Rookie Marc Marquez (Honda) is the star of this season, no doubt, and the odds on favorite for the title with only 6 races remaining and a 30 point lead over teammate Dani Pedrosa. But defending champ Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha – down 39 points to Marquez) feels fully fit after struggling with a shoulder healing from two recent surgeries, and has momentum after a win in the last round at Silverstone. More importantly, Lorenzo and teammate Valentino Rossi will race at Misano for the first time with Yamaha’s version of a seamless gearbox … something already enjoyed by the Honda and Ducati factory riders.
Since the seamless gearbox engages the next gear before the shift, drive is continuous. Although you can experience something similar in a production automobile these days from a dual clutch transmission (DCT), not to mention some production Honda motorcycles, such as the CTX700 DCTs are illegal in MotoGP racing. This has required a great investment by Yamaha to come up with a design that does not violate this rule.
What’s the big deal? Lorenzo and Rossi loved the transmission when they tested it for the first time a couple of months ago, and are dying to race with it. There are several advantages. The fundamental advantage is that the continuous drive during upshifts leaves the chassis “calm” without the sudden surge of power normally associated with a gear change. This means the rider can ride more aggressively while remaining in control, and even experience less fatigue over the course of a race. Lap times may improve slightly, but the main advantage probably relates to tire life … the rear tire may last a few laps longer before it “goes off” near the end of a race, meaning the rider maintains more consistent traction and control for a longer period of time.
This weekend’s race in Misano represents a chance for Yamaha to step up, and possibly set the tone for the remainder of the series. Both Lorenzo and Rossi love Misano and have had excellent results there. Rossi considers it his home track.