The 2012 MotoGP World Championship marks a seismic shift, with Claiming Rule Team (CRT) machines sharing the grid with MotoGP prototypes in what series rights-holders Dorna hopes will be a permanent shift to less factory-dependent machinery. Not since two-strokes largely gave way to four-strokes in 2002 has there been such a radical change in the makeup of the grid.
Edwards says that electronics...
Edwards says that electronics are critical to cornering performance now. “You get it on your knee…and you get 60 percent of your turning done in two meters instead of having to run that whole arc.”
Freddie Spencer, 50, was there for the two-stroke era, winning his three world championships on the formidable Honda NSR works bikes. Colin Edwards, 37, moved to MotoGP in 2003, the second year of the four-stroke era after having won his two world titles on Honda Superbikes. Their racing lives are vastly different, but their racing experiences are universal among the elite in the sport. And now, by a twist of fate and geography—Spencer was in attendance at Edwards’ Texas Tornado Boot Camp as a guest instructor—the racers who grew up on the same racetracks, at different times, have been thrown together.
They make something of an odd couple—Edwards outgoing and outspoken, Spencer more guarded with an air of mystery—but their similarities are equally striking. Both are sons of the south; Spencer growing up in Louisiana, Edwards in Texas. Both learned their craft on the dirt: Edwards in motocross, Spencer on dirt tracks. Both learned to road race on tracks like Oak Hill Raceway and Texas World Speedway, and both went on to win AMA 250cc titles. Neither won an AMA Superbike title before they moved to the world stage where their championships came two years apart. Freddie won the 500cc title in 1983 and again in 1985, when he also won the 250cc crown; Edwards won World Superbike championships in 2000 and 2002—both riders winning all their titles on Hondas.
On the third night of the camp, Edwards and Spencer opened up to the students. They offered to take any and all questions, with most—but not all—of the answers on the record.
“We can sit up here and talk about suspension, we can talk about geometry. Whatever y’all have a question about, now’s the time,” Edwards said.
We can’t share everything that they said—space doesn’t allow it—but this edited version of that conversation provides plenty of insight into two generations of champions.
Riders of Spencer’s generation joke that they had traction control; it was their throttle hand. Spencer had a small taste of the electronics that Edwards has dealt with his entire MotoGP career.
FS: My feeling’s always been this, and I would tell the people at the school: No matter what, to get that last half-second or second, you’ve still got to ride it. I rode Nicky’s (Hayden) ’06 bike he won the championship on…I went out the first lap and it was below like 12,500 (rpm) or something. It didn’t work except at a certain rpm. So I was too low initially, the traction control really wasn’t working. So the thing was moving around. I go, ‘It’s not working.’ Tady (Okada) said, ‘You’re not going fast enough.’ So what I had to do was, instead of going around that corner in second, I was in first so that thing was revving high up there and the traction control worked.
Edwards tries on Kenny Roberts’...
Edwards tries on Kenny Roberts’ championship-winning YZR500. “When men were men and sheep were scared,” said the wise-cracking Texan.
So I can explain what he was going off of, how ridiculous it really is now and I know you can see it if you pay attention. We don’t really run an arc. In the old days, when I was on a Superbike and we had no traction control, there was an arc [to every corner]. Once you got in, you knew what your entry point was…I call them dots. You’ve got your entry dot, your mid-corner dot, your exit dot. And as long as you can hit those dots, that is a perfect corner in my eyes. Whereas now, you basically have a braking dot, you have an apex dot, but once you get to that dot, there’s no more arc. Because as soon as you get your knee on the ground—and this may sound retarded to most folks—but you turn it and it pivots. I mean, it literally…you get it on your knee, and the rear kinda has a really, really fast, kind of a little chatter, and you get 60 percent of your turning done in two meters instead of having to run that whole arc. The thing is, you have your life, your balls, your spine—you have everything in that electronics package.
I would run it in until the front end would start to tuck and then time going through the throttle and then kinda get the rear to pivot around, and then I would time dropping my shoulder, dropping my head, and then time the rear coming around and pick it up. If I didn’t catch it in time, as soon as that rear would grip it’d push the front and crash. That was every corner of every lap.
I think I’ve put my faith in the electronics, (Casey Stoner is) 100 times more than me. Because as soon as he lets off that brake, he grabs it. And if you watch Casey, he’ll go and he’ll pivot and as he pivots, he dips his shoulder, he gets that thing upright and just goes brruuup. He’s an expert at the electronics. At this moment, he is the best. And if you look at (Jorge) Lorenzo, Lorenzo’s still more of an arc guy. He’s still more of a chuck it in late, carry it. He relies a lot on the electronics, but Casey’s more that point-and-shoot. He has the perfect bike, he has the perfect electronics package and he trusts it.