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May 2015

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It’s the Italian GP…at Mugello, which means two things: 1) hundreds of thousands of rabid Italian motorcycle fans, and 2) another special AGV helmet from The Doctor. Of course, riders wear special helmets all the time — there’s probably a one-off design at every race — but for some reason Valentino Rossi’s lids, at his home grand prix, are always a special occasion for GP fans. For the 2015 Italian GP, Valentino Rossi is wearing the very attractive “Yellow Energy” helmet, penned of course by Aldo Drudi. For the VR46 fans in the crowd, we have a smattering of high-resolution photos of the custom AGV Pista GP helmet. Enjoy!

Over the past two years, Marc Márquez and his team have proven to be a master of strategy. They have found a number of innovations, most notably the two-stop, three-run strategy during qualifying, and the bunny-hop bike swap during flag-to-flag races.

Santi Hernandez has earned his reputation as a brilliant crew chief, and as a strategist capable of finding advantages in places where other teams simply haven’t thought of looking.

So for Márquez to first miss out on going straight to Q2, and then make a fatal error again in Q1 leaving him in thirteenth is frankly shocking.

What did we learn from the first day of practice at Mugello? We learned that Jorge Lorenzo is still at the same steamroller pace he was at Jerez and Le Mans. That Valentino Rossi is following a plan, rather than chasing a lap time.

That the Ducatis are fast, almost obscenely so, and that’s before they put their special Mugello engine in. That Aleix Espargaro is one tough son of a gun. That the Hondas are still fast, when the conditions are right. And that Mugello might just be one of the places the conditions are likely to be right.

Why would the Honda be good at Mugello when it was so bad at Le Mans? Marc Márquez explained in a little more detail after practice on Friday. The biggest problem of the Honda RC213V is the aggressive nature of its engine, both in acceleration and braking.

In braking, the bike is sliding more than the riders want it to, and in acceleration, the riders are having to fight the bike’s willingness to wheelie and spin out of the corner.

Because Mugello is such a fast track (more of that later), the teams have to gear the bikes longer, both for the main straight and for the more flowing corners. Longer gearing means that the engine has to work harder to try to lift the front wheel, taming the power a little.

“It looks like here the character of the engine is smoother, also because the final sprocket is longer and then the gearbox is longer,” Márquez told us. “The bike is pushing less, the corners are faster and don’t have that big acceleration and that helps us.”

Out of the 50 states in The Union, only California allows lane-splitting on public roads and highways. California’s position on lane-splitting has always been a bit nebulous though, falling only under the “safe and prudent” provision of the California Vehicle Code. Several attempts to demystify California’s policy on lane-splitting have come and gone, including the very public kerfuffle with the California Highway Patrol’s riding “guidelines” for lane-splitting. Most recent attempts to “legalize” lane-splitting have seen laws that were even more restrictive than the CHP’s frankly fair provisions, and created much ire in California’s vocal riding community.

Announced today at Mugello, Dainese is making its D-air airbag technology available to other race suit manufacturers. Calling the integrated airbag, electronics, gas generator, wiring, battery, and GPS the Dainese D-air Armor “open platform”, the Italian firm hopes to begin protecting all the riders in the Grand Prix World Championships with this new business strategy. At its core, the D-air Armor technology is the same that Dainese-sponsored riders have been enjoying this season, and arguably the Dainese system is the best airbag system currently available use for motorcycle racers. Rivaling Alpinstars in protecting GP riders with airbags, today’s announcement will mean that riders with other leather suit brands, will be able to get airbag protection. Dainese has already signed deals with Vircos and Furygan.