British GP Tech Blog: The trauma of wet Friday practice

Published: 24 July 2009

First practice is important. Mess up and it can mean playing catch-up all weekend, chasing a set-up for race day.

A crew chief needs to get a quick idea whether the initial set-up ideas that he’s planned suit the circuit.

Motorcycles all have specific characteristics and, by the third or fourth GP race of the season, the crew chief will have a pretty good idea of how different it is to the previous year’s bike.

That means he will be able to set up the new bike in a similar fashion to the previous year’s bike, taking into account all its small differences.

But then that’s okay until it rains like crazy just before the off! Just as it did today in the first MotoGP practice e session of the weekend.

The bikes then need to be re-set, very quickly, to their wet settings. That means: different fork springs, possibly different damper and oil level settings too.

At the rear there will be a shock built to a different spec, a lighter spring and a different rear linkage. 

The fuel and traction control maps will be re-set. Then the front brake discs are changed from carbon to steel, the dry-break brake lines allowing the calipers (to suit the carbon discs) to be swapped to narrower ones that hold brake pads that will work on steel.

Then finally, different wheels shod with wet-weather treaded tyres will be fitted.

And once the bikes are on track the team’s are still only going to learn about how the new bike, on its guessed at settings works on a wet track that’s rapidly drying. 

Conditions that may not be replicated again all weekend.

Through all this confusion the crew chief has to stay focussed, mindful of the new tyre rules which only allow four sets of wets, plus an extra set if all the sessions are wet!

That means keeping the condition of the tyres under close scrutiny because using two pairs could leave the rider short of tyres for the rest of the weekend – should the rain continue.

And at the end of the session the team will still have no real idea if the proposed dry settings starting point are even close. That’ll be the job for Saturday morning  - assuming it’s not raining!