It is a truism in MotoGP that though they hand out the trophies on Sunday, the race is often won on Friday and Saturday. Practice is when riders and teams can find the setup tweaks they need to go faster, evaluate tire choices, and plan a strategy.
Which tires offer the most potential? Which area of the track can we gain most while sacrificing the least in other points? Is there more to be gained by pushing hard early and trying to manage, or by being patient in the first half of the race, hoping to have an advantage in the second half?
The wide range of tires offered by Michelin make practice even more important. Michelin’s remit from Dorna is to produce three front tires and three rear tires that can all be used during the race.
That requires a certain amount of compromise: labeling tires soft, medium, and hard does not mean that Michelin make three tires with an equal step in between the three different tires. It is more like an indicator of how well the French tire make expects each tire to cope with the heat and stress of a race, and the trade off in terms of grip.
So a soft and a medium tire may use the same rubber on one side of the tire, or on opposite sides of the tire. Or they may use the same compounds with a stiffer carcass, to reduce flex and therefore the amount of heat being generated.
Understanding how all these factors work together, and what that will mean for the race, is what the teams spend their time doing in practice. The team and rider that does this best on Friday and Saturday gets to spend Sunday evening celebrating their victory during the race. If all goes to plan, of course.
Five riders from four manufacturers stood on the Misano podium to show the strength and depth of WorldSBK.
“This is the real Superbike racing” was how Marco Melandri assessed the Sunday’s racing at Misano, and it was hard to argue with the Italian.
Under blue skies and a burning sun, the action on track was just as hot with Jonathan Rea, Michael van der Mark, and Melandri all fighting it out for the win.
With Chaz Davies keeping a watching brief following his Saturday podium, and Eugene Laverty having stood on the Race 1 rostrum, it was clear this was the best race weekend of the 2018 season.
Five riders spraying Prosecco on the podium, and four manufacturers able to see their riders on the box, it was a fantastic weekend to bring a close to racing before the summer break.
The US Round of the 2018 WorldSBK season highlighted, once again, the importance of hard work in motorcycle racing.
Last year, it was hard to imagine Milwaukee Aprilia standing on the podium on merit; on Sunday Eugene Laverty made his long-awaited return to the rostrum.
We have seen in recent rounds Yamaha win three races with the R1, but last weekend’s races arguably did more to prove the potential of the bike.