Jorge Lorenzo has won the last two MotoGP rounds in utterly dominating style. Though his win at Mugello was by a greater margin, the victory at Barcelona was one of the most impressive of his career. Afterwards, both Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg and Monster Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow said of the Barcelona win that it was probably one of the best races he had ever ridden. Lorenzo had made only one mistake, the Spaniard said afterwards, and it was so small it did not even show up on the data.

As he had done at Mugello, Lorenzo ensured that he won the drag race to the first corner, aggressively outbraking Dani Pedrosa to take the lead. From that point, he held the Honda’s at bay until Dani Pedrosa finally broke, the Yamaha man going on to win by nearly two seconds. It was the second race in a row which Lorenzo had led from the start and gone on to win the race.

In fact, all three of Lorenzo’s wins, at Qatar, Mugello and Barcelona, have come in the same manner: Get into the first corner in the lead, push hard in the early laps, and ride as perfectly, and as fast, as possible throughout the entire race. There is simply no one else in the world capable of riding a motorcycle for 25 laps at full speed as well as Jorge Lorenzo at the moment.

As impressive as Lorenzo’s wins have been, the one thing they have lacked is spectacle. There has been no drama, no battles, no need to defend, and the only place Lorenzo has needed to attack has been off the line, an area perhaps aided by the new clutch Yamaha have been using for this year.

Does Lorenzo not enjoy the battle, is he incapable of holding his own in a battle, or is it down to the bike? It is a question which is debated by fans around the world, with an answer apparently hard to give.

The real explanation lies in the design approach which Honda and Yamaha have taken, and the way the bikes force their riders into a particular racing game plan. The Honda’s strength is horsepower and acceleration, as it always has been.

The goal of HRC’s engineers has been to build a bike which stops and starts well: stable on the brakes, to allow riders to wait as long as possible before applying the anchors, along with strong acceleration to get out of corners quickly, and a good top end to motor past their rivals.

For Yamaha, the focus has been on maneuverability and handling, as it always has. The goal is to make a bike that is as easy as possible to manage under all conditions. The Yamaha makes good power – top speed is only down a fraction on the Honda and Ducati – but horsepower is a secondary consideration.

These two approaches also mean that Yamaha and Honda use the tires differently. The strength of the Yamaha is that it can carry a lot of corner speed for a long time, gaining time through the corners, and getting the maximum out of the edge grip of the Bridgestone tires. The drive of the Hondas means that they use the fatter section of the tire, a centimeter or two inside the edge.

The difference in approach is visible in riding styles, with Lorenzo smooth and flowing, while Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez hammer into the corner hard, get the bike stopped, turn it as quickly as possible, and then lever it up, so that they can get on the gas and start to accelerate.

The two different styles also mean that each bike can have an advantage at different circuits, depending on which tire Bridgestone have brought. If the tire has been built for edge grip, the Yamaha will do better; if the tire is aimed at providing drive, Honda benefits. Though Bridgestone try to provide a tire which allows as broad a range of riding styles as possible, finding a perfect balance is hard at some circuits.

Yamaha’s decision to build a bike which can carry as much corner speed as possible is a tactical one. In theory, maintaining a high corner speed is the fastest way around the track: any speed lost in braking has to be gained again in acceleration. Minimizing the speed lost means the bike can exit corners faster, and needs less horsepower and acceleration, placing less stress on engines and using less fuel.

With limited resources, however, Yamaha have spent more time focusing on handling and corner speed, and less time and money working on acceleration. There is nothing much wrong with the Yamaha engine, but when compared with that of the Honda, they are clearly outgunned.

Yamaha’s focus on corner speed is both its strength and its weakness. With less power off the bottom end of the rev range, the Yamaha is at a disadvantage if forced to give up its corner speed. Where the Honda powers out of the corner, the Yamaha is simply not as quick.

After the Barcelona race, Cal Crutchlow explained to reporters how he saw the advantages and disadvantages of Yamaha’s design philosophy. His problem, he explained, was that he kept getting stuck behind the Hondas, and that made it hard to ride the bike the way it needed to be ridden.

“When you’re with other riders, that’s the problem,” he said, “When they brake, you’re in their air, or they take different lines, they brake in different places. Don’t forget, when you’re racing somebody, you normally brake where they brake. Or a little bit after if you want to pass them or whatever. So you get lured in to what they do.”

The only way to avoid this, Crutchlow explained, was to get out in front at the start and lead from the beginning. “You don’t really see Lorenzo coming from behind and passing any more,” Crutchlow said. “He leads in the first corner and that’s it, finito.”

This is also the weakness of the Yamaha, and the reason the Hondas posed such a threat, Crutchlow said. Lorenzo only really has one way of winning. “I don’t think the Yamaha is able to come from behind any more. I think we lose if they’re ahead, we lose on acceleration a little bit,” the Tech 3 man said.

“We saw in Qatar, when I was sat behind the Hondas, if you’re behind them, it’s so difficult to ride behind them. If you’re in front of them, like Jorge was, or [if you have a clear track] like Valentino was coming from 5 seconds back, you ride your own race, you can easily [go faster]. It was the same in Mugello: at the start of the race, we couldn’t ride behind them, and then as soon as they slowed at the end of the race, I could come up on them, because I’ve got clear track [ahead of me]. That’s very similar to what the way Lorenzo rides when he’s alone in front.”

This does not mean that there is only one style which suits the Yamaha, however, Crutchlow explained. “If you look at mine and Valentino’s style, we’re very similar, but we’re different to Lorenzo. And up to a certain point, we can go as fast as Lorenzo, so it can be ridden in a different way. It’s just the way Lorenzo rides it, as I’ve said many times before.”

This clash of design philosophies does not bode well for Yamaha in the long term. At Qatar, Valentino Rossi could get past Marc Marquez and hold off his attacks, but then that was the Spaniard’s very first MotoGP race. At Jerez, Marquez showed how to use the Honda’s horsepower to make up for mistakes.

Three times he overshot the hairpin at the back straight, and three times, he was back with Jorge Lorenzo within a few turns. Some of that is down to the Honda, though a large part is also down to Marquez’S incredible ability to recover from mistakes. While making up for mistakes is possible on the Honda, it is a much more difficult matter on the Yamaha: Valentino Rossi got into the first corner too hot at Qatar, and it took him many laps to start closing the gap again.

Though the Yamaha is still arguably capable of setting the fastest theoretical lap around the circuit, their reliance on corner speed means that Jorge Lorenzo needs to get into the first corner in the lead. If Dani Pedrosa or Marc Marquez can get ahead of him, it is very hard to retake the position.

Lorenzo may be able to brake later, but if he does so, he will lose out on acceleration. Though Yamaha have worked hard to improve this area, it remains the weakest point of the bike compared to the Honda. It could end up being the Yamaha’s Achilles heel.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • ADG

    “Analize” it all you want, Jorge is clearly the top dog on a marginally less advanced bike….

    …I guess Pedro-Bot believes anything that Puig shoves up his ass.

  • MikeD

    I think Mr. Emmett is on to something here…(~_^), nice read.

  • smiler

    So the challenge for Dorna, should they wish to accept it (unlikely), it to be ring the racing closer again. The CRT bikes are a waste of time and have served Aprilia well to improve their WSB effort.
    Losing Suzuki and Kawaski because they did not drop costs quickly will take a long time to redress.
    Since adding spec tires Ducati have not got the resources to develop bikes fast enough.
    Honda always have the most money and R&D being the biggest bike maker and their involvement in motorsport in general.
    So hopefully Dorna will drop their partisan Spanish focus, reintroduce another manufacturer to tires, dump CRT’s and reduce costs properly until the world economy resurfaces.
    Support De Puniet, Cal and anyother satelite rider who goes out and nearly kills themselves each weekend trying to show they are worthy of a factory ride whilst on inferior bikes.
    Try and kick the US racing scene back into action so we can have some decent yanks again.
    Stop thinking about money and how to restrict media coverage in order to make it less popular but make more money.

  • Crazy

    It could end up being the Yamaha’s Achilles heel. maybe, but maybe all the traction honda has make’s the tyre drop sooner….it could end up being the honda’s achilles heel. And for me the Yamaha has the real motorcycle filosofie.! the point and shoot filosofie seems to work, but its more shoot range style. making corners like this ” < " isnt racing. lucky for honda they have more then 350.000.000.- for an strong engine or Yamaha would walk over Honda! Yamaha still is racing with the right filosofie…… honda more rifle style……

  • TheSwede

    Oh. My. God. “Philosophy”

    Spell check dude.. Spell check

  • mxs

    I find it funny, how many lines are out there written about MotoGP … yet the excitement is at sub-zero levels. Last week we were told that this would be the most importnat/dramatic weekend of the season, incl. testing on Monday …. I guess nobody could predict a bigger snoozer, couldn’t they?

    It just is what it is. I think I am about done reading the big long articles about MotoGP, then only to come watch on Sun and sped through 3/4 of it because it’s just drones running around without passing.

    I’ve got better things to do … hopefully they can get me back one day.

  • TexusTim

    well what can you expect when there are only two real manufactors puting bikes on the podium…they ( dorna) cant dumb this down too much, after all its the top of the class for two wheels…they can mess with wsbk a little more but what we need is all the manufactors get there bikes sorted out and put the best riders on them and give us a show every countries were broadcast is cutting into popularity they have to do somthinge other than the “sell it too the highest bidder”…my fear is even if it were free in the states without american sounding names or spanish accents you are not going to get americans in mass to watch this stuff, just not in americans dna not like europe same was with tennis and bike racing even when we finaly win a few tours we end up with lance armwrong ? isnt it a pitty ? isnt it a shame ?

  • To the extent that the bikes are fuel-limited, the characterization of the two styles (Lorenzo/Yam vs, say, Marquez/Honda) suggests that Lorenzo would get marginally better fuel mileage. To my eye and taste, #99 is the best rider at the moment, but my contribution to racing truism is thus: The championship is almost invariably won by the best rider on the best bike. By which I mean, the best rider typically has access to the best equipment, and that the best rider will, over the course of seasons/contracts, work with his team to make his bike a tiny bit better. Being able to tweak the machine and your own style is, in fact, one of the hallmarks of greatness.

    Sure, the current state of MotoGP is more strategic and less of a 500 two-stroke brawl. But DE gets to some of the subtleties on offer in this assessment. Good stuff, as usual.

  • Norm G.

    re: “Stop thinking about money”

    Stop wanting free lunch.

  • Faust

    I’m a little confused by all the people who say that this season is boring. Last season sucked for sure, but this year? Are we watching the same races? I think Marquez has brought some much needed excitement to the series, and is forcing Pedrosa to take some chances. I mean, his repeated attempts to get past Pedrosa even though he was clearly on the ragged edge of traction? This has been the best year for racing in the past 3 years at least. I think that Lorenzo is showing his true ability now by being able to tick off lap after perfect lap until he breaks the competition. JL is the best in the business right now, and Yamaha doing a great job giving him a package that can win almost every event.

  • MotoGP has become so boring that we’re keeping track of Lorenzo engines maybe (if we lucky) he might start from pit row and pass everyone and still podium. Tire rule suck so do the electronics!!

  • swissbeast

    The races this year have definitely been an improvement on last years. There have been some exciting moments and some actual battles. It still has felt a bit like a transfusion of fresh blood to a sick patient, and far from full recovery. And I still find myself watching half the race on fast forward on my DVR despite my affection for the series and its dynamic riders, because, lets face it, between the first few laps and the last few laps, often not much is happening.

    Meanwhile, my love for Formula 1 has grown and grown. F1 has introduced the DRS (Drag Reduction System) and DRS Zones, making it so faster cars will be able to make passes on slower cars, instead of being held up. They also have the KERS (Kinetic Energy Return System), allowing the drivers to get an extra boost when they need it most. These “specials” turn F1 into more of a real life video game; they make the races more exciting and interesting. David/Jensen, are there any similar approaches being considered that could be introduced in MotoGP? Even if it doesn’t have an off-track application, if it makes the racing series more interesting, why not?

  • mxs

    Yes, it is a pathetic state of the MotoGP ….. the best on Eurosport or BBC coverage are the intro shows …. then we wait for the first corner. If JL in front … lets wait for the last couple of laps to see the end. After-race interviews are a love fest and boring one at that. Next day we read who has how many engines left and who was the most consistent lap after lap.

    I don’t want to marginalize it, but why oh why would I watch this on any TV channel???

    If I could go (meaning being close enough to the venue), I will always go on a sunny day to watch, because I love the sound and smell around a track …. but to watch lap after lap on a TV … nope.

  • Crazy

    its not the single tyre rule, its not the electronics. its Honda who try to defeat their opponents with abnormal development and money. from 2004 untill 2012 Yamaha has won 6 times, honda 2, duc 1. So now honda try to break their opponents by less and less engines, less fuel etc. We already lost kawasaki, and suzuki. And now fuel consumption is the biggest task for suzuki to return. if it wasn’t for the next year crazy 20 litres Suzuki would’ve come back next year. now Suzuki needs a whole year only for 1 litre of fuel.!!? Honda can develop for more than 70.000.000.- Yamaha. And that a big factory. Because Honda can’t win from Yamaha with normal rules honda brought 2013 into 2012 and wants to bring 2014 into 2013. Now Yamaha has money to but i haven’t see any compleet new bike from Yamaha in 2012 or 2013. Honda must stop being a selfish little child. and revers the rules back to 24 litres so other factory’s can return more easy and stop the crazy 5 engine rule so other factory’s can return more easy. but it seems Honda’s a big chicken scared to be defeat by other factory’s and now they try to win by silly rules as they have more than 350.000.000.- to spend a year. Honda invested 500.000.000.- in F1. so maybe that money now is on MotoGP and if honda can realy spend that amount of money….it twise the money yamaha can spend.! And sure triple the money of suzuki. Honda dont want no competition it seems!!!!!