Set-up report South Africa round 1


Circuit: Phakisa Freeway, Welkom
Country: South Africa
Track length: 4242 m
Opened: 1999
Fastest Lap Ever: 1' 33.174 (Sete Gibernau, 2003 - MotoGP)
MotoGP lap record: 1' 33.851 (Valentino Rossi, 2003)
Last year MotoGP winner: Sete Gibernau
GP250 lap record: 1' 36.649 (Manuel Poggiali, 2003)
Last year GP250 winner: Manuel Poggiali
Circuit tel: +27 57 3918000
Circuit web site:

2003 MotoGP race summary
The 2003 Africa’s MotoGP, held at the Phakisa Freeway, Welkom, proved to be an eventful and emotional 28 lap race after Sete Gibernau (Honda) claimed victory over Valentino Rossi (Honda) and Max Biaggi (Honda). Gibernau was one of 17 riders to survive a four bike collision on the main straight only moments after the start, when Colin Edwards (Aprilia) clipped another rider before his machine continued on and collided with Jeremy McWilliams (Proton KR), who in turn forced Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia) off the tarmac.

Fortunately the full Yamaha contingent escaped the incident unscathed, leaving Yamaha rider Norick Abe – filling in for the injured Marco Melandri – to make the most of the chaotic situation. The Japanese Yamaha Factory Test rider improved on his 18th place grid position to finish the opening lap fifth, behind Troy Bayliss (Ducati), Gibernau, Biaggi and Rossi. In an impressive display Abe continued to hold his ground on an unfamiliar machine until an electronic glitch robbed his M1 of power on the final lap – losing three places as a result to finish eighth.

After a cautious start, which saw him ninth on the first lap, Alex Barros (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3) made the most of a fifth place onslaught with eventual sixth place finisher Tohru Ukawa (Honda), Nicky Hayden (Honda), Abe and Carlos Checa (Yamaha). Although Checa battled his way to seventh mid race he never really found the grip he needed to break through to the front of the pack and eventually finished the day ninth.

YZR-M1 Set-up Report
Over the past six years the Phakisa circuit has developed a notorious reputation for being both bumpy and slippery – the latter a side effect of the area’s flat and dusty surroundings. Combined, these two elements make setting up a 240 plus horsepower MotoGP machine uniquely difficult. Therefore the key to a successful result at this isolated venue is not outright horsepower, rather the way in which that power is delivered. As a result the more predictable power characteristics of the new YZR-M1, in addition to the revised Deltabox chassis, should play a significant role in improving the potential of a podium performance for all four Yamaha riders – Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Carlos Checa, and Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 riders Marco Melandri and Norick Abe.

With strong winds a regular occurrence in the region, along with rather dry conditions and irregular circuit use, it is common that a heavy film of grit is usually covering the track surface upon the arrival of the MotoGP spectacle. This factor alone makes finding the perfect race day set-up difficult, with the track conditions constantly changing as the round progresses. During the three days of the race weekend the circuit tends to offer more grip and a cleaner racing line, often resulting in faster lap times – the beginning of an endless cycle of chasing chassis settings to suit the increasing pace.

With this in mind each rider is likely to opt for a chassis set-up that is initially plusher than would usually be expected for such a medium to high-speed layout, in an effort to increase predictability and feel. A combination of balancing the YZR-M1’s rear ride-height, reducing compression damping and increasing the spring preload will reduce the likelihood of the bike’s rear suspension unit squatting under power – otherwise there is the risk of under steer during the exit of corners.

At the same time this more forgiving set-up will also reduce excessive overload on the sidewall of the tyres over sharp and unpredictable surfaces; in turn making the bike behave more predictably. The aim of predictability is the key, especially in the latter stages of the race when the tyre wear becomes a factor. The revised lateral flex characteristics of the latest generation Deltabox chassis, with inverted swingarm, should also help increase the above mentioned feel and will in turn increase rider confidence when the tyres begin to fade.

Since most Welkom corners are of medium to high-speed, with very little in the way of seriously hard braking areas, front fork set-up will mimic the rear shock – increasing the front fork preload/spring rate to compensate for the reduce compression damping. As the speed increase, again the necessary adjustment will be made to compensate for the more aggressive riding.

Due to circuit’s high elevation, and the regular high temperatures, power loss is also a major issue for all concerned – even for the mighty four-strokes. The less dense air will see all motorcycles down on power by nearly 15 percent. In an attempt to reduce the effects Yamaha technicians will sacrifice a little low rpm drive to chase a stronger top-end and midrange power delivery. This is possible since there are virtually no stop-and-go corners on the 4242m circuit.