Preparing our GSX-RR for wet or dry track conditions is a big task undertaken by several mechanics, although its one the team have down to a fine art. Switching quickly between different set-ups and liaising with the riders and track officials is all part of the process. In this special article, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s Chief Mechanic, Jacques Roca, explains exactly what happens behind the closed doors of the pitbox.
“Normally we always have dry bikes ready, because usually the conditions are dry at most circuits. But when it starts to rain we have to change many things! It can be difficult, we have to make a decision to send the rider out with either wet or dry setup, and then they must come in if they want to change the bike. Apart from changing the engine mapping, they can’t change anything else themselves once they are on track. So the setups are quite fixed in this way.”
Let’s take a look at each individual element which much be changed to transform the GSX-RR from dry to wet settings.
TYRES - "First of all we have to change the tyres, that’s the most obvious thing, we change to wet tyres to cut through the water and give the rider better grip. This also goes hand-in-hand with having the rear light on, as the rules say that every time we put wet tyres on, we must have the tail light on".
BRAKE DISCS - "At the front end of the bike we can change the brake discs - we have the option of steel or carbon, and nowadays we have a big cover we can use over the carbon discs (to keep them away from the water). Most of the time we use carbon discs now, because they are better - steel discs can heat up very quickly if you’re braking hard. Also, with the way the rules are now, sometimes the rider starts on a wet setup but then the track starts to dry, with steel discs it’s incredibly hard to ride in the dry and your race is basically over. So we prefer carbon".
In general, we set everything on the bike ‘softer’ for the rain, it makes the conditions more manageable for the rider.
SUSPENSION - Another thing we change is suspension settings; in the front we change to a softer spring, and we also put some ‘clicks’ in the forks, to make them softer - the ÖHLINS guys do this. We have a rear shock that is already prepared with wet settings, so we put that inside the bike. Sometimes we also change the linkage, it depends on the track.
ELECTRONICS - The electronics engineers work on the mapping and settings, they need to create a set-up which delivers less power or a smoother power delivery, for instance. This makes the bike more ‘rideable’ in the slippery conditions.
HANDLING - Another thing we change is the steering damper - we adjust it two clicks ‘looser’. This helps the rider to turn the bars more easily. In general, we set everything on the bike ‘softer’ for the rain, it makes the conditions more manageable.
PRODUCTS - We have some special products which we use on the screen of the bike - one on the outside to make the water slide off quickly, and one on the inside to stop the screen from fogging or misting up. Sometimes we have to be ‘brutal’ and drill some holes in the screen if we know it’s going to be raining a lot, but usually we just spray the special cleaning products on the screen. The riders have different products to use on their visors, and sometimes they even use masks underneath to help with the condensation inside.
Sometimes we have to be ‘brutal’ and drill some holes in the screen if we know it’s going to be raining a lot and the situation becomes foggy.
LITTLE ADDITIONS: As well as these major modifications to the bike, there are also some much smaller changes which are made. However, these little adjustments are far from insignificant, as Jacques explains…
“It might seem simple, but it’s important that we put tape on the radiator to protect it from the cooling effect of the water on the track. It’s difficult to get the right amount of tape, because if the track starts to dry and you have too much on then it can cause overheating. This is something we need to manage carefully.”
And one subtle change can have big effects, even if it involves a seemingly ‘every day’ item…
“Another detail that we have is a plug in the bellypan of the bike, which we take out when it rains so that it doesn’t fill with water! Basic but fundamental!”
“There’s also a little triangle shaped deflector to direct the water away from the rear wheel - but sometimes when the track is beginning to dry you actually don’t want this deflector on because you might need the cooling effect of the water on the rear tyre if it’s overheating. This is different to the ‘spoon’ which we debuted this season, that is used more for downforce and aerodynamic assistance.”
This may all seem like a mammoth task to take on as soon as the first rain drops fall, but the entire team work like clockwork to switch a bike from dry to wet settings. Each team member knows which parts they should be working on, and this allows for a swift and efficient change. In fact, Jacques tells us that this entire process can be undertaken in 5 minutes or less!
So next time the heaven’s open, keep an eye on our box to see the mechanics’ seamlessly shifting our GSX-RR from dry to wet!