2011 Misano Friday MotoGP Round Up: How Set Up Is A Big Deal, And The Future Of MotoGP Is Here

At Misano on Friday, there was an event that will change the face of MotoGP forever. War was declared - in the nicest possible terms - and the silhouette of the future was vaguely discernible for those who wanted to see it. There were also some bikes on track, so let's turn to those first.

Fastest man on Friday was Jorge Lorenzo, after a radical change to the setup of his Yamaha, and a return to the settings the reigning World Champion used back at Mugello. From 6th and nearly a second down on Friday morning, Lorenzo leapt to the top of the timesheets, breaking through the 1'39 barrier, and going four tenths faster than the existing race lap record. On Friday, with another day of practice yet to come.

The change had meant Lorenzo could get the bike turned and out of the corners more quickly, and had given the Spaniard more confidence in the front of the bike. It was something that had worked at Mugello, but as Mugello had had new and grippy asphalt, the team had discarded it as a basis for the future at tracks where grip levels were not so high. They had then gone chasing setup, making changes to try and find the few tenths that they were behind the Hondas, but all to no avail. Now back at the front, Lorenzo looked happier and more relaxed than he had been for a long time, and that in itself should give pause for thought.

His teammate had been fast in the morning, Ben Spies benefiting from a revised position on the bike that the team had found for him at Indianapolis. In the afternoon, Spies and his team pushed the changes even further, but they did not work out, Spies not managing to match his time from the morning and dropping down the timesheets to 5th. The session had been useful, though, Spies insisted, as the data gathered would help them in the future. On Saturday, Spies would return to the riding position that worked on Indy (what had changed? "Everything, bars, footpegs, seating position, tank spacer...") and expected to be back at the front again.

Fastest in the morning, Casey Stoner was perhaps a little surprised that Lorenzo had found the pace to beat him into 2nd on Friday afternoon, but the Australian avowed that he was not worried. The bike was strong in some points, but had a few problems in others, and on balance, Stoner was happy with the data they had gathered during the day. It was a question of putting it all together, and he should be competitive, Stoner said. However, he was not taking anything for granted. Lorenzo would remain a threat to the very end: "For sure Jorge will never give up," Stoner said, "He's a great racer and will push to the end."

Stoner was also asked - as so often this year - about the Ducati, and the problems that Valentino Rossi had in adapting to the bike. Stoner was adamant that the carbon fiber chassis was not the problem: "The carbon fiber chassis was so much better than the steel trellis," Stoner said. "Carbon fiber is not the problem." When asked what the problem was, Stoner became elusive, then refused point blank to answer when asked what the solution was. "If I tell you, they might fix it!" Stoner said, only half joking. But it was something that he had already told Ducati about while he was still racing for them, Stoner said. "There were things we wanted to change, but we just couldn't do it," Stoner said. "There wasn't the budget for it then." Stoner had plenty of praise for the work ethic at Ducati, though. "I know how hard the Ducati guys work," he said, "and it's disappointing to watch them struggle so much."

Rossi himself was at a loss for a solution, the Italian ending the day 11th fastest, and 1.4 seconds off the leader, his erstwhile teammate Jorge Lorenzo. The problems were the same as ever, Rossi said, joking the press, "You can use one of the old interviews we did, I will say the same!" Feeling with the front is the problem, an issue they have struggled with all year, and Ducati has had for much longer than that. His team had tried a number of things, but would be reverting to the set up used at Laguna and Brno in the hope of making an improvement. Rossi had given up on this season, he admitted, and was working mostly for 2012 now, hoping that Ducati would be able to find some solutions for next year. The softer front Bridgestone should help, while the fact that the 1000s spend less time pushing the front through the corner will also be a benefit, as the 1000s need to be stood up earlier to allow the bike to get some drive from the extra power. All of the versions of the Ducati GP12 that Rossi had tested so far still had the front end problems, but the different riding style made them less pronounced. Much work remains.

Even more work remains for Colin Edwards, who announced he would be leaving Tech 3 to go to the Forward Racing team and help race and develop their CRT project. For full details of the announcement, see our separate news story, but the big news at the press conference was not so much what Edwards said as what Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta had to say on the subject. "This the main category of bikes in the future," Ezpeleta told reporters. "In two years' time, the majority of bikes will be CRT, and in the future, all bikes will be this way."

It was a covert declaration of war on the manufacturers, the MSMA members failing both to keep grid numbers up and to allow the satellite teams to be competitive. The cost of leasing a bike was now prohibitive - between 2.9 million and 4 million euros, depending on whom you listen to, lease prices being kept strictly confidential by the factories. The price of the Suter BMW machine is quoted as being around 1.5 million, and that is the most expensive of the CRT bikes currently on offer. With a bit of hard bargaining, a CRT team could run a two-rider team for the price of a one-rider satellite squad, and given the extra fuel, not be that much less competitive.

The CRT concept is hated by the purists in the paddock, some of the heavy hitters among both the teams and the media criticizing its hybrid ethic. However, the goal of the CRT machines is clear: create a situation where there are enough bikes on the grid that the series can survive a pullout by one or more of the manufacturers. Once that situation has been reached, such a pullout might even be created, with the MSMA having their monopoly on the technical regulations - or at least, the part that appertains to the CRT teams - taken away from them, a move that would amount to an ultimatum. From that point, the factories would either have to put up or shut up, but they would never have the power to hold the series to ransom again.

Dorna learned its lesson from the rule changes that came in throughout the four stroke era. The switch from the 990s to 800cc transformed the MotoGP series from the most exciting on the planet to a racing class that has serious competition from Formula One for excitement, whereas F1 was the automotive equivalent of watching paint dry not so very long ago. Dorna - not just Dorna, the FIM and IRTA too - have realized that they cannot rely on the manufacturers, as the manufacturers have their own goals and objectives in MotoGP. Providing exciting racing is not one of those objectives, and the CRT teams are the first step on the road to putting exciting racing back at the forefront of the public minds.

The subject is far too big either for myself as a writer or for you as readers to deal with on a busy race weekend. Over the next week, I shall finally finish a piece I have been working on (well, which has been sitting in a folder on my computer) for the past 9 months or more, about the future of MotoGP. The future of MotoGP arrived at Misano, and Colin Edwards was smart enough to recognize it, and jump aboard the bandwagon while it was still empty. There are interesting times ahead.

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I'm not surprised Edwards is the first confirmed CRT rider, he's perfect for the job and with someone like him expressing interest in the concept, it can only help to make it less daunting for other riders. I wonder if Carmelo helped this deal along at all ....

While the MSMA is an easy target and an obvious one at the feet of whom to lay the current situation with motoGp, one needs I think to also appreciate their position.

Participation in motoGp is very expensive and needs corporate justification; though we have all seen Soichiro Honda's 'declaration' of intent for the Honda involvement in the sport, 'making motoGp exciting' is not (I think) a corporate goal for any of the manufacturers. Shareholders demand ROI and expenditure needs justification; the racing divisions have to produce some sort of rationale for their existence. 'Development' has been pretty much the prime reason given and in a world where increasingly companies are subject to detailed scrutiny, such development needs to tie back to some measure of expected/actual commercial return.

The whole CRT exercise appears to be one of the relatively few initiatives Dorna has taken to future-proof motoGp against the possibility of the major manufacturers finding less corporate enthusiasm for racing. The mechanics of the actual 'claiming rule' appear, prima facie, to be inadequately thought through but in general terms it seems to me that the idea of allowing manufacturers to pit the 'we can do it all better than anybody else' vs. the energy of a small outfit throwing inspiration and perspiration rather than bulk corporate resources at the same problem has a definite frisson of excitement to it and a whole new avenue of 'stories' to be spun.

The relationship, between the GPC and the various members of the MSMA, is an interesting topic; but I would be most interested to learn how the racing departments relate to the corporate HQ's. As long as the racing divisions generate losses, their operations will always be in the crosshairs of the bean-counters, and the market-value of racing will always be questioned by the shareholders. If the racing divisions are self-sufficient, racing operations should continue unabated.

The real model for the future, more so than CRT, is Ducati Corse. Ducati Corse use revenues from 1198R models to race superbikes, and they use Dorna-money and Marlboro money to fuel their MotoGP team. It's how Corse continue racing even when Ducati SpA is penny-less. The Japanese once operated in a similar fashion when they sold bespoke SBKs and race-only production bikes for 500cc competition, but during the recent economic difficulties, the MSMA (HRC, at least) are clinging to the notion that GP transitioned from 2-strokes to 4-strokes so racing teams could invoke R&D to siphon funds away from the shareholders. Unfortunately, the R&D ponzi-scheme has never really worked. It was acceptable in the old days b/c manufacturers were plentiful, therefore, expendable, and racing was also much cheaper prior to the digital age. Exhausting R&D coffers also works temporarily when business is booming, and the bean-counters are blind-folded, ball-gagged, and stored in supply closets. During real-life business cycles, it is far better to make racing a self-sufficient activity.

I had completely forgotten about the Ducati aluminum subframe that Guareschi tried at the Jerez official test in March 09!
So at early stage of the introduction of the CF chassis they had already compared with an aluminum chassis...Ducati is running out of magic bullets.

I know it doesn't quite work but where does Ducati sit with regard to CRT? They don't have a 4 cylinder 1000 (or do they?). It would be interesting though for a private team to lease Ducati engines and then build a totally different chassis.

They do. Its called a desmosedici. I wonder if yamaha, suzuki and honda will get fiesty and completely circumvent the CRT rules by releasing MotoGP street bikes for sale and then put those "production" motors in custom frames. It would not be the first time something like this was done in racing.

Hmmm. No homologation requirement for CRT engines, so I guess a development of the Desmocedici engine would be legal. Is that right? 81mm bore and non-factory, is that all there is?

How exactly is this going to be different than World Superbike ?
Oh yeah, the custom frame .. hmm ..

The dynamic tension between wanting to see "close" racing (relative equivalence in equipment - eg, Moto2) vs the fastest around the track (usually equated with $$ & technology) is really coming to a boil as cost to win increases.

Lean too much towards "close" racing = extremely tight rules to create equipment equivalence or flat out mandating single class (eg Moto2). Although potentially significantly lower costs, equipment differential is minimized, and the techno-glitter is significantly decreased.

Lean too much toward fastest around the track; over time the companies with cubic $$ and desire will make significant investments to win. Non-parity based on $$ will occur, with majority results accruing to small minority. When's the last time a Satellite Team or Rider won MotoGP?

It's somewhat duplicitous to want to see the "best & brightest" bikes and riders race, then complain about the races being "processional" when the $$, technology & rider investments produce results that increase the gaps amongst the resulting outcomes.

It reminds me of the old "equal" vs "fair" debate ..

CRT bikes will make a lot more power.

There is a reason why all engines are good in WSBK, but only BMW, Aprilia, and Yamaha are worthy for CRT duty. Speaking about it in greater detail is verboten, but I thought you should know.

I think the most important aspect of the CRT bikes is that they will give other players (Dorna + FIM) some leverage over the manufacturers, and in particular Honda. At the moment, if Honda goes home, the series is dead. If Yamaha leaves, it's in a coma. So there is little choice but to yield to the MSMA on rules.

As soon as there is a viable number of CRT bikes, it becomes possible to call the bluff of the manufacturers. The important thing is that they can't practically shut off the supply of production engines, so they can't shut down the series. They could still hurt its prestige, but it would survive... as WSBK survived the walkout by the Japanese some years back.

they only have three manufacturers (I'm not counting suzuki anymore). If any of the three leave, then Motogp is finished. The three should be working together to ensure that the others stay. NO ONE is going to be interested in a 2 make racing series. Spec style racing is the end of interest in a sport. One need only look at the end of open wheel racing in the states since one spec engines and frames took over to see that. Now Nascar with it's "car of tomorrow" is struggling as the public doesn't identify with the cars any longer.

pressure needs to be placed on Bridgestone to produce more than the "take it or leave it" two tires, and make several different carcasses and flex, and compounds. That way the manufacturer doesn't have to design to the tire.

I for one will be very sad if the pure prototype racing machine disappears in the near future, but at present the rules do not provide for very close racing or full grids. Moto2 has proved a great success in both these areas, but on the technical side i find it very dull with it`s single make control engine.
The new Moto3 rules sound interesting to me, with manufacturers allowed to build race engines for the series but have to sell so many of them at a set maximum cost. If i remember correctly the price of spares for the motor are regulated, and a control ECU has to be used. If this formula proves successful maybe this could be the future for Motogp ?

I have never had interest in F1. The main reason is not the boring races, but instead the fact that I just don't care about the builders. Moto2 has wonderful racing, but I honestly don't really care who wins. It sounds like the future of MotoGP is a larger displacement Moto2 class but with different engines. I think I would keep watching for a while, but over time I think I would lose interest. However, I see why something has to be done because if any of the manufacturers pull out the series would die.

Many, many more people watch F1 than MotoGP. So the fact that you personally are mostly interested in prototype engines from major manufacturers isn't going to persuade Dorna...

A question though: why do you care about Honda, Yamaha and Ducati, but not about Suter, Kalex and FTR? Would it be different if they had Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki engines as well as Honda?

"A question though: why do you care about Honda, Yamaha and Ducati, but not about Suter, Kalex and FTR? Would it be different if they had Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki engines as well as Honda?"

It's happening soon, the end of the exclusive engine supplier in Moto2 for 2013 IIRC.

Re: NO ONE is going to be interested in a 2 make racing series - from indesq...

Really? How many people used to turn up to watch the MV team shoot British single 'fish in a barrel' from the time Gilera and Moto Guzzi withdrew from the World 500 Championship (and GP racing in general) in the late 1950s? For many years the MVs held sway and the crowds were huge. As the rest of the field was mostly mounted on privately entered Norton and Matchless singles, with a couple of BMW boxers and a few other bikes in the mix (Jawa parallel twins) it was really only ONE make racing, at least for the win. Surtees, Venturi, Hocking, Hailwood, Redman and Agostini dominated from 1958 to 1965. Then Honda fielded a 500 with Hailwood in 1966 and 1967, then just as quickly was gone again, leaving the MVs to win as they pleased against mostly single cyllinder four-strokes. Then two-strokes started turning up - and glory be, they were production engines in purpose-built racing frames. Gee, what does that sound like? Suzuki twins, Kawasaki triples, even a water-cooled German outboard engine... All were tried, and of course there were 354cc Yamaha TD3s and T350s - then Yamaha built its first YZR500 four cylinder in 1973 and the four-strokes' days were numbered. Not by rule making, by the march of technology. Then the Americans realised that fitting 750cc production engines into racing frames would make for some interestng 'brand-name' racing in Class C, and Formula 750 was born. Later the Brits invented TT Formula One with street-based four-stroke engines, so this 'new' CRT business is not new at all. Perhaps Colin Edwards reads more racing history than a few of a bleaters here...

Except for a few nerds like me, people don't watch racing for the technical interest of comparing desmodromics vs pneumatic valves or V vs inline engines: they want to see heroes doing things they'd like to do. They want to identify with Rossi or Pedrosa or Stoner, so that when their hero wins, they win. Same reason most people watch football (probably the only exception is the Tour de France, where most people watch for the scenery!)

So what we really need is for the global financial crisis to become much worse and drive a bigger proportion of the population out of cars and back onto bikes :)

By all appearances, what Dorna are trying to to is implement the F1 model, where manufacturers become "suppliers" to independant race teams, who choose their engine supplier, and implement their own solutions with them.

CRT is the first step towards this, but it's not hard to see where it's headed... Non-Claiming independant teams - allowing the current factory teams to step out of direct competition, and just supply "factory" engines to selected customers, who do their own development.

The F1 analogy would be teams like Red Bull, McLaren, Williams, etc.