Set-up report Motegi Round 13

Setup

ROUND: 13, Pacific MotoGP
October 6, 2002
Circuit: Twin Ring Motegi
Country: Japan
Track length: 4801 m
Opened: 1997
Fastest Lap Ever: 1' 49.800 (Loris Capirossi, 2001 - MotoGP)
MotoGP lap record: 1' 50.591 (Valentino Rossi, 2000) 
Last year MotoGP winner: Valentino Rossi
GP250 lap record: 1' 52.253 (Shinya Nakano, 2000)
Last year GP250 winner: Tetsuya Harada
Circuit tel: +81 285 640001
Circuit web site:http://www.twinring.co.jp

2001 race summary
Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team) looked set to take his fourth win of the 2001 season at Motegi, Japan – a much needed result if the Italian was to keep his world championship hopes alive – after he timed the lights to perfection and led the 25-lap race from the outset. But as Biaggi, and championship rival Valentino Rossi (Honda), began to build a buffer over the rest of the field the multiple 250 World Champion unexpectedly lost the front of his Yamaha YZR500. Unlike on the two previous occasions – Brno and Estoril – this time Biaggi was unable to remount the damaged machine. The incident occurred on the fifth lap, entering the penultimate corner, handing Valentino the race win and an unassailable championship lead.

Norick Abe (Antena 3 Yamaha d’Antin), spurred on by the home crowd, made up for a bleak qualifying performance to finish fourth – a 12-place improvement over his grid position. The Japanese slid his way around the 4801m circuit fast enough to close the gap to third place Loris Capirossi (Honda) and second placed Alex Barros (Honda), but simply ran out of laps to advance any further. Fellow countryman Shinya Nakano (Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3) put in a gallant effort to finish sixth; five seconds ahead of Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team).

Set-up report YZR-M1/YZR500
Like many things designed and built by the Japanese the attention to detail at Motegi is unsurpassed – the surface is seamlessly smooth, offering high levels of grip, and the facilities are exceptional. Yet its layout looks more like a series of uncreative drag strips linked together by continual radius corners – but still it’s technical enough that outright power isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to winning races.

In fact in some respects too much aggressive power can be a hindrance at this particular venue, something Yamaha has taken into consideration even with the M1 featuring a number of new engine internals, aimed at improving acceleration. But biggest concern on such a stop-and-go layout are wheelies, a trait that especially difficult for the two-strokes to overcome. Complicating things further, more so for the heavier four-strokes, will be the aggressive weight transfer and the instability that accompanies such hard braking from high speeds. It’s in this area of the chassis that Yamaha’s four-stroke technicians will need to focus their efforts, if they are to keep the lighter two-strokes from slipping by under brakes.

The main aim, in both instances (acceleration and braking), is to cater for the weight transfer, to minimise the pitching effect. To do this the basic chassis package won’t be too far removed from what was run during the Le Mans round earlier in the year. The rear of the bike will be slightly lower and the front set slightly higher, when compared to other circuits, to offer the braking stability needed – reducing the likelihood of the rear wheel leaving the tarmac. The front fork springs will boast a slightly higher spring rate, but unlike Le Mans, the advantage is that the damping won’t have to cater for any real bumps while the front forks are compressed.

The rear shock on the other hand will run a slightly softer spring with a high amount of preload. This will help to offer the feel and consistency under power while preventing the bike from squatting to the point which can cause it to run wide or, in extreme circumstances, wheelie. At the same time suspension technicians will also have to consider the effects of the rear shock pumping through its stroke – a common concern on a track where the bike is driving hard off a slow speed hairpin.

Helping the two-strokes will be the possible use of a longer swingarm, which will tend to aid tractability, stability and prevent wheelies. Just as important is the need for the YZR500 to be agile too, considering the hairpins and the tight chicanes at Motegi.

The YZR-M1 is also likely to sport a new swingarm for the Pacific round of the championship – the latest addition to the ever-improving Yamaha four-stroke project. Both Biaggi and Checa are expected to test the new unit on the first day of practice before committing it to the race. Checa will also receive a second new-generation chassis in Japan, while the Italian has opted to continue on as his did in Rio – with one current chassis and one of the former chassis, the latter of which he still prefers to use.

The key concern for the tyre technicians will be tyre life, more than at any other venue; the smooth Motegi track surface has a reputation for offering high levels of grip but it comes at the expense of tyre endurance. How this will an out come raceday, for the two-strokes and four-strokes, is uncertain but it will be a key factor in the race results.