Casey Stoner’s arm pump problems in the Qatar Grand Prix highlighted just how different the new breed of 1000cc MotoGP bikes are compared to the 800’s of last year. While the regulation changes have seen a return of more spectacular action on track they have also created a new set of challenges for the riders.
Even though the leading riders all refused to admit that the new bikes are considerably more taxing to ride it was clear that the increased speed of the new bikes played a key role in the problem which cost Stoner the opportunity to win the opening round of the season.
With the bikes weighing more, engine capacity having increased by 25% and the bikes producing faster top speeds simple physics dictate that they will require more energy to accelerate, stop and turn. With the rider playing a key element in weight distribution these forces are felt through his body with the arms and shoulders the most impacted areas of their body.
The riders all, by and large, weigh the same as last year the forces that are exerted on them have changed considerably. Jorge Lorenzo however was keen to say after the race that the new bikes “more or less the same [physically] as the 800s because they have more torque and the bike move around less.”
With Stoner clearly hamstrung by his arm pump however the reigning world champion’s view may give a better indication of the changes facing riders in 2012.
“I think I’m having a little bit more trouble,” said Stoner. “Because the braking points are a little longer coming from a higher speed so we’re having to be on the brakes a little bit longer and with a little bit more brake pressure and under acceleration when we have grip there is a little bit more g-force on the body so we have to keep yourself over the front a little more to try and stop the wheelie and in that way it’s a little more physical.”
The riders had trained their bodies to very specific requirements for the 800s and with testing limited in the winter to a handful of days it was only inQatarthat a true picture of the differences between last year and this year will have emerged.
Anytime that the physical requirements of riding in the premier class is discussed Dani Pedrosa is a focus of attention because of his diminutive frame but the Spaniard clearly enjoyed his first race aboard the 1000cc bike.
“Its always demanding [whether riding the 800 or 1000],” commented the 26 year old. “It is just the way you ride them. The 800 you had to be very precise instead here you can sometimes be more aggressive on the brakes or in the entry to the corner.”
The change from the precise requirements of the 800 era, where riders were forced to hit the same braking and turn in points with metronomic consistency caused races to become processional. The new regulations however have allowed riders to use the torque of the engine to choose different braking points and power through corners in a way that was forgotten about over the last five years.
The changes have clearly met the approval of the riders with Qatar showing consistency in lap times even though riders were able to race closely with one another. The 800cc era was dominated by processional races because of the requirement for consistency but with overtaking occurring throughout the 22 lap race inQatarit was clear that the new season should see more exciting races.