After an intense preseason during which teams, engineers and riders have worked intensively on their new bikes ahead of the first GP, the MotoGP World Championship is about to begin. There have been weeks of evaluating subjective sensations, analyzing mathematical data of the telemetry, listening to the observations of the track coach, and reviewing video images from every angle. MotoGP riders receive an avalanche of inputs that theoretically should help them go faster. How do they manage all this information?
Information is power. I suppose we have all heard this phrase at some point, which means that the more you know about an issue, the more precise a decision can be made. But with the case at hand, can there not be a time when too much information becomes counterproductive and ends up creating the opposite effect anticipated? Especially in a situation where a rider is having a hard time feeling comfortable on the bike and starts to doubt himself. How is all the available information managed at that time?
Which is the most reliable source? Because we suppose that nothing really relates exactly what the rider is feeling on the motorcycle.
Which is the most reliable source? Because we suppose that nothing really relates exactly what the rider is feeling on the motorcycle. Does it make more sense to look for answers in the uncontaminated numbers that the sensors distributed around the motorcycle collect? And to what extent does a rider listen to a person at the edge of the track and who basically tells him what he is not doing well? What about the television footage? And what about that “secret software” that some teams use that allows the superimposing of one, two or several riders lines and compares how fast each is on a specific section of the circuit?
“Hmmm … it’s a difficult question to answer,” Dovizioso responds to our question about which source of information is most important. Andrea takes a few seconds to reflect. His point of view is interesting, since it’s not for nothing that inside the box they call him ‘a meticulous engineer frustrated by wanting to understand what is happening every moment.’
“There is no norm … Everyone manages it in a different way; From rider to rider I’m sure there’s a big difference. Some people ride and make decisions very instinctively; others have a much more methodical approach. How many riders are we in MotoGP? 24? Well, there are probably 24 different ways to manage information.”
For the engineers, the rider is another sensor that sits on top of the motorcycle! [Laughs] – Andrea Dovizioso
“For me, if they are doing things right or wrong, I want to see the data, I want to see what the mechanics and engineers are doing. When I know what the data says and combine it with my feelings, I am able to manage things to the fullest. And this is a great advantage to understand, and when you understand you can improve. When you do not understand, yes, you can go fast, but you probably don’t know why you’re going fast or why you’re going slow.”
Very well, Dovizioso’s explanation, like almost everything he says, seems sensible. But what happens when the sensations do not match or are different from what an engineer reads in the data, what is the priority? Who is right? “Obviously I am right!” laughs Dovi.
Then there is Márquez. How has the winner of four world championships managed over the last five years? “It’s clear that the main reference is your feeling on the track; then the next most important thing is to know how to transmit that feeling to the team and that they, looking at the telemetry, help you find the set-up.”
As with Andrea, we asked what happens when sensations and data do not match: “I transmit what I feel but sometimes I am also human and yes, sometimes I get confused and they see other things in telemetry. That’s when they have to know how to explain where I should pay attention. The combination of your feelings, the team, and that they understand you and how they explain it to you, is the most important thing.”
I transmit what I feel, but I am human and sometimes I am confused; That’s when the team must know how to explain what’s happening – Marc Márquez
As for the coach’s contribution, in this case Emilio Alzamora, Marc gives him the role of a “spy”. As is logical, in the almost infinite corners that riders come across in the Championship, there are some that are more difficult than others, those which are hard to get through. “That’s when you ask the coach to go to that corner and watch how the other riders do it, to see what they do differently. He must understand it and then know how to explain it to you.” A job for which riders only want former riders, since according to them only someone who has been there before can perceive certain details and situations that a non-rider simply will not notice.
Pedrosa: sensations first, then telemetry
Sensations on the track, telemetry, coaching, then video is “more or less the correct order,” says Dani Pedrosa. A rider’s point of view regarding his experience is interesting. “The first thing is my sensations on the track; the second is the telemetry.
You try to look for some sensations and then you try to see if they can be seen in the telemetry. Sometimes, for example, there is a corner that isn’t going well and you cannot understand what you are doing, because at that moment many things are happening and you don’t have time to feel what you are doing wrong. That’s when you try to find answers with telemetry. And it also helps the technician to understand what you are saying, what you are complaining about or why you can’t improve. Sensations and telemetry go hand in hand, but what makes you better is how well you feel what is happening and the talent to race a motorcycle.”
Sensations and telemetry go hand in hand, but what makes you better is the talent to race a motorcycle – Dani Pedrosa.
Also interesting is Dani’s explanation of how he works with Sete Gibernau, his man of confidence (he does not like the word coach). “It’s important because he gives me help in many situations, because during the weekend you have to manage many situations. The practices are always different and it is important to have “a picture” of everything that is happening. I can ask for specific things, like going to see a corner that is not going well. He has been a rider; he knows what the comments from a rider mean, so he can understand very quickly and give back what you are looking for. The ‘meeting’ with him is almost always in the box after training, although sometimes I’m stuck on some part of the circuit that isn’t going well, so he will comment directly and say ‘try this here.’”
“Sensations on the track, telemetry, coaching, then video is “more or less the correct order”, Dani Pedrosa
As for the videos and programs that let you superimpose images of riders over each other on the same part of the circuit, Pedrosa gives a relative value. “It works if it’s well done, because the type of tire that each one is using, the style of riding, the bike, the settings, etc. they can be different. Sometimes you see a rider do one thing and you think it’s worth thinking I can do it like that, but it’s never going to be the same; because of how are you, how is the bike, the tires, everything a bit. But it helps to understand. Maybe not to copy but to understand things.”