Set-up report Donington Round 8

Setup

Round: 8, British MotoGP
Date: July 14, 2002
Circuit: Donington Park
Country: United Kingdom
Track length: 4023 m 
Opened: 1977 
Fastest Lap Ever: 1' 31.964 (Max Biaggi, 2001 - MotoGP)
MotoGP lap record: 1' 32.661 (Simon Crafar, 1998)
Last year MotoGP winner: Valentino Rossi
GP250 lap record: 1' 34.096 (Daijiro Katoh, 2001)
Last year GP250 winner: Daijiro Katoh
Circuit tel: +44 1332 814120
Circuit web site: http://www.doningtonpark.co.uk

2001 race summary
It was a frantic Donington MotoGP 500, held in front of a record British crowd, which eventually saw Marlboro Yamaha Team rider Max Biaggi secure second place only a week after his 2001 Dutch TT victory. The Italian found himself in yet another race-long scrap with fellow countryman Valentino Rossi – the Honda rider eventually making the best of the challenging circuit to take the race win by 1.794 seconds.

During the opening ten laps the race win looked as though it could have gone to any one of eight riders, including MotoGP 250 World Champion Olivier Jacque (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3) who was as high as fifth up until mid-race distance. But the talent who caught everybody napping was Noriyuki Haga (Red Bull Yamaha), the former Superbike star riding like the ‘Samurai of Slide’ of old. He came through the field from as far back as 12th on the opening few laps to work his way onto the rear wheel of eventual third place getter, 500 GP veteran, Alex Barros (Honda). Haga challenged the Brazilian for a podium place for nearly ten laps before settling for fourth – five seconds clear of Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team, fifth) and Shinya Nakano (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3, sixth). Meanwhile Jason Vincent, filling in for the injured Garry McCoy on the Red Bull Yamaha YZR500, scored his first points in the premiere class after finishing 13th at his home MotoGP.

Set-up report YZR-M1/YZR500
Donington has been a challenging circuit for Yamaha, but still it has enjoyed a number of memorable wins at the picturesque venue – four since 1987 when it was extended to meet the grand prix requirements regarding track length. Part of the battle takes place with not only the competition but the typical British weather too, which has a reputation of being changeable and unpredictable – similar to the Dutch TT at Assen.

But the weather aside, this British track is demanding, for both rider and technician alike, due to its complex layout, which can be separated into two very different components. The first, from the start finish line to the right-hander called Coppice Corner, is a flowing sequence of medium to high-speed corners that drop down Craner Curves into the Old Hairpin before climbing back out on the approach to Coppice. The circuit is then completed with the 1987 extension that allowed Donington to form part of the GP calendar, from the Fogarty Esses to Goddard Corner – a sequence of stop-and-go hairpins that is the opposite from the flow of the old track layout.

This one feature alone makes dialling in a motorcycle chassis rather difficult, as a fast lap will come down to a compromise in all-round set-up. Add to that the lack of grip, which some say is due to the jet fuel residue left by the nearby East Midlands airport, and the best result will be achieved by the rider who can ride around any chassis compromises.

The main aim is to find a chassis that offers a good pitching balance – too much and you lose stability under brakes in the second half of the lap; not enough and the bike will be difficult to turn through the first part. What also needs to be taken into consideration is that the first part of the circuit pushes the front a great deal, while the second is pretty much ‘highside’ territory. For this reason softer spring rates front and rear will be chosen, but they will be balanced with the spring preload. It will mean that a little stability will be lost under brakes in the second section, but it will help with drive and front-end feedback elsewhere.

The characteristics of the latest spec M1 chassis, introduced during the Italian MotoGP weekend, will be the main key to any success at the British MotoGP. Its more neutral balance and improved front-end feel will prove a real benefit in the fast down hill sweepers, featured in the first half of the Donington layout. Meanwhile the ever-evolving electronic engine-braking system will aid Marlboro Yamaha Teammates Biaggi and Carlos Checa in the harder braking, tighter second section – which is where a majority of the overtaking moves are likely to be executed.

Other advancements, this time with the in-line, four-cylinder, four-stroke powerhouse, have improved throttle response, overall power delivery and throttle linearity – the latter very important on such a slippery surface. These benefits are the result of a recently introduced crankcase, which offers reduced engine oil turbulence; cylinder head, for more progress power; and a new crankshaft for better acceleration.