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GP Week : Issue 12
THE increasing professionalism of racing, hand in hand with obsessive secrecy, has given rise to a stock phrase – the very backbone of team press releases issued during practice and qualifying: Such and such a rider (it might be anyone from Rossi himself to 125 struggler Alex Masbou) has spent the session “working on machine settings”. Well, there’s a surprise. So that’s what all those mechanics were doing, with their spanners. Changing the settings! But it’s enough information for most. Changes to settings are generally rather abstruse and nowadays frequently electronic, and therefore almost impossible to understand – certainly beyond the scope of the average news report. On the other hand, if these “setting changes” relate to more obvious suspension or geometry alterations, then they’d rather not tell you. Dig deeper, and you’re likely to get a pack of lies. Or get the brush-off: as we reported from Jerry Burgess after Rossi’s first win of the year in China. They’d made a breakthrough, he said, “on machine settings”. We asked for details, offering him the escape route that “unless it’s too complicated to explain”. He laughed. “It’s easy to explain. I just don’t want other people knowing about it.” This is in line with Burgess’ clear philosophy: that in spite of the manifold complexities of the dynamic equation, a motorcycle remains “just a tool”. It’s easy for engineers to go off on flights of theoretical fantasy, but a practical man just uses what he’s already got. His secret, however, couldn’t stay secret for long. By Le Mans, it had leaked everywhere. What Rossi and his team did was to change their approach in line with the new Bridgestone tyres, paying careful attention to Stoner’s progress from last year. To cut a long story short, they found how much they could exploit Bridgestone’s super-good front tyre. It was far better than they’d expected, which took them into areas previously not available with Michelins, changing the whole balance of the bike. It allowed them to take weight off the front to promote better traction at the rear. This was done easily enough, using adjustments available with offset inserts in the chassis – move the whole front fork assembly forward, the steering head going MICHAEL SCOTT discovers just how Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha team turned around the Italian’s fortunes – machine settings … 46