motogp’s night light

February 27, 2008


motogp will be kicking off this season in a rather unique way. qatar will be the first track to hold a premier class motorsports event under the lights (nascar has been doing this for years but they are far from premier let alone class). teams will have a chance to acclimate to the new conditions this thurs during an official two day test. 

motogp-r1pre2.jpglosail international circuit teamed up with american lighting specialists musco sports lighting to accomplish this enormous challenge. they basically had to light the whole facility but without causing shadows. this required 3700 lighting sources and enough electricity to power 3000 homes or 5.4 megawatts. that’s a shit ton of energy!!! only in qatar… 

last year, several riders have already had a crack at the circuit albeit under partial lighting conditions and they seemed to be happy with it. teams will have to adjust to the change in time, lower track temps, and the lights. the race will be held around midnight, ten hours later than usual. and since the track is in the middle of a desert, the temps will be lower with higher humidity than a day race which means grip could be an issue. hopefully, riders will be able to adapt to the lights and all will be well.
to me motogp under the lights is a gimmick. it cheapens the sport making it more of a spectacle. the unique conditions will either influence or worse overshadow the racing. and why spend all this money and energy to hold a race at night? at a time when global warming and recession are on everyone’s minds, qatar rubs their frivolity and extravagance in our face.
(man, this turned into a depressing post…)
all things aside, i’m just happy to see motogp racing is only 12 days away!!! hit the switch, carmelo!!!

stoner again making it look easy – official irta test

February 18, 2008

current world champ, casey stoner, started off this season like he ended the last one – on top of the podium and winning a bmw.
the motogp season officially kicked off this weekend with the jerez irta test that extends until monday. stuck in the middle is the bmw m award, a mini-competition to set the fastest lap during the sunday afternoon session. the winner gets the keys to a brand new z4 m roadster and bragging rights for the rest of season.
heading into the weekend, michelin looked extremely competitive locking in the top 5 spots in the saturday session. nicky hayden, randy de puniet, and james toseland impressed me the most setting a quick pace on less than ideal equipment. remember, all these riders are using last year’s spring-valve engines while the likes of rossi and stoner are riding the latest kit. rossi and stoner were down in 8th and 9th, respectively, which was perplexing.
conditions deteriorated over night and rains soaked the track for sundays’ test sessions. the wet track made for a rather boring m award competition. riders were tip-toeing the bikes around trying to avoid an off and injury. stoner set the fastest lap of the day with a 1’49.263 on his 5th lap (of only 9) with 26 mins left in the session. it was then a matter of the field playing catch up. rossi managed a 1’50.580 in the tricky conditions as a dry line was slowly developing. it boggles my mind (and probably the rest of the field’s) that stoner can run so few laps yet be so fast. as rossi and melandri said earlier this week, stoner is the master of traction control and it showed sunday afternoon.
even though there’s still a day left in the test, my faith in randy de puniet was restored saturday with a stupendously fast time on qualifiers that was almost 2 sec quicker than last year’s pole. furthermore, his pace on race tires wasn’t too shabby either. i’m calling it right now that the “crash king” will be the most improved rider for ’08 and will be at the sharp end of the grid. lucio cecchinello may have another ace in his hand like he did 2 two years ago.
[UPDATE] randy continued his quick pace on race and qualifying tires on mon. he had the fastest 5 lap stint and the 4th fastest single lap time.

coffee talk with masao furasawa

February 13, 2008

i can hear it now. yamaha’s engineering gm, masao furasawa, dressed in drag and talking in a jewpanese-brooklyn accent. i swear it’s the weather… 
is it me or does it seem that the teams in the motogp paddock have been unusually candid during the preseason tests? 
ducati said they didn’t really change anything while yamaha and honda are looking for a little more power out of their pneumatic valve engines. are the teams trying to psych each other out or is this for realz???

furusawa revealed that they picked up 5 hp since last year but they want/need 3-4 more by the jerez test. he also confessed that the use of pneumatic-valves is far from an obvious engineering choice.

“From the theoretical point of view, we don’t need to use pneumatic valves because the rev limit is around 19,000 rpm [achievable with valve-springs].” 

“Basically the engine shape is also still the same and, even though we changed the cylinder head, the centre of gravity location is almost the same as well. Of course some of the internal parts are different, because otherwise we cannot increase the horsepower.”
so why did they go with the pneumatic valve system? are they looking to push the rev-limit past 20k or increase reliability?
furasawa also adamantly denied development of a “screamer” engine due to the “noise” it generates at high rpm. allegedly the rider can’t feel what the engine is doing with this firing pattern.
most of the info about the ’08 honda rc212v has come from former world champ, nicky hayden. according to him, “every nut and bolt is new.” but new isn’t always good. honda is still working the kinks out of their pneumatic engine. in fact, hayden has only ridden this engine publicly once this year at sepang II – day 2.
on the flip side, kawasaki and suzuki are staying out of the limelight only exposing their new liveries. not too much technical information has been gathered from these two teams.

did michelin steal randy’s mojo???

February 13, 2008

after a great start to the year, lcr-honda rider randy de puniet has been off the mark lately. at the sepang II preseason test, he led the first two days and wasn’t far behind on the final day. he looked consistently fast. de puniet was well off the pace at phillip island just a week later. it’s not like he wasn’t work hard. he put in 115 laps on the final day trying to sort his issues. what happened, randy??? i had high hopes for you this season but alas u dashed them :(

pan-pacific preseason wrapup: phillip island + sepang III

February 12, 2008

the motogp paddock split up after the january’s sepang preseason test and either stayed or flew south (waaaay south) for the phillip island test. fiat-yamaha “took the week off” and hung around the the malaysian circuit while the rest of the paddock did work on the island. note the quotes as i’m sure fiat yamaha didn’t sit back and relax.
in phillip island, casey stoner dominated the three day test and crushed the circuit lap record set by dani pedrosa last year during qualifying. not only is he good on qualifiers but his race pace is scary fast. casey and ducati are firing on all cylinders and look to be a formidable team beat. wish i could say the same for marco and the pramac crew who can’t seem to get to grips with the gp8.
like sepang a few weeks ago, nicky was again fast on qualifiers but the michelin package can’t hang during race simulation. he was around 1.5 secs slower than the world champ. rookie, james toseland, also impressed on the final day with a nice time on qualifiers that would’ve landed him on the outside of the first row. and his tech-3 teammate, colin edwards, showed some speed on the first day taking fastest time.
the paddock returned to sepang circuit until next fall’s race minus a couple red duc’s. fiat-yamaha brought in reinforcements for this test to help rossi develop the m1/bridgestone package. poor jorge… he must feel all alone in the neighboring garage :( but it looks like the japanese rubber is paying dividends as rossi lit the tarmac up with a devastatingly quick qualifying lap on the first day and the circuit lap record was once again broken. this is very good news for bridgestone since their qualifiers couldn’t match michelin last year. rossi seems to have the bike sorted as well on race tires. teammate, lorenzo, was also quick on his michelin-shod m1 taking the fastest time on the third day of testing. yoink!!!
honda factory rider, nicky hayden, also hung in there trailing fiat-yamaha’s coattails. surprisingly, the honda seems down on power compared to yamaha and ducati. they’ll be looking to make progress in the engine dept as the first race is looming in the not-so-far distance (about 30 days).
next up, the official irta test in jerez, spain from feb 16-18. this year is shaping up to be a good one (knock on wood). factory ducati and yamaha seem to be on point while honda is struggling to make up ground. the fact that pedrosa is out doesn’t help either. and it’s anyone guess which satellite team will scrap it out with the leaders. damn it feels good to be a gangster!!!

internal strife – honda hrc

January 28, 2008
seems like there’s some animosity between honda hrc teammates dani pedrosa and nicky hayden. in a press conference discussing his fractured hand, dani talked shit on both his boss (honda) and his co-worker (nicky):

“I still don’t know what happened to cause the crash. I think that is was something on the bike that maybe failed. The team are looking for some data from the bike that might indicate the something that happened to cause the crash.” “I want to get back on the bike as soon as possible. Historically, Nicky has not been very beneficial when he has taken on the responsibility to evolve the motorcycle.”

talk about hurting feelings… remember when pedrosa torpedo’ed nicky in the penultimate round at estoril almost ruining hayden’s championship in 2006??? even though you could see hayden was pissed, he never trash talked his teammate.


break out the qualifiers: sepang preseason test – day 3

January 25, 2008

nicky hayden, the hardest working man in motogp, finished the sepang preseason test with the fastest time of the day and overall. this time was faster than last year’s pole by more than a second and even bested the circuit lap record by almost 3-tenths of a second. granted, nicky was on qualifiers but so were most of the riders today.

1. Hayden 2.00.326 / 77
2. Stoner 2.00.660 / 27
3. Lorenzo 2.00.766 / 63
4. Edwards 2.01.179 / 34
5. Hopkins 2.01.198 / 42
6. Rossi 2.01.425 / 48
7. Dovizioso 2.01.447 / 51
8. Toseland 2.01.745 / 45
9. Vermeulen 2.01.748 / 70
10. Capirossi 2.01.778 / 62
11. De Puniet 2.01.873 / 56
12. Nakano 2.02.032 / 38
13. De Angelis 2.02.198 / 37
14. Melandri 2.02.725 / 58
15. West 2.02.978 / 39
16. Elias 2.02.995 / 67
17. Jacque 2.03.030 / 40
18. Guintoli 2.03.628 / 39
19. Canepa 2.03.703 / 49
20. Serizawa 2.04.354 / 27

as u can see from the fastest lap time chart below for all three days, de puniet was consistently the faster rider (order determined by avg time). current world champ stoner trailed in second followed by rookie lorenzo. they’re avg times along with hayden were significantly helped by the running qualifiers on the last day. edwards and rossi along top half of the field look good. 

as reported yesterday, hayden was testing a pneumatic-valve engine but it turns out that he was in fact running the traditional spring-valve engine today. he was running the ’07 engine in the ’08 chassis which led to the record breaking laps along with setting his fastest lap on a race tire. when hayden spoke to, he stated that  “the pneumatic-valve engine – as much as I hate to say it, because i know it’s the future and where we need to be – is just not fast enough. i mean the engine performance is not fast enough to check anything.” however, he’s hoping that honda will figure it out by the season-opener.

rossi was undeterred by his teammates faster pace and felt that his bike (new chassis + new engine + new tires) is more balanced on the whole… except on qualifiers. “this afternoon i tried out different rear qualifying tires and wasn’t particularly quick. in my opinion that’s the area we need to work on the most with bridgestone.” has rossi’s gamble with bridgestone rubber paid off??? not yet as he’s got several michelin riders ahead of him and more importantly his main rival for 2008, casey stoner.

one other development that came to light on the final day of testing came from kawasaki. they are not only developing a pneumatic-valve system but also a “screamer” engine. kawasaki have been using the gas-charged valvetrain since the start of the 2007 and haven’t had any real problems with it. instead of retrofitting it to an existing engine, they developed the engine from ground up around the system. they’ve also been sending out their test riders (jacque and serizawa) on “screamer” engines. motogp inline-4’s are typically operate on “big-bang” timing where a pair of cylinders fire, followed by a long break, and then the second pair of cylinders fire, followed by a long break. this helps with traction giving the rear tire time to recover from the power pulses. a screamer engine fires each cyclinder one after the other. advantages according to kawasaki are higher revs, smaller package, and lower cg.

next week brings the second preseason test at phillip island. it’ll give us three more days to scrutinize and speculate on the season to come.