"Many learned to ride a decent lap, but not everyone can repeat it 25 times"
Andrea Dovizioso discussed with Motorsport Magazine reviewer Mat Oxley what today's prototypes of MotoGP are on the go. The evolution of piloting is determined by three major factors - Michelin tires, Magneti Marelli universal electronics and, more than ever, a dense peloton. The Ducati Team rider is quite comfortable in this environment: Dovizioso was the vice-champion at the last two championships, won 10 races (only Marc Marquez won more).
“A lot of work behind this dynamic. In addition to excellent physical training, a pilot is required to understand how to control various aspects of the motorcycle. Tires, for example. Replacing Bridgestone tires with Michelin in 2016 changed braking style and racing strategy. Many have understood how to drive a decent lap, but not everyone knows how to repeat it 20 or 25 times. Adapting to tires is endless, even if it’s about one change per season.
Choosing a strategy for a race, after all practice sessions pilots may misinterpret tire behavior, but often the decision is somewhere nearby”, explains the rider #04.
How has the riding technology changed since your arrival at MotoGP in 2008?
“Riding technology has changed in many ways, bikes have changed in many ways, and the saturation that we’re able to put into a bike has changed in many ways. Therefore, you need to be much healthier, because it is impossible to be fast for 45 minutes at this level of saturation, if your form is not very, very good. This is the first.
The second is electronics. Electronics have changed in many ways, it is much better and the way we manage it is much better. This is the biggest change and it affects your riding style. The races have also changed, because there are a lot of good riders who are close to the fastest riders”.
The tires still have effect on the riding technique and bike tuning. In general, what has changed from the change of Bridgestone to Michelin?
“It's not a matter of worse or better tires. The point is not whether this company is better or worse. This is just another driving style. If you look at the lap times, sometimes we are faster on Bridgestone and sometimes on Michelin, so you can’t say what’s better or worse. It’s just different. I think, it doesn’t matter whether it is better or worse, because there are rules and everyone has to adapt. It’s just a matter of differences.
With Michelin the effect can be on the little things, so sometimes the riders and teams go astray, even if the answer is very close. Most often it’s difficult to understand what needs to be done and I often hear riders say, “we are in complete shit, this is impossible”, but I don’t think that this is true. This is the feeling that everything is very bad, but in fact the answer is very close. Such a characteristic of these tires. With Bridgestone it was completely different”.
How does changing tire brands affect your way of attacking a turn?
“With both brands my approach to the turn is very similar and if I used Bridgestone well, then I use Michelin better. The difference with Michelin is that many riders begin to sense the limit when they block the front tire, when they brake at the end of the straight, which was not possible with the Bridgestone. Prior to that, few riders have ever smelled it”.
So you need to be very sensitive with the front brake and tire?
“Yes. You try not to lose the hold and to be fast in a safe manner. I can’t load the front tire as I did with Bridgestone, but I can load the tire more than other riders. I am a hard braker, and if you are a hard braker, usually you play with the front grip more than your competitors. In general, you feel more feedback from the front end, so you learn how to drive it. With Michelin all the braking is done when you are straightened.
The big difference with these tires is that you have to be very soft and very slow in all your movements. For example, if you are very hard with the front tire all the way to the middle of the turn, you have to be very, very, very slow when you release the brake, turn the bike and open the throttle, so the change between loading tires and unloading the tires is very bad.
Another big difference between the tires is that with the Bridgestone we had to use the front tire for everything, because there was a bit of a back holder, but with Michelin everything had to be done with the back. The tailgate has to use more chuck on braking, turning and accelerating”.
Do you always have to save a back tire in a race?
“I just learn Michelin, day after day, because every time you ride, you learn something. In the course of 2017, we understood how to drive the rear tire and this was one of the keys to my 2017 results.
Now races are won differently, and this is not always the same story. Sometimes you have to save tires from the start of the race, sometimes you press right from the start. Every time is different, depends on what Michelin brings”.
After the first few races of the 2018 you said, that Michelin’s rear slick has changed. How?
“I think the rear hook is slightly worse than last year’s, but when you slide in or out, the slides are more linear. In general, positive and negative. As always, we have to adapt – this is our sport. You have to adjust the way you use the front brake, the way you use the rear brake, the lines and so on. Every time everything changes.
It is our job to try to understand how you can use the maximum potential of the bike and tires. On some tracks you can’t use the best potential of the back tire, because if you go in and out of corners at full capacity, you don’t have enough tires to finish the race. In general, you can’t open the throttle when you want, you have to wait for the opening of the throttle… The difference is very small, but when you are at the limit, small things can become big”.
Do you prefer this kind of race with Michelin or low-tech unified software, because you are more like a thinking rider?
“Yes, I prefer it so, but it's not just that. In MotoGP every rider is very, very fast, but less than half of the lattice can be fast and save tires. There is a huge difference”.
Did you changed body position over the years?
Not really. Maybe my position on the bike has changed less than the others, but I always work on it, even if I haven't changed much. But look at my results!
If you look at the physics of racing and if you look at the ride style of all young riders like Mark [Marquez] or Moto3 riders, it may seem like you can't get fast if you don’t ride like them. But still it is not. I think if you drive like that, there may be benefits, but I don’t think about it the way most people think. I think about it and work a lot on it, but I still understand that this is not the point. Yes, everything is important, so that each rider tries to improve in each area.
More and more riders tilt their upper hull more to help the bike turn, but this can cause problems, because when so, can you not lift the bike?
No that's not true. Usually, when you are more hung from the bike, the bike is more upright, so it's positive”.
Do you lean more than before?
“Not really. I tried and worked hard on it, but it is very difficult for me to change the way I use my hands to properly use the steering wheel”.
Changing tires changed the way in which the bike transfers the load from the front to the back and from the back to the front?
“Yes. With Michelin you rarely see the rear tire in the air during braking, but with Bridgestone everyone lifted the back of the brakes. This is because at Bridgestone it was unimportant to leave the tailgate on the pavement, because the tailpiece did not have a holder to help stop. On Michelin you have to use the tail in the course of braking”.
What about fighting with other riders? How has it changed when changing tires?
“A little harder. For example, it is harder to brake, because it’s quite easy to reach the limit of the front tire. This means it is impossible to achieve a big difference over the rivals in the course of braking, because you all are at the limit of the grip. Less stock for the game, so you can’t take risks. This is very difficult to achieve.
On the other hand, there is a good stick in the middle of the turn, so that the exit can be prepared better than it was from Bridgestone, so in the course of the exit you are already in the right position to overtake the other rider”.
So you start a cornering maneuver before you actually get around?
“Yes. At higher angles of inclination, there is more stick than before, so you can gain more time at the exit to get closer to another guy when you slow down in the next turn.
See you next time, ride safe!"
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