Set-up report Estoril Round 11

Setup

Round: 11, Portugese MotoGP
September 8, 2002
Circuit: Estoril
Country: Portugal
Track length: 4182 m
Opened: 1972
Fastest Lap Ever: 1' 40.076 (Max Biaggi, 2001 - MotoGP)
MotoGP lap record: 1' 40.683 (Loris Capirossi, 2001)
Last year MotoGP winner: Valentino Rossi 
GP250 lap record: 1' 42.285 (Daijiro Katoh, 2001)
Last year GP250 winner: Daijiro Katoh
Circuit tel: +351 21 4691462
Circuit web site: http://www.fpak.pt

2001 race summary
After claiming the YZR-M1’s first MotoGP win in 2002, at the tenth round held in Brno, Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team) and the premier motorcycle championship make their way over to the West coast of Europe for the Portuguese GP. It’s here, after a dominating performance in 2000, that Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM) returned to Estoril in 2001 to claim his second podium finish of the year. The Australian made up for his ninth place qualifying by surviving a four-bike pile-up in turn one on the opening lap – which claimed Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin) – before Biaggi handed McCoy third place when he lost the front of his YZR500 with seven laps remaining.

Pole-sitter Biaggi had timed the start to perfection and led the opening lap before the Honda’s of Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi forced their way past. The Italian fought back but could only manage to hold onto the lead pair until he lost the front of the Marlboro machine for the second consecutive MotoGP weekend. As he did in Brno, Biaggi managed to remount and salvage some points, but only after an action packed dogfight with Noriyuki Haga. Unfortunately the battle for fifth place lasted only three laps before the Red Bull Yamaha rider crashed out of the race – promoting Biaggi to fifth place.

Meanwhile Marlboro Yamaha teammate Carlos Checa took home a safe fourth while the Gauloises Yamaha pair of Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano finished eighth and ninth respectively.

Set-up report YZR-M1/YZR500
The Estoril circuit is a technically challenging venue; a combination of its design and location make it so – situated 32km west of Lisbon on the western coast of Portugal, 7km from the beach resorts of Cascais, the GP venue is regularly hit by offshore winds, resulting in dust on the track surface being a common problem. Combined with its flat camber and irregular use, grip levels are always minimal for the first few days, until a clean racing line is formed.

As in Welkom, South Africa, this makes setting up a MotoGP bike difficult, to say the least. As the circuit naturally becomes cleaner and faster over the course of the GP the chassis characteristics will change. Therefore so will the ideal setting, although the nature of the layout sees to it that an ideal chassis is, in itself, difficult to find. With its high-speed straight – topping 300kmh – combined with some hard braking – especially into turn one, the most popular passing point. Add in a sequence of tight twists and turns, a few fast sweepers, and the best race set-up is more likely to be a compromise.

The engine alone must cater for all extremes here – predictability, due to the low grip levels; low to midrange power, which must satisfy the drive needed off the half dozen second gear corners; and top-end over-rev, essential for the two-strokes if they are to make the leap between each bend. This is where the four-strokes will have an advantage, with their broader and more usable package and potent top speed. The two-strokes will gain some ground under brakes, but the likely advantage will be limited to making up for what was lost in a straight line.

Chassis wise the first target is a balanced, neutral geometry; offering good turn-in characteristics while also catering for the big braking areas, such as turn one. In this area Yamaha is confident the latest generation M1 Deltabox frame, introduced in Brno, will prove beneficial. Both Checa and Biaggi will continue with only one new chassis apiece, along with one of the units used previously to speed up the development process.

The base setting will be similar to that used at Donington, only with slightly higher rate fork springs to deal with the extra weight transfer under deceleration. The Marlboro Yamaha Team will also be testing the latest front fork offering from Öhlins – featuring a larger diameter outer shaft for improved rider front-end feel during cornering and braking. Meanwhile the rear spring will be softer to improve feedback under power, although it is a fine line, with the circuit reasonably narrow and the limited amount of grip off the racing line there is little room to understeer and run wide.

All this will be done while focussing more on the latter part of the race, at a point when tyre grip levels will be less than ideal, rather than on a one-off ultra fast time on new rubber – more so than at any other circuit. The different grip characteristics as the tyre wears will make a substantial difference and will ultimately determine the outcome of the race. Again the low grip levels are a factor, as are the repetitive bumps in the track surface on the exits of the turns, which can unsettle a fast bike on old tyres easily. For this reason the consistent performance of the 16.5inch rear tyre is really the only choice.