Niki Kovacs

Silverstone MotoGP Friday Round Up: Testing Long Laps, Long Exhausts, And Ducati's Stegasaurus Tail

We say every Friday of a MotoGP weekend that it's "only Friday". Riders and teams are testing new parts, looking for a base setup, and getting a feel for the track. It being "only Friday" is even more true at Silverstone, as the riders are having to get back up to speed after five weeks off the bike. Muscles only a MotoGP bike tests have weakened a little, and are being pushed to the limit again.

Silverstone is a tricky track to return to racing at, which complicates matters. It's long, fast, flowing, and challenging, and if you miss your braking marker, you lose a lot of time. "It's a very demanding track to be precise," Pol Espargaro explained. "There are many places where the speed is very high, so as soon as you brake a little bit later, which means taking the lever one tenth later, it translates to being very wide in a fast corner and then losing a lot of time."

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Why There Are No Quick Fixes To MotoGP's Dearth Of Overtaking

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past month or so, you will have heard the criticism of MotoGP. Though the field is close, it has become harder and harder to overtake the riders in front. The Le Mans race was a case in point: the 27-lap race featured only a handful of overtakes, most of which were made possible only by a mistake by the rider ahead.

The problem was brought into stark relief by last weekend's WorldSBK races at Estoril. Alvaro Bautista, Jonathan Rea, and Toprak Razgatlioglu put on a dazzling display of passing in all three races on Saturday and Sunday, finding ways to jam their bikes ahead of each other into the first corner, the fourth corner, the Parabolica Interior, and the tight, awkward uphill chicane. They produced three glorious races.

The spectacle of Rea, Razgatlioglu, and Bautista knocking spots off one another reinforced that the problem is indeed down to the technological point at which MotoGP finds itself. With limited aerodynamics and no ride-height devices, the WorldSBK trio found no problem diving out of the slipstream and outbraking each other.

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Jerez Test: Close Up Photos Of Yamaha's Swingarm And Fender, Honda's Exhausts, And Ducati's Ride-Height Devices

The Monday after Jerez was the first chance that the teams and factories got to work on their bikes since the entire design was homologated ahead of the MotoGP season opener at Qatar. Given the oft-discussed weird start to the 2022 season, where the teams never seemed to have more than 5 minutes of normal or consistent conditions, having a whole day with a dry track allowed everyone some badly-needed time to work on some very basic stuff.

Of course, not everything was perfect. The weather was significantly cooler than it had been on Sunday, and the wind picked up considerably. There was also a nice thick layer of Michelin rubber, laid down in Sunday's race, the with the MotoE class, also Michelin-shod, adding yet more to the track surface. If anyone had hoped to work on low grip conditions, they would have to create them themselves by running very, very old tires.

Starting first with satellite riders – real satellite riders, that is, not the factory-backed riders in junior teams like Pramac – and rookies. When you have no new parts to test, then what you work on is setup, and especially the kind of setup changes that you don't have time to try during a race weekend.

Setup first

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Honda's 2022 RC213V Prototype - A Deep Technical Dive Into HRC's Radical New Bike

What MotoGP manufacturers change on test bikes for the future reveals a lot about what they feel is wrong with their current machines. So for example, at the Misano test, we saw Ducati roll out an updated version of their fairing, narrower and smaller, and consequently, likely aimed at creating a little more agility.

Aprilia introduced two different aero packages for high speed and low speed circuits. Suzuki had a new engine and a new chassis, while Yamaha had a different frame and revised engine. All small steps aimed at honing their current bikes into something better, an evolution of the bikes that raced at Misano the previous Sunday.

Not Honda. At Tuesday in Misano, Honda rolled out the latest prototype of their 2022 RC213V MotoGP machine, designed to address some of the obvious weaknesses of their current bike. The most remarkable thing about the machine is the stark and obvious differences between the 2021 bike and this latest prototype. This was no minor upgrade from last year's RC213V, this was a completely new bike, from the ground up. Very little remained the same; revolution, not evolution.

A New Hope

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2021 Misano MotoGP Test Round Up: Six Factories And What They Were Working On

The weather cooperated for the second and final day of the Misano MotoGP test. It stayed dry and warm all day, which meant everyone got the track time they were looking for. In the case of Maverick Viñales, that was a lot of track time: the Aprilia rider racked up 109 laps, a grand total of 460.6 kilometers. Equivalent to Misano to Turin, London to Paris, Dallas, Texas to San Antonio, Texas.

The problem with all that track time, of course, is that a lot of rubber gets laid down. That adds oodles of grip, making conditions ideal for MotoGP machines. That is all very well, but MotoGP races never take place in such ideal conditions, and so testing can be deceptive. "It's true that everybody says the same in the tests, because there is a lot of grip everybody is fast, everybody is happy!" Marc Marquez noted.

Conditions are totally different between a race and a test, Marquez pointed out. "It changes a lot, a race weekend or test day. It changes a lot the risk of the way to ride also, with a lot of rubber on the track, a lot of grip and you can open a lot of gas," the Repsol Honda rider said.

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