22 January 2016
MotoGP has ‘never seen such big changes’
“We have never seen such big changes in the same season” - Kouichi Tsuji, Yamaha.
The switch from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres and introduction of a standard ECU marks MotoGP's biggest technical shake-up since the four-stroke rules began in 2002.
“This year there are the two big regulation changes, tyres and electronics, and we have never seen such big changes in the same season,” declared Yamaha's MotoGP group leader Kouichi Tsuji.
“From 2009 we have had mono [single] tyre regulations. Before that we had many tyres to try during practice and could [develop the bike using] the tyres. After the change to mono tyre we tried to improve the bike by itself. Especially through the electronics, which have improved a lot.
“Now we have to use the common ECU software, and change the tyre brand. So it will make a big, big change for us this year.”
But which, tyres of electronics, offers the biggest challenge for the riders?
“The tyres I don't think will be a problem, apart from the front where sometimes you need to be a bit careful,” said Movistar Yamaha's reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo. “Michelin in the future will give us a more grippy tyre on the front.
“But the electronic we must be very focussed to improve because it really is very different from last year. But with experience and hard work we can deal with it very well. One of our main strong points is that we adapt ourselves very quickly to new situations.”
The Spaniard spent his debut 2008 MotoGP season with Michelin, winning in only his third race.
“I've been lucky in that in 2008 I had my first year in MotoGP riding the Michelins. I don't remember so much how was the feeling, but I understand the way of riding these kind of tyres is quite a bit different from the Bridgestone,” he said.
“You have to anticipate a little bit the braking, release the brakes a little bit sooner, and this kind of riding style can be in theory a little bit better for me. But until we practice at more tracks we will not know.
“We ask Michelin to improve a little bit the front tyre and Yamaha to investigate how we can create electronics that are as close as possible to the [factory] electronics we had last year.”
Rossi made the change from Michelin to Bridgestone one year before the single tyre regulations banished the French company from the premier class. Rossi ran Michelin rubber from 2000-2007, winning five titles.
Now preparing for his 17th MotoGP season, the Italian has more prior Michelin experience than any other current rider. He also knows the magnitude of the changes Yamaha needed to make in 2008.
“When we come from Michelin to Bridgestone we modified the setting very much and we need a bit of time to arrive at the right balance,” Rossi explained. “We need to understand our level with these tyres because last year our bike was very good with the Bridgestone and the bike that was more balanced. Now we need to do hard work to make the same with Michelin.
Rossi added: “I think the way to ride with Michelin is quite different compared to Bridgestone. A lot of small differences in braking and entering but also type of lines and different way to open the throttle. So at the end the bike remain the same, but the tyres change quite a lot. So every rider has to be fast to adapt to this new situation. “
There will also be a difference in tyre size to contend with, Michelin opting for 17” rather than 16.5”.
“At the end of the lap I think 16.5 is better compared to 17,” Rossi declared. “But Michelin decide to use this size. Have also some good points, but in general the bike is a bit different on entry to the corner.
“Speaking [simply] the bike gains some agility, but loses some stability. So it is more reactive, but if you make a mistake is less safe compared to last year [16.5]. But we did just one test, so I think there is a long way to go and we can arrive very similar to the level of last year in the end.
“We need to understand the setting and weight distribution to use the Michelin at the maximum.”
While Rossi seemed to place a bigger emphasis on the tyre change than Lorenzo, he also stressed the significance of the ECU.
“Also the electronic is important because it change very much and we discover during the last years that if you have a little bit better electronics system then the difference [on track] is quite a lot.”
Outside of adapting to the new components, the only other request for improvement from Rossi is top speed. “We will try to have a little bit more top speed in the straight, because last year that was the only place where we suffer.”
The Yamaha stars certainly didn't see eye-to-eye on many things by the end of last season title battle, but Lorenzo hopes his closest 2016 rival will again be in the same garage.
“I hope and we hope because this will mean that our competitors are still behind, no?” Lorenzo said. “Because last year the bike was unbelievable: This helped us to achieve so many victories and podiums.
“Hopefully we keep like that because it will mean either Valentino or myself will be world champion again.”
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