05th Feb2013

Just stick these lead boots on would you Mika?

130205-weight-feat

The Moto2 regulations have been tweaked occasionally since the 600cc four-stroke class replaced the 250cc two-strokes as Grand Prix racing’s intermediate class in 2010 but up to now, those tweaks have been relatively minor.

The same isn’t true of the new combined weight limit, which comes into effect this season and dictates that the minimum weight of the bike plus the rider – in all his kit – should be no less than 215kg. Lighter riders have complained vehemently that this new rule puts them at a significant disadvantage, as the additional weight they have to add to the bike is static, unlike the dynamic weight of a heavier rider.

With one of the heaviest riders on the Moto2 grid in Scott Redding and one of the lightest in Mika Kallio, it’s an issue that the Marc VDS Racing Team are well aware of.

While Scott Redding and his crew were celebrating the new rule, the reaction on Mika Kallio’s side of the pit box was a little more restrained, with new Chief Mechanic Naoya Kaneko having to burn the midnight oil to figure out where to add more than 10% of Kallio’s bodyweight to the Kalex Moto2 machine he’ll campaign this season.

“It’s an interesting problem,” declares the quietly spoken Kaneko. “When a rider is heavy he can move around on the bike to effectively move the centre of mass. On the brakes he can move backwards to increase stability and in the corner he can move his weight forward and down to load up the front tyre and improve turning.

“Obviously this is a benefit that taller, heavier riders have, but in the past this benefit has been negated by reduced aerodynamic performance and, in Moto2 where everyone has the same engine, a lower power-to-weight ratio, which is most apparent when accelerating out of the turns.

With the new rule at least the power-to-weight ratio is no longer such a disadvantage, as the difference will be reduced significantly as the lighter riders add the necessary additional weight to meet the new combined minimum limit.

“With Mika we will need to add around 10% of his total bodyweight to the bike, which equates to a 6% increase in the weight of bike and rider compared to last season.

“The downside to this is that Mika can’t move this additional weight around the bike to change the centre of mass to suit different circumstances, such as braking and cornering. Once the weight is fixed that’s where it stays. If we place it ahead of the centre of mass then that would work well in the turn, with more weight on the front, but under braking it would make the bike less stable.

“To start with we’ll try and place the weight so that the centre of mass remains the same as it is without the additional weight, or as close as we can get it. During the season we may end up moving the weight around the bike, to see if it gives us an advantage in certain areas. With more experience of how the weight affects the handling, it may be that we actually change the distribution of this additional weight based on the characteristics of individual racetracks, but I think that’s someway off right now.

“I’m sure some will claim that the lighter riders are now disadvantaged because of the fact that their additional weight is fixed rather than dynamic, but I don’t think it’s going to have such a bit impact. I think the only thing that will happen is that a pretty level playing field will become even more equal. The new regulations should make for even closer racing between more riders, which I think will make the intermediate class more popular with spectators than it already is.”

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