Report: MotoGP technology

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Report: MotoGP technology

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Report: MotoGP technology

The technology in the MotoGP class
Stefan Bradl on the bikes in the premier class

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World champion in Moto2 on Sunday, test driver in MotoGP on Monday. At the beginning of the current season, Stefan Bradl compared both racing classes for PS and gave deep insights into MotoGP technology.

Friedemann Kirn


There are terrific slow-motion shots of Casey Stoner with the rear wheel spinning. The Australian does not turn the gas on his Repsol Honda, but his upper body even lower next to the tank, while he erects the motorcycle a tiny bit and drifts for optimal traction. “Casey doesn’t like it when the engine output is regulated by the electronics,” says Cristian Gabbarini, chief technician of the new MotoGP world champion. “He wants to do it himself, brakes at the back while turning the front throttle. His feeling for the grip of the rear tire is exceptional. He also takes off just as well without launch control. ”The fact that Stoner was the only rider to claim victories with the carbon fiber monocoque of the Ducati is in itself proof of his extraterrestrial driving skills. The fact that he completely switched off the electronic driving aids for hot qualifying laps and was only convinced of the tire-friendly virtues of traction control in the middle of the season, when he was only third a few times, only further underlines the exceptional position of the champion.

Because the 240 hp MotoGP machines are actually inoperable without electronic aids. “Many of the earlier stars like Randy Mamola or Wayne Rainey are campaigning for a ban on electronic driving aids in order to make the show more exciting with more drifts, wheelies and overtaking maneuvers. But they are not aware that the unregulated 500s from back then had 100 hp less than the current Moto GP machines, ”says Mike Leitner, Dani Pedrosa’s chief technician, who advocates the highly developed MotoGP technology. “When the performance of the 500 series continued to increase, there were first power valve systems for exhaust control, then later the Big Bang ignition sequences to be able to control the motorcycles when accelerating – that was also a form of performance control. We now have so much horsepower that you have to reduce the power, especially in the lower gears, on almost every route. Otherwise the motorcycles would be almost invincible. There would be a lot of highsiders again, broken collarbones and wrists – like in the 80s, ”said Leitner.

Stefan Bradl, the new Moto2 world champion, agrees with him. After the season finale in Valencia, he got the chance to test Toni Elias’ LCR Honda for two days, which is technically the same as the Stoner machine, except for the uninterrupted super transmission. While getting to know each other, the world champion came within around two seconds of the top times of Pedrosa and Stoner. After that, Stefan Bradl was simply enthusiastic, but also grateful for the efficient electronics. “Now that I’ve sat on it for the first time, I can understand what Mike Leitner is saying. Without traction control, you’d break after five laps, ”says the sweaty champion PS. “The traction control helps to improve the lap time. But above all, it makes the motorcycle pleasant to drive. To dose the gas correctly everywhere without this support is so concentration-consuming and exhausting that you are knocked out in a short time. would go. “

These brutal V4 units from Honda are considered to be the most powerful and best engines in their class. The Yamaha inline four-cylinder of the dethroned Jorge Lorenzo has the advantage of a short overall length, which allows the construction of a particularly agile chassis – at the expense of top speed. The biggest advantage of the Honda racers, however, is that they also bring the existing power to the ground even better. “When I asked if they could give me three more horsepower to fight Honda, the Yamaha technicians brought me a new swing arm,” is a famous phrase by Wayne Rainey from the 90s. This formula of looking for better lap times via the chassis has apparently not changed to this day, despite the explosion in performance. “That’s right,” confirms Ramon Forcada, Jorge Lorenzo’s chief technician. “We lacked a bit of performance. But there was even more to a lack of traction than performance. There were many places on various racetracks where we had to take power away because the bike didn’t allow us to drive at maximum power. You can only deliver as much power to the rear wheel as the chassis can handle. Because if the rear wheel spins too much when accelerating, it won’t go forward, ”said the Spaniard.

Report: MotoGP technology


Stefan Bradl’s world champion motorcycle (above), the Kalex with a Honda engine, looks small, handy and playful, compared to his new brutal work device, the MotoGP-Honda RCV211.

For a newcomer like Stefan Bradl, that’s relative – at first, the sheer thrust of every MotoGP machine is overwhelming. “The MotoGP Honda has around 100 hp more than my Moto2 Kalex. This leap in performance is amazing, the additional weight of around 20 kilograms hardly plays a role. On my first lap, I didn’t gondola carefully around the track in overdrive, but instead switched through all gears and pushed full throttle down the start-finish straight. It was brutal. The performance is really breathtaking. You take a quick look at the pit board, then the braking point for the first corner is there. My mistake was that I occasionally braked myself in the first corner and had to go far. I just knew other braking points. The time on the brakes is so much longer. You arrive with a lot more speed, which you notice immediately when you step out of the disguise. That is another 30 to 40 km / h faster. The engine itself is easy to drive. The performance is brutal, but consistent and easy to control. With the 600 it was over at 15,800 tours, with the MotoGP machine the circuit symbol flickers at 18,500 to 19,100 revolutions. “

From the cockpit of a MotoGP machine, in addition to speed and gearshift light, a confusing amount of additional information rattles down on the driver. “You have four lights for four sections. If it lights up green, you are faster than your previous personal best. If nothing shines, slower. I didn’t know that before. A star means the fastest lap time, an arrow that points upwards, an improvement in your lap time, an arrow downwards a deterioration. “

The Honda drivers not only need a watchful eye, they also juggle various pushbuttons on the left handlebar. A button offers the choice between three different power and traction control levels programmed for all gears when accelerating. Another button allows you to choose between three different characteristics for the engine braking effect before cornering. In addition, there is a “mode” button, behind which there are up to nine different throttle levels for the total output. The jump to a higher performance level allows, for example, to prevent the traction control intervention, which becomes more and more noticeable towards the end of the race with used tires.

“After a quick lap, it was indicated to me that I now have to switch the mapping in order to try a different one. Then on this next lap I was a second and a half slower because I was just busy pushing that button. Apparently this is normal. It’s like with the car: once you know where the radio is going, you can do it without losing concentration. At first I had to do with getting used to the speed and setting braking points. But the more natural it becomes, the more I can work with the buttons. It’s fascinating: -First of all, I wanted more engine braking torque. But after switching, almost no difference was noticeable. I went into the pits, the technicians programmed and then the difference was clear. They can really set everything from A to Z on the computer! I have already tried the switches for the three mappings when accelerating out and the one for the three mappings of the engine brake, but I haven’t even used the last button. I don’t even know what it’s there for! “

Bradl’s biggest problem was wheelie control, because whenever he reflexively turned back the gas while the front wheel was rising, the motorcycle also intervened in the system and took away even more power. The art of tuning in MotoGP includes determining what the driver and what the electronics control for each driving situation. The fact that the “generation of traction control” of the young MotoGP riders simply put the gas on full throttle at the exit of a corner and leave the rest to the control systems is a widespread old wives’ tale.

“It is not human to drive out of the curve and suddenly accelerate from zero to 100 percent. Nobody does that, ”Bradl is sure. “I don’t know whether the electronics would take care of that. I don’t even want to try it out. Of course, pulling up slowly at the exit of the curve The electronics intervene when they notice that it is beginning to slip. But I don’t want it to slip away in the first area, in an absolutely inclined position. So I start to control it myself. The more I accelerate and the more I pull, the more helpful the electronics. At the same time, you have to get the best out of the choice of line, so that you can straighten the motorcycle very quickly and have the best possible acceleration out of the curve. “

Report: MotoGP technology


Bad year for Rossi, the fear of falling was very real.

In order to find the right combination of wrist and electronic control when tuning for every curve, the MotoGP engineers work with significantly more complex data recording systems than in the Moto2 class. Gyroscopes are used, which provide the lean angle in addition to the other parameters of every driving situation. “The program that you showed me is more mature and difficult than my previous one. If you drive around the track on the computer with the mouse, you can also see the motorcycle driving, including the lean angle in degrees and percent. That’s a crucial difference. ”Anyone who has a lot of power and has to manage it optimally looks for the largest possible tire contact area so that the power can also be transferred to the asphalt. That’s why there are clear differences in driving style compared to the Moto2 class.

“You can almost neglect the cornering speed, it is not necessarily important,” says Bradl. “You have to brake well, of course, but not in the very last groove either. The most important thing is to make sure that the thing at the exit of the curve is straight again as soon as possible. It’s a more pointed ride, with narrower lines than in the Moto2 class, where you drive more cornering speed in order to take the speed with you: Because you straighten the machine up earlier and accelerate in a straight line, you also use the curbs in MotoGP Less on the outside of the lane, because you can reach it later. “

Bradl had surprisingly few problems with the tires themselves. While the Dunlop tires of the Moto2 class have a relatively soft carcass, come up to temperature quickly and react good-naturedly, the Bridgestone tires have so far been superior in terms of service life and grip level, but are also so stiff that they are above all in cool temperatures and on stretches where many curves initially only went in one direction and the other tire flank could cool down accordingly, caused sudden slides. For 2012, Bridgestone is now supplying a new generation of tires that are 20 percent less stiff in construction and come up to operating temperature more quickly.

“A lot of people with MotoGP experience warned me to be careful. The front tire in particular must always be under load, you always have to exert pressure on it. He needs temperature so that he can build up grip. If you take a look around and dawdle, it’s dangerous. The carcass is completely different, and the dimensions are also different from what I have ridden so far. The Bridgestone front tire has a lot of grip, but is also very stiff, requires more power when entering a corner, you have to push the bike in properly on the brakes, drive aggressively into the corner using the front wheel. Turning in with the Moto2 machine is easier. I first rode the 2011 tires, then the 2012 tires. There is a slight difference, especially with the rear tire. You have to be a bit careful with both of them in the first round without being hesitant to deal with them. You are not allowed to do a two-minute lap, otherwise it will cool down again, but will have to strain it. The new tire should be faster because you can really apply pressure earlier. And when accelerating out it feels a little softer, works more and gives better feedback. “

Fortunately for Bradl, the Honda is so balanced that he was able to enjoy the new experiences, including the particularly effective carbon brake. “When I braked for the first time on turn two and nothing came, I thought: Oops, what’s going on? Then the brakes really took hold. Fortunately, I always had good braking behavior because I tried to load the front tire and therefore brought in a lot of temperature. We then installed thicker discs with even more contact surface for the brake pads. When I braked for the first time, I almost stood there with my rear wheel in the air! The first moment on the brakes is much more aggressive than with steel brakes. You hardly need any strength, you could do it with your little finger – the machine is already fully immersed. Then you let the lever out slowly – the controllability is great. “

Report: MotoGP technology


The last three horsepower doesn’t matter. The power has to hit the tarmac – currently impossible without electronics.

While Bradl had no problems with braking and turning in his first test, the lack of feel for the front wheel was one of Ducati’s Achilles heels, which gave Valentino Rossi the worst season of his entire career. Rossi’s fear of falling was real. He had more falls on Ducati in one year than in two years on the factory Yamaha.

In the middle of the season Rossi, technician Burgess and Ducati designer Filippo Preziosi decided to move away from the carbon fiber monocoque concept introduced in 2008 and to build a completely new aluminum chassis for 2012 based on the model of the Japanese competition. There were several reasons in favor of the drastic step: “Aluminum”, Burgess puts in his work, “can be drilled and milled, sawed and welded together again, which gives us the opportunity to achieve the required rigidity, flexibility and the right frequencies relatively quickly with which the chassis can vibrate without it starting to rattle. ”In addition, you can move a motor in a standard bridge frame forwards, backwards, up and down with little effort in order to find the right center of gravity. With the previous system, with the engine as a load-bearing part of the chassis structure, modified engine housings had to be cast for every major change. Not only outrageously expensive fun, but also inconsistent with the limit of six engines per driver and season.

After Rossi was already using the second half of the season to experiment with advance developments (in Aragón, for example, with the aluminum connecting beam inserted instead of the previous monocoque between the steering head and the front engine mount), he, like the other Ducati riders, went to the tests in Valencia with the new 1000 series -Machines and a new aluminum chassis on the track.

“Not much has changed,” he sighed soberly, but was also warned: Ducati had taken over the geometrical data of the carbon fiber monocoque for the first stage of development of the new aluminum frame in order to have a starting point. Nevertheless, the agonizing uncertainty continues as to whether Rossi will achieve competitive times with the new chassis or whether Ducati, as the very last measure, will also have to build a new engine with a 72 degree cylinder angle, as with Honda, instead of the previous L engine with a 90 degree cylinder angle . The only thing that is certain is that the Ducati crisis has not yet been overcome.

One of the bone of contention in the perpetual discussion of costs at MotoGP is the “seamless” super gearbox that Honda has been equipping its works drivers with since the 2010 Brno GP. The seamless gearshifts without interruption of tractive power result in a smoother roadholding, an increase in traction and a time advantage of around 0.3 seconds per lap. Hiroshi Aoyama, as a substitute driver for the injured Dani Pedrosa in Assen, had the opportunity to try out the miracle transmission for a whole race. “It already feels different in the pit lane. The switching processes take half the time, but above all they are very smooth. The big difference when it comes to the racing speed is that the motorcycle is no longer rattled by the shocks during the individual gear changes, ”enthuses the Japanese. “The motorcycle becomes more stable, but also accelerates a little better on the straight. Downshifting also went like butter. “

Expensive tenths of a second, which cost a customer team around 650,000 euros per season due to the use of exotic metal alloys, which cost significantly more than titanium, due to the development effort and support during the races. If Stefan Bradl’s hopes are fulfilled and next year he can step on the gas in Lucio Cecchinello’s team on a MotoGP Honda (everything is possible with a handshake), he doesn’t have to worry about the super transmission: there is an acute customer shortage Free seamless gears when ordering a new 1000 factory machine. At the beginning of the official pre-season tests, the new MotoGP rider Bradl would have exactly the same material available as world champion Stoner. Then all that’s left to do is fine-tune the driving style: “Casey is an exceptional driver. His driving style is optimal. You can’t see what he’s doing at the exit of a curve on anyone else. The electronics have to help me until I can drift like that on the motorcycle. “Well then: Come on, Stefan and good luck! 

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