Electronics, Tires, and Stiff Suspension—a Look at FP2 at CoTA

Marquez still on top, but there’s a shake-up behind him.

Maverick Vinales in deep thought
Maverick Viñales was third fastest in FP2 at Circuit of The Americas, but working hard for it, with the Suzuki looking like it has a stiffer set-up, which trades “mechanical grip” for quicker steering.Courtesy of Team Suzuki

People are saying this year that the mandatory common software makes people slow in early practice, but as its quirks are worked out on a particular track, the teams get faster. The data gathered in so many previous seasons is of greatly reduced value now. So in FP2 variation was the rule, with Dovi going early to the top to be displaced by Rossi, and Rossi in turn by Marquez.

On one lap Marquez folded the front, making the usual stylish bounce back to his feet as the bike slid to a stop in the aquarium stones. He heaved it up but it took help from corner crew to force it through the gravel. All in a day’s work. So much for Livio Suppo’s assertion yesterday that Honda riders are unconcerned by what other riders call “the closing feeling” from the current Michelin fronts.

Interesting to watch was Viñales, who is the current winner of the fastest-movements-on-the-bike contest. The rear on-bike camera showed him bouncing more in the seat than any other rider. A super-stiff, Matt Mladin-like set-up? Such a set-up trades away so-called “mechanical grip” (the ability of a softer, freer-moving suspension to track pavement irregularity) to gain quicker steering response—no time wasted in compressing suspension springs. The danger in such a set-up is that if a smooth line cannot be found, bumps trigger wheelspin instead of acceleration. So far, so good for Viñales, who ended the session 3rd.

Final order in FP2 was Marquez, Iannone, Viñales, Redding, Lorenzo, but there are many changes-of-order yet to come. A Honda, two Ducatis, a Suzuki, and a Yamaha.

MotoGP FP2 results sheet
CoTA MotoGP Free Practice 2 results.Courtesy of motogp.com