Set-up report Malaysia round 14

Setup

Round 14: Sepang, Malaysia 
Track length: 5548 m 
Opened: 1999 
Fastest Lap Ever: 2' 2.480 (Valentino Rossi, 2003) 
MotoGP lap record: 2' 3.822 (Valentino Rossi, 2003)
Last year MotoGP winner: Valentino Rossi 
Circuit tel: +60 3 85262000 
Circuit web site: http://www.malaysiangp.com.my

2003 race summary
Valentino Rossi (Honda) claimed his third consecutive premier class title after a dominating performance at the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix. The flamboyant Italian only needed to finish one place behind his main championship rival Sete Gibernau (Honda) to clinch the number one plate. But, despite the risks, Rossi steamed past the competition to cross the line 2.042 seconds ahead of Gibernau to finish the race with a 63point lead over Gibernau, with only two rounds remaining.

Factory Yamaha Team rider Carlos Checa, who’d qualified second behind Rossi for today’s 21 lap race, produce a solid start to enter turn one in third place. The Spaniard trailed Gibernau and Loris Capirossi (Ducati) on the opening lap before fending off a challenge from the champion elect. Staying focused Checa produce a string of fast and consistent laps, but eventually he had to relinquish second to a determined Rossi. Unperturbed, the 30-year-old continued to chase race leaders Gibernau and Rossi, before eventually coming under the attack of Max Biaggi (Honda) and Nicky Hayden (Honda) – leaving Checa to finish a respectable fifth.

Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) put in yet another strong performance to finish eighth despite a poor start, while Yamaha rider Marco Melandri was not so fortunate. After suffering from a lack of grip for the duration of the race, in addition to a poor qualifying result and difficult start to the race, the 2002 GP250 World Champion ended the 14th round of the season with a disappointing 11th place.

For the Yamaha Tech 3 Team the Malaysian Grand Prix was a weekend to forget with Alex Barros crashing out of the race as early as turn two, while Olivier Jacque never even made the race start. The former managed to remount his lightly damaged M1 to finish the race 15th, while Jacque opted not to race after still suffering from light-headedness following his Friday crash.

Set-up report YZR-M1
Due to the Sepang circuit’s hairpins and numerous hard braking areas a fast lap comes down to braking stability and the bike’s turn-in characteristics. Two such areas include the combination of long straights and hairpins that make up the final sequence of the 5542m layout. The task is made a little easier, for the suspension technicians, with the track surface boasting a high level of grip and few bumps. At the same time it is a venue that also offers challenging high-speed sweepers – the first, diving down deep into a hollow before climbing back out the other side for a 90 degree right-hander. This corner alone has a tendency to load up the front of the bike to the extreme on the entry, and the rear on the exit. The other is a blind left-hander that disappears over an undulating crest, which ensures that keeping the back-end in line will be challenging even for the best MotoGP talent.

Therefore the ideal chassis set-up is somewhat compromised. With this approach the key areas of concern are catered for – such as braking stability and chassis agility under heavy loads. To help cater for both the suspension balance will be targeted towards a similar neutral feel as that used in Motegi. The front fork springs will be set slightly firmer – achieved with a higher spring rate – with the bike’s attitude controlled by the spring preload.

Softer damper settings will improve feel, leaving the heavier springs to deal with the high cornering and braking forces. As for the rear shock, it will also carry a high spring rate, but the damping will still be smooth to give the riders the feel needed to get the power down hard and predictably, in conditions that can melt a rear tyre in a matter of laps.

Aiding the Yamaha contingent at Malaysia will be the 2004 YZR-M1’s in-line, four-cylinder power plant. It’s more predictable and drivable power character offers improve tyre endurance over the 2003 machine – a must in the steamy Sepang climate.