Interview: Nicolas Goyon, Pol Espargaro's Crew Chief, On Developing The Yamaha M1 To Exploit The Strengths Of Moto2 Riders

Many MotoGP followers, both inside and outside the paddock, were sceptical when news leaked that Yamaha had signed Pol Espargaro to a factory contract early in 2013. A year later, and halfway through his first MotoGP season, that scepticism has been replaced with admiration. The younger of the two Espargaro brothers is the best satellite rider in the championship standings, and has been competitive from the start of the season.

Yamaha clearly had a plan with Pol Espargaro. The riding style which young racers develop in Moto2 is very different from the style which came from the 250cc class. Where Moto2 racers use a sliding rear tire to help turn the bike into the corners, the 250 two-strokes rewarded riders who could brake early and carry as much corner speed as possible. The Yamaha YZR-M1 has been primarily developed around the 250cc style, but as riders schooled in the Moto2 class enter MotoGP, Yamaha realized they will have to adapt their bike to this new generation of young riders. By signing the reigning Moto2 champion, Yamaha have started to seriously examine how the new intermediate class is affecting MotoGP bike development.

Leading this development has been Pol Espargaro's crew chief, Nicolas Goyon. The Frenchman has been a data and electronics engineer in MotoGP since 2003, the first year in which the class switched over fully to four strokes. With the departure of Daniele Romagnoli, who followed Cal Crutchlow to Ducati, Goyon was given the role of crew chief to MotoGP rookie Espargaro. Since then, Goyon has been working with the Moto2 champion and Yamaha to explore how the Moto2 style can be made to fit to the Yamaha M1. We spoke to Goyon after the Brno test, to ask him about how he had adapted the bike and the feedback Pol Espargaro was providing. We know what the Yamaha style is to be as smooth as possible and to carry as much corner speed as possible and not upset the bike. That means braking in a straight line, keeping your wheels in line as much as possible. A few times, Pol Espargaro has been riding in more of a Moto2-style. First of all, why did he decide to do it, and did he talk to you about it?

Nicolas Goyon: Yes, of course. This is one direction Yamaha wanted to try, and obviously, Pol is the first Moto2 world champion working with Yamaha, and so Yamaha is really interested in this new style. We realize that all the Moto2 riders, the new generation of riders, they have a specific style, one we all know, they have the elbow on the ground, their bike is shaking from the rear on braking. Pol is really the first guy with this style working with Yamaha.

So Yamaha is really interested, especially in the way we want to catch Honda. When we see Honda, they have more and more this kind of style. So Yamaha invest a lot in Pol to try to develop this direction, to work on the braking phase. So we work on the setting of the bike, on the engine brake setting, on many different settings, to try to see if it could be one direction for the Yamaha.

MM: What do you specifically do to the bike to allow it to behave like that. What is it exactly you are trying to do? Get more engine braking? Get more braking from the rear?

NG: At the beginning, as we can see especially last year, the Yamaha in braking, the bike is quite nervous and it's shaking quite a lot. So we're trying to smooth this bike, and I think we've managed to do it. We especially started to work in this direction in Le Mans. So together with the setting of the bike, the engine brake setting, all these kind of things, we try to make it smoother, to load the rear, and to have a constant slide of the rear, that would put the bike in a better direction to turn. So we're specifically working in this direction, to try to allow a constant slide.

MM: And that is mainly about engine braking, electronics, a little bit of suspension?

NG: When I mean bike setting, this is the whole package. So this is the balance of the bike, this is suspension setting front and rear, because they are always working together, and the electronics, especially the engine brake setting.

MM: The Yamaha as it is now, does it work for the Yamaha, or does it mean there will have to be some changes?

NG: I think we have reached one of the limit for the bike, and as you said at the beginning, we know this for a long long time, that the strong point of this bike is the corner speed, going fast in the corner. This bike has been made to brake very strongly with the bike straight, and then release the brake and go into the corner really fast. So at the moment it's a little bit struggling with this new style of braking, which means we are still searching our way. We've tried to develop this direction, but at the moment it doesn't really fit with the bike behavior. So we cannot really say now we have found one direction. We have tried, we have seen the good points of this, the bad points as well, and we are trying to really find our way.

MM: And it varies from circuit to circuit as well? It suits one circuit much better than another?

NG: Yes, exactly. More specifically, in some circuits it works on some corners. So I would say the really hard-braking, tight corners, then this kind of style works. But then as soon as you add some fast corners that you have to brake with some lean angle, then it becomes really difficult to use this style.

MM: So it would work at Le Mans, Motegi, but it won't work at Phillip Island...

NG: Exactly.

MM: So basically, you've been exploring this new direction, and have run into this limit, and you're at the point where if you go any further in this direction, you start to lose the good points?

NG: Yes, exactly. We realize that, especially in this track (Brno), we have been struggling a little bit by the end of the weekend, and we realize that maybe we have reached the limit of this direction. So maybe now we have to find another way, or to set the bike a little bit in the middle. But anyway, as you say, we cannot go any further, because we have no gain, and we lose some time, so that's not the target.

MM: Do you think that Yamaha will start to change the bike more towards this style? You have Jorge Lorenzo who is a world champion and capable of winning races, who has a totally different style, but then you also know you have people coming up through Moto3, Moto2...

NG: It's quite difficult for me to tell you, because I don't know the future of the Yamaha. But as far as I know, they are really really interested in this direction, and they invest a lot in Pol, because as we said in the beginning, he has a new style, so they are checking a lot of his data. And I believe they are going to bring some new things to help us try different things here in this direction, but I cannot confirm this for sure, this is a decision for Yamaha.

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Great interview, David.
This is interesting stuff.
I wonder if Yamaha will ask Lorenzo to change his style.
I wonder if Lorenzo will try to do so.

This is the type of article that makes MotoMatters the best. Great stuff Dave, and great to hear some details about this from an engineer's perspective (albeit, obviously not divulging all the real juicy bits).

I think the last few lines sum up Yamaha's direction for the future and (to go back a few weeks/months) potentially shed some light on the Lorenzo contractual hang-ups. (I'll avoid a flame war and just leave that statement as-is for now).

I also find it interesting to hear that they're reaching a point with this current chassis where the direction no longer saves time... that really goes to show you how smooth and wheels-in-line the Yamaha has been (especially since Lorenzo-driven development took hold after 2010).

Again, great stuff Dave.

I also think that not only was it the last of the 250-style riders like Lorenzo who drove the development of the "wheels in line" corner entry, but the 800cc racing from '07-'11 where they had to basically ride flawlessly on the "razor's edge" to get good lap times and to stay at the front.

Bambam, Liz, Beufort thanks and agreed. Love this stuff David!

'The Moto2 style' of Pol et al is consistent w Rossi's preferences and development needs. It also looks to be congruent with what I imagine could be asked of those trying to get a bike to work with the championship electronics and Michelins.

Bye bye '250 style'
p.s. - I find it curious that interest and focus on the FTR Yamaha & Hernandez's Ducati technical development struggles, factory involvement, etc has been so minimal. IS THERE ANYONE YOU CAN INTERVIEW DAVID RE WHY SPECIFICALLY A.ESPARGARO'S BIKE IS AT SUCH A POWER DEFICIT IN THAT STATE OF TUNE AND FUEL AVAILABILITY? (Sorry to be a broken record on this but PLEEEAASE?! - I will become a site supporter if you throw me something good here ;)

p.p.s. - Equally surprised by the Factory Yamaha counterpoint here, however did they find the power and rideability gain this season w so little fuel and their thirsty motor?

p.p.p.s. - And while I am on Santa David's lap...shouldn't Hernandez's bike have an electronics advantage over the other Opens since Ducati eeked in a software uodate specific to that bike? What can he said about this, and ANYTHING re the current happenings re work on the championship software (what is changing? what is being pushed by whom? seamless trans to stay or go? where is the rev limit headed? what are factories working on in anticipation? dying to know!)


I would hazard a guess from the insider comment that BOTH Rossi and Lorenzo (to varying degrees) would have to adapt their styles to this NEW Moto 2 riding style. From the following comment it would seem neither of them have a riding style that resembles whats coming from Moto 2.

"We realize that all the Moto2 riders, the new generation of riders, they have a specific style, one we all know, they have the elbow on the ground, their bike is shaking from the rear on braking. Pol is really the first guy with this style working with Yamaha."

...might have a little less trouble adjusting his style than Lorenzo. With the 990's they were sliding all over the place (although Rossi maybe not so much as Stoner and others but still sliding it). Rossi changed his style many times in the past, with varying succes from 800's to Ducati en 1000 again, so my guess it would not be impossible for him to do it again. Lorenzo I'm not sure about, now just when he is happy with the M1 behaving like he wants again and to be able to ride it as he wants...

While I obviously do not have Mr Emmett's insight or access to engineers but I beliwve I can shed some light on two of your questions.

Firstly, why A.Espargaro's bike has a power deficit: The contract with Yamaha specifies 5 engines, 3 new and two rebuilds, I believe. I would suggest this fact alone would make a significant difference to the peak power the engine would be permitted to make. Coupled with lesser electronic controls, that could explain the deficit. If it did not, Yamaha need only 'turn it down' to ensure lesser performance.

Secondly, why Hernadez's Ducati electronics do not appear to have an advantage: This is more straightforward. The Ducati inspired electronics added to the Open package is not being used, by agreement, by any Open machines in 2014. While Iannone's and the Factory pair's machines use Factory 2, Hernandez remains firmly open class.

I hope you do not mind my limited attempts to answer your questions.

>> It also looks to be congruent with what I imagine could be asked of those trying to get a bike to work with the championship electronics and Michelins.

Since neither the Michelin tires nor the championship electronics exist yet you must have quite an imagination. ;)

Good riders adapt to the bike they are riding and since Moto2 bikes are heavy, underpowered machines with primative electronics and an oversized rear tire, they require a riding style that includes sliding the rear. This is because there are not allowed to have any decent control systems to better control engine braking, not becuse it is inherently a faster way around the track.

>>however did they find the power and rideability gain this season w so little fuel and their thirsty motor?

Lots of R&D!


So now the Marquez effect has shown Yamaha that they need to have a bike that can be ridden more loosely. They see what Marquez does, and know their bike can't do it. Pol is a good choice; if they can get a bike that allows him to ride like Marquez he may be able to challenge him.

I'm not so sure that this is a "new" moto 2 or Marquez style. He just hangs off the bike more than others reducing lean angle and using more meat on the tire through turns. Not too long ago when the 4-stroke era began (2002 990cc), superbike riders where the next big thing moving up (Hayden,Edwards,Bayliss, etc.) the 990's where just "ultra superbikes" with more r&d and money thrown at them. I can remember watching Hayden on the factory Honda or Bayliss on the factory Ducati using the rear to turn more in the corners and sliding the rear coming out. It wasn't really until the 800cc era (2007) that the 250 riding style was the more dominant style mainly due to electronics forcing the "wheels in-line" racing. Even today if you watch superbike racing (national or world), it's still the same (slamming the breaks late & hard and squaring off the corner) while the bikes are loosely moving around and sliding especially towards the end when the tires "come off" I think it's more of a return of the superbike style imo.

I'm one of those that early on saw the banzai-kamikaze style bought up by moto2 but then someone rightly pointed out that those tires are different than those used in GP, there's more than meet the eye.

I know that inspiration can be found in strange places but trying to get a motogp bike, with its sophisticated engine controls, unique tire characteristics, optimized gearbox ratios and carbon brakes to act like a moto2 bike with rudimentary electronic controls, excess rear tire size, fixed gear ratios and steel brakes seems like a step backwards. I don't think Miller will miss the lack of moto2 experience.

Or maybe yamaha don't want to say outright that their corporate policy of point and shoot, er, high corner speed, may not be the best way around a track with other bikes.