Set-up report Philip Island round 15

Setup

Round 15: Circuit: Phillip Island, Australia 
Track length: 4448 m 
Opened: 1956 
Fastest Lap Ever: 1' 30.068 (Valentino Rossi, 2003) 
MotoGP lap record: 1' 31.421 (Valentino Rossi, 2003) 
Last year MotoGP winner: Valentino Rossi 
Circuit tel: +61 3 59522710 
Circuit web site: http://www.phillipislandcircuit.com.au 

2003 MotoGP race summary
Despite the eventual result, which saw Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri finish the Australian Grand Prix with an lowly eighth place and a DNF, it was one of the most determined rides in one of the most hard fought races this season by the Yamaha pair. Both riders attacked the opening stages of the 27-lap race, with Melandri slipping into fourth by turn one, third by the end of the first lap, before clinching the lead on lap two.

The Italian then held on to the lead until lap four, after some sensational passing moves, when Troy Bayliss (Ducati) made contact with the back of the factory YZR-M1 and forcing the 2002 GP250 World Champion back to third. The Italian recovered to cross the line in second place the following lap and was set to chase down race leader Valentino Rossi (Honda) when he highsided his M1 exiting the penultimate turn. Melandri – who technically led the race at the beginning of that unlucky 13th lap, after Rossi received a 10 second penalty for passing under the yellow flag – limped away from the incident with a dislocated right shoulder and haematoma to his left heel.

With the top ten covered by less than two seconds during the first five laps it looked as though any one of the lead group could have taken the race win. After a difficult start Checa found himself at the rear of this pack before gradually working his way through to feature in the battle for the final podium place. It was a charge between Nicky Hayden (Honda), Sete Gibernau (Honda) and Tohru Ukawa (Honda). The trio eventually finished third, fourth and fifth respectively, after Checa ran off the circuit at MG corner and rejoined to finish eighth behind Olivier Jacque (Yamaha) and Shinya Nakano (Yamaha).

The highlight of the Island event, however, was put on by recently crowned world champ Valentino Rossi. Despite Rossi’s 10 second penalty he put in a dominating performance to cross the line 15.212 seconds ahead second placed Loris Capirossi (Ducati). The penalty resulted in Rossi taking the win by an official 5.212 seconds.

Set-up report YZR-M1
The fast flowing nature of Phillip Island is a favourite of many riders, often lending itself to close racing – allowing riders with 250 horsepower underneath them the rare opportunity to attack the circuit. With this in mind the set-up of the machine will need to offer good linear acceleration and turning ability, rather than braking stability – a given considering there’s really only one hard braking area. The key is a high-speed average, not just a top-speed – the result of the long high-speed sweeping corners.

The Island, as it is often referred to, offers a variety of cambers throughout its sweeping 4448m layout, both positive and negative, the rear suspension unit will need to be on the money so to speak. It will need to offer enough feedback and predictability, without pumping through its stroke as the rider tries to drive hard off the side of the tyre, or squatting as the weight transfers onto the rear. The latter will unload the front of the motorcycle, causing it to understeer and push wide – affecting exit speed and eventually lap times. On the other hand too stiff a rear shock will only lead to the front wheel rising while the rider powers off each of the slow and medium speed turns. It will also lead to the deterioration of the rear tyre and increase the likelihood of a highside.

The rear shock must use a slightly soft spring rate, to aid feel, with a reasonable amount of preload to prevent rear-end squat. As for the damping, it will be dialed in to help balance out the package over some of the finer bumps, located in some of the high-speed sweepers. The front forks will mimic the rear set-up to ensure an overall balanced geometry. Too hard and the front will become vague in its feedback, and at these high speeds and lean angles this can be detrimental. Too soft and the basic feel will be too loose to be efficient. This has been the approach of the YZR-M1 technical team over the past few races, and with the experience gained this could prove quite beneficial at Phillip Island, where rider confidence counts for so much.

With the 2004 power plant the M1 can still be honed in for top end performance while offering a linear delivery. Acceleration off the side edge of the tyre is the key to a fast laptime, especially exiting the final fast turn where momentum can make the difference between winning and losing.