Going as fast as possible on cold tyres, cold brakes and with unknown grip levels - as riders all hustle for position - makes the opening lap of a MotoGP race especially intense.

So who does it best?

To get a rough idea we've compared each rider's opening lap time - from a standing start on the grid - with their eventual best lap time in the same race. So the smaller the difference, the better. An average for each rider was then produced for the first seven rounds of this year.

Rounds eight and nine, at Assen and Sachsenring, were not included due to the changing weather conditions and variation in start position (some riders starting from pit lane). When a rider missed a race, or fell on the first lap, that event was not counted in their average. Danilo Petrucci is not included due to being absent for most of the rounds in question.

MotoGP 2014: Time difference between each rider's first race lap and their best race lap:Average over opening seven races

1.Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 4.604s
2Andrea Iannone*(Ducati) 4.967s
3.Stefan Bradl(Honda) 4.982s

4.Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 5.198s
5.Jorge Lorenzo**(Yamaha) 5.207s
6.Marc Marquez(Honda) 5.284s
7.Bradley Smith(Yamaha) 5.366s
8.Dani Pedrosa(Honda) 5.426s
9.Pol Espargaro(Yamaha) 5.568s
10Aleix Espargaro(Open Yamaha) 5.853s
11.Nicky Hayden**(Open Honda) 5.865s
12.Yonny Hernandez(Ducati) 5.882s

13.Cal Crutchlow*(Ducati) 6.084s
14.Alvaro Bautista*(Honda) 6.509s
15.Scott Redding(Open Honda) 6.576s

16.Hiroshi Aoyama(Open Honda) 7.009s
17.Mike di Meglio(Open Avintia) 7.013s
18.Colin Edwards(Open Yamaha) 7.036s
19.Broc Parkes(Open PBM) 7.280s
20.Michael Laverty(Open PBM) 7.650s
21.Karel Abraham*(Open Honda) 7.753s
22.Hector Barbera*(Open Avintia) 7.944s

* Average over six races for Andrea Iannone and Hector Barbera (both did not record a fast race lap before falling at Le Mans), Alvaro Bautista (fell on lap one in Argentina), Cal Crutchlow (missed Argentina through injury) and Karel Abraham (fell before setting a fast race lap in Catalunya).
** Average over five races for Jorge Lorenzo (fell on lap one in Qatar, jump start in Texas) and Nicky Hayden (fell on lap one at Le Mans and missed Mugello).

Best by Event:
Qatar:Andrea Dovizioso(Ducati) 5.937s
Austin: Marc Marquez(Honda) 1.277s
Argentina: Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 3.186s
Jerez:Andrea Dovizioso(Ducati) 4.155s
Le Mans:Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 5.067s
Mugello:Andrea Dovizioso(Ducati) 6.625s
Catalunya:Jorge Lorenzo(Yamaha) 3.717s

The above comparison doesn't take into account things like different tyre compounds, incidents that do not result in a retirement on the opening lap, or that riders lower down on the grid have more chance of being 'held up' than those starting on the front row or getting the holeshot at turn one.

Nonetheless some patterns emerge, plus some stand-out moments.

The first is that Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone lead the list, with an average opening lap time 4.604s and 4.967s slower than their best lap of the race. At first glance this might seem due to the Ducati and Open class riders (but not Factory Honda and Yamaha riders) having access to a soft rear tyre.

However Dovizioso did not race with the soft tyre during the seven rounds in question, making his average especially impressive. Iannone did use the soft rear at Le Mans, Mugello and Catalunya, but Le Mans is not included in his average because he fell before setting a fast lap in the race.

Dovizioso's first lap pace varies between a best of +2.761s from his ultimate lap time at Austin, to +6.625s at Mugello. The Italian circuit - plus Le Mans and Qatar - generally saw the biggest time differences, suggesting more opening lap caution than usual was required from the riders.

In total, Dovizioso got closer than any other rider to his best lap of the race at five of the seven opening laps: Qatar (+5.937s), Argentina (+3.186s), Jerez (+4.155s), Le Mans (+5.067s) and Mugello (+6.625s). The Italian, who recently re-signed with Ducati for a further two seasons, has frequently indicated that the Desmosedici performs well on new tyres, but loses out disproportionately when edge grip begins to fade.

Iannone's opening lap pace peaks with a very quick +2.249s in Austin up to a still fast +6.949s at Mugello where, as mentioned, he ran the soft rear.

LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl certainly doesn't have the softer rear rubber and was the only other rider with a speedy sub-five-second average. The German set a best of +2.430s in Texas and slowest of +8.016s at Mugello.

The figures appear to confirm that unbeaten world champion Marc Marquez has taken a relatively cautious approach to the opening laps, with the notable exception of round two at Austin.

In Texas, the Repsol Honda star completed the first lap (from a standing start) just 1.277s slower than his fastest lap of the race, which was a new circuit record, despite being the only rider on the hardest rear tyre! Team-mate Dani Pedrosa achieved a similar feat with a mere +1.874s lap time difference in Austin, running the medium rear

Marquez's worst opening lap was at Le Mans, when he dropped down to tenth place and was 8.400s slower than his best race lap. Pedrosa was just one place in front of him at the end of lap one, with a difference of 8.089s.

That pattern - of Marquez and Pedrosa being closing matched on the opening lap - is repeated at each of the seven events in question, with the biggest time difference between them being at Austin. Pedrosa made set-up changes during the winter to try and improve his end of race form, but felt he may have lost too much of his previous early race speed.

Despite some poor qualifying sessions, Valentino Rossi has been best of the Yamaha riders, a fraction ahead of team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, whose past opening lap strength has been diluted this year.

Rossi's best was a 3.688s at Austin, with his worst a 7.677s difference at Mugello. Lorenzo was closest of all to his maximum pace on lap one in Catalunya, although his personal best of the races in question was a 3.522s difference in Argentina and worst a 7.624s at Le Mans.


Loading Comments...