Cal Crutchlow has supported a move to give all MotoGP riders the option of running bigger brake discs from next weekend’s Italian round in Mugello onwards.
The Grand Prix Commission announced yesterday that a 340mm front brake disc will now be available after coming under pressure from several riders in the Safety Commission that the current 320mm disc was struggling to cope with the weight and speeds of the current generation 1000cc four-strokes.
The severe braking issues that forced Crutchlow to retire early in Jerez earlier this month brought into sharp focus a debate that’s been raging behind the scenes in MotoGP for months.
Are the modern era 1000cc MotoGP bikes now simply too heavy and too fast?
Top speeds of well in excess of 210mph are now commonplace at fast tracks like Mugello and Catalunya, while earlier this year in the first round at Qatar, reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez was clocked at an eye-popping 216.42mph.
That was 4mph faster than the top speed recorded in Qatar in the first year of the 1000s back in 2012.
The 1000cc four-strokes are now 10kg heavier at 160kg than the last 800cc bikes in 2011.
Brake suppliers Brembo and Nissin have already expressed concerns that the 260bhp MotoGP missiles are so fast that expensively developed high performance carbon brakes are no longing delivering adequate stopping power in some tracks, or they overheat and don’t function properly.
Overheating brakes put Crutchlow out of the Jerez race, while taller and heavier riders like Valentino Rossi, Scott Redding, Bradley Smith and Aleix Espargaro have all experienced issues.
The standard issue front brake disc size in MotoGP has been 320mm, though it is now mandatory to race with the larger diameter 340mm disc at the Twin Ring Motegi to cope with the brutal braking forces at the stop and go Japanese track.
The 340mm disc was to be optional for riders to use at Catalunya and Sepang later this season, but after some riders pushed inside the Safety Commission to have it made standard equipment, it is now available at every race.
Crutchlow told MCN: “It is an option at every race now and I am happy about that. It is not going to make us go any faster or the lap times be any better. But it will be safer for the riders. Now the bikes are so heavy and so fast that it is definitely the safer option. Maybe not for the small guys but for me, Valentino and Aleix, it will help.”
Double MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo had also been pushing hard to use the 340mm front disc and when he was asked about the situation by MCN during last weekend’s Le Mans round in France, the Spaniard said: “The bikes now are heavier than ever and it depends on the rider, but sometimes you can have problems in braking and you don’t have brakes after a few laps. We need a bigger front disc and this is what we are asking in the Safety Commission. Tracks with a lot of braking we are struggling a lot and with all this power on the straight, I really hope to have the big discs and in the future reduce a little bit the speed, which Carmelo (Ezpeleta) wants to do.”
The move to a bigger brake disc is something of a surprise; given Honda’s clear opposition to the alteration in a recent interview that HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto gave to MCN on the issue.
He said: “Bike weight is same as last year and top speed is only one or two kph faster, not 10 or 20kph. From a technical point, the 320mm disc is safe enough to finish the race. Everyone has a problem at Motegi, so we all use the 340mm disc there. And Barcelona and Sepang are tracks potentially with this problem because the temperatures of the discs are higher at these circuits. But if you take Austin and Argentina, the average temperature of the discs is lower. I understand some teams or riders want more braking performance and I fully understand. But the Safety Commission looked at this last year and braking performance is not only to do with disc size.”
A statement from the Grand Prix Commission though today confirmed the new larger 340mm brake disc was being introduced on safety grounds.
The statement read: “The Commission unanimously decided, in the interests of safety, to modify the regulation concerning the front carbon disc brake sizes in the MotoGP class. Currently the regulations permit two sizes of front carbon discs; 320 mm discs must be used at all circuits except at Motegi where the use of 340 mm discs is mandatory and at Montmelo and Sepang where use of 340 mm discs is optional. Following a recommendation from the Safety Commission and with the support of the brake manufacturers it has been decided that the use of 340 mm disc brakes will be optional for all circuits with the exception of Motegi where such use remains mandatory.’