Sunday at Barcelona is going to be a war of attrition. Everything is conspiring against the riders, and most especially the tires.
Temperatures are expected to rise even higher than they were on Saturday, when air temperatures hit over 32°C, and track temperatures climbed to 55°C and above.
Those are punishing temperatures in which to race a MotoGP bike, especially at Montmelo, where the heat gets trapped in the bowl of hills which holds the circuit.
Then there’s the tires. There is much complaining about the lack of grip and the fact that grip drops off a cliff after seven or eight laps.
It would be more accurate to blame that on the track, though: the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has not been resurfaced in twelve or thirteen years, and is very heavily used, both by bikes and by cars.
That has created a surface which is both too smooth to provide grip, while simultaneously being incredibly abrasive.
That sounds contradictory, so when Michelin boss Nicolas Goubert spoke to a group of journalists on Friday night, I asked him to explain. The Frenchman explained that grip and abrasiveness came from two different parts of the surface.
Asphalt (or rather, a road or racing surface) consists two parts: binder and aggregate. Aggregate is basically small stones, specially selected for size and shape. Binder is usually a special formulation of bitumen, often containing other ingredients.
I love Phillip Island. The track is picturesque and surrounded by water, not to mention its ocean view as you head down the front straightaway. One of my favorite tracks to ride, lapping around PI is more about connecting corners, than hitting braking zones, and every turn seems to flow into the next one on the Australian circuit, which gives you a real zen surfing moment on the bike.
This year, Scott and I made the pilgrimage down under, where we were hosted by good friends, ate good food, and turned heads as we drove our “ute” into the paddock every morning (yeah, people were jealous of our sweet ride). Mancation success.
You only need to spend a few days at Phillip Island to realize that the Aussie fans are rabid for their motorcycle racing. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they showed up en masse to give their boy Casey Stoner a proper send-off, and as usual, stormed parc fermé during the trophy ceremony. It is readily apparent that Phillip Island is a place where motorsport is truly enjoyed.
So, it doesn’t surprise me one bit to see how genuinely excited circuit workers are at repaving their venerable track. I mean seriously, watch the video after the jump and try to remember the last time you saw someone so grinning ear-to-ear about pouring “ash-felt” for miles in the middle of summer. They’re a special breed these Aussies, just like their macadam. Expect records to drop in 2013.
UPDATE: MotoGP riders after finishing FP2 said grip improved on the track, though anything off the racing line was quite slippery.
With MotoGP riders getting their first taste of the newly paved infield section at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the talk this morning after the Free Practice 1 session was about how the new track surfaces faired under the GP riders’ scrutiny. Though weather conditions were pretty much optimal, there is a virtually unanimous opinion that even without the bumps and curbing issues, the IMS track has worsened since last year. While most riders took issue with the virtually glass like state of the asphalt, the problem at Indy really is two-fold. Not only is the freshly paved tarmac devoid of any rubber to help aid the grip, but the infield, which is used almost exclusively for the Indianapolis GP, suffers yearly from dirt and debris.
Nicky Hayden was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, checking out the newly repaved infield section on the historic American track. Testing the track on a Ducati Superbike 1198SP, Hayden took a number of laps before giving the nod that he approved of the refurbishment (the FIM also gave their nod on Indy’s work on July 7th). The repaving of the infield portion of the circuit, Turn 5 through Turn 16, comes as a response from riders’ complaints from last year.
With several varieties of pavement, a bevy of bumps, and some poorly placed drainage components, the Indianapolis GP has been a low-point on the MotoGP calendar for most of the MotoGP paddock the past few years, despite being held at an otherwise top-rate and historic venue. With Dorna likely pressuring Indianapolis into making alterations, the track probably faced compulsion to make changes to its infield, especially with the Circuit of Americas track currently being built in Austin.
Talk in the MotoGP paddock is that the Austin GP is now being aimed as less of a replacement for the Indianapolis GP, and instead will be a third stop in America for MotoGP, as Dorna wants to expand the premier class’s presence in the USA. With the 2011 Indianapolis GP just two and a half weeks away, all the GP riders will soon get to see the improvements at Indy, until then they’ll just have to take Nicky Hayden’s word on it. A brief Q&A with the Kentucky Kid and video of his laps and thoughts are after the jump.
Probably the worst kept secret on the mountain, the 90th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb will occur on a fully-paved race course. Responding to legal and safety pressures, Pikes Peak has slowly been paving its dirt sections, which during the hill climb week made for spectacular plumes of dust and breath-taking slides from cars and bikes alike. With under 3 miles of dirt section currently remaining on the course, Pikes Peak has slowly been adding more asphalt sections over the past few years, which in-turn have been a major contributing factor to the hill climb seeing records smashed across virtually all classes each year.
While the remaining dirt section resides in a lower portion of the race course (between mile markers 10 & 13), which is relatively safer than the higher elevation sections (do NOT look over the edge), Pikes Peak has been under pressure to increase the safety of the mountain, adding guardrails and paving dirt sections. Even in its current form, our initial impression of the course was that there were seriously risky corners that we couldn’t imagine taking at speed, let alone with a dirt surface.
A year ago today a little motorcycle blog set out to talk about motorcycle news, rumors, racing, and more. I hardly expected anyone to read Asphalt & Rubber when I started it, let alone for the site to reach the 100,000+ readers we have per month now. With this number continuing to grow somewhere near the order of 20%+ each month, A&R seems to gather more steam with each passing day.
As we add a candle to the birthday cake, I’d like to a chance to thank the folks that have helped make the site what it is today. Big thanks to: Jenny Gun, Dan Lloyd, Dustin Gibbs, Stephen Muller, John Adamo, Jeremy Korzeniewski, Jessica Pichora, Jason Yu, Peter Lombardi, Frank Schuengel, Chris Lo, and of course our loyal readers.
Asphalt & Rubber is pleased to finally take the wraps off a little project that we’ve been working on for the past few months, Asphalt & Rubber Street Level. A&R Street Level uses Twitter to allow anyone to report and share photos of motorcycle events going on around the world. Ideal for track days, races, bikes nights, and trade shows, A&R Street Level is a real-time perspective on motorcycling.