behind using carbon-fiber tightly bonded to the frame is to modify stiffness quickly and at relatively low expense. The frame Márquez used is the same design as Bradl's prototype, with a long sunken section in the middle of the upper spar. It is different to the standard chassis being used by the Honda riders.


Carbon covered frame on the Honda RC213V of @marcmarquez93. #MotoGP #CatalanGP #Honda #MM93

A post shared by David Emmett (@motomatters) on

Márquez remained vague about the feedback from the chassis, skirting over the issue in his replies. He did not rule out using it, or something derived from it, before the end of the season. "We worked a little bit on 2020, looking to find the correct direction for the new bike but also for the second part of the season with the new chassis."

The risk of experimentation

But first, Márquez wants to be certain that the new chassis would be an improvement on the one he has used to win four of the first seven races on. It could be a risk to switch to an unproven chassis unless he was absolutely certain it was better than his current frame. "Now we need to have a meeting, but the chassis we still need to understand," Márquez said. "Because when you feel good, when you feel ready, when you are winning races, to make a big change you need to be patient. Maybe it's better to retry in another circuit at another test."

He did not rule it out completely, however. "But we will see in Assen. We will arrive there, and maybe we are in a good position and we can try. But we must be patient and try to understand well."

Comparing Márquez' feedback from the first time he tried the chassis at the Jerez test in May, he was much more positive after the Barcelona test. At Jerez, he had said he felt the chassis had some positives, but the test had mainly to get an idea of the direction of development. "We understand many things and it was just to give the first comments to HRC," Márquez had said back in May. In June, he sounded a lot more open to using the new chassis.

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Thanks for sharing that, David!

What a great analogy by Petrucci! Do you want your shoulders warm...or your feet?

It is fascinating that Ducati and Honda are using the same solution (Composite layups) to address two very different issues. It appears Honda is focused on stiffening the spars a bit, possibly as a counter-solution to the enormous removal of material (the aluminum kind) near the steering head of their 2019 chassis. But they left the "torque box" (the basic structure around the swingarm that contributes so much to torsional stiffness) alone. Ducati, OTOH, seems to be trying to work on their torque-box stiffness with the spars essentially as-delivered from Suter (maybe). Honda may be looking for better performance under braking/turn-in. Ducati needs better roll response for high speed transitions (i.e., Left-Right / Right-Left).

KTM has a third approach where much of their current flexibility appears derived from the swingarm itself (at the back), and the triple-clamp / fork flex (at the front). This may help them soon if they can get the main chassis stiffness closer to the mark, allowing them to use their knowledge of the extremities to further optimize the new frame(s). And it is helpful, in this case, to have the forks manufactured in-house. Of course, all the factories play with the extremities (swingarm, T-clamps, forks, and so forth), but watching some high speed footage of the KTM on corner exit, their swingarm is really dancing around in the lateral direction. If KTM can find a good solution (by carefully managing the characteristics of the two extremities) they may eventually wind up with a great tuneable package (while still minding the limitations of such an approach. Too much swingarm flex may compromise chain/sprocket alignment. Too much fork flex and the suspensions binds). Suzuki is just polishing the best chassis on the grid, whereas Aprilia is polishing, well, I would choose another word than "chassis". But that would be vulgar.

I am glad that Gadda's efforts are concentrated with Vale. Maverick is far too manic-depressive to provide the hard-nosed evaluation and feedback Gadda needs to solve some of Iwata's more pressing issues (how many times has Vinales declared that "all issues are now fixed" followed later in the same weekend...or even just later the same "this is un-rideable"?). Vale is just more grounded and realistic about such things, and honestly, Vinales should be happy that Yamaha lets him keep his belt and shoelaces, and allows him to eat meals with sharp utensils. Maverick is blazingly fast, but he is surely an excitable lad.

The ultimate unicorn everyone wants, Petrucci's "longer blanket" may well come from the most important engineering group in the paddock. And they all wear Michelin shirts. Because, as we are all aware, nothing is more important than your tires. Cheers.

PS - Rossi and pipes. Interesting comments this weekend to the effect that Vale doesn't like a loud pipe on his bike. He already knows what his own engine is doing...he wants to be able to hear the bikes around him better to judge the gaps. The new pipe was louder. Cheers.


Asking Brivio - where is the hope for Yamaha right now...
In a Gadda Davide?

(No way would I refer to Maverick as struggling with Bipolar Disorder. He has been struggling with getting off of a Suzuki coming great, and getting on a Yamaha coming apart. He settled down at the very end of 2018 when all the structural changes were announced in Blueville. And he should. He went nuts last year pushing and pulling for bike change. Now, the bike is coming good).

Now that there is a Euro test/electronics team and 4 factory bikes, Vinales' 2019 song for Yamaha:

In-a-Gadda-da-vida, honey
Don't you know that I love you?
In-a-Gadda-da-vida, baby
Don't you know that I'll always be true?

Oh, won't you come with me
And a-take my hand?
Oh, won't you come with me
And a-race this land?
Please take my hand

First lap find the limit
Full tank a brakin
No losin my mind huh, huh
All right, uh, hey, ha

If the clutch is only operated once during the start, why not make a short scooter-clutch-lever that sit's low and have a normal left hand brake lever ? Seems so logic to me that you place the least operated lever in the "most dificult position".


Exactly what I (and probably everyone else) was thinking. According to Jeremy McWilliams the problem is that the riders have spent their entire lives using a clutch on the left hand, and this might lead to involuntary muscle-memory during a 'moment' that could in turn lead to a very nasty crash.

To make effective use of a brake on the left hand it would be best if that's how you've always had it.

Well put  Colonel.

If you've always ridden scooters or bicycles and are used to left hand rear brake then it should work fine.

Not for me. I would be prepared to try left thumb rear braking.

Can't do right foot gearchange. Or race pattern cog swapping, down for up and up for a lower gear does my head in.

Tried go-karting once. It's the nearest racetrack. Discovered I can't do left foot braking on 4 wheels either. As I went off at the end of the straight trying to get my right foot to the other side of the steering column.

I spent more than a few years doing structural design analysis for MilSats, and came into contact with a wonderfully diverse, gifted, and, well, a thoroughly eccentric group of characters. I never knew what the hell the sparkies were talking about, except they were all PHD's and meetings could be a little confusing when everyone (except yours truly) was addressed as "Doctor".  I once suggested that perhaps they could point if that was going to be the only form of address used.

The group I was most drawn to were the mechanical Inspector Gadget types who would sort out how to deploy an acre or so of solar panels packaged in the cargo hold as something the size and shape of a rolled-up beach towel. There was still a large contingent of brilliant Canadians hanging around Carpentaria in SoCal (still my favorite little town in that general area) who had developed, among other useful things, the amazing Canadarm used on the Space Shuttle missions. And I have no doubt they would certainly look at the whole clutch lever / scooter brake issue in a slightly different way.

If combined with a hole-shot device, the clutch lever could be deployed just at the start, and then fold away (from the rider's left hand) when the hole-shot device was no longer active (the two events would be mechanically linked). The hole-shot device could be activated by manually moving the clutch lever into its' normal operating position, which would provide the mechanical impetus for not only that device, but also to retract the clutch lever after use (using the same stored energy), leaving only the scooter brake lever for the rider to deal with. Yes, if you toss it all in the kitty-litter and have to bump start the poor beast, the hole shot device would be activated again, but I see no real downside to this. And besides, I don't think you will ever build a championship winning bike based on how easy it is to restart so you can then heroically battle for 22nd. Better to have an arrangement that optimizes the rear brake control so you avoid the gravel, rather than optimizing your gravel-meister escape mode.

Of course, if we can't get onboard with the two lever scenario, a single Inspector Gadget lever that is able to act on a dual master cylinder (separate brake and clutch circuits) would do the job as-well. Just have Brembo build in a rotating actuation cam that is controlled by the hole-shot device.; one cam position (at the start with the Hole-Shot/Launch-Control engaged) operates the clutch circuit. It then rotates when the HS releases so there is no contact with the clutch side of the 2X master cylinder, and the previously non-functioning rear-brake cam is now active on the rear brake circuit. The cam profiles can be quite different (as can the individual MC ratios), and are both contained in a single rotating barrel. The same lever is always used, it is just working through different cams to activate separate circuits of the 2X Brembo MC as-needed. The launch control light on the dash indicates to the rider which circuit is active.

Belt and Suspenders: If a little more refinement were desired with regards to clutch actuation, then the following could be considered. Given the case where rolling up to a grid position, or even skating across a small patch of gravel, would necessitate disengaging the clutch (without activating the hole-shot device), this could be handled by a "thumb-clutch". It would not have the control and feel required for race starts, but that function would remain with the Inspector Gadget lever. What a thumb-clutch could also provide is a simple anti-stall device via a full indent lock/unlock (i.e., push once to lock the thumb clutch as fully engaged (clutch disengaged), and press again to release the locking feature). This may prove handy if you appear to be set for a tumble. Just mash the thumb-clutch in and the engine will still be running when you manage to crawl back to it. The indent lock would also be disabled (at the start) by engaging the inspector gadget clutch lever. When unlocked the thumb-clutch would otherwise disengage the clutch proportionally to the pressure applied (it is not an all-on or all-off device, it simply has a lock/unlock feature at the end of the stroke, with a significant increase in mechanical resistance prior to the lock/unlock region to eliminate inadvertent application). You could also replicate a small thumb-brake control on the throttle side that would lock when the HS/LC devices were armed, and unlock and release when the lever clutch is released (to initiate the launch). All this may appear over-complicated, but it is really a fairly simple systems-based approach to the functional requirements of the end item, and all it really would require would be to follow a very simple procedure on the starting grid. Besides, as Eddie Izzard has observed; "The Dutch speak four languages and smoke dope" we tend to underestimate our abilities. Just my two-cents. Cheers.

PS - Or you could sod all this and just get comfortable with the thumb-brake control, or come up with any number of alternative concepts that I have no doubt would be better than my lunatic ravings on the subject. Either way, if you cannot access the rear Michelin's brake, by limiting yourself to a standard brake control (which is inaccessible with severe lean angles to the right), you  are either leaving a lot of nutritious French traction on your plate, un-eaten, or hoping the engine management package can sort out all the required sparks via engine braking. But for the latter you are right back to calling everyone "Doctor", and they will still refuse to helpfully point in meetings. Cheers.

since I'm not a site supporter I get the info I missed from your site supporters who give a chapter and verse comment on everything in the article.  each of them seem to think they can report from the comfort of their homes with the same accuracy and insight you provide from the racetrack. how ironic!

spokes100: thankfully this one operates in a similar, but much more intelligent way than most. We should be grateful for that. However, I reckon your sense of irony will immediately fade away the moment you subscribe...;-)

Some of us actually go to motorcycle races.

Of course I cannot claim to be accurate, precise or insightful.

I'm not a professional wordsmith either. David Emmett is, one of the best in my personal opinion.

Support the site & get it first hand.

That you’re either too cheap or selfish to support the one guy you just acknowledged as being the closest and most qualified to do the reporting. How do you think he gets to be as close to the action? Let me guess, ‘the ATM fairy’.

I've ridden the KTM E-ride electric motocross bikes at E-Scape in Cheshire a few times and I must admit after a few minutes of getting used to the feel of it I really liked having the rear brake on the left handlebar, it made it really easy to lock up the rear wheel going into corners to get it to turn a bit more and leaves your feet free to dab and move around freely. Granted I'm no Motogp rider but I was reverting to instinct in the slippery conditions and it never caught me out. 

David, it was good to run into you in the paddock at Catalunya. Maybe time for a longer chat at a future race. 

I heard a rumour that Dovi and Gigi are not speaking to each other. Have you come across that? I also heard that Ducati was less than pleased that someone reported it. 

All very well having self arranging levers, but what happens on the rare occaision that the rider needs to use the clutch lever as a clutch lever i.e. when the motor suffers a 'electrical issue' and a rod pops out for a bit of fresh air? 

Certainly my shoveling out that much horse manure in one large pile can make it deuce difficult for anyone to find that pony.

You raise a great point but I believe the pony we need to address it is in the part of the pile where a thumb-clutch option is discussed (as an auxiliary to the Inspector Gadget clutch/brake levers). It should suffice for those occasions you describe and others. I really need to work on my poop-to-pony ratio. Cheers.

PS - The point of, uh...the pile I created was not really to define a one-size-fits-all optimized system, but rather to scratch an itch caused by the (apparent) lack of a fully optimized control system across the grid, and to propose some solutions that would piggy-back the stored energy of a hole-shot device to allow this to happen. The advantages of a integrated hole-shot device are so stupendously obvious I am gob-smacked that only one Mfg. is using it, and then only at one end of the horse. Maybe the rest think an effective Launch-Control program is sufficient, but I will guarantee the Launch-Control system with the lower CG will just rip the fur off the back of the one with the higher CG when the race starts. Hell, we have seen this with our own eyes. As to the rest, the great photo kenup283 shared (thanks, mate) illustrates why the current dual levers fighting over a single perch is well, a bit compromised. Sure, it can be said that it gets the job done, but so does reaching over my shoulder to scratch my bum. Seems silly when there are more direct methods available. But I am sure that sooner or later someone will sort all this out...and I can all but guarantee it won't be us. Cheers, and thanks for the response.