MotoGP: David Emmett – Post Styria hysteria

by | Aug 25, 2020 | Expert Column, Latest News, MotoGP | 0 comments

Throughout the 2020 season David Emmett, editor of Motomatters.com, will be providing Racing Lowdown with some exclusive analysis of what he sees in MotoGP.
This will take the form of the topics that David is most interested in before and after every Grand Prix. 

It’s very easy to get bogged down by sheer results and have a recency bias when looking at MotoGP in 2020. This is a very unique situation and what we see from one track to the next, particularly with back-to-back rounds can paint a somewhat misleading picture. The Stryia Grand Prix was a good case in point.

Should Yamaha and Vinales be worried? 

Yamaha’s braking issues, and especially Maverick Vinales’s crash, was the biggest story of the weekend for me. To jump off a bike at 230 kmph takes an incredible amount of decisiveness. The rider has to understand that it’s either jumping off the bike or hitting the wall. That’s unimaginable for almost everyone.

It looks as though his brake calipers overheated. Maverick uses the older, low mass calipers because he likes the feel of them and understands how they work. The feeling is so important for a rider and the movements are so subtle that changing a component can make a huge difference in terms of how they feel. They’ll tend to put off making a change for as long as possible because they never want to risk lose the feeling. I remember Dani Pedrosa put off making a change to a digital rev counter and he kept using a dial and a needle until they were effectively banned with the spec electronics. That’s a good illustration for how rider’s want to have a fixed point of references that they’re used to.

MotoGP bikes are getting faster and riders are able to brake later and later. Brembo have said that bikes was now 10% more energy being used on the brakes and that’s become too much for the older calipers. Maverick has unfortunately paid the price for this. Yamaha has now switched all their riders to the new calipers and Brembo are trying to replicate the feel from the older calipers. Austria is a very unique challenge for brakes and, of the remaining rounds, only Catalunya will be a similar challenge but in Montmelo there’s enough time between the heavy braking zones. In Austria Turn 1, 3 and 4 all closely follow one another. I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of this.

Red Bull Ring was a perfect storm for a struggling Yamaha

If you were to judge everything by Austria you’d have to say that Yamaha are struggling but that’s down to the very specific nature of the circuit. Franco Morbidelli said that if you took the ten worst corner types on the calendar for Yamaha then you’d just design the Red Bull Ring! Misano will suit the Yamaha a lot better and we’ll get a better indication of where they stand in 2020. It’s very easy to forget that Yamaha are leading the manufacturers standings, Monster Energy Yamaha are leading the teams standings and Fabio Quartararo is leading the riders championship…they’re not doing badly!

I think that things look a lot more positive than what the Austrian results would indicate. Lets wait and see how they do in Misano. The engine situation is obvioulsy a concern but now they have to manage the useage better. Yamaha needs to decide which engines they use for races and which for practice. It’s about managing the situation from now on for Yamaha.

Is the KTM now the best bike on the grid? 

KTM has now won two of the last three races. On Sunday Miguel Oliveira finished first and Pol Espargaro joined him on the rostrum. Pol looked great in both Austrian races while Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona both finished inside the top ten on Sunday. There were four KTM’s inside the top ten and that shows the step they’ve made. The KTM is now looking like the best bike on the grid and they’ve clearly made a lot of progress. The WP suspension had been a weakness but they have clearly made a big step forward to give the rider better feedback. It’s been a little over four years since KTM started their project so they’ve gone from a blank sheet of paper in a design studio to winning races. If you’re Pol Espargaro you’ve got to wonder if you’ve made the right decision to leave KTM for Repsol Honda. For next year though KTM have to be very happy with Binder and Oliveira as their factory rider line-up.

Or is the Suzuki now the full package? 

If you had to argue that the KTM wasn’t the best bike on the grid I think it’d be very hard to argue against Suzuki being the alternative. Joan Mir was looking very strong before the red flag. It was a shame that hehad to use an old medium front tyre for the restart so he lacked grip in the shorter race. He still finished fourth and was competitive. 

The Suzuki is an inline four, like the Yamaha, so I think that we have to stop looking at an argument that the V4 is better than an inline four because they just have different strengths. It’s about finding the balance of those strengths and Suzuki has done that this year. Mir is growing into his role and he’s becoming very good. Alex Rins is obviously very good but he’s had a damaged shoulder and we’ve not seen what he’s capable of. The bike is more than capable enough in every area and has good top speed but it accelerates out of corners very well. The bike does everything it has to do to be competitive and it obviously excels in turning. The biggest strength of the bike is that it doesn’t do anything badly and that’s the goal for a MotoGP bike.

Honda’s broken basket… 

With Marc Marquez out for another two or three months it, realistically, means that he’s out until the end of the season. Maybe he can return for Valencia and Portimao but his absence has made it clear that without him Honda have no way to compete at the front. Taka Nakagami is doing a great job but he’s on the 2019 bike. That bike is a bit easier to ride than the 2020 bike. Honda has so much data for last year’s bike but for the 2020 bike they’ve got a rookie, an injured Cal Crutchlow and a test rider. Honda are in a very difficult situation.

They’re struggling to get the bike stopped and Crutchlow has been talking about the inertia of the bike, it wants to push into the corners and won’t pull up, and until they can find a solution for that they’ll struggle. A fitter Crutchlow will make a difference. Alex Marquez has been a solid but not spectacular rookie.

Honda put all their eggs into the Marc Marquez basket but the basket is now broken and the eggs are now falling out the bottom and smashing all over the ground. This is a good indicator of what would happen if Marquez ever decided to leave. They’ve bee betting big on Marc, and that’s a very sensible decision when he’s on the bike, but it’s all gone wrong this year and they’re now living with the consequences.

Pic Credit: Polarity Photo

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