Jorge Lorenzo's next step in MotoGP recoveryby Mat Oxley on 6th June 2019
Italian MotoGP Grand Prix mutterings, part 3: Jorge Lorenzo's trip to Japan, KTM's search for the holy grail, Nakagami's feral fifth-place finish, the danger of discothèque and a new Moto3 bike
Jorge Lorenzo, 2019 Italian MotoGP Grand Prix, Mugello Photo: Gold & Goose/Red Bull
Jorge Lorenzo travelled to Japan immediately after Mugello to visit HRC, where he will work on adapting the ergonomics of his Repsol Honda RC213V to suit his particular needs.
Since the three-time MotoGP king first sat on the Honda last November he has been working to feel fully at home on the bike, which is smaller and more compact than the Ducati and Yamaha he rode previously.
What he wants more than anything is better support during heavy braking, when riders pull around 1.5g. He had the same trouble at Ducati, which was fixed by a bulbous attachment to the rear of the GP18’s tank cover, but similar items haven’t made the difference to the RC213V.
So far he has tried modified fuel tank covers, different seat configurations, different handlebars, different footpeg positions and so on.
Working at HRC's Asaka facility will allow him to make much quicker progress with ergonomics. HRC engineers can make immediate adjustments and also 3D print seat, tank and bodywork parts.
Most important of all is a new fairing, most likely designed to help Lorenzo use his knees to support himself during braking. At the first few races of 2019 Lorenzo uses foam knee pads at the rear of his RC213V’s fairing to help during braking, to take the load off a recently broken wrist.
The Repsol team was expecting this updated fairing after next week’s Catalan GP, but Lorenzo’s HRC visit should speed up the process. HRC needs to get this fairing right first time because MotoGP aerodynamics regulations allow each rider only one aero update per season, one more reason why working on the design at HRC makes perfect sense.
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Nakagami: ‘be like an animal!’
Takaaki Nakagami made another big breakthrough at Mugello, chasing the leading four riders all the way to finish a best-ever fifth, just 6.5 seconds behind the winner, which was also his best-ever time gap.
The secret for the 27-year-old former Moto2 winner was the start. In the past he has lost positions in the mayhem of the first few laps, but not this time.
“The main thing was a change in mentality: just to be like an animal, because everyone is really crazy,” said Nakagami, who rides a 2018 RC213V in Idemitsu colours for Lucio Cecchinello’s LCR team. “Our weak point was always dropping positions after the start. Luckily this time I made a good start and I was strong in the first laps. This was the key point, because if I can keep a good position at the beginning of the race I can do what I did today: top five or six and top independent rider. It’s not easy but we did it.”
Nakagami’s riding technique works well at Mugello, especially through the five esses that dominate the lap. “My strongest point is that I’m able to carry my speed from corner to corner,” he added. “There’s no secret, it’s just my natural style.”
Photo: Motorsport Images
What KTM needs to fix to go faster
Red Bull KTM’s Pol Espargaró couldn’t repeat his Le Mans result – sixth place, 5.9 seconds behind the winner – but he was once again inside the top 10 and once again closer to the winner than he had been the previous year.
An important factor in his Le Mans speed was KTM’s brand-new carbon-fibre swingarm, but this was less of a benefit around Mugello, a totally different kind of racetrack.
“At this kind of track where the speeds are so high and there are a lot of small bumps the carbon swingarm is more reactive and aggressive,” said Espargaró. “When you get a headshake out of a fast corner the bike gets too nervous.”
Espargaró’s other area of focus is getting the RC16 to turn better when he releases the brakes – currently one of MotoGP’s holy grails.
“When I release the brake the other bikes all turn a bit faster than us, so I need to wait and then because we don’t have such good rear grip we cannot turn so fast,” he added. “We have some ideas, but we are changing so many things on the bike at the moment that we need to calm down and maybe wait for the Barcelona test to have more time to play with these things.”
The off-brake turning problem could be a chassis stiffness issue, or a load-transfer issue: if releasing the brake takes too much load off the front tyre too quickly then the tyre will return to its normal profile, the contact patch will be reduced and the tyre won’t offer enough grip to help the rider turn the bike.
And it’s no surprise that KTM technical director Sebastian Risse takes a great interest in Honda’s RC213V, taking a peak in pit lane whenever he can: the RC16 and RC213V are very similar in many ways.
Discos can be dangerous
Here’s something you’ve never heard before: MotoGP riders discussing night-time entertainment in the safety commission.
Not their own entertainment, of course, but the entertainment provided for the fans, especially at Le Mans, MotoGP’s rowdiest event.
“Le Mans is an absolute joke,” said Cal Crutchlow at Mugello. “It’s not the fans in the campsite, it’s the organisers with their main stage that’s a hundred metres from our motorhomes. And they started the party at a quarter to 12 and finished about four in the morning, every night.
“And the thing was ripping, so you had riders taking sleeping tablets, which isn’t good.”
Crutchlow doesn’t use sleeping pills, so he didn’t get much sleep during the weekend.
“Ten years ago I would’ve got my clobber on and gone out there – it was raging, good tunes,” he added, hammering out a four-four beat on the table. “That’s what the motorhome was like for four hours every night!”
Photo: Motorsport Images
Moto3’s first all-new bike since 2012
Moto3 has its first all-new motorcycle since the creation of the 250cc four-stroke championship in 2012.
The little-known Italian TM factory entered wild card Kevin Zannoni at Mugello, its second grand prix after making its debut at Misano last year.
In fact TM is well known in other areas of motorcycling, with multiple world titles in supermoto and enduro. The factory in Pesaro (birthplace of Graziano Rossi, as well as Benelli, Morbidelli and other famous marques) builds 2500 motorcycles a year and sells a further 1500 kart engines.
TM built its first Moto3 bike in 2012, using a TM motocross engine, but engineers quickly realised it wasn’t good enough, so they built its first roadracing engine. Because it had no knowledge of roadracing chassis it used a British FTR chassis, so its engine architecture follows that of Honda’s NSF250RW, most commonly housed in an FTR chassis. Therefore the cylinder faces backwards and is inclined rearward about 15deg, with the airbox at the front and the exhausts exiting under the seat. The latest bike uses a TM chassis, built by former Aprilia and Ioda engineers.
TM claims 59 horsepower, but still has a way to go. Zannoni had the slowest Mugello top speed at 147mph, compared to the fastest bike, Kato Toba’s NSF250RW at 154mph/248kmh.
Zannoni crashed out of the race but currently leads the Italian Moto3 championship. He also contests the CEV Moto3 junior world championship and scored points last time out at the French GP. TM run two factory bikes in the Italian series, with five other riders using bought machines.