Leading Superbike World Championship riders have recently entered into a candid debate over whether the series needs a minimum rider/bike weight limit – and one of MotoGP’s tallest riders is certain that the debate must also take place in Grand Prix races.
VR46 Ducati’s Luca Marini is among the tallest in the 2022 MotoGP field, and feels his size – and resulting weight – has always been a disadvantage.
He’s sure the introduction of a minimum bike combined with rider weight would help make the series fairer.
A combined weight limit is already in place in the Moto2 and Moto3 junior classes, where riders are weighed in full protective gear and this weight is then added to the total weight of the bike. Any shortfall is made up for in the form of lead ballast – which can actually present a performance boost by allowing teams to further tailor a bike’s center of gravity by carefully positioning the weight.
The weight limit in the smaller capacity categories is seen as a sort of safeguard measure, introduced in an attempt to ease the pressure on riders (many of whom are teenagers) to keep the weight as light as possible, sometimes through unhealthy means – with rumors of eating disorders and substance abuse having surfaced in the past.
The issue was also discussed when Aprilia MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone received his four-year sanction for taking the banned steroid clenbuterol, a drug known to help with weight loss at a time when he spoke openly about the need to lose weight. weight.
Weight rules for Moto2 and Moto3 have never been applied to the premier class, which naturally talented but taller riders including Iannone, Loris Baz, Danilo Petrucci and now Marini have felt embarrassed by shorter competitors .
“When I was in Moto2, my indoor training was completely different,” explained Marini.
“I was low with my weight, as low as possible because I’m very tall.
“But it’s more difficult in MotoGP. I was on the [weight] limit in Moto2, but like 4 kg, and that’s OK against another rider.
“But in MotoGP I have to be stricter with my training and my diet.
“A minimum weight would make a lot of sense. It’s something that it’s impossible that they haven’t brought to MotoGP before: I don’t know why.
“It’s more democratic; why should a heavy rider be penalized for something that is just his nature? It doesn’t make sense in my opinion and I think it would be better if everyone had a minimum weight.
“Maybe for the other runners too, because it means they can train more, build more muscle, and for next season the effort would be much bigger.
“The smaller driver will always have an advantage.
“But manufacturers don’t want to put it [in place]. They want to continue like this, not having to think about where they put the pounds if they have a small rider, because maybe that can affect the behavior of the bike.
The huge difference in mass between someone like Marini, who is 1.84 meters tall, and fellow Ducati Enea Bastianini (over 15 centimeters shorter), doesn’t just mean Marini has to manage his diet and training. His performance on the bike is also very different as a result.
“There are 10kg differences between me and the other Ducati riders,” he explained, “and even though we have a lot of power, it changes the behavior of the bike a lot and the way you use the wheels. tires.
“On many circuits, we feel and we analyze that I stress the tires more, because with 10 kg more you have to put more energy in the tires to accelerate in the same way.
“You don’t lose more acceleration, the acceleration on the data is the same, but the energy you put into the tires is more important and you have to pay more attention to the rear tire especially not to use it too much.
“I remember at the beginning of the season many races where I finished the rear tyre. We had to work a lot on it to be competitive.
Marini’s calls echo those made recently in World Superbike by another great rider: former MotoGP rider Scott Redding.
Prompted in large part by the form of championship-leading Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista, Redding recently took to social media to make the case for minimum weight – but was met with a strong rebuttal from the smaller Bautista, who has pointed out that he had less muscle strength to wrestle. with a bicycle.
“[WorldSBK] did a great job of creating some of the best motorcycle racing in the world,” said Redding, “but why is there no minimum rider weight limit?
“I can talk about this topic because I am not a championship contender this year, those who are won’t talk about it because they are criticized by fans and social media ‘pundits’.
“You will see the obvious advantage that an extremely smaller runner will win on a straight, usually 0.2-0.4s.
“It might not seem like much to many of you, but when 10 runners are covered by a second, those 0.2s on a straight is a nice safety net.
“Apart from the speed gain, a lighter rider will not consume as much rubber from the tire as a heavier rider. Therefore, at the end of the race, which is the most critical, the lighter rider will likely have more grip compared to its competitors, which means more chances of winning.
Redding’s post prompted a host of other racers to give their thoughts, with some reminding Redding that height differences in other sports largely determine the makeup of the field there too (without big race jockeys from horses or small, muscular mountain specialists in professional cycling), and that his height also provided him with a physical advantage for years in wet conditions, which also applies to the likes of Baz and Petrucci.
“I understand but I can explain my case,” added Moto2 race winner Jules Cluzel, who now races in World Supersport.
“Each sport has its own physical advantage or disadvantage; for example, I could never be a basketball player, a skier or a professional swimmer… Or if I had been a cyclist, I could only be a good climber.
“The 2022 Supersport minimum weight rules have given me an extra 8kg on my bike and a little bit inside my leather. This means our 160kg bikes are even heavier and become even more dangerous in the event of an accident. accident/injury.
And someone familiar with Bautista’s form is that categorical weight plays no part in it.
His former teammate and current runners coach Chaz Davies said Bautista’s solid form skews the weight debate.
“Get Bautista out of the picture and would anyone talk about it? No,” Davies said in response to Redding’s post.
“The other ‘light’ guys on the same bike aren’t able to exploit the strengths of the package to the same extent.
“There was no word on those ‘benefits’ the last two years when he was on a Honda, which isn’t exactly slow, but clearly he wasn’t able to exploit the strengths of the bike in the same way as he does with Ducati. .
“I understand why it’s frustrating for you, but while its weight and aerodynamic profile have their advantages, it’s far from the complete picture of why it’s so strong.
“To accept that AB, his crew and the Ducati are perfectly suited to all meaning. They really are.
“I had to suck on that one in 2019 and trust me you’ll sleep better for it.
“It’s up to everyone to find a way to step up, which since I’ve been involved in/watched this game, it’s never been different.
“Someone up the game, the others sharpen their axes and go out to fight. You know how to do that better than most!
“I will also add for the benefit of anyone who has not seen AB operate that his weight is not ‘by chance’.
“The boy takes care of every detail and his commitment to his work is second to none.
“As you well know, I got my ass back for the first half of 2019. It would have been easy to bang the drum that his weight made a difference and play that card.
“And yes, the data showed he got a couple of tenths on the straight on me, but more than that his advantages were earned because of how he could maximize the forces of the bike in all Region.”