Mika Kallio: “Hard is hard…”
Hohenstein-Ernstthal, Germany – 8 July 2014: The Sachsenring, venue for round nine of the Moto2 World Championship, is a track with some unique characteristics. Not only is it the shortest track on the calendar, and one of the slowest, but it’s also one of the most demanding on tyres.
The Sachsenring features ten left corners and only three right corners within its 3.671km or 2.281 mile length. The abundance of left hand turns works the left hand side of the rear tyre particularly hard, resulting in tyre temperatures regularly exceeding 140°C. This is around 35°C higher than in other races, with the exception of Phillip Island where the temperature tends to be slightly higher, due mainly to the last two corners on the track.
To counter the extreme temperature build up at the Sachsenring, Dunlop will make available the same hard plus rear tyre they supplied to teams in Catalunya, with the alternative being the normal hard compound rear.
It’s not the news that the Marc VDS Racing Team’s Mika Kallio wanted to hear.
Kallio, who currently lies second in the championship standings, has a love hate relationship with the Dunlop tyres used in Moto2. While he loves the softer options offered by the Anglo-Japanese tyre company, his feelings about the harder option rear tyres are slightly less positive.
“It’s no secret that we have an issue whenever Dunlop allocate the harder option rear tyres for a race,” explains Kallio. “It’s been the same since last year; whenever we’re forced to go hard on the rear we struggle to find a good compromise between grip and tyre endurance with the set up of the bike. For us, hard is hard.
“If we set the bike up to improve rear grip then the tyre is pretty much done in less than ten laps. If we go the other way and set the bike up so that it doesn’t work the rear tyre so hard then there’s no rear grip. The main problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground with the set up at all, we either have rear grip and destroy the tyre or we conserve the tyre and have no rear grip.
“Nobody else seems to have the same issues with the harder option rear, so we know it’s not the tyre, but more a combination of my riding style and my preferred set up on the bike.
“We worked hard during preseason testing to fix the issue but, when the harder rear tyre was allocated for both the Mugello and Catalunya races, it was immediately obvious that, while we’d made some small improvements, the problem remained. It was only during the one-day post race test at both circuits that we found a reasonable compromise with the set up of the bike, but by then it was too late.
“Hopefully the changes we made to the bike during the test in Catalunya will work this weekend at the Sachsenring. If they do, then that’s great. If they don’t then we maybe need to take more risks with changes to the bike during practice. In Mugello and Catalunya we found the necessary improvements one day too late. In Germany we need to find these improvements ahead of qualifying, even if by doing so we initially risk going in the wrong direction with the set up.”
“I like the Sachsenring, it’s one of my favourite tracks, and I’ve gone well there in the past. If we can get on top of the tyre situation in free practice then I hope we can challenge for the podium again, just as we did in 2012.”
One dark cloud on the horizon that may well prove to have a silver lining for Kallio is the weather forecast for this weekend’s German Grand Prix. While Friday looks as if it will remain dry, the forecast for both Saturday and Sunday is for rain.
“The opening laps of the race in Assen was the first time this year we’ve ridden in fully wet conditions and, unfortunately, we were lacking rear grip until the track started to dry,” explains Kallio. “This is the downside to the rear suspension set up we’re running on the bike now, as both the feeling and the grip in the wet were much better last year. The good thing is that if it’s wet for Saturday and Sunday at the Sachsenring then we can go back to the wet settings from last year, which we know work well and which weren’t an option given the changeable conditions in Assen.”
The German Grand Prix, which marks the halfway point in the 2014 season, gets underway on Friday 11th July with free practice for all three classes.