800cc MotoGP bikes more sensitive?

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Valentino Rossi and reigning world champion Nicky Hayden reckon the new generation 800cc machines are much more sensitive to set-up than last year's brutally powerful 990 four-strokes.

While faster corner speeds and later braking have transformed MotoGP with the 20 per cent capacity reduction for 2007, big name stars like Rossi and American Hayden say the bikes have become more challenging to go fast on.

The pair, who will lock horns for the first time on their 800s this weekend when the new season kicks off in Qatar, agree that finding a good set-up on the less powerful 800s has been tougher.

Team Fiat Yamaha rider Rossi said: "I think the problem of these new bikes is you are never ready because you never know what happens with the bikes compared from one day to the next. They are very sensitive at all temperatures with grip and a lot of other things. Every time you go on the track you have to restart the work. The 800 is much more sensitive than last year but every bike is more or less in the same situation. For example Honda and Ducati struggled sometimes in testing but after half an hour the lap time goes down by one second as they find a good set-up. With the riding style of the 800 the balance is more important to find the good line and good speed in the corner."

Hayden, who starts the defence of his crown facing fierce opposition from Rossi and Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa agrees with his Italian rival.

The 25-year-old Kentucky rider said: "The settings are completely different. It seems that this bike has quite a narrow window, more so for me than the 990, when you are outside of that window it feels you are so far off. In the past the Honda has always been get a setting and it works pretty much everywhere. It didn't really make a big difference if you were outside that window a little bit. Now it seems if its not pretty close we are so far away, so hopefully with more time we will get that narrowed down. I definitely feel there's less margin for error and you definitely need to be in the ballpark. Sometimes you make an adjustment on this bike and it changes a lot. On the 990 you'd feel it a little bit and maybe go a little bit faster but sometimes on the 800 you make a small change but it has a bigger effect. Once we get more time hopefully that goes away."

British rider Jeremy McWiliams said he has been amazed at how the smallest change in set-up can affect performance on track.

The Ilmor rider said: "It's incredible how sensitive these bikes are. You can make a half a per cent change and it becomes a completely different bike. I would never have believed working with the mapping guys. In Jerez we made a very, very small change.

"They changed my mapping in a quarter of a per cent in some places and I'm like come on guys?, go out and it changes the bike. I couldn't believe it until I saw them change it and then I went out and rode it. And they were right. It helped with the pumping problem we had on the rear suspension. "

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MCN Staff

By MCN Staff