Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Friday, April 29, 2005

Learning curves…

Author: site admin
Category: AMA Superbikes, MotoGP

This weekend will be a great weekend of racing. For the first time this year, there will be three different race series I can watch in one weekend:

Shanghai China MotoGP track
First, the MotoGP season holds its third round at the new Shanghai Circuit in China. This track promises to make for some exciting racing for a few different reasons. For one thing it has the longest straight of all the tracks on the MotoGP calendar at nearly 3/4 of a mile in length. The long length of tarmac will mean everyone better bring their horsepower to the 3.3 mile circuit. Honda probably has an advantage in this arena. However, the teams can’t just focus on going fast because the designers threw in four 180+ degree tight turns including one that is nearly a full 360 degrees. Some of these turns are long enough that the bikes stay leaned over on the right side of the tire for a long time. The fourteen turns on the track mean that a good handling bike, like the Yamaha, may have an advantage. Finally, this is a new track so the teams will have to figure out tires (Michelin is basically bringing one of everything since they don’t yet know what the tire wear will be like), suspension settings, fuel usage, gearing, computer settings and lines around the track. The team that can get all these myriad details sorted out the fastest will have an advantage. This may be a place where teams like Suzuki, Kawasaki and Ducati can shine. I doubt they’ll close the gap to the top Honda and Yamaha teams but they can show their stuff within their own competition to be the best of the rest. It will be very interesting to see which riders are the fastest after the first practice and whether those same riders are still among the fastest in the last practice session, as it will show whether riders are slowly and methodically building their speed or if they get up to their max speed relatively quickly and then just fine tune. Any rider that can get up to speed quickly will then be making tire, gearing, suspension and computer changes that match the speed they are likely to run in the race. Everyone else will tune as they go and may well find new problems showing up if their race time is faster than their final practice time.

A more predictable situation will present itself this weekend when the AMA series returns to California Speedway in Fontana, CA. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, Fontana has been the sole domain of Mat Mladin for the past two years. With Mladin coming off two devastating victories at Daytona and Barber, things don’t look good for anyone hoping to break Mladin’s streak at California Speedway. Despite being built in the middle of a NASCAR oval, California Speedway is a reasonably interesting track…at least as interesting as a flat, concrete wall lined bull ring can be. The track designers managed to squeeze 21 turns into the two mile NASCAR track, including some high speed left hand sweepers that give the gutsy riders a chance to show their stuff. From what we saw at Daytona, this is going to favor the Suzukis, so I predict another Suzuki sweep in at least one of the two races. Those fast sweepers put a premiun on a rider’s ability to trust his front tire and that is a weakness for both the long wheelbase Ducati and the still developing Honda.

The final race of the weekend is the series opener for our local MRA roadrace series at Pueblo Motorsports Park in Pueblo, Colorado. Of the tracks in Colorado, Pueblo may be the most interesting. It is among the longest of our tracks and has the longest straight. The track is actually part of a motorsports complex which means that in addition to watching roadracing, you can ride dirt bikes, camp and even watch drag racing in the evenings after the racing. As for the races themselves, the usual suspects should dominate: Shane Turpin, Ricky Orlando, Dan Turner, Mike Applegate, Jon Glaefke, Jim Brewer, Dennie Burke, Mark Nudelman, Marty Sims and Rich Deeming. While there have been some impressive new riders joining the series in the past couple of years, no one has yet been able to step up in the premier Race of the Rockies class to challenge the veterans like Shane Turpin, Ricky Orlando and Dan Turner. In addition to the weekend’s MRA road races, the MRA also has a Supermoto class which runs on Saturday afternoons once the morning practice is over, which makes for an even more interesting race weekend. ‘Course all this assumes that our unseasonably late snow fall doesn’t force the cancellation of the event.

Because of the weather I won’t be driving down to Pueblo for the MRA races. Instead, I’ll be spending Sunday curled up on the couch with two foot of snow outside and the TV tuned to Speed….

[image from the Shanghai Circuit web site.]

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