Set-up report Sachsenring Round 9

Setup

ROUND: 9, GERMAN GRAND PRIX
July 27, 2003
Circuit: Sachsenring
Country: Germany
Track length: 3704 m
Opened: 1966
Fastest Lap Ever: 1' 25.758 (Olivier Jacque, 2002 - MotoGP)
MotoGP lap record: 1' 26.226 (Valentino Rossi, 2002)
Last year MotoGP winner: Valentino Rossi
GP250 lap record: 1' 27.233 (Marco Melandri, 2001)
Last year GP250 winner: Marco Melandri
Circuit tel: +49 3723 65330
Circuit web site: http://www.sachsenring.de 

2002 race summary
The ‘Jacque-Attack’ was back in form at the ninth round of the 2002 MotoGP World Championship, held at the Sachsenring. Olivier Jacque was in a class of his own aboard the Yamaha YZR500, and looked set to score the first, and possibly the championship’s only two-stroke 2002 MotoGP victory when the win was knocked clean from his grasp. After taking the first two-stroke pole of the season, the Frenchman found himself trailing Max Biaggi (Yamaha), Tohru Ukawa (Honda) and two-stroke mounted Alex Barros (Honda) into the first tight right-hander. Then, with a string of fast, aggressive, but clean laps, Jacque was running second before taking the race lead from Valentino Rossi (Honda) on lap 24. Barros followed the YZR500 through the gap and then made an overenthusiastic attempt on the lead entering turn one three laps from the race’s end. Physics saw the Honda’s front tyre fold under pressure, with the bike collecting the Frenchman on its way into the gravel trap.

The racing incident handed the win to Rossi, who was closely followed across the line by arch- rival Biaggi. The YZR-M1-mounted Italian had timed the start to perfection, but fell back through the field during the opening few laps while adapting his riding style to a last minute geometry change. Then, by mid race distance, with 1.5 seconds still covering the top eighth riders, Biaggi began his run through the field to finish 0.730 seconds behind Rossi and 1.100 seconds ahead of eventual third placed Ukawa.

Carlos Checa (Yamaha) worked his way through from tenth on the grid to finish the German round just off the podium – ahead of Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) and Norick Abe (Yamaha), the latter improving nine places on his qualifying performance. In all, just 13 riders completed the 30-lap event, with seven retirements.

Set-up report YZR-M1
The tight and twisty nature of Sachsenring lends itself to close racing. This is partially influenced by it’s rather short overall length – only just scraping in on the minimum allowed distance to host a MotoGP race – while the spaghetti layout itself has the reputation of making passing moves on fellow competitors difficult even at the best of times. This was expected to change, to some extent, for 2001 after the German venue underwent its second re-design in as many years. Increasing in length by 275m the new circuit remains unchanged between turn one and 11, but from this point three open straight sections of tarmac complete the Sachsenring in a triangular format. The new design was aimed at increasing the opportunity to make a move under brakes as well as increasing the top speed potential of the bikes. The outcome has seen the MotoGP machines top speeds increase in this last sequence of turns to become the fastest section of the track, while two new passing points have presented themselves – the final two left-handers.

Like Donington Sachsenring is made up of low and high speed sections, although it isn’t as segregated as the UK circuit. For this reason the Yamaha YZR-M1 will need to offer agility and a degree of stability too – a difficult combination – although agility takes priority. This was amplified further in 2002 for the four-strokes. With their heavier FIM weight limit and larger engine mass the new breed found the tighter sections of the circuit more challenging than their two-stroke rivals, who nearly claimed their first and only race win of the combined two-stroke and four-stroke 2002 season.

The four’s asset however, aside from the peak power advantage, is the predictability of that power – which is why for 2003 the entire MotoGP grid is now dominated by the four-stroke contingent. This is evident with only second to fifth gears used by the MotoGP machines, while the throttle position is opened fully for less than 10 percent per lap. This smoother power delivery is especially useful at such an undulating circuit as much of the driving is done off the left side of the tyre at a track that requires the power to be laid down exiting slow, tight, corners with little camber and limited grip.

To help the YZR-M1 further in this regard Yamaha will opt for a more linear characteristic from the rear suspension linkage – to suit the needs of the circuit and the flatter torque characteristics likely to be used by the inline-four. Such a linkage ratio will offer a plusher movement through the first stage of the stroke before gradually increasing in intensity. It will not only improve traction off the turns, allowing the rider to get on the power harder and earlier than before, the new linkage should also reduce the effects of the M1’s front wheel pawing for the clouds.

This will be supported with a rear shock set-up that sports a spring rate a little more on the softer side; offering more feel while working the rear tyre less over the bumpy surface. It is necessary, however, to ensure the swingarm motion is predictable as these setting, combined with the undulating layout and lack of grip, can lead to instability. To prevent this from becoming an issue the shock’s damping will be dialled in to compensate, while the front forks will be set to provide the all-round balance. This is possible with the limited amount of hard braking that takes place at the Sachsenring – the only point of concern being turn one. For this reason stability under brakes isn’t such a priority.