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A lap of the Catalunya circuit

A lap of the Catalunya circuit

A lap of the Catalunya circuit

The Catalunya circuit is one of the most complete racing tracks in the World Championship. Comprising a good balance of slow sections, with a series of corners taken at less than 85 km /h, and fast sections, with corners taken at more than 140 km/h, the track demands a heady combination of strategy and vigour. There are also two fast straights and one of them is the fastest in the season. On the start/finish straight speeds of more than 320 km/h are reached whereas on the back straight the speedometer nudges 265 Km/h.

Regarding the top speed reached on the main straight, there was a certain degree of controversy among teams and time-keepers during winter testing at the circuit. The organisers registered a top speed of more than 347 km/h whereas the data from the telemetry indicated that speeds of just over 325 km/h were being set.

The high speed on the straight means that, as is the case at other high speed circuits, the gear ratio must be set precisely so that the power delivery is always optimised. Unlike the Mugello circuit, where second and third gears are used predominantly, at the Catalunya Circuit all the gears are used during one lap. The first gear is used in the "Seat" corner, the second in the "Elf", "Repsol", "La Caixa" and "Banc de Sabadell" corners. Third is selected to negotiate the "Campsa" corner, the two corners leading onto the main straight and the complicated "Renault" bend. Fourth is used entering the "Repsol" and "Wurth" corners, and fifth to build up speed before the "La Caixa" corner. Sixth and top gear is engaged on the straights where the rear-wheel speed can reach 350 Km/h.

One of the peculiarities of the Catalunya circuit is the number of bumps and ripples on the track surface that have been appearing over the 13 years of its existence. Although the track was resurfaced recently, the bumps and ripples remain in some corners.

At the "Banc de Sabadell" the bumpy surface is such that it seems to be designed on purpose to test out the suspensions. The "Renault" curve is also a tricky one to deal with since it is difficult to find the right racing line because the fastest line through the apex of the corner passes right through the bumpiest area of the track surface. Many riders choose to take a wider line which, in theory, is slower but in practice is more effective and faster since the asphalt is in a better condition on the outside of the corner. The bumpy surface at the circuit means that fairly soft suspension settings are used, even though this can have a detrimental effect on the bike's performance through faster corners.

Another thing to bear in mind when setting the suspension, particularly in the MotoGP category, is the relative lack of grip of the track. To counter the bike is set up with more weight on the rear to increase the rear-wheel traction.

The lack of grip is visible on the television images as the MotoGP riders slide out of the Repsol corner where the telemetry can register a difference in speed between the front and rear wheel of up to 80 Km/h over 3 or 4 seconds. This difference is normally only visible at other circuits in wet conditions. The lack of grip means that the tyres chosen must withstand very high temperatures since the constant sliding heats the tyres up to well over their ideal operating temperatures.


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