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With the majority of the Moto2™ field on Kalex bikes and a spec engine for all, suspension becomes a major mechanical differentiator.
‘Feel’ is a term used by a lot of riders in motorcycle racing; a lack of ‘feel’ in the front end can see riders struggle to perform. ‘Feel’ from the front end informs a rider of where the limit is, how far they can push before the front of the bike is forced beyond its limit and slides away. Different frames can play a role in front end feel, but with most of the Moto2™ field on Kalex machines, aside from the small number of Speed Ups, Tech3s and Suters, this variable is greatly limited. The other major factor in ‘feel’ is suspension and it is with suspension that various Moto2™ teams seek to gain a mechanical advantage.
There are two major suspension suppliers in Moto2™: Öhlins and WP. This is a relatively new rivalry in the modern era, for several seasons Öhlins were the clear favourite in the class and much of the paddock. WP have participated in the Moto3™ championship in conjunction with KTM, but began to venture into Moto2™ with the likes of the AGR and Technomag teams last year, Dominique Aegerter claimed WP’s first victory at the Sachsenring in 2014. 2015 has seen a handful of riders switch to WP and with great success.
Öhlins provide suspension to 17 of the 30 full time Moto2™ riders, with WP being used on 11 bikes. Tech3 have recently switched to KYB suspension, having previously raced with the Öhlins forks and are still adapting to this change. From the outside Öhlins may seem to have an advantage with over half the grid running them, but race results tell a different story.
Now eight races into the season, there have been a total of 24 podium spots to fill, including eight chances to win. WP have filled 18 of the podium spots and claimed seven victories, whereas Öhlins have stood on the podium on six occasions, including one win in Mugello. Perhaps what is most revealing about the differences between Öhlins and WP is that Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing) is the only Öhlins rider to finish on the podium so far this season. At the start of the season Rabat struggled with front end feel on his bike, a combination of the 2015 Kalex frame and the Öhlins suspension.
This is in stark contrast to the six different WP riders who have taken to the rostrum, including four different winners. Both Speed Up and the dominant Kalex frame have had success with the WP forks. This suggests that WP have the slight advantage and, perhaps more importantly, work with a wide variety of riders and bikes. For the most part it is this same group of riders inside the top five race to race as well.
Having a broad base working range can allow teams and riders to come into a weekend with an already solid level and spend more time making fine adjustments, with the Moto2™ field so technically level in most aspects this can be hugely beneficial.
Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) currently leads the championship with WP suspension supporting his Kalex machine; can Öhlins and Rabat swing the pendulum back in their favour as the season enters its second half? While WP have seemingly seized the upper hand in Moto2™, Öhlins still dominate in MotoGP™ with all but Karel Abraham (AB Motoracing) running the Swedish suspension.
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