Saturday Summary at Misano: The Prospect of a Furious Fight, Mind Games That Weren’t, & Three-Stop Strategies
Remember Brno? A scintillating qualifying left Jorge Lorenzo on pole, with Marc Márquez beside him and Valentino Rossi filling out the front row. Race pace for the three was very similar, and the fans were left with the mouthwatering prospect of a thrilling race on Sunday. They were disappointed.
Jorge Lorenzo surged to the lead off the line, shook off Marc Márquez, disappeared into the distance, and won comfortably. The battle royal promised by free practice never materialized, and we were all left with a hollow feeling of disappointment, no matter how brilliant Lorenzo’s victory was.
Hence my reluctance to play up the prospect of a good race at Misano. The ingredients are the same. The same three riders on the front row, in the same order.
The 2015 MotoGP championship is one of the closest in years. Close championships are always fascinating, but this one has an extra edge to it: the two men fighting over the 2015 title are both teammates, and racing on the same bike.
The differences between the Yamaha M1s of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo are virtually non-existent, their results depend entirely on the riders themselves, and how well their teams prepare the bikes and riders for the race. With nothing to choose between the bikes, focus has turned to the tires.
Jorge Lorenzo’s constant references to his preference for the tire with the special edge treatment have made this focus much keener.
Under the glaring spotlight of public scrutiny, the allocation of tires which Bridgestone brings to each race has taken on the appearance of being the decisive factor in every race.
Predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is hard. Scratch that, predicting how a MotoGP race will play out is downright impossible. We scour the sector and lap times, talk to as many riders as possible, try to make sense of what they tell us, and take our best guess based on all we have learned.
And inevitably, we get it wrong. Because there was something we missed, or because some random factor intervened, or because we didn’t pay enough attention to what the riders were telling us, or perhaps paid too much attention to it. Which is why you should probably take the following with a pinch of salt.
After qualifying and practice at Brno, we confidently predicted one of the best races of the year, with Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez setting almost identical pace during free practice.
The chase lasted for five laps, before Lorenzo picked up his heels and disappeared, riding a perfect race to an unstoppable win, and killing any burgeoning excitement stone dead.
Silverstone looks like being very similar. There are two riders who are clearly a step ahead of the rest, and on the basis of practice times on Saturday, their pace is very similar indeed.
Though you wouldn’t say that just based on the headline numbers: in FP3, Jorge Lorenzo destroyed the rest of the field, beating Márquez by nearly half a second.
In the afternoon, during FP4, Márquez returned the favor, laying down a withering pace to put over eight tenths on everyone else, and posting a string of ten laps, the slowest of which was faster than fastest lap set by any other rider on the field.
The difference between Lorenzo’s FP3 lap and Márquez’ FP4 lap? Just 0.062 seconds, in Lorenzo’s favor.
Tires are what made the difference. Lorenzo put a brand new tire on for the last two laps of FP3, and obliterated the rest of the field. Márquez put a brand new medium tire in FP4, and blew the field away, then slapped in a new hard tire, and was fast with that too.
In FP3, Márquez was working on getting the best out of old tires, in FP4, Lorenzo was doing the same, as well as trying out a setup change that simply did not work.
Two riders, similar pace on new tires, both much faster than the rest. Who will come out on top? At this point in time, it is impossible to say. What it will come down to is who manages tires the best.
Silverstone was Silverstone on Friday. It pulled its many underhand tricks out of its sleeve, and threw everything it had at the riders, with the exception of rain. Cool in the morning, warm and sunny in the afternoon, with occasional cloud cover to drop the track temperature.
High winds, gusting in a few corners where it was trying to lift the bikes and throw them off line. And bumps galore, short ones, long ones, moved around the circuit since the last time the MotoGP riders were here, forcing them to recalibrate their memories, and pick new lines through the corners they thought they knew.
The ever eloquent Bradley Smith explained: “I’m not too worried about bumps coming from my motocross background it is not something I worry about, it might be something some of the other guys are more scared about, but it doesn’t really effect me.”
“It does seem to be quite bad going into the first corner Copse it is quite bad still and there is a nasty one into Stowe at the end of Hanger Straight. Still the braking point at Vale chicane is still like rollers into there. And for Abbey that one is really, really bad there is one in the middle of the corner which always makes the front tuck.”
The wind was not much better. “It is certainly bad. In a few places you have to make sure you get your body in the right place and get a little bit on the rear brake to keep the front wheel down.”
“I see a lot of guys drilling holes in the fairing but for some reason, especially me with my style and the way it is working at the moment I don’t feel it is causing any problems I can still turn into the wind. It is picking up the front a little bit in the exit but I can commit into the corner okay.”
The boys are in Silverstone this weekend, for the British GP. On the mics for this episode are David (MotoMatters), Neil (Road Racing World and Crash.net), and Tony (Asphalt & Rubber and BikeSportNews), and they discuss the contract happenings in the paddock, the view for 2016, and who they favor on Sunday.
As you can imagine, the boys are keen on the British riders this episode – as it’s the Brits’ home round, and the PPP crew all hail from island nations in the North Sea.
We think you’ll enjoy this episode (see who gets their predictions right for Sunday), as we continue to refine this new venture of ours.
The Irish budget airline Ryanair gained something of a reputation for being, shall we say, creative with the names of the airports it flies to.
Fancy a trip to Sweden? They will fly you to Stockholm Skavsta, a mere 100 km from the city of Stockholm. The same trick is played out time and time again: Paris Beauvais? Beauvais is a charming French city, and well worth a visit, but it is very long way from the French capital. Munich West (Memmingen)? 112 km west of the Bavarian capital.
So perhaps we should call this British GP the Ryanair MotoGP round. Officially, it is being run by the Circuit of Wales, located in Ebbw Vale, South Wales.
Bradley Smith has signed on for another season with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. The British rider has extended his contract, and will continue to ride for the team in 2016.
The announcement and its timing had been widely expected, coming as it does just days before the start of the British round of MotoGP at Silverstone.
Smith had made it clear since before the summer break that he wanted to stay with Tech 3, but the contract took longer to put together than hoped.
Smith spoke of his frustration about the situation at Indianapolis, though by Brno, some progress appeared to have been made. The deal was finalized shortly after the Czech round of MotoGP, just in time to be announced at his home race.
Brno was a busy time for teams, managers and riders. Apart from dealing with jet lag and the sweltering heat, silly season kicked off in force at the Czech round of MotoGP.
The summer break and the chaos which ensued from the situation around the Forward Racing team put everything on hold over the summer, with tentative talks starting at Indianapolis.
Those talks, and events outside the paddock, helped clarify the situation, and at Brno talks began in earnest. The empty spaces on the MotoGP grid are starting to be filled.
Have you ever wanted to create your own dream track? Take the best corners from all the MotoGP tracks, and combine them into one epic venue for motorcycle racing? That’s pretty much Bradley Smith has done for us today, and it’s awesome.
When it comes to riders who are adept at explaining the nuances and technical aspects of riding a MotoGP motorcycle, Bradley Smith ranks as one of the top riders. This year has been a breakout season for Smith, maturing both on and off the track, with the Englishman showing strong results on the track.
It’s a bit of a mystery as to why Bradley doesn’t have a signed contract for the 2016 season, though we suspect there’s more than meets the eye taking place behind closed doors.
Silly season issues aside, we’re pretty intrigued by Bradley’s choices for his dream track. Checkout which corners made the track after the jump, along with a video that explains Braldey’s picks, with commentary by his teammate Pol Espargaro.