In a sport where success can be decided by one thousandth of a second, MotoGP riders are constantly seeking every drop of information to gain even the slightest edge.

A consequence of the sport getting ever more competitive - the last two seasons have seen an unprecedented number of race winners and tight racing - is the quest for greater data and statistics.

But numbers only tell part of the story and there has also been an increasing trend towards use of 'rider coaches'; often an ex-racer, who observes from trackside and passes on feedback about how their rider might improve.

Another avenue of 'non-data' comes from the vast array of TV footage now available, with every MotoGP track session filmed from multiple camera angles.

But what can a rider learn from it all?

Red Bull KTM's Bradley Smith, who worked with Randy Mamola for much of his grand prix career, explains…

Rider Coach

"I had Randy working with me and I see that as a massive help just in terms of having eyes outside of the track," began the Englishman.

"It's amazing. I watched a downhill ski race a week ago. I'm a fan, but I don't know the sport, but when you stand there and watch 20 guys go down you knew exactly who was fast, who was slow, who took the cautious line, who took the aggressive line, who had big balls, who didn't, who was erratic, who was smooth.

"And that was all on one time through.

"So if you stand trackside in a 45-minute MotoGP session and watch 24 guys going through, you know exactly what's working, what is not, who is good on the brakes, who is good on acceleration…

"That's something the data will never tell you and it's something that some guys can never see. But if you find the right person, the right coach, they can bring that package.

"I think coaches - as long as they relay the information to the team and rider in the correct way - are nothing but beneficial.

"Basically [a coach] helps you understand if something really stands out and helps with ideas if what you are doing is not working in a particular corner. They can tell you, 'so-and-so is attacking the corner in this way and someone else is doing it that way'.

"Then you could try both of those different approaches and see which one works for you. It gives you a couple of different options to try in areas where you are weak.

"It's just a case of using the mass of visual information from 24 of the best riders in the world, on 24 of the best bikes in the world. If everyone else is doing a corner in a certain way, you need to do it like that and find a way of making it happen. I think that's the important thing.

"But you can't just directly overlay it - a KTM will never do exactly what another manufacturer will do, and another manufacturer wouldn't do what a KTM would do. You have to take all the information and digest it, find a way to make it work for your package.

"You might not necessarily always be able to use the options, because of the difference between how the bikes work, but at least it gives you those options to try.

"Sometimes you can't see [what others are doing differently], if you are riding round by yourself by example.

"That's also why we still see riders trying to follow each other. It's not always to get a tow, it's to see 'what's his motorcycle doing that mine isn't? What am I going to come up against in the race?'

"But you don't always have the possibility to study your rivals in that way because they shut off, wave the other rider by and so on.

"A coach can basically supply that same kind of information, second hand. But that's better than not at all.

"First hand, by following someone, is the best information you can get as a rider. Next is second hand and then try and back that up with the data. What's completely useless is riding around hitting your head against a brick wall and not learning anything."

TV Coverage

"I watch myself [on the TV coverage] because you know what a 'good you' looks like on the bike. You know what you look like when you are comfortable on the bike… definitely not riding like you’ve got a pole up your backside!

"You don't always know that when you are riding, but when you see it [on TV afterwards] you know straight away. Body language is really clear and there is always a reason for an action, or reaction.

"On-board [TV footage] is pretty useless for me; the only thing we can learn from that is other people's gearboxes. If they are using second or first gear in a particular corner. That was more important last year because we didn't know which gear ratios, so it helped us to understand.

"On-board gear changes can also help to see if someone is short-shifting in a slippy area or to prevent wheelies. That's something you can note, but both of those things are from looking at other guys rather than your own on-board. Then you have to decide which differences you can transfer across.

"All of that is information that you cannot necessarily use first hand, but something you can go away and think about. Get creative.

"The same applies when you are watching the practice sessions [on TV] and you see someone overtake a slower rider in a certain place. Or if you see someone run in deep in some places, but still have the ability to make the turn.

"Or perhaps you see someone run over a kerb in a way that you didn't think you could. Then if you take that bit of kerb it opens up a slightly different line into the following corner.

"You can remember all those kinds of things as an option. It's about gathering information that you might not even need until the last lap of the race.

"Because we’ve got a new bike sometimes we are thinking so much about the bike that we are not thinking purely about the track. Whereas some guys are so confident with their bikes they can just focus on the track.

"So you can use TV coverage and other people [coach] to draw that information from. It's important," Smith concluded.

KTM told that "at the moment a couple of team members share this [coach] role."


Loading Comments...