Set-up report Malaysia Round 14

Setup

October 12, 2003
Circuit: Sepang
Country: Malaysia
Track length: 5548 m
Opened: 1999
Fastest Lap Ever: 2' 4.376 (Alex Barros, 2002 - MotoGP)
MotoGP lap record: 2' 4.925 (Max Biaggi, 2002)
Last year MotoGP winner: Max Biaggi
GP250 lap record: 2' 8.858 (Alfonso Nieto, 2002)
Last year GP250 winner: Alfonso Nieto
Circuit tel: +60 3 85262000
Circuit web site: http://www.malaysiangp.com.my

2002 race summary
Max Biaggi slammed home win number two for the Yamaha YZR-M1 with a textbook ride during the sweltering 2002 Malaysian MotoGP. The second placed qualifier held his ground during the 22-bike charge into turn one. Entering just behind Motegi race winner Alex Barros (Honda), he then proceeded to shadow the race leader until a somewhat ragged Valentino Rossi (Honda) worked his way through the pursuing field and began to close the gap. Soon after setting a new circuit lap record, with a 2’04.925 – 1.693 seconds faster than Rossi’s 2001 time (2’06.618) – Biaggi made his move and took control of the race.

From lap 11 Biaggi left Rossi, Barros and Tohru Ukawa (Honda) to fight it out for the remaining podium positions, the trio finishing second to fourth respectively. Meanwhile fifth placed Daijiro Kato (Honda) held off four-stroke debutant Shinya Nakano (Yamaha), who’d made up for a somewhat average qualifying performance on an unfamiliar bike to finish sixth. The Japanese spent the 21-laps learning the limits of the M1, with each lap bringing him closer to Carlos Checa (Yamaha). Nakano eventually passed the Spaniard on lap 13 and finished the race 1.360 seconds ahead of his rival.

Olivier Jacque’s YZR-M1 debut didn’t go as smoothly; the Frenchman was tenth by the third lap before inexperience of riding a four-stroke ended his race in the gravel-trap.

Set-up report YZR-M1
Due to the Sepang circuit’s hairpins, and numerous hard braking areas a fast lap, any hope of making a pass at the Malaysian venue 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 very few bumps. 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 ever-improving YZR-M1 in-line, four-cylinder power plant, which has recently seen internal upgrades that have improved the torque delivery. As in Motegi, this will help to get the 220 plus horsepower machine off the slower speed turns more effectively, while increased rpm offers the M1 the ability to stretch its legs. This combination has proven effective in Motegi and Rio, where the Yamaha regularly featured high on top speeds, and will be of even more value on the long drag strips of Sepang.