A good start in MotoGP does not guarantee a good final position, but a bad start can ruin your race. To check who is who when the red light gets out we have compared positions on the starting grid with positions after the first corner of each MotoGP rider in each of the celebrated GPs so far. For example, if a rider at the end of the straight is leading but enters a corner and is passed by two competitors, his position after the start is 3rd. At circuits such as Le Mans or Montmeló, where the end of the straight has a succession of corners, the position they are in after negotiating the “esses” is considered. It has been an amazing task watching for hours the start videos of all races, but it has been worth: the result is amazing.
Marc, a leader since the traffic light goes off
The first data that the table displays is that Márquez, the solid leader of the championship, is also the best over the first race meters. His average position on the starting grid is 3.22 (Determined by adding each GP grid position and dividing it among the current 9). The second best-qualifying rider after Q2 is Zarco with 5.44, who thanks to two early season poles has compensated for latest poor results. The third on the list is Dovizioso with an average of 5.89.
The curious thing about this data is the large jump between Marc and his most direct competitors by more than two positions. But even greater is the average number of positions that remain ahead after reaching the first corner. Here Marc’s average in the 9 GPs is of 2.89, which widely exceeds all the others. Rossi and Iannone follow with an average of 5.78 each, that is, practically 3 positions behind.
It’s no coincidence that Márquez is the strong man in the category, something that is evident by simply looking at the first meters of the race, just as it is no coincidence that Rossi is second in the Championship. The Italian excels when entering the peloton of riders at the end of the straight, and tops the list with a top gain of 8 positions thus far.
Viñales, a championship mortgaged in 15 seconds
There are 15 seconds between the time the traffic light goes out and the first turn is negotiated, a small part of the race where Viñales has lost a total of 24 positions in these first 9 races. For a rider who has a hard time passing competitors, it’s too great a distance.
Only in Spain was he able to gain a position, in the other 8 races has lost them: One in Qatar, 4 in Argentina, 2 in the United States, another 2 in France; 6 in Italy and another 6 in Catalonia; 3 in the Netherlands and one in Germany.
Maverick complains about problems he has at the start of the race with the new tires and the full tank, but the truth is that at each GP he has fallen back as soon as he starts, and reaching the group in the first corner leaves him with a lot of riders to overtake – A steep setback.
Lorenzo and the ascending line
If we discount the first 3 GPs, Lorenzo would be the strongest in the whole championship in this comparison. His average start position would drop to 4.33 and his average position after the first corner would be 1.5.
And in these 6 races, Jorge has been first on 4 occasions making him the rider who has occupied the lead after the start most often. Left out are starts like in Argentina, where he was last partly because the previous year his race was ruined at the same time and in very similar conditions. Curiously, of these last six starts, only in the Catalonia GP did he lose positions though this same race was the only GP he started from pole position.
Lorenzo is becoming the King of Starts, especially with moves like in Holland, where he passed 8 riders in the first meters of the race. We can say that Jorge’s races are diametrically opposed to those of Maverick. While the Yamaha rider falls back after great starts, the Ducati rider’s strats are meteoric.
A gun called Bradley Smith
The most curious data to observe in our research is that of Smith and the KTM. The British rider has gained the most positions in this time interval, with a shocking 48 positions!! Along with teammate Pol, the two are the only riders who have only passed competitors. Not only have they never yielded a position, but Smith, the lowest number of positions gained in a GP has been 3 and the highest 10.
Logically, both riders are usually gridded on the last rows, giving them more chances of gaining more positions than one with fewer competitors ahead, but in that same situation there are many riders and none are even close to the numbers of the orange bikes. Does the KTM have the secret to starting?
The start, the race’ first challenge
At the beginning of 2010 we did this study for the first time, looking at which rider had the best start since 2008. Over these 36 races we analyzed we found some surprising data, like that Pedrosa had gained a total of 83 positions on those starts, while Lorenzo lost a total of 65 positions in the initial meters. Between Dani and Jorge, the distance in those 36 races was 148 positions, a difference so abysmal that it made the Mallorcan rider seriously rethink his starts. Coincidentally, after the publication of these data, Jorge spent much of the following test to practice starts, solving a problem that did not seem so serious until he saw these numbers. Will Viñales do the same?