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Analysis
MotoGP German GP

What’s behind MotoGP’s right-hander chaos in Germany practice?

A number of riders came down during second practice at the Sachsenring.

Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing crash

MotoGP’s second practice at the 2024 German Grand Prix proved to be something of a crash-fest as 10 riders suffered tumbles through the gravel.

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VR46 Ducati rider Marco Bezzecchi brought out the first display of yellow flags at the fast Turn 11 right-hander four minutes into the hour-long second practice session.

Three minutes later, Marc Marquez came off his Gresini Ducati at the same place when he tucked the front going into the corner. As he tried to save it, the rear gripped and sent him airborne in a sickening incident.

Twenty minutes into second practice, Fabio Di Giannantonio on the second VR46 bike brought out the red flag when he came off at Turn 1 – another right-hander – and punctured the air fence.

Moments after the session resumed, Takaaki Nakagami threw his LCR Honda down at the same corner. Honda stablemate Joan Mir followed a few minutes after, with Tech3 GasGas rookie Pedro Acosta doing the same a minute later.

Augusto Fernandez on the sister Tech3 bike fell off at Turn 3 – the lap’s second right-hander – while Ducati’s Enea Bastianini had a fast off at Turn 11 while on an out-lap in the closing stages.

Most walked away unscathed. Marquez suffered a small fracture in his left hand, but it’s a small consequence for a crash that could have been much worse.

 

So why were the circuit’s right-handers claiming so many victims?

Sachsenring’s unique layout is truly an oddity on the calendar, comprising 13 corners, 10 of these being left-handers. As such, Michelin brings asymmetric tyres designed to have quick warm-up on the right side.

But its tyre selections are made pre-season, leaving no room to account for climactic conditions. Typically, July’s German GP is run in hot and sticky conditions. But an unseasonably cold summer in northern Europe meant Friday’s running took place in highs of just 18 degrees Celsius – a far cry from the 26 degrees experienced in qualifying last year, though Friday was run in similar conditions to this year.

From the exit of Turn 3 – the track’s second right corner – to Turn 11, the right side of the tyres is cooling off for around 31s before a rider flicks into the frightening downhill Turn 11. From Turn 11 to the next right-hander at Turn 1, it’s almost another 30s.

When conditions are as cold and as windy as they were on Friday in Germany, the problem is worse.

“It was difficult, because even if you push a lot through all the lap, the front temperature goes down really quick,” Friday pacesetter Maverick Vinales said. “So, it was tough. I was always with one eye looking [at the dashboard], ‘Ok this temperature is ok, I can go in faster’. But luckily, we have the temperature sensor, so you can see it on the dash. So, I try to play it a bit safer on that side. As soon as I see low temperature, I’m careful.”

While an odd track layout and conditions played their part, world champion Francesco Bagnaia – who was fifth quickest in second practice – believes the 2024 Michelin rear tyres have also been a factor.

The 2024 rear offers much more grip and performance, with lap records being smashed from circuit to circuit – including on Friday by Vinales in Germany – but it also pushes the front more in corners.

“I think that right now the rear grip is really high with the new tyres, and it’s pushing the front,” Bagnaia said. “So, [it] was already critical before but now the tyres have improved I think it’s even worse.

"If you look, everyone who crashed there crashed in the first lap because you arrive in the first lap that you can’t push too much, and then on the second attempt the temperature drops a bit. And even when you arrive there you have to be very careful and all three have crashed on the first [flying] lap.”

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