2011 Estoril MotoGP Sunday Round Up - Racing Relieves The Parts Other Activities Just Can't Reach

We're finally racing again, and the deafening roar of the MotoGP bikes has silenced the whining that has been emanating from the paddock over the past few days, at least for the moment. Instead of sniping about who had said what about whom, there was an actual contest at Estoril. Even the weather didn't intervene, at least, not once the warmup was finished.

The race was hardly a thriller - the electronics necessitated by the combination of highly-strung 800cc engines and meager 21 liters of fuel have been fatal to racing excitement, for the most part - but it was certainly a fascinating intellectual exercise, and there was much to be learned from Portuguese Grand Prix. The trouble is, of course, that those lessons are most rewarding to the committed student of the sport, the sterile racing now rather too esoteric for the casual fan.

The best news of the day - indeed, the best news the series has had for a while, outside of the promise offered by the CRT machines due to take to the track in 2012 - was the return of Dani Pedrosa, if not exactly back to full fitness, the worrying shoulder problem now obviously fixed. The removal of the plate fixing Pedrosa's collarbone in place - a relic of his practice crash at Motegi last year - has finally solved the blood starvation problem that the Repsol Honda rider was suffering when racing a MotoGP bike. Despite being in obvious pain, Pedrosa got off the bike at the end sporting the largest grin his small stature can bear without toppling over at the weight of it.

Pedrosa's sense of relief was palpable: speaking after the official press conference, the Spaniard was animated and smiling, almost as if he couldn't believe that his suffering was at an end. The pain in Pedrosa's shoulder was just what you would expect after surgery, with muscle cramps and neck pain giving the Spaniard real grief, but that paled into insignificance compared to the knowledge that the numbness and lack of feeling in his left arm was gone. "Even though it hurt so much," Pedrosa said, "I was smiling inside my helmet. The numbness was gone, and the temperature of my hand was normal."

The recurrence of that numbness at Qatar had come as something of a shock to Pedrosa. He had thought that rest after Valencia would be sufficient to fix the problem, but once it reappeared, it meant the problem was serious. So serious that it could have ended his career, Pedrosa revealed. "This problem is alright for normal life," Pedrosa said, "but riding is impossible." The doctors had not been able to give him any guarantees that the surgery would succeed, but the fact that he could ride a full, dry MotoGP race and come away with feeling in his left arm meant that the problem had finally been both identified and corrected.

Pedrosa had ridden an almost flawless race, latching on to Jorge Lorenzo's wheel off the line, and once he realized he was strong enough and his shoulder worries were over, launching an attack which Lorenzo simply had no answer to. Once the Repsol Honda man was past, he dropped the hammer, putting 3 seconds on Lorenzo in the space of under 5 laps, taking victory in compelling fashion at a track he had never won at before. Pedrosa's return to fitness means that the Fantastic Four are nearly back to full strength, and the prospect - so often promised, so rarely delivered - of the four best riders in the world, all fairly evenly matched, slugging it out race after race took another step closer to reality.

It was hard to find anyone who did not share Pedrosa's sense of relief. Even the man Pedrosa beat at Estoril was sanguine about losing to the Repsol Honda rider. Despite winning here for the last three years in a row, Jorge Lorenzo understood that 2nd place was all he was capable of here in Estoril.

Lorenzo's problem was braking, the factory Yamaha rider finding himself having to brake for Turn 1 40 meters earlier than last year at the start of FP1. The team made up a lot of that lost ground over the course of the weekend, but the underlying problem remained. Lorenzo couldn't keep up the pace once Pedrosa got past, saying that he couldn't ride at 100% for much longer. The mental strain of being inch-perfect all race long, with a hungry Dani Pedrosa breathing down your neck, had proved too much for him in the end, and once Pedrosa made his move, Lorenzo backed off and settled for 2nd.

Pedrosa's teammate Casey Stoner made it two Repsol Hondas in the top three, but the Australian was far from delighted. A recurrence of a back problem which Stoner suffers - a relic of hitting a hay bale in a crash at Barcelona in 2003 - saw the Australian's back seize up for half a lap, dropping right off the pace of the leaders and never able to recover it. Stoner stood in the press conference room bent over like an old man, barely able to stand and drawn from the pain.

Stoner had taken one more potshot, this time at Marco Simoncelli, after the Italian nearly wiped Stoner out going into Turn 1. Stoner had returned the favor on the exit of that corner, though the Australian was at least a little contrite to have done unto Simoncelli which Simoncelli had done unto him just a few meters earlier. He remained a dangerous rider, Stoner remarked, a point that Simoncelli himself had underlined by crashing out at Turn 4 on the first lap.

All this talk of dangerous riding had claimed another victim, this time in the shape of the factory Yamaha rider Ben Spies. His crew had forgotten to remove a fuel breather pipe blocker on the grid, leaving Spies to rip that off himself. That in turn exposed another piece of hose, one which Spies was unsure of its function. Afraid that this might have something to do with his brakes, and worried that he might wipe out his fellow riders, a concern after the issue had so vocally been raised during the safety commission, Spies was riding extremely carefully, allowing other riders past and taking a completely different line, afraid he might wipe the others out. The Texan was forced to out onto parts of the track that he hadn't been on before, and it was there that he met a bump he hadn't encountered before. That bump meant he lost the front, taking himself out of the race.

If Pedrosa's relief was immediate at Estoril, Valentino Rossi's has been building for a while. Estoril confirmed what the Italian had found at Jerez, that his shoulder is now strong enough for Rossi to ride naturally, a fact that was clear to even the most casual observers. Valentino Rossi looked like Valentino Rossi again, rather than some imposter who kept sneaking into his leathers to ride the Ducati shortly before every race.

The shoulder wasn't perfect, Rossi told the media, but he was only losing about 15% of its normal strength. The problem now was that Rossi was able to compensate for the weakness in his right shoulder by using his left leg to control the bike, and this was causing the muscles in his leg to cramp and tighten up. But with improvement happening as fast as it was, Rossi estimated that he should be back to 100% at Barcelona, some 5 weeks from now.

The bigger problem now, of course, is that the Ducati still badly needs fixing. The machine lacks front end feel and is difficult to turn, though a revised electronics package helped a little by making the throttle response a little less aggressive. On Monday, Rossi and Hayden will have a new chassis to test - or rather a new front subframe, the part which passes as a chassis, consisting of a monocoque connecting the headstock to the front engine mounts. Hayden also told the media they had a new engine to test, though Valentino Rossi feigned ignorance of the new engine. The motor will have a heavier flywheel to control the revs a little and make the bike easier to turn, Hayden explained, and the combination of the two should go some way towards making the bike a little more competitive. Though Casey Stoner never tires of pointing out that it was already capable of winning races when he was on it, the insinuation being that the problem lay not in the chassis, but in the nut between the handlebars, as the old saying has it.

Testing now starts at 10am on Monday morning, or at least it will, weather permitting. Given the predictability of the weather at Estoril, we should find that out at about 9:55am on Monday.

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I can't remember what the conditions were like last year but according to Darryl Beattie here on the broadcast in Australia, Valentino's overall time on the Ducati was 10 seconds quicker than what he did last year on the Yamaha and the total race time was a staggering 26 seconds faster this year, that is awesome speed, now we just need to get some close racing and all will be good

The weather was poor last year wasn't it? QP cancelled on Saturday and 125 race interrupted?

"The motor will have a heavier flywheel to control the revs a little and make the bike easier to turn, "...

I think not.

It depends which direction the flywheel is turning, I suppose. But that's just speculation. Hayden's exact words were "with a heavier flywheel, which should help the bike turn."

As always David a most excellent bit of information Thanks.

I thought it was very professional of Ben not to take his crew to task in the press for their error. You got to know he was less than happy about what transpired. When Dani is on, he's on. Excellent ride. Speaking of excellent rides, Dovi had one for the ages. He played Rossi like Rossi has played so many others in the past. Brilliant. Colin just simply gets it done, race after race. He may never win a Moto GP, but he will never be a back marker either. Just one solid racer. All in all, I thought it was a very entertaining race. Sure glad it didn't rain.

"sporting the largest grin his small stature can bear without toppling over at the weight of it"

I am now more than a casual fan and try to never miss a race (WP, QP, FP). I don't mind the more sterile races with little or no overtaking, because it makes the races that a battle happens in amazing, iconic and memorable. There is plenty of series that contain heaps of fairing bashing, I hope MotoGP does not go back down that road. I agree that fuel restrictions are ridiculous and any suggestion that they are for environmental reasons would be enough to make a real greenie fall over laughing, other than the fuel issue, I like MotoGP how it is and I just wish Dorna would actually advertise it in a way that would draw new fans to the sport.

"Stoner had taken one more potshot, this time at Marco Simoncelli, after the Italian nearly wiped Stoner out going into Turn 1. Stoner had returned the favor on the exit of that corner, though the Australian was at least a little contrite to have done unto Simoncelli which Simoncelli had done unto him just a few meters earlier. He remained a dangerous rider, Stoner remarked, a point that Simoncelli himself had underlined by crashing out at Turn 4 on the first lap."

It's a pity. There was nothing wrong with Simoncelli's move into turn 1, he saw Stoner brake early on the outside and beautifully cut around him to get ahead before they even went to the corner. Simoncelli "did" a great pass on Stoner, now I don't know what Stoner after that but almost highside out of the race.

First the race was an average race maybe a little above for 800cc class, the front 2 were close so at least the majority wasn't a 10-15sec lead over each other.

Marco's reputation is starting to bite him, he is fast and an excellent rider but his racecraft and practice sense is of little worth right now. Look at JL he used to feel so pressured and crash often but he has gotten better. Simo, is doing the same thing only at a level where he could win on a bike that should win. And in the process he is taking other riders with him. Look at WSBK wild card, and several practices both last year and this year. If he gets his head in it he'll do much better.

A heavy flywheel

The Ducati revs hard and violently, and this inturn chagnes the natural gyro effect the engine has on the chassis. When either coming in or leaving a corner when the revs are changing either decelaration, or accelaration the gyro effect then upsets the current chassis position thus making the bike squirrely.

Think of twirling a soup can on a 2 meter string over your head, now think of that same motion but suddenly have the can starting spinning on its own axis, and then at differing speeds and intensities. Ultimately it becomes much harder to keep the can spinning evenly.

A heavy flywheel does 2 things,

1. it increases torque, (gives the engine more momentum which is where a portion of the overall torque equation comes from (by resisting change in speed whether slowing or speeding))
2. That in turn makes the throttle a little less susceptible to peakiness. A problem for the Ducati.

There are many other variables that come to play but this is the simplest way to explain it. I hope this makes sense as, this was how it was explained to me by both my Dyno Tech and my engine machinists. (though relative to a cars performance)

Try this at home, Ride in a long figure 8 in 1st gear at a steady now try to do the same thing in 2nd at the same speed feel how much different the higher RPMS make the bike handle and resist change. Or use a 2cyl and then a 4cyl

" momentum which is where a portion of the overall torque equation comes from"

No, it doesn't, sorry. It might increase traction slightly by smoothing response to the throttle (which is different to "peakiness").

That aside, flywheel gyro effect has usually been seen as a problem for cornering: why 600's are easier to turn than 1000's despite similar tyres, total weight etc etc. So it's surprising to read that increasing the flywheel mass might make the bike easier to turn. At best it would seem to be a trade-off to get smoother throttle response.

I disagree.

Weight of rotating parts directly effects torque and HP.

2 indentical engines side by side with different flywheels will produce different power numbers, and have different characteristics. Ultimately the heavier flywheel has more torque and revs slower ive witnessed it first hand. It also absorbs the twitchiness of the power curve, it may not even show up in Dyno testing so much as it does in trying to put forward motion to the ground.

I guess that I should have used the "ducati's ferocious engine makes maintaining a smooth line difficult and probably takes away feeling in the corner"

Rod ratio, bore, cam profiles all are bigger contributers to torque and HP but the easiest (possibly only part to change on sealed engines) is the flywheel.

I am guessing it isn't necessarily the flick in but rather a lack of feeling throughout the entire corner and not having a lot of confidence in screwing the throttle without a very steady hand. if the heavy flywheel can allow for more docile engine, then it may help in keeping a smooth corner. Allowing a better drive and more aggressive screw of the throttle. Peakiness should have been - twitchiness in its ability to maintain a fluid corner.

I agree that heavier has a more pronounced effect on Gyro but its benefits may out weigh the problem. We probably won't ever know.

"Ultimately the heavier flywheel has more torque and revs slower ive witnessed it first hand"

Depends on your definition, but if it's measured on an inertial dyno those two things are contradictory...

Pedrosa earned that victory. For awhile I thought he was going to be stuck like he used to get. But he pulled that one out. Even through the pain. Was looking forward to seeing what Simoncelli would do. Especially after seeing the QP interview between him and Lorenzo. Lorenzo saying that Simo is dangerous and touches too much and Simo saying the description was wrong. Lorenzo saying he is not the only rider that feels that way and Simo telling him to ask someone. Funny stuff, good for race drama. But it was not to be.

Looking at the beginning of the race it looks as though the Hondas have a problem with snapping loose in the back once it breaks grip coming out of turns. Simoncelli, Stoner, and Dovisioso all had the same problem at the same time. Like a wave starting with Simoncelli and finishing with Dovisioso with Stoner being the peak of the wave.

Too bad for Spies, it looked like something was off on the bike he pulled out and looked down in the middle of the race. And did anyone see Tom Houseworth this weekend? I did not see him in one clip.

Valentino is slowly coming up to speed. Dovi should have been farther up. If Stoner would not have been gapped in the beginning he would have made it a good fight. CE and CC both looked strong. Colin just keeps on going like an Energizer Bunny. He seems to be the standard to look at. If you are faster, Alien. Slower, then you are normal speed for a GP rider.

Greetings all, been following this site for about a year and finally registered.
I understood previously ducati were looking to increase the weight of the crankshaft not the flywheel?
They are connected so increasing either would produce the same effect? Although being a larger diameter the flywheel has potentially more inertia?

Also, from a beginner point of view, changing the weight of the flywheel wont change the horsepower the engine produces, it will just change the way it delivers it, ie slower to rev up and more momentum to slow down?

David, I always enjoy your write ups. Concerning the turn one pass...

"Stoner had taken one more potshot, this time at Marco Simoncelli, after the Italian nearly wiped Stoner out going into Turn 1. Stoner had returned the favor on the exit of that corner, though the Australian was at least a little contrite to have done unto Simoncelli which Simoncelli had done unto him just a few meters earlier. He remained a dangerous rider, Stoner remarked, a point that Simoncelli himself had underlined by crashing out at Turn 4 on the first lap."

I've watched the video a few times, especially after Stoner mentioned in the press conference that he didn't like Marco's pass at turn one. It looks very much like a clean (no contact) pass around the outside of Stoner. From the angle of the camera on MotoGP.com video it doesn't look like he was about to take him out. Also, in watching them come out of turn one and into the left kink, you can see that Sic, Sto and Dov each had a little rear tire slip/hop from the left side obviously being cold. Then Sic tips into turn 4 left hander and the rear tire not up to temp flips him over board. Same thing happened to Barbera. In looking at the race footage one could surmise that these incidents were not the riders fault but simple tire temperature problems, which could've happened to anyone. Sic even mentioned that he upsifted one gear more to try and compensate for the grip problem as he was warned a few turns prior.

Oh how I wish he would have stayed on the bike, that could have been an exciting race... Pedrosa showed how masterful a tactician he can be and I congratulate him for a well deserved win in Estoril. Now things are heating up!

Anybody here thinks that Pedro was holding back on purpose, staying behind Lorenzo? It doesn't make sense that a more powerful Honda with lighter rider would have a problem in slipstream to overtake.

He would get right on Lorenzo's rear wheel until the braking zone and then hit the binders so early you'd think something was wrong. By the exit or the next turn he was back on his rear wheel. It happened many times. He was saving his fight until it mattered. Almost a Rope-a-dope. He waited until Lorenzo (or any rider) would be at their weakest in terms of stamina, tires, fuel and complacency. Perfectly timed.

As I watched lap after lap Lorenzo beating Pedrosa on the straight I kept thinking what happened to the Honda power? It all makes sense, Pedrosa probably did exactly what you mentioned waiting for Lorenzo's tires to lose a little grip, use up his fuel a little more, and sitting back watching for where Lorenzo was weak. I think the other factor might have been Pedrosa waiting until he realized that his shoulder and arm wasn't going to be a problem like before, then... see ya!

Congrats to Pedrosa for riding a masterful race!

Sitting in Lorenzo's draft every lap and not having to work the engine as hard also saves fuel. I'm sure Dani didn't want to test how good Honda's fuel algorithm really is. He's already had the fueling computer get in the way of a runaway victory so he probably didn't want to take the chance again. Lorenzo was not making any gap so Dani acted like Rossi and was happy to stalk Lorenzo until close to the end then make his move and immediately open a gap. Great race by Dani.


That's a good point. I didn't think of the fuel saving. I hate when the computer gets in the way and you keep wondering why a racer slowed down.

I say go flat out, You run out of fuel we will all know what's going on ... LOL

Watching the race I have to say I was a little bored, but looking back on it it was pretty exciting. For the first time ever I found myself really rooting for Pedrosa. That was what kept me watching, at times it looked like Lorenzo might gap himbut he stayed with it. In retrospect I wonder how early Pedrosa really could've passed him. I mean he literally walked away from him at the end. I don't understand about the brakes Lorenzo was talking about, it looked like every lap he was able to outbrake Pedrosa and the Yamaha was clearly more stable.

I wish Stoner would give it a rest. I'm a huge Stoner fan but even I'm getting a little tired of his talk. I was disappointed when he snubbed when he took a shot at Rossi like that. I mean sure Rossi had all the cameras with him and his helmet on but it seemed like he was honestly humbled by the crash and genuinly sorry. Now he's going after Simo when Simo is just racing, albiet a bit agressively. But I guess thats just Casey being Casey.

On a lighter note, Crutchlow is making a believer out of me. I didn't expect to much but wow he's really doing well. Poor Toni Elias, hopefully he moves back to moto2 and claims another championship.

...just about the most impressive race I've ever seen from Dani. The entire plot, plan, strategy...was pitch perfect. Sitting on Jorge's 6 o' clock the whole time, perfectly capable of blowing past, but waiting...until it was the perfect time to pounce.

Brilliant. Really.

ain't boring in my book...lord knows we've seen worse. Early in the race I said out loud "Pedrosa will pass him with 5 laps left" so I was waiting for it the whole time which made it fun. My daughter heard me and thinks I have magic powers I'm sick of Stoner's whining too, but that's nothing new either. I also found myself rooting for Dani for the first time since 06-07...no matter how much I hate Puig, Dani earned my respect the way he fought at the end of last year and now I find myself favoring him over Lorenzo. I'm not sure what it is about Jorge...he may be a winner but he's not a champion. Yet. and that's what I look for in MotoGP.

yeah like i said looking back it was a good race and you're right there have definitely been worse

I think the only way to stop Stoner "whining" is to banned all journo (sorry David) from interviewing him. That way, he's happy and we'll be happy. Man, my shoulder aches just from typing this. But seriously, he should stop answering every question that is thrown his way, be selective and let his riding do the talking. IMHO of course.

Then the same people will be complaining that he doesn't want to talk. To me it feels like he cannot win either way ... good thing is that he doesn't care. All he wants is to win.

Great second paragraph David, sums up the (thankfully ending) 800 era nicely. It was a great race by Pedrosa, and nice to see JLo give him credit. Here's hoping Ducati can get that bike sorted for the second half of the season, I wasn't expecting much out of it till Laguna Seca anyway. Thanks once again for the insights David.