The beginning of December marks the start of what’s quickly turning into a convention on this planet of motorbike racing. After the Jerez check in late November, it’s now “Why Is Jonathan Rea Quicker Than A MotoGP Bike” season.
At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth quickest total time of the week, forward of 11 MotoGP regulars (together with two rookies), three MotoGP check riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS staff have been utilizing to coach up the brand new crew recruited to take care of Tom Luthi’s aspect of the storage whereas the Swiss rider continues to be injured.
How is that this attainable? And what does this imply? Are WorldSBK machines too near MotoGP bikes? Why are MotoGP producers spending ten instances as a lot to be proven up at a check by Jonathan Rea? And why, for the sake of all that’s holy, does Jonathan Rea not have a MotoGP trip?
The reply to all however the final of these questions is buried away within the larger image of the laps posted all through the week. If you study the numbers, the image is much more advanced than the headline instances appear to recommend.
Tires, temperature, and observe all play a component. However all of that may’t disguise a relatively outsize dose of expertise.
Rea vs. MotoGP
Although it’s undeniably true that within the total instances, Jonathan Rea completed fourth behind solely MotoGP riders Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow, and Jorge Lorenzo, that isn’t consultant of Rea’s actual race tempo.
Rea’s two quickest laps on Friday – a 1:37.986, and a 1:38.062 – have been each set on qualifying tires. His subsequent quickest lap – a 1:38.893 – was set throughout a four-lap run, and is extra in keeping with what he’s able to when it comes to race tempo.
That 1:38.893 would put Rea behind Jack Miller on the Pramac Ducati GP17 (twelfth quickest, when you exclude the opposite WorldSBK riders on qualifiers).
The chart under offers a a lot better indication of total tempo. On a qualifier, Rea is just about on a par with the MotoGP riders on their quickest laps. However past their third quickest laps, Rea’s tempo is slightly beneath a second slower than the MotoGP riders.
Nonetheless punishingly fast and impressively constant, but when Rea have been to enter his WorldSBK-spec Kawasaki ZX-10R on Pirellis in a MotoGP race, he can be fortunate to make it into the highest ten.
The desk displaying the typical of greatest laps, minus presumed qualifying laps, bears this out. Rea is 9 tenths of a second slower than Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda, and over a 3rd of a second slower than Pol Espargaro on the KTM.
|Common sub 1’41 laps (minus qualifying laps)|
|Cal Crutchlow||Honda RC213V||MotoGP||1:38.993|
|Andrea Iannone||Suzuki GSX-RR||MotoGP||1:39.026||zero.033||zero.033|
|Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati GP17/18||MotoGP||1:39.036||zero.zero42||zero.009|
|Jorge Lorenzo||Ducati GP17/18||MotoGP||1:39.zero78||zero.085||zero.zero42|
|Pol Espargaro||KTM RC16||MotoGP||1:39.227||zero.234||zero.149|
|Jonathan Rea||Kawasaki ZX-10R||WSBK||1:39.900||zero.906||zero.672|
The chart does reveal some attention-grabbing traits amongst MotoGP riders. Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo have been working extra on velocity relatively than race tempo. Dovizioso, specifically, solely had 9 laps under 1:38.6 earlier than his tempo dropped to across the 1:39 mark.
The decline in Lorenzo’s tempo was not fairly as precipitate, however follows the identical development. That is per Ducati engaged on a brand new chassis and elements geared toward fixing among the turning issues the GP17 had throughout 2017.
Suzuki vs. Honda
The 2 most attention-grabbing curves on the graph belong to Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Iannone. Crutchlow’s, specifically, is revealing. The LCR Honda rider discovered himself roped in to do the donkey work of testing of Honda’s preliminary model of their 2018 machine.
On the Valencia check, each Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez had mentioned they have been stunned at how a lot nearer to being prepared the brand new RC213V was than it had been in earlier years, and Crutchlow’s instances would seem to agree with this.
Crutchlow’s tempo could be very strong, with eighteen laps beneath 1:39. Crutchlow did one longish run on Thursday: at three:45pm, which was fast – 9 quick laps, six of which have been 1:38s.
Although it’s exhausting to see whether or not it was the 2018 or 2017 bike he did a given run on – and nearly unattainable to maintain observe of, with out a military of individuals wandering pit lane to take action – Crutchlow’s tempo and consistency suggests the Honda may very well be fairly good in 2018. Additionally for riders not referred to as Marc Márquez.
Andrea Iannone’s lap instances may also be motive for cheer for Suzuki.
The Italian was not fairly as sooner over a single lap because the manufacturing unit Ducatis or Crutchlow (or Jonathan Rea, for that matter), however his tempo and consistency have been excellent. Iannone didn’t do any lengthy runs, however even throughout runs of 5 or 6 laps, a number of laps can be sub-1:39s.
General, Iannone’s tempo was broadly comparable with Crutchlow’s, a reduction for Suzuki after a dismal 2017.
Rea vs. WorldSBK
To get a greater image of Jonathan Rea’s value – even beneath the brand new rules – we will examine his instances towards the opposite WorldSBK riders. Rea’s quickest time is a 3rd of a second sooner than anybody else, and his benefit in race tempo is fairly related.
Irrespective of the place you look, the hole between Rea and the remaining is fairly related. On the check, Rea put this partly all the way down to the regulation modifications: the rev limits in place make the bike extra ridable, permitting the Ulsterman to hold extra nook velocity and apply the throttle earlier with out threat of upsetting the bike.
The brand new guidelines have solely moved the Kawasaki nearer to his pure fashion.
If the testing knowledge bears out that the brand new guidelines have helped Jonathan Rea, in addition they seem to have helped Alex Lowes on the Yamaha. Lowes race tempo is fast and constant, matching (if not higher than) that of Tom Sykes on the opposite Kawasaki.
Lowes did a whole lot of laps within the 1:39s, however he additionally did a future of 15 full laps, or simply beneath 80% of race distance. All of these laps have been beneath 1:41, and all bar two have been beneath the race lap document Jonathan Rea set throughout Race 2 right here in October.
This was a really promising run for Lowes, providing hope that the WorldSBK podium (if not the highest step of it) may very well be a really far more numerous place in 2018. The desk under exhibits the typical of sub 1:42 laps posted by 5 totally different riders, and this additionally exhibits simply how sturdy Lowes was on the check.
|Common sub 1’42 laps (minus Q tires)|
|Jonathan Rea||Kawasaki ZX-10R||1:39.900|
|Alex Lowes||Yamaha YZF-R1||1:40.247||zero.348||zero.348|
|Tom Sykes||Kawasaki ZX-10R||1:40.324||zero.424||zero.076|
|Marco Melandri||Ducati Panigale R||1:40.406||zero.507||zero.082|
|Leon Camier||Honda CBR1000RR||1:40.870||zero.971||zero.464|
Much less apparent, however nonetheless seen is the truth that Marco Melandri is struggling. Although the info used for Melandri shouldn’t be fully comparable – the one knowledge I’ve for the Aruba.it Ducati rider is for Thursday, not Friday – it appears a good reflection of the issues he was having.
The Italian was sooner on Friday, however solely by a tenth of a second, and nonetheless over a second and a half slower than Rea.
Melandri didn’t strive for a fast lap on qualifiers, so it’s comprehensible that his greatest time was so much slower than the others. However even when it comes to tempo, the Italian is lagging behind Sykes and Lowes.
The Ducati Panigale R has arguably been hardest hit by the rev limits launched within the new guidelines. Ducati are having to chase revs to make sufficient horsepower to compete towards the 4 cylinders, and dropping these further revs are costing Ducati each prime velocity and lap time.
Simply how badly Ducati are struggling can be clearer if we had Chaz Davies’ knowledge to check. Nevertheless, Davies crashed on Wednesday, and suffered a knee harm. Sadly, I shouldn’t have the complete checklist of lap instances posted by Davies on Wednesday, and so can not make a comparability.
Nevertheless, Davies’ quickest time on Wednesday was a 1:40.630, zero.9 behind his teammate and a couple of.three seconds behind quickest man of the day Tom Sykes. That implies that Davies’ knowledge wouldn’t have revealed that a lot. That may have been very totally different if he had not been injured on Wednesday.
Camier vs. Cosworth
Although Leon Camier was slowest of the riders chosen – each when it comes to outright velocity and race tempo – it’s clear simply how exhausting the Englishman is engaged on the Crimson Bull Honda CBR1000RR.
Camier put in over 70 laps on his new steed, engaged on adapting to the brand new bike and giving suggestions to the Ten Kate staff to assist transfer the bike in the appropriate course.
Although Camier is slower – roughly half a second off the tempo of Melandri, Sykes, and Lowes – the consistency of the bike was spectacular. Camier did a whole lot of laps across the 1:40.5 mark.
The principle grievance Camier had was in regards to the electronics of the bike, at the moment a Cosworth system. He felt there was a definite lack of throttle connection, he advised us afterwards. The throttle took a fraction of a second to react to inputs, making it troublesome to regulate exactly.
It was very like a scooter, Camier advised us, requiring planning to get into and out of corners. Camier and the Crimson Bull Honda staff are hoping change to Magneti Marelli electronics will assist tackle that, and supply a extra direct reference to the throttle, however the first check with these won’t come till January.
Why Comparisons Are Flawed
As attention-grabbing because the comparisons are, they solely reply among the questions we posed in the beginning of this text. To get the larger image as to why the WorldSBK machines are so near the instances set by the MotoGP bikes, we’ve got to take a look at all the components concerned.
Leaving apart the riders for the second, there are good the reason why WorldSBK bikes are at one thing of a bonus (or relatively, much less of a drawback) at Jerez. These causes will be damaged down into two components: 1. The observe; and a couple of. Tires and temperatures.
Beginning with the observe, the character of Jerez is such that it doesn’t permit the MotoGP bikes to actually stretch their legs. The observe has a whole lot of corners the place the bike spends a whole lot of time on its aspect.
The observe favors nook velocity over prime velocity (the utmost recorded velocity alongside the again straight is a lowly 293 km/h for the MotoGP bikes, nicely down on the 350+ km/h at a observe like Mugello), and the ultimate nook and entrance straight is the one place the MotoGP machines get to make use of their benefit in acceleration.
Comparisons with different courses assist make clear simply how a lot of an influence the observe has on maintaining instances shut. Rea’s greatest non-qualifying lap on the Friday of the check was a 1:38.893, a couple of second behind the MotoGP bikes.
However every week earlier, the Moto2 machines had been at Jerez, and Miguel Oliveira had posted a greatest lap of 1:41.518, roughly 2.6 seconds slower than Rea, on a motorcycle with half the horsepower and solely 15 or 20 kg much less weight.
On the Tuesday, Nacho Calero had posted a 1:45.067 on board a Supersport-spec Kawasaki ZX-6R.
When in comparison with different tracks, the gaps between the courses are nearer. The gaps between the lap data for the MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 courses are roughly four seconds at Jerez.
At Motegi – a quick observe with a whole lot of exhausting acceleration – these gaps are 6 seconds between every class, regardless of the lap time solely being 6 seconds slower than at Jerez.
Tires and Temperature
One other space the place the WorldSBK bikes have a slight benefit is within the mixture between tires and temperatures. Observe temperatures on the November check weren’t far off the temperatures recorded on the WorldSBK spherical in October, someplace between 25-35°C.
The tires Pirelli deliver to the check work nicely within the cooler temps – in truth, the Pirellis appear to work higher in cooler circumstances total than MotoGP Michelins – and so extra of the efficiency from the tire is accessible to the WorldSBK riders and with much less effort than for the MotoGP riders.
Michelin introduced the identical compounds to the check which they’d through the MotoGP spherical again in early Could. Then, observe temperatures have been within the mid-40°s C. The tires which labored then would have struggled slightly within the a lot cooler temperatures at Jerez in November.
The place’s the Distinction?
Regardless of all this, Jonathan Rea, using a hopped-up road bike, managed to lap inside a 3rd of a second of a pure MotoGP prototype.
Kawasaki are mentioned to spend roughly €7 million a yr on their WorldSBK program, whereas MotoGP factories spend within the area of €50 million a yr. That’s some huge cash to be spending for under a marginal acquire.
However motorbike racing is a recreation of marginal beneficial properties, and every incremental velocity enhance prices cash. To go from being three seconds a lap slower to at least one second a lap slower is comparatively low-cost.
Going from being one second slower to getting inside half a second is an terrible lot dearer. Every tenth of a second after that prices exponentially extra, and takes twice as lengthy to attain.
If Kawasaki have been to resolve they wished to enter MotoGP, it could not be so simple as eradicating the pretend headlights from the fairing and phoning Dorna for a grid slot.
First, they’d extract the additional 10-15 horsepower which ought to be comparatively simply accessible, put carbon brakes on, and shod the bike with Michelins. Then, off to a observe to go testing.
There, Kawasaki would discover that the uprated engine meant that the bike was approaching corners sooner and getting off the corners tougher, requiring a brand new swingarm and body. Extra energy means totally different geometry, which additionally wants a brand new body.
Carbon brakes imply they’re braking later, that means the entrance of the body would must be stiffer to manage.
The a lot stiffer and really totally different profile of the Michelins imply that the bike would behave fully in a different way, and the body, swingarm, geometry, weight steadiness of the bike would must be radically revised to get one of the best of the tires.
As soon as they felt they’d reached the bounds of their present engine, they must construct a brand new one, with extra energy however a nonetheless usable energy supply.
Extra energy means a brand new body, new swingarm, greater prime velocity, tougher braking forces, which wants one more body, stiffer headstock, stiffer triple clamps, and so forth. Rinse and repeat till you might have burned your manner via a large pile of cash. Incremental beneficial properties come at exponential value.
It’s the Rider, Silly
As ought to be apparent from the charts and tables evaluating Rea’s instances with the opposite WorldSBK riders, Rea himself can also be one of many largest causes the hole is so small.
Anybody who has watched World Superbikes this yr has been capable of see simply how nicely Rea is using in the intervening time, capable of cross different riders at will, and at any level on the observe, and able to lapping with surgical precision and blistering velocity for a complete race.
Whether it is apparent to anybody watching WorldSBK simply how good Jonathan Rea is (and arguably, Chaz Davies as nicely), why isn’t he in MotoGP? There are a whole lot of difficult causes for this, however many of the blame lies with the short-sightedness of the MotoGP paddock.
MotoGP staff managers – and particularly MotoGP manufacturing unit bosses – don’t regard the WorldSBK paddock as a viable path to MotoGP. As an alternative, they appear to Moto2 and Moto3, taking one of the best of the riders from there.
There are good causes for doing that – having the ability to watch a rider progress, and work together with them informally offers managers an thought of what a rider is fabricated from. However it additionally misses out on a whole lot of potential expertise in WorldSBK.
With manufacturing unit bosses centered on Moto2 and Moto3, that leaves solely seats in satellite tv for pc groups up for grabs. It’s a lot tougher for riders to make an impression on a satellite tv for pc staff than on a manufacturing unit bike.
Make the flawed alternative, and you find yourself hamstrung by a poor bike in a poor staff, and with out the possibility to show what you’re able to. In a profession which is already brief, taking the flawed flip can show very expensive, and imply you by no means get one other probability with no mountain of money to pay your manner.
In a manner, Jonathan Rea’s profession is an instance of how circumstances – and maybe flawed selections – can dictate the place a rider finally ends up.
We suspected Jonathan Rea could be fairly good when he entered World Superbikes, however he discovered himself on a Honda and having to override the bike simply to maintain up together with his rivals. The truth that he convincingly beat his teammate at Honda each single yr was one other signal of how good he was.
However no person within the Grand Prix paddock noticed via the weak spot of the Honda CBR1000RR, wanting solely on the headline outcomes.
The MotoGP rides he was supplied have been on inferior equipment, and with Honda frequently promising to deliver a a lot sooner bike in WorldSBK (together with the legendary V4 which by no means appears to materialize), Rea stayed put.
By the point he misplaced endurance with Honda and moved to Kawasaki, he was already 28 years previous, unfashionably historic for the youth-obsessed Grand Prix paddock.
The Proof of the Pudding
At Kawasaki, Rea proved simply how good he’s. Since leaping onto the ZX-10R, he has gained precisely half of the 78 races he has began and all three championships. The remaining have barely gotten a glance in.
How good would Rea have been in MotoGP? We are going to by no means know, although we got here very shut earlier this yr when there was a really critical plan for Rea to swap locations with Andrea Iannone on the Suzuki MotoGP machine.
Rea is snug the place he’s, and really nicely paid (for a WorldSBK rider). He makes some huge cash each in wages from Kawasaki and in bonuses from his sponsors.
With two younger kids quickly approaching faculty age, being away from residence for 13 races, relatively than 19 MotoGP rounds is a sexy proposition.
Above all, although, MotoGP factories stay transfixed on Moto2 and Moto3, and even the feeder courses under that, such because the Crimson Bull Rookies and FIM CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship.
Their eyes are turned inwards in the direction of prototype racing, relatively than outwards to the world. Till that modifications, even skills like Jonathan Rea – simply top-of-the-line six or seven racers on this planet – shall be ignored in favor of some callow youth on a Kalex.
Epilogue: Technique in This Insanity
A phrase on methodology. The information used to make the next comparisons was taken from the complete checklist of lap instances on the Circuito de Jerez dwell timing web site.
Sadly, that knowledge shouldn’t be made completely accessible, nor simply accessible, and needs to be taken from the web site individually on every day of the check. It is a very time-consuming enterprise, and was not attainable for each rider on daily.
So I took a smaller pattern on plenty of days. The quickest days of the check for the WorldSBK and MotoGP riders have been Thursday and Friday, and I took the complete lap instances (each lap turned) for a consultant choice of quick riders.
The comparisons the evaluation under is predicated on have been made utilizing the tempo for MotoGP riders on Thursday and the WorldSBK riders on Friday (for probably the most half). These have been the times the riders set their quickest instances.
The charts used have been made by taking each lap turned by a rider on a selected day, sorting them by lap time, and discarding clearly gradual laps (slower than 1’41 for MotoGP riders, slower than 1’42 for WorldSBK riders). This gives a tough foundation for comparability, although it’s hardly statistically rigorous.
Laps set in qualifying trim are straightforward to establish for WorldSBK riders, however slightly tougher for MotoGP riders. The qualifying tires Pirelli provide to the WorldSBK sequence are good for one quick lap earlier than they’re executed.
Any two-lap exit – a gradual out lap adopted by a really quick time between six and eight tenths sooner than any of the rider’s different laps – is more likely to have been set on qualifiers.
As there aren’t any qualifying tires in MotoGP – and no document of who set what lap on which tires – riders are inclined to exit for barely longer runs (three or 4 laps) when chasing a fast time. Even the softest compound Michelin makes accessible ought to be able to lasting race distance.
This text was initially printed on MotoMatters, and is republished right here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the writer.