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Onboard lap of Valencia

Onboard lap of Valencia

Onboard lap of Valencia

The Ricardo Tormo circuit features a seemingly never ending burst of tight corners, connected by short straights. The long penultimate looping left-hander and the fast entry to turn one contrast violently with the otherwise geometric flip-flop chicanes and slow speed corners of the infield.

More suitable for the smaller classes, Valencia is an awesome challenge in its own way for any MotoGP rider; an intense exercise in concentration and preparation, as the track can easily catch out the unwary, especially in the frequently wet conditions of a winter's afternoon in late October.

The continual stop-start nature of Valencia means that suspension setting must offer the correct balance between beneficial weight transfer, which aids alternately front and rear grip, and firm enough settings for spring rates and compression damping, to prevent the machine oscillating as the power is turned on and off.

With short but highly loaded periods of front end grip required throughout a lap, and with a lot of corner entries with the brakes still applied, the balance between agility and stability has to fall on the side of greater manoeuvrability.

Nonetheless the bike has to be planted enough not to lose corner speed through the quick penultimate corner, which runs over the brow of a hill, or induce tail hopping under hard braking from 300km/h.

Instantaneous and yet linear throttle response is a highly desired commodity at Valencia, its point and squirt nature demanding a combination of controlled throttle openings on the many low speed corner exits, with a clean and crisp power off nature required on entry.

The relatively low gearing of Valencia exacerbates the potential for highsides even further, as most of the lap is spent in second gear, with an entire three-corner complex taken in first gear. Nonetheless, most crashes come from a loss of front grip on the high number of downhill corner entries.

"Front-choice is particularly crucial at this track because there are quite a few downhill corner entries," confirms Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions Nicolas Goubert. "The 16.5 front will help riders at Valencia because the track includes many changes of direction.

"Valencia is a slow circuit but it's not undemanding for tyres. The track is all corners, plus it's asymmetric with more lefts than rights, and that long left at the end of the lap works the rear quite hard, which is why our 2004 rear will help."

Local hero Sete Gibernau knows this circuit better than most, having taken his debut victory here in 2001, and admits it is a tough prospect on the power-laden MotoGP 990cc four-stroke prototypes.

"The track isn't that demanding on tyres, simply because it's so slow and tight that you rarely put all the horsepower to the ground, but at the same time, the more power you can put to the ground the faster you're going to go, so tyres are important here like they are everywhere," says Gibernau.

"Valencia is also physically demanding because it's all corners and because the corners are tight, so the bike is always trying to lift the front and run wide, so you really have to work it.

"It's one of those circuits where every corner is important, it all counts, so you've got to be good all around the track. There's no place where you can make up a few tenths all in one, it's all a tenth here and a tenth there. You need a lot of front tyre for turning in on the brakes, because there's a lot of tight corners, then you need good rear traction for acceleration."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004, GRAN PREMIO MARLBORO DE LA COMUNITAT VALENCIANA

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