TECHNICAL TRACK ANALYSIS: how to conquer the technicalities of Magny-Cours

Thursday, 8 September 2022 08:25 GMT

WorldSBK commentator Steve English gets an in-depth look at the French venue’s layout with Garrett Gerloff’s crew chief, Damiano Evangelisti

The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship bursts back into action this weekend at Magny-Cours. If you were to stick a pin in the middle of France, it would land almost perfectly on the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours but finding the middle ground for setting up a motorcycle around the 4.4km long circuit is a real challenge. Damiano Evangelisti, GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team crew chief to Garrett Gerloff, gave us his insight into the challenging circuit. 

AGILITY AND GRIP: crucial for a fast lap time

“There are many fast changes of direction at Magny-Cours,” explained the Italian. “The Yamaha R1 is a stable bike that normally performs well in faster corners without losing the necessary agility for changing direction. For this circuit we will certainly have to try some front geometry solutions because you have many slow corners, and you need to be able to be strong in them too. This will also depend on what front tyres are on the allocation list. The track temperatures and the grip condition on the circuit will all affect our decisions for this.” 

The track conditions in Magny-Cours are always very important to the feeling that a rider has on the bike. The smooth track surface is renowned for being very ‘temperature dependant’. A small change in the track temperature can have a big impact on the grip that a rider feels and thus the confidence that they feel while on the bike. During the Friday Free Practice sessions, riders and their engineers work towards understanding this as much as possible. 

RACE RUNS AND TYRE SELECTION: the importance of doing homework

“Normally, during the first run of a weekend, we’re trying to understand the engine braking and traction control for the grip conditions. Then in the afternoon, we do a longer run to understand how to modify these parameters according to how much the degradation of the tyres affects the lap time. At the end of Friday’s practice session, we use all of this information to prepare the maps for the race and the strategy of when to use them.”

Changing and adjusting to the demands of the race is key for a rider. Knowing the moment to change the electronic strategy during a race is becoming increasingly important in WorldSBK as the grip level changes throughout the race with tyre degradation and a lowering fuel load. Using the Friday afternoon practice session to understand this has been key to Yamaha’s success in recent years. Week in and week out, we see the blue machine doing almost a full race distance during the FP2 sessions. 

One of the biggest decisions that the teams need to make for that FP2 race simulation is which tyre is the most likely to be their race rubber. More often than not in 2022 the compound is the SCX tyre, but Pirelli has brough numerous options to race meetings this season with innovation always near the surface in WorldSBK.

“I decide the tyre plan for the weekend based on the allocation and I always try to work with my rider without being influenced by what others are doing,” stated Evangelisti. “Usually, my strategy is to work on Friday with race tyres and then to use FP3 on Saturday morning to start preparing for the Superpole session where we will use the SCQ tyre. 

“The ten lap Superpole Race is a very tight race in which the riders push as hard as possible without thinking about the degradation of the tyres so for us to be able to run that race with the tyre that guarantees the best grip is an advantage. Up to now, we have not been able to do the sprint race with the SCQ, but it’s certainly a solution that we carefully evaluate at each event.”

At the Misano round we saw Honda opt to be the first team to use the SCQ tyre in the Superpole Race and they were rewarded with two top five finishes, whilst at Donington Park, the front four all used it, with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) winning. Expect this to be the norm for teams and riders moving forward.

SHOWING BELIEF: “We can take away some good results… I really believe in Garrett!”

For GYTR GRT Yamaha, one of the biggest things for them will be to ensure that the second half of the season starts with some momentum. Gerloff has been a podium finisher in WorldSBK, but the American has had a difficult time over the last 12 months and the confident, cocksure rider of his early WorldSBK career hasn’t been seen for some time. Hopefully, Magny-Cours will be a good starting point for him to get back to the podium. Gerloff has a best finish of seventh in the first half of 2022 but has shown flashes of his potential too. 

“With Garrett, we had a difficult first part of the season with results that certainly do not reflect our potential. In Most we have made important steps forward and I am convinced that our real Championship will start from Magny-Cours. So, I expect a good Championship finale. We still have six rounds and 18 races to go, and I think we can take away some good results. I really believe in Garrett, and I think that we can do well for the rest of the season.”

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