2011 Brno MotoGP Test Round Up: All Hail The Thousands!

We'd been waiting for it for a long time - longer than we had initially hoped for, after the planned 1000cc test at Mugello morphed into an 800cc test, the Brno test taking its place - but finally, we got to see the 2012 MotoGP bikes out on track, in public and undisguised. Honda and Yamaha pitted their latest creations against one another in full view of the public, and the results were not quite as expected beforehand.

That a Honda RC213V - that's twenty-one three, not two thirteen, for the superstitious among you - should be fastest at the test was expected, Casey Stoner posting a time of 1'56.168 in the final hour before the test finished. Stoner had already had two days of testing on the 2012 bike, and the times being bandied about the paddock - about as reliable as any gossip from inside a small and deeply political community, i.e. not at all - was that Stoner had been two seconds faster than the 800s at the track earlier in the year, though the conditions for the 1000cc test were much more favorable.

What was not expected was just how fast the Yamaha was, the bike only having been ridden by test riders back in Japan, but without having had a MotoGP-quality rider put it through its paces. So for the 2012 M1 to end up less than a tenth behind the RC213V was heartening indeed, and an impressive piece of work by Yamaha. Both Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo were fulsome in their praise, clearly very pleasantly surprised at the state of the 2012 M1. Those who had been predicting a Honda whitewash of the new formula - and I include myself among their number - will be rather surprised, either pleasantly or unpleasantly, depending on your perspective. The new Honda is clearly fast - Stoner was over a second faster during the test than he was during the race - but the difference is not as vast as many had feared. The Honda lane is still open, but entry restrictions have not yet been enforced.

Lorenzo and Spies were both very happy after the test, happy with the work Yamaha had done, happy to be riding the 1000, and even happy with the new engine for the 800cc bike. The new 800 engine had more power everywhere, Spies said, though Lorenzo added that it was only a "little bit" more. He acknowledged that racers always want more, though, and was clearly grateful for what he had received. It may not be enough to blow the Hondas out of the water with, but it at least puts Lorenzo on a slightly more equal footing.

But as intriguing as the possibilities of Yamaha's new 800cc engine are, what you really want to know what the 1000s are like, right? Visually, they are remarkably similar to (and to the casual observer, virtually indistinguishable from) the existing 800cc machines. The bikes sound a little different - the Yamaha more so than the Honda - a little deeper and a little gruffer, but that difference is hard to hear in pit lane. At full chat along Brno's front straight the difference is clearer; where the 800s always sound strained, as if they are tearing themselves apart, the 1000s sound more forceful, accelerating with absolute ease. They are faster, but they sound as if they achieve that extra speed effortlessly.

How much faster? Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi thought that at some tracks such as Qatar and Mugello, the bikes could hit 350 km/h. Would this be more dangerous? Stoner was pretty forceful in his dismissal of his accusation, pointing out that the advent of the 800s had actually seen more crashes due to riders carrying more corner speed. The extra power of the 1000s meant that getting out of the corner is no longer a problem, so losing corner speed is not so heavily penalized. Ben Spies thought that the added torque gave a rider more options, and the longer braking zones (due to higher top speeds and slightly heavier bikes) would open up passing options that were not there previously. Valentino Rossi thought that the 1000s might open up a couple of spots at each track where it would be possible to overtake. But the electronics and the fuel limits are still in place, along with the astonishingly efficient Bridgestone tires. As long as those factors are still there, the racing won't change that much.

The bigger bikes will also move the goalposts for the riders, though only by a small amount. Ben Spies thought the new bigger bikes had meant the game had moved toward him a little, the extra power negating some of the disadvantage he had from being taller and heavier. Casey Stoner admitted he might have to change his style a little, with less focus on corner speed, taking advantage of the grunt out of corners. It's not quite a radical revolution, but the game has definitely shifted.

The relative importance of corner speed was demonstrated by the Suter BMW CRT machine. After a disastrous showing at Mugello - being over 6 seconds off the pace saw a number of teams who had been closing in on a deal with Suter suddenly develop very cold feet indeed - Kallio's time within four seconds of Stoner is a big boost to the project. Four seconds is still a major gap, and there is clearly a lot of still to be done. But to make up two seconds over the course of six weeks is a huge step, and shows that the potential is there to at least be competitive with the back of the satellite teams. Replacing Mika Kallio - who struggled on a MotoGP bike and is a way of being podium material in Moto2 - with a more competitive rider may take off up to a second of that time. Another second from chassis updates and better electronics would put the CRT teams in with a sniff of the points, which is the objective for most of them.

The real potential of the CRT teams will be seen during winter testing. BQR is likely to roll out its Kawasaki-powered FTR machine at Valencia, while FTR is also rumored to producing a chassis with an Aprilia RSV engine. The RSV engine has already proved its potential, and the electronics packages for the Aprilia are both more conventional and more successful than the Bosch system that BMW insist on developing inhouse. If the FTR chassis is slightly more flexible than the Suter - which is still suffering from very bad chatter, in part due to the incredibly stiff Bridgestone tires - then the CRT machines could at least look as if they belong in the class. They are unlikely to be battling for podium positions, but regular points and a sniff of the top 10 would be enough for many of the teams planning to enter.

The real grit of the test, however, the paydirt that will yield up nuggets of real information came in press conferences with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto and Ducati Corse Director General Filippo Preziosi. Both men spoke at length about their 1000cc bikes, and in the case of Preziosi, the direction the 800 is currently taking. The information from that will take a couple of days to digest, but there were a few things worthy of point out straight away.

Firstly at Ducati, Valentino Rossi's many fans who had been hoping for a turnaround in his fortunes will have been sorely disappointed with his times. But that is to miss the purpose of this test, and the goals that Preziosi and Ducati Corse set out to achieve. Valentino Rossi was not working in the hope of finding something that would allow him to win at Indy, Rossi and Preziosi said. Instead, Rossi was collecting very basic data on the parameters of the GP11.1, experimenting with radical weight distribution and geometry changes, along with new parts with extremely different stiffnesses, to try to understand the dynamics of the bike. The goal was to gather as much data as possible to allow the engineers at Ducati to produce the bike that can win a year down the line. This test was about setting the parameters for Ducati's future direction, rather than Rossi's immediate chances of winning a race.

Many believe that future direction includes an aluminium chassis, but Preziosi danced around that question as light-footedly as a prima ballerina. Yes, they were exploring options; yes they are open-minded; but also, no, they did not believe the full potential of the current concept had been reached. Calls from Italian journalists for the return of a steel trellis were dismissed, Preziosi pointing out that it was the steel trellis frame that had caused Marco Melandri so much grief, but no straight answer was forthcoming about an aluminium twin spar chassis, but this is not something that will go away any time soon. Preziosi also addressed the engine configuration, dismissing the theory (of which I believe I am the only proponent) that the engine limits options for weight distribution. The current configuration meant that the were right in the middle of their weight distribution options, and had not run into problems with the engine shape. They had not yet had front wheels touching cylinder heads in an attempt to get more weight over the front wheel, so this was unlikely to be the problem.

While Valentino Rossi worked for the future, Nicky Hayden worked for Indy, and he was immediately positive about the GP11.1. Hayden will be taking two 11.1s to Indy for what is truly his home GP (Owensboro, Kentucky is just a few hours' drive from Indianapolis). The GP11.1 is the future, also for Hayden.

More on what Nakamoto-san and Preziosi had to say over the coming few days. There was a lot to take in, and in the case of the Sphinx-like Shuhei Nakamoto, an awful lot to interpret, and there will be regular updates coming throughout the week. Stay tuned. It will be worth your while.

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Is it possible that Honda felt they did not need to squeeze the last ounce out of the bike in this test? Without trying to be a conspiracy theorist, one could assume that they have gained data from the Mugello test of the bike ridden to its best potential that could be used to extrapolate from the more recent data, whereas Yamaha obviously needed to go more deeply into the end-zone just to gain the same data experience.

Stoner had a knack last year of being able to go out late in a session and knock Lorenzo off the top spot with just a few laps of session time remaining - as if he were playing with Lorenzo's head and keeping everybody guessing just how much more might be in the bag. It seems to me that there is a certain similarity to the way the times went down in the test yesterday..

Of course, Yamaha also might not be going for absolute best time, but if there IS any game-playing, it seems logical to suggest that Honda have less to risk by doing that this test than Yamaha.

You can pretty much put money on it, that neither Honda nor Yamaha are showing their full hand this early.

The engine can be developed in the factory, without needing to give the other side a clear target.

Public exposure won't start to get "serious" until the first Sepang test.

Maybe Stoner was given how his neck isn't yet 100%. But one way or another, they probably all kept it reasonable to gather more data than to get banzai media laps in.

Only way to read into Stoner's speed is to have access to the sector times. Add up the best sectors and see if that number is close to what is posted.

Seen a history from him of holding a reserve until Q, when he'd put it all together for the number.

Dani was quite a ways back behind Stoner's time on the 1000, while he was quicker all weekend until he crashed early on in the race. Stoner was quicker on the 1000 than he was all weekend on the 800, so I'm not so sure he was riding around one-handed.

I love that Spies is up there so quickly on the thousand, very early days but it does bode well for next year.

Kallio is clearly not in the hunt even in Moto2 these days, and being four seconds off of Stoner (and HRC) at this early point I think is a fantastic achievement for Suter. He's only 3 seconds off of Dani's time, and a stronger rider would be worth at least a second as David says, further development might add another .5 to one second as well, which places them better off in relative terms to a number of current satellite teams. Look at Capirex' or Elias' times relative to Stoner these days - two to three seconds off pace. The CRT teams of next year might be the Pramac bikes of this year, nothing to cheer wildly about, but nothing to be embarrassed about either.

I get the feeling people have been treating him like beat up washed up and no good. Fine, he's no GOAT material, but it seems very easy to forget how difficult these bikes are. Heck, this season we have been stuck with 3 aliens, one crasher and a bunch of also rans. And we know there is plenty of talent through the field.

Anyhow, Elias' struggles really make the Moto 2 yardstick fairly unreliable.

He's had a dreadful 2 seasons really. This season I've mostly just heard that they have been unable to get the bike set-up work, like in Brno he had chatter in every corner of the lap. He hasn't been the only one to have a below expectations season with the Suter this year.

The 2010 season was rubbish, but at least he scored one 7th place but mostly was crashing out with the Ducati front-end washing out. Pramac guys de Puniet and Capirossi have had as dreadful time on the satellite Ducati this year.

His rookie season was good, he had almost the same pace as Hayden but on the Pramac bike. Before that he did pretty well fighting against the Aprilias on the KTM.

Hopefully he will get his the bike sorted out and his performance back at his normal level.

So Val wasn't trying to improve for Indy but Ducati were trying to "understand the dynamics of the bike" so they can have a bike to win next year. But they aren't using the 800cc next year and they already have a 1000cc to test stuff for next year on so how does that make sense? Why aren't they trying what they tried today "for next year" on next year's bike that already exist and they have already tested? Ducati test the 1000cc bike before Assen but really it was a test for the GP11.1 800cc bike and now run the 800cc bike saying it was a test for next year which is the GP12 - it's getting confusing!

Rossi has already stated the GP11.1 doesn't handle as it did as the GP12 with a larger capacity. So I don't really see why the would be testing geometry and weight distribution on the current bike for next year when it's already been stated the GP12 has different characteristics and doesn't handle the same. If they didn't want to use any more of their 1000cc test day allocation it would make more sense to improve the 800cc bike - which most thought they would be doing at this test. It just doesn't add up that they would be testing for a year down the line on a bike that will be shelved in a couple of months and has been stated doesn't handle like next year's bike.

The only way this makes any sense to me sitting here on my couch is that Ducati were too embarrassed to bring out the GP12 with Honda and Yamaha 1000cc bikes on track and/or they have no plans to continue with the GP11.1/GP12 chassis next year.

Someone make sense of this to me because I surely can't grasp the logic. Or maybe I just had one to many cups of booze tonight which is a strong possibility!

I would take it as evaluating options to radically change the GP12. Gathering data for a totally different bike? I don't know, but if it is about the current GP12, then you are right, it makes no sense.

Ducati is saving their remaining 1000cc test dates for when they actually have some step forward parts to test on the 1000cc bike. Say for example an aluminum twin spar chassis. Why use up 1000cc test dates when they aren't 100% on their direction.

The more feel they can get from the 800 with it's high speed cornering ... the more they will be able to squeeze as much cornering out of the 1000 for next year. The bike is still very new for Val as far as data - IMHO they are working on laying a foundation for the future and trying to stick with the carbon fiber frame.

I'm with you, in that I don't really get the strategy if it was truly as suggested in this article. My guess is that maybe it wasn't...

It was a track day that allowed Rossi & Co to spend all day long making radical changes to see what they did to the bike's handling. Since they just raced there, they had a solid benchmark to measure against under similar weather conditions. What better time to show up early and do 80 or 90 laps to experiment broadly? Julien Ryder posted that he'd never seen Rossi show up so early to do testing laps. That must mean something more pressing than 2012 on a different motorcycle!

Maybe VR wasn't testing for Indy but surely he was working to salvage something of his 2011.

To go from being radical and slow to off-the-planet embarrassing?
Adding a front end design which provides (theoretically) more chassis stiffness but less feel hardly seems the way forward with a bike that lacks feel...
One example of a telelever or other radical front end making a bike more competitive?

If you read the tweets from Alex Briggs (one of VR's Aussie mechanics), it sounds like JB was driving VR and team try all the combinations of settings on the bike they could capture all the relevant data. Alex said they did 3 days worth of normal bike testing changes in one day.
Doesn't really lend toward seeking fast lap times.

If we look at this year's pre-season test, the general feeling was that Stoner would be the runaway winner. He's leading, sure, but Jorge is still racking up points. So even based on the pre-season, the reality of the racing season to date is close, but there is no 100% correlation.
As with 2011, 2012 pre-season tests will tell us more, but it is still a case of "when the flag drops, the bullshit stops".
There is no substitute for racing to settle these arguments and prognostications.

I would venture a guess that putting a BMW engine in with a full BMW Superbike team in house developed electronics package ventures too close to the "factory involvement" line to fly as a CRT. But really, I have no idea. I did hear that early tests were using a stock engine, but those were private tests and long ago.

electronics which were similar to the ones developed for the BMW superbike project.
I haven't read otherwise since so I would assume they haven't changed.
The fact is that now the Suter-BMW is as fast as the top3 WSBK riders race pace-wise (far from superpole times) so definitely in the times of the BMW superbikes (slightly faster).
With a lighter bike, different tires and a prototype chassis they have potential for much better than that.
But again, they have a big margin for progress and they are progressing indeed as shown by their latest results: 6 weeks ago they were 6 seconds from the best 800 (at Mugello) and now they are 3.4 seconds from the best 800 and 4 seconds from the best 1000.
Or just 3 seconds from the best lap in sunday's race, 1.6 seconds from Edwards' best lap (the MotoGP riders had 3 days of practice and race on their bikes before monday's test, the Suter-BMW did not).

On MotoGP.com Kallio says that the bike has improved a lot, but the biggest problem in the Brno test has been the rear-end feeling in corner entry.

Isn't this the area where a lot of the electronics wizardy is been employed? Perhaps the clutch also has a role.

I think that has been one of the problems for Haslam & Corser also, non? Inferior engine braking management being part of the problem with ripping up rear tyres too fast. Interesting to read Chaz Davies' comment that with the fly-by-wire on the R6, they can tune out the engine braking to the extent it enters corners like a 250... so they ought to be able to do it on the Bimmer too...

I wonder if they'll commit to the BMW system, so far it hasn't proven to be on par with the other systems in any class. It's a huge disadvantage if their system is not on par with the factory teams as they probably will not have the most skilled and high paid engineers!

I remember reading a letters comment in Cycle World magazine many years ago. This bloke asserted Bimmers were cars and Beemers motorcycles.

I'd say ducati will stay as is with motor and chassis

The mechanics are trying to get a read on how the chassis behaves going from one extreme to the other and then provide their recommendation on what they require for a base set up.

They are 3 years behind in fine tuning the chassis so need to play catch up fast

Or maybe I have no idea.

Yes what a relief that Yamaha have produced a great 1000. I love just seeing '1000' on screen. That extra digit oozing muscularity in comparison to the visually anaemic '800'.

Finaly Ducati seem to have acknowledged their designs need hard work on track to bring them up to their theoretical potential. I'm pleased to hear they have no intention of narrowing their 90 degrees. Less pleased to hear they haven't ruled out aluminium as a chassis material.

Data gathering is what they need most of all, and a lot of it! Just a pity they never granted Stoner this privelege, but Rossi is a good man to have on the job. Hard work and development of the CF chassis, which has loads of potential, and they might yet even steal a march on Japan Inc. once more.

the 1000 might not be a 1000 afterall, but closer to a 900, or so I have been lead to believe. :p

Anyhow, it's still a step forward.

I believe that after testing the 1000 Rossi said that the extra power allowed him to ride the bike differently thereby negating the front end loading problems. If they can get the problems solved on the new frame with the 800 motor it should transfer to the 1000. Riding around a problem is not a solution, they need to make the bike as ridable as the Yamaha and Honda, so all of the Ducati riders can step it up a notch.

...that (for the infinitesimal amount that it's worth) you aren't the ONLY proponent of the theory that the engine limits options for weight distribution. Then again, my opinion neither counts, nor is it known to anyone who does... I've actually come down off my high horse with regards to condemning the CF chassis as being the author of all Ducati's woes. The engine option makes much more sense now, but I fear that it might be the one thing they would NOT be willing to change...

What if they changed it, and didn't tell anyone? They could stagger the crank a bit to mess up working off the sound... and the average Ducati buyer really wouldn't care about 18°, I don't think...

re: "What if they changed it, and didn't tell anyone? They could stagger the crank a bit to mess up working off the sound... and the average Ducati buyer really wouldn't care about 18°, I don't think..."

problem is there's no such thing as an "average" ducati buyer. these changes will be sniffed out in short order. LOL layout of the cylinders would be obvious naturally, but in regards to firing order, that's something they've already done. some D16 iterations had/have the throws spaced at 70.

As I understand it, the 10 bar pressure limit applies to the fuel supply to the injector... which would seem to leave the way open for an injector which uses eg a piezo element to inject the fuel at much higher pressure.

But... in general if a 4-stroke engine technology exists, it will have shown up in formula 1. Do their rules there prohibit this sort of approach?