The ‘eco lap’, the key lap of the Qatar GP

Due to its characteristics, the Losail circuit is one of the most demanding for the fuel consumption of a MotoGP. It is not the most “gaston” of the calendar -which is the Red Bull Ring-, but it is one of those that forces the engineers to juggle to get their bikes to the end of the race. It is an exercise as unknown as it is fascinating that is part of the behind the scenes of a GP. Let’s try to explain it …

We will start with the data around which everything else revolves: the 22-liter maximum capacity of the tank that marks the MotoGP regulations. A volume that in the gasoline used in MotoGP is equivalent to 16.5 kg at room temperature, a fundamental piece of information to understand all the calculations on consumption. Because from here everything will be measured in weight and not in volume.

In Losail, a MotoGP at maximum performance spends 0.8 kg per lap, a consumption that multiplied by the 22 scheduled race laps adds up to 17.6 kg. At the first exchange the numbers no longer add up. And they do it even less if the race distance is added by the grid formation lap, the warm-up lap and the return to the garage after the race, plus the 100/150 cl that must remain in the tank in case of that the bike is verified … With these numbers it is clear that none of the MotoGP would reach the finish line next Sunday.

It is from here that Engineers must find the formula for their pilots to complete the race distance. And they should do it not from 22 liters but with 21.90 l / 21.95 l, since the controls carried out by IRTA are very severe, and a difference in the measurement automatically implies a penalty. For this reason, this margin is reserved, which, being minimal, serves as “insurance”.

Finishing the degree therefore means reducing consumption; There is no other alternative. As it is also mathematics that cutting power to the motor means a reduction in performance. From here, the question is when to cut the power and in what proportion. In this sense, engineers work on different fronts.

The first of them is that of the “non-competitive laps”, Those that take place outside the race: the grid formation and the warm up lap. For the first one, a specific term has even been coined: the echo lap. A lap in which the pilot must not exceed the 5,000 rpm engine and consumption cannot exceed 0.3 kg, on pain of staying on the edge of the track without gasoline in the final sprint of the race … adjusted are the calculations!

The engineers are the ones who do the calculations, but in the end it is up to the pilot’s wrist to make them happen. You have to think that a rider on the job normally does not have much time to think about saving gas, so during the race he receives reminders in the form of a warning on the screen between the semi-handlebars. The control unit constantly calculates consumption and calculates if the available fuel is enough to reach the goal. If not, it triggers a warning and urges the pilot to change the map, that is, to switch to a less aggressive mode at the consumption level. These changes in the power curve can go both ways, that is, from more to less or back from less to more.

In a race like today’s in Losail, theoretically the “valley” mode should be activated in the phase of the race that takes place between the first moments of the race, when the drivers seek to position themselves in the leading group, and the final sprint when you have to take the rest. Because it is clear that none of the drivers will be able to go full from start to finish. And it is that in races like this Sunday, rather than winning the fastest, the one who manages it best will prevail.