2011 Motegi MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: On Championships, Incident-Filled Races, And The Importance Of Set Up

It was a long and very full weekend of motorcycle racing, and to call it eventful would be one of the more obvious understatements of the year. In the 125c class, Johann Zarco finally got the win he has been chasing for so long, and did so in convincing style. In Moto2, Andrea Iannone produced the kind of display that everyone knows that he is capable of, but that he manages a little too sporadically. In the MotoGP class, Honda finally got a win at Motegi after seven years of having to watch their rivals come to their home track and triumph, but that was actually the least remarkable thing about the premier class race.

At Magny-Cours, at the penultimate round of the World Superbike series, two new champions were crowned, to general acclaim that their titles were fully deserved. The titles were clinched in contrasting manner, Carlos Checa becoming World Superbike champion in the dominant style that he had displayed all season, taking victory in both races, while Chaz Davies rode much more cautiously, crossing the line in 6th but still ahead of Fabien Foret, his only rival to the 2011 World Supersport championship. Davies had opted for the glory approach a week earlier in Imola, leading the race by a wide margin and enough points to clinch the title there, but a blown engine with five laps to go put paid to his ambition, and saw him choose the conservative route at Magny-Cours to his first World Championship. The title is just as sweet.

For out-and-out weirdness, the MotoGP race was hard to top. It started before the red lights had even dimmed for the start, or rather, fractionally before, when Andrea Dovizioso, Marco Simoncelli and Cal Crutchlow all jumped the start. Three riders committing a jump start is virtually unheard of at the top level of motorcycle racing, and there was much head-scratching over when the last time this happened, with no easy answers, but the explanation is much simpler when you look at the way the grid lined up. Dovizioso (3), Simoncelli (6) and Crutchlow (12) sat line astern on the grid, all on the final slot on each row. Dovizioso flinched first - his first jump start ever, he protested, not just in MotoGP, nor even Grand Prix racing, but in his entire motorcycle racing career - and he caused Simoncelli, who was watching Dovizioso, and Crutchlow, who was watching Simoncelli, to move too. The lesson from all of this is that you should always watch the lights, not the riders at the start. There are no penalties if the lights flinch.

Normality returned for a couple of corners - though there was a certain amount of pushing and shoving into Turn 1, Valentino Rossi pushing his teammate wide and into the dirt - before more carnage ensued in Turn 3. Jorge Lorenzo had run a little wide on the exit of Turn 2, and headed down the short straight to Turn 3 on the left-hand side of the track. He then moved across the track towards the racing line and the entrance to Turn 3. Unfortunately, he moved to the spot that Valentino Rossi had been aiming for, as he attempted to slip up the inside of Ben Spies into Turn 3. The two collided - both men agreed it was a normal racing incident - but Lorenzo got the better of the collision, being on the inside. Rossi was knocked into the Yamaha of Spies, catching his brake lever on the Texan's M1, locking the front and crashing out. "Finishing the race after 500 meters is always the worst," Rossi said after the race, but these things happen.

What was most frustrating for the Italian was that up until that point, he and his Marlboro Ducati team had been having the best weekend of the year. After the test at Jerez, Ducati had found a new weight distribution for the bike that had helped the team get a hold on setup. For the first time, they had a base setting, with Rossi most happy about the fact that they could work on the bike each session, and make improvements as they expected. The Desmosedici was finally starting to behave like any other racing motorcycle, responding to changes and providing feedback.

Does this mean that Rossi can be competitive on the Ducati again? It is probably too early to say, but after Motegi, Rossi felt he was in with a chance of the podium. With all the ride throughs, riders running off and general carnage, Rossi felt he had the pace for the podium. The 4th fastest time during the warm up seemed to confirm this, especially as that put him ahead of two of the factory Hondas, and on the same pace as Dani Pedrosa. But the proof of the pudding will come at Phillip Island: two good weekends in a row will mean that they have really turned the corner.

An interesting side note is that Rossi and his crew chief Jerry Burgess disagree about the value of changing Rossi's position on the bike. At Motegi, Rossi told reporters that he wanted to change his position on the bike, moving further forward, but this required a modified tank and different footpeg mountings. But according to GPWeek's Michael Scott, Burgess is not convinced, saying the team have bigger fish to fry before dealing with the riding position. What is significant here is that Rossi has been testing the 2012 bike - where they experimented heavily with his riding position - with Ducati's test team, and just one or two of Rossi's normal pit crew. Burgess has not been present at these tests, understandably as he has been at home with his wife, who is still recovering from surgery and illness earlier in the year. Though Burgess undoubtedly sees all of the data from the tests, and speaks to Rossi about the tests, this raises the question of whether Burgess is missing anything, and how Rossi's communication - speaking directly to the engineers and Filippo Preziosi, and in Italian, his native language - is affecting the direction of development.

There are those inside the paddock who claim that the pressure on Ducati is coming more from Burgess than from Rossi. Though Rossi's struggle to adapt to the Desmosedici has harmed Ducati's reputation more than it has Rossi's - fans find it easier to love a person than a corporation - the problems have arguably been more damaging to Burgess' reputation as a crew chief than Rossi's as a rider. Up until this year, Burgess' reputation has been impeccable, piloting Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi to multiple world championships. Everything Burgess has touched has turned to gold, his skill at bike setup teaming with some of the best riders of their generations to win over and over again.

At Ducati, Burgess and his crew have been unable to turn the bike around and make it competitive for the first time in the collective careers. Much of the sniping Casey Stoner has done about the criticisms he faced on the Ducati have been aimed not so much at Valentino Rossi as at Burgess and the crew, Stoner pointing out that his crew chief, Cristian Gabbarini, managed to get the Ducati working, despite the difficulties in finding a setup. Others have asked the same thing, why Stoner managed to be fast on the bike while Rossi simply hasn't. Some are now starting to lay at least some of the blame on Burgess, for not doing what Gabbarini could do. Whether this is justified or not, this is not something that Burgess is prepared to accept, hence his pushing for a different direction in Bologna.

Rossi's belief that he could have fought for a podium underlines a fundamental weakness in the MotoGP field. After the winner Dani Pedrosa and 2nd place man Jorge Lorenzo, all of the finishers from 3rd to 7th either suffered a ride through penalty or ran off the track in one way or another. Casey Stoner hit some bumps down the back straight and suffered a massive tank slapper, leaving him momentarily without any brakes and lucky just to run off so deep into the gravel and not crash (afterwards, Stoner was at a loss to explain the tank slapper, saying he had hit the same bumps all sorts of ways during the weekend, but never suffered something like that). Stoner lost some 10 seconds in the incident, but still managed to put the bike on the podium, despite having his confidence take a knock: there is, after all, nothing scarier than finding yourself without brakes, especially after the brakes played up a couple of more times during the race.

Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso were forced to take ride through penalties, losing 15 seconds in the process, and still crossed the line in 4th and 5th, Simoncelli demonstrating that when he keeps his cool and rides hard, he is a force to be reckoned with. Ben Spies was forced off on the first lap in the crash with Rossi, while Nicky Hayden ran straight on and through the gravel at Turn 1 while battling with Casey Stoner. Spies finished 6th, ahead of Hayden in 7th. Yet all of them made up positions after losing time.

So what explains this anomaly? Clearly, there is a difference in talent between the very top riders and the middle rank, though the MotoGP field is packed with champions at every level. But perhaps the results are a sign of just how important bike setup has become in modern motorcycle racing. The difference between a well set-up bike and a poorly set-up one is larger than it used to be, and as modern Grand Prix motorcycles have become ever more precise, the margin for error of setup has shrunk proportionately. A MotoGP bike is often described as a scalpel, and as any surgeon can tell you - or anyone faced with the prospect of surgery - the sharper the blade and the more precise the surgeon, the better the prospects of success.

For one of the clearest examples, look no further than Ant West in Moto2. Once West was handed a competitive chassis - the 2010 FTR machine is still a pretty good bike, despite being a year old - much was expected of the Australian's results. And while things improved a little, West was still all too often to be found in the nether regions of the results sheet. Yet since veteran crew chief Warren Willing has been brought in to run West's bike, his results have improved dramatically, the Australian now regularly in the points and threatening to join the group fighting for the top 5. With the series now heading to Phillip Island, a podium could even be beckoning.

Jeremy Burgess once said that success in motorcycle racing is 80% rider and 20% bike, though in recent years, he has revised the share to 70/30. The lessons of the past couple of years seem to point to a third factor being involved, that of bike setup. Perhaps now, it is 60% rider, 20% setup and 20% bike, as the complexities of modern racing motorcycles have added an increasing number of variables into the mix. A MotoGP machine has variable suspension, variable chassis geometry, variable engine characteristics, variable engine braking characteristics, variable traction control characteristics. Even variations in tire pressure are having bigger and bigger effects, as the single tire removes the option of changing construction and compound. Each of these variables interacts with all of the others, making for an almost infinitely complex system. Mastering that system is getting more and more difficult, and becoming more and more valuable. Those that can do so can expect their rewards to start going through the roof.

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Another awesome article David giving a different perspective on a very complex problem. There is no doubt that Vale would know better what works for him and if there is some disagreement with Burgess about setup, this could be the beginning of cracks in their relationship.

It is critical that both rider and engineer sees eye to eye on bike setup and if Burgess is losing his way then it might be time for him to go and Rossi look in another direction. I look forward to the saga. GO VALE46.

So if you jump start in MotoGP, the best thing is to just keep going instead of pulling on the brakes since you're gonna get a ride thru anyways!

Although it probably goes against the 'sporting nature' of most racers, and in that split second instinct takes over.

There are 2 main scenarios for jump starts & they should be penalised differently.
1. Dovi's case. If the rider moves but stops before the line & before the lights go out the penalty should be 5 seconds.
2. If the rider crosses the line or is moving when the lights go out, ride through.

Or you leave the rules alone as they are and avoid adding variables that can now be influenced by opinion..

Did Dovi come to a full stop before the lights dropped?

Did his front tire cross the line?

Should the other riders be penalized for Dovi jumping the line? He basically caused them to jump start, much like in NFL football an offensive lineman moves prior to the snap causing the defenders to move as well....

All these problems and questions arise simply by allowing leniency that you're suggesting.

There are people watching the start now & reporting jump starts. If a report is made, watch the replay & make a decision. I believe that in some cases the punishment does not fit the crime.

Rossi inherited a winning motorcycle from Ducati and has done nothing with it. I'm pretty damn sure Rossi's reputation has suffered more than Ducati's.

Stoner would've been more wary crossing those bumps. A full noise tank slapper is the most evil thing in motorcycling. The brake pads knocked back are a mere consequence and are easily dealt with.

But yes Pedrosa was the man with the most pace on the day and it was great to see him win. Talk of his demise is very over done. He's as Alien as they come.

I'm still puzzled at the connection between a Casey's tank-slapper and a subsequent temporary brake failure. Brake pads knocked back? Don't get it, why would they do this? Brake fluid cannot go anywhere, brake discs cannot over-cool due to tank-slapper or can they, being exposed to air stream more directly? But Casey said he had to "pump" them back, so it seems like the brake lever piston was not pushing the fluid or what? Maybe the slapper mixed up the fluid inside the reservoir and created bubbles? Sorry if I'm guessing, but I would like to hear a technical explanation.

Video clip of Barbera's crash, anyone?

The rapid shaking of the forks and wheel (which are all attached and move more or less together) also acts on the brake pistons. However, since the pistons aren't actually attached to the front end but rather are able to slide back and forth, their momentum resists the movement of the front end. This forces them back into the cylinder and the fluid behind them back up into the reservoir.

If you were to take a small pry bar and wedge it between the brake pad and rotor of your bike and then pry an opening between the pad and rotor, yo would then need to pump the brake lever at time or two in order for the pad to move back into contact with the rotor.

Don't under-estimate the gyroscopic effects of the spinning wheel and discs (which I believe are floating or semi floating like many street bikes) at speed. Going snap-snap-snap in opposite directions at speed puts very strong forces on the pads which push them back against the caliper pistons. You hear about it all the time. Stoner was lucky he didn't go over the bars when he pumped the second time and the back wheel came flying up. That looked pretty scary!!

The gyro effect of the front wheel and rotor trying to maintain momentum in opposition to the forks that are trying to swing back and forth likely has more of an effect on the pistons that what I described above.

I'm not sure it's the inertia of the pistons & pads so much as the forks twisting. There is a LOT of force between the bars and the front wheel in a slapper... possibly a bit of each. It certainly happens though :-(

I thought it was largely due to the play in the free floating rotor. As the wheel shakes left and right quickly the rotor also moves, pushing the pistons back into their bores by the amount of the axial float.


I've experienced it on production bikes with "semi-floating" discs (ie no discernable play). But, yes, I can see that floppy discs would make it worse, hadn't thought of that :)

These are carbon rotors and they aren't floating. I'm not sure about normal floating rotors but I don't think there is enough play in them to push the pistons back. I think flex in all the components is far more of an issue.

I know in Touring cars they can suffer the same problem as Casey did if they go over some real bumpy sections of tracks or get airborne and land heavily. It is referred to as "knock off" (the brake pads/pistons being pushed back into their housings).

Below is a simple explanation I found on a rally forum.........

When you use the brakes, hydraulic pressure obviously pushes the brake pads against the discs. When the pedal is released, the seals retract the pads just the right amount to prevent a spongy pedal without dragging on the discs and reducing the effect of your beautifully built engine.

When pad knockoff occurs several things can happen:
1)The wheel bearing/hub assembly distorts causing the disc to run non-parallel to the caliper, thus pushing back the pads. This happens in the stress of competition as you charge through the forest.
2)Freeplay in the wheel bearing causes the disc to wobble and knock back the pads.
3)Severe vibration can cause the caliper pistons to "walk" back into the caliper housing.

I'll take option 3) for the win. The Pistons being perpendicular to the rotor faces and offset from the axis around the steering head places them in an orientation that when a severe tank slapper happens it moves them back and forth around that steering axis. This creates centrifugal G forces that act on the pistons pushing them away from that axis and back into the calipers and displaces the fluid back up the lines into the reservoir. That it also reverses direction at a high frequency creates violent agitation as those centrifugal forces start, stop, and start again as the steering head reverses direction. Think of how a dog shakes water off it's body. The water on the surface of his body flies off away from the axis of where he's twisting back and forth.

... and you'll see it flies tangentially. The centripetal force is very small compared to that required to change direction at the end of each twist. With the discs spaced at about 70mm each side of the axis, you'd need a 140rad/s rate of twist to achieve even 1g, which will not shift a piston. That would require a tankslapping frequency of around 100Hz, at which point the torsional load would have already sheared the forks off the triple clamps.

That's what I get for being an EE rather than an ME. What you say sounds right. So it's not enough centrifugal force. What is it then? Is it the force from the direction change? I can't imagine it being the other explanations mentioned here of it being side play in the rotors or wheel bearings pushing them back in. There certainly isn't that much free play with my bike's full floating rotors and wheel bearings and it's far sight lower spec than a GP bike.

The axis of oscillation is not determined by the spacing of the calipers (or axle length of the front wheel), but rather by the arc described by the calipers as the front suspension rotates about the steering stem (which is determined by the rake and extension/length of the forks). A frequency of ~10Hz would be sufficient to exert a force of ~4g, which is likely sufficient to overcome the stiction of the seals on the caliper pistons and hydrostatic resistance of the brake fluid.

OK you're still over my head with the technical terms of the forces at play but I think I'm getting the principal of it. In non tech terms what I think you're saying is what I was picturing. There's the center of rotation being the steering stem. That being the center of the circle of rotation the calipers are at some distance from that center and travel back and forth in an arc as if they were at the end of a lever originating at the arc axis. The piston travel being perpendicular to that lever results in the forces at work pushing the pistons in. Kinda like shaking ketchup out of a bottle?

I would think a "full noise" highside is much worse then a tankslapper....


In mathematics and particularly statistics, the curse of dimensionality refers to the fact that as you add more parameters to a system, the difficulty of finding the optimum setting increases at an exponential rate. A hundred data points is usually plenty to estimate a single parameter, but is pretty much useless if you need to estimate 10.

Now consider the number off different settings that can be changed on a MotoGP bike, and compare it to the number of times the rider can realistically head out of the pits with a new set-up to try...

I'm sure that "in flight" electronic tuning and adjustments are just around the corner - which will make the rider/bike formula more like 50/50.

It's a wonderful world of electronics (tongue in cheek). I hate it.

PS: By "in flight" I mean on the bike - not wi-fi, or radio communicatons to the pitts. (I was flamed for someone mis-understanding that is what I meant in a previous thread post)

Interesting comments about bike set up David, and that is why I find criticism of Stoner's development and set up skills to be ludicrous. It is acknowledged by all the Ducati riders that the Ducati is a very fickle beast to set up, yet Stoner and his crew managed to be in the front group most of the time. This year, on a new bike, Stoner and his crew have been able to get a good set up most weekends, even when the weekend has started out not so good. In fact, the performance of Stoner and his crew this year reminds me a lot of Rossi and Burgess at their best.

Did you read the article? It directly discussed Rossi, Stoner and their respective crew chiefs. So of course some of the posts will be about Rossi/Stoner. It is simply impossible to discuss the current Ducati situation without the shadow of Stoner looming large in the background. Stoner's performance at Ducati is the reference point for Rossi's performance this year, like it or not.

The riders were mentioned but not to tout their individual merits or faults. The Rossi/Stoner debate is a tired worn out script. Not interested, not at least till they are both retired visitors to the grid where the commentators can debate who was greatest when and why. Part of this article was about the mystery of setup and the Ducati in particular. The Ducati GP bike is the last thing of intrigue in this season. I was disappointed to see Rossi crash out early. Not because I'm some superfan but was curious to see how the #1 development mule ran in the race. All the talk about progress was getting a bit much and practice times only say so much.

This site has the most exhaustive English language commentary, but the comments are the same as crash.net but with what I can only assume is a slightly older demographic and a thesaurus.

I found it very funny too (and I believe is not to be taken literaly). Of course some posters float well a top of the Stoner/Rossi stuff (Graham to mention one) ... and most of all the site owner! Thanks for the great article David. Once again something very interesting, insightful and not like any other site.

I believe the setup is more than 20% and it will be even more in the future. And on this specific issue I am afraid Dani maybe the worst positioned of the four.

Now I am off to buy me a thesaurus!

I agree totally, rather sad that this site has become just like the other site - whose name we are not supposed too mention - but more upperclass. Many are the same posters with different names and do manage to restrain themselves a little.Hardly worth coming here iether anymore as it is largely wasted time.

That depends if you come here for the news, or the comments.

Comparing this site to Crash.net is hardly appropriate because they are absolutely worlds apart, not only in journalistic quality but also in the readership.

I think even worse than having this place turn into a glorified C.N or Youtube comments site would be to have David over-moderate and restrict opinion. You simply have to measure whether your offence is taken purely because someone has a differing opinion to you, or whether it is genuinely a shit comment. They are two very different things.

As for the Stoner v Rossi stuff coming up time and time again - this is a sport with a passionate fan base. Of course the topic will come up, and to be frank the politics of the paddock at present have been more entertaining than some of the racing we have been served up! It's no wonder people obsess over it.

I like to gripe because I'm a grumpy old man of 38. But I think the journalistic quality of C.N isn't so bad. It's very brief. When I just want a quick summary of an instance it's perfect and covers a lot in a glance. So you are right in that it's apples and oranges. But I like both apples and oranges.

Mr. Emmett puts together very detailed information. I'd imagine the most detailed review in the English language. It even may surpass any in another tongue as it's 100% online and needs not toe the line to a word count.

I just get annoyed at the transparent nationalist or uninformed favoritism and subsequent pontification. Generally the outlet of frustration is the silent expression of the start voting system. But other times such sublimation of the displeasure will not suffice.

Here, in addition to the in depth reporting the commentary and debate has some value to the fan curious about depth and detail. C.Net is fine with me for the brief headlines but I've long learned not to venture into the comments areas as for me there is nothing of value there. That part of their site reminds me of some sort of drunken football supporters in a pub. So be it. If you're in for that, have at it. I'm fine for some of that here too if the article heading the commentary is of a subject where that's appropriate. Seems I've mostly contributed here where I've taken offense by those that would turn an interesting debate into fan frothing. I'll take my thesaurus to the pub if I have to but it's not the best use of my time here.

Aren't Rossi and Stoner the benchmarks of the 800 era?? Who else we gonna compare - Elias and Abraham??
And the comparison between the much undersold talents of Gabbarini and the well-publicised achievements of Burgess are also relevant. As every great talent wanes (rider or engineer or designer), others will begin to occupy the space. Gabbarini is putting some serious runs on the board. In regard to who is the winningest crew chief of the 800 era, the following may be useful for critical analysis here, as both rider/crew chief combinations have worked in a dominant Japanese team and with Ducati. (apologies for the formatting)
800 Era Rossi Stoner
Starts 81 82
Wins 21 31
Points 1292 1392
Poles 14 31
Win Percentage 25.93% 37.80%
Points per race 15.95 16.98
Pole % 17.28% 37.80%

Irrespective of any capacity to "fix" the Ducati for 2012, the real question then becomes one of career arc - Rossi is (statistically at least) on the way down. Even if the Ducati becomes competitive, can he pull something out of the bag and stick it to the young turks snapping at his heels?

There was nothing in this article saying anything about comparing Rossi, Stoner, or their respective crews' career arc or statistics. The pertinent section was about how crucial setup is to today's GP racing and some further focus on the Ducati in that respect. If the commentary had something to do with Gabbarini or Burgess' understanding and ability to get the bike in fighting shape or the exact nature of how and why the Ducati is more difficult to do so than the Japanese bikes then we have something intelligent to talk about. It's tiring to have a subject as interesting as the increasingly crucial aspect of bike setup and the peculiarities of the Ducati design become a Rossi/Stoner stat session.

Wrong, the article directly compares the performance of Burgess and Gabbarini in setting up the Ducati.

"...Stoner pointing out that his crew chief, Cristian Gabbarini, managed to get the Ducati working, despite the difficulties in finding a setup. Others have asked the same thing, why Stoner managed to be fast on the bike while Rossi simply hasn't. Some are now starting to lay at least some of the blame on Burgess, for not doing what Gabbarini could do."

I have no idea why you have a problem with comparisons of this kind. This is competitive sport, and fans are constantly debating the merits of their sporting heroes. It does seem to me that it is mostly Rossi fans who object to comparisons because the stats heavily favor Stoner in the 800 era.

And to the poster who cited 2 championships to 1, the 800 era isn't over yet. Baring something extraordinary (remember 1992), it will be 2 all when the 800 era ends. In which case the stats will massively favor Stoner as the best rider of the 800 era. And Gabbarini as the best crew chief. Especially considering Stoner spent most of the period riding the Ducati.

bike setup. Yes respective crew chiefs are compared but not in some "this guy is greater than that guy because, gee wiz, look at these statistics over this particular period." They are compared in the larger question of what is it exactly that needs to be done differently to give the rider what he needs to be competitive? It asks if there is a dimension other than bike & rider affecting the situation, hence some pointing fingers in Burgess' direction as well. The article also goes on to outline Ant West's dismal Moto2 results until his present crew chief showed up. All of a sudden he's doing measurably better with the same bike. Now how does that figure into this supposed Rossi/Stoner stat contest that seems to be the only thing some want to talk about regardless of topic? It doesn't because the article isn't about that. Would you peg me as a bitter Rossi fan for being perturbed by the constant sideshow? Funny, I have a cartoon illustration of Stoner on a Honda as my desktop background as I write this. I understand fan partisanship and how that plays out; most apparently in ball sports. For my part that doesn't appeal to me. I like the sport and appreciate how it's played rather than take to some player, rider, team, or brand for personal validation. To each their own.

i think u missed something of mammoth proportions...

World Championships:

Rossi: 2 ( 2008, 2009)

Stoner : 1 (2007)

i think that kinda speaks a lot too.. anyway, no Rossi/stoner battle.. lets start a Burgess/Gabbarini battle.. that might be interesting ;)

You may have missed something too. The 800cc era isn't over for another 3 races & it looks like the chamionship total between those 2 riders will be tied when it the current season comes to a close.

well you are right, i totally forgot there's a motogp session in progress. :D Am a Rossi fan and i am just waiting for Valencia 2011 tests... enough said...

P.S: am not an anti-stoner guy. i like stoner too, but i grew up seeing Rossi obliterate the field,..

Rossi's struggle this year put Stoner's achievements at Ducati into perspective.

Rhetorical question:

What if Stoner was on the Yamaha and Rossi on the Ducati for all those years. How many WC's would Rossi have won and vice versa?

Stoner started out on the frighteningly fast LCR; then to Ducati. He's never had massive factory support until this year. Now he's on a real weapon; and if it weren't for him, it'd be another runaway Yamaha/Lorenzo victory in 2011.

To answer your rhetorical question with a question ;o)

If Rossi had been on the Ducati, and Stoner on the Yamaha, would Ducati Corse have listened to Rossi's/JB's opinions earlier, and developed the bike in a different direction?

Sadly I think that Stoner's lack of pedigree in bike development, rather than lack of ability, meant that he could not sway the R&D boys from their chosen course of development. In walks the Rossi/JB team, who have far more world championships between them than the Ducati factory, and they are forced to take notice of the same complaints/comments.

Forced to take notice?

If Burgess and Rossi had their way they would be circulating on a red M1 with Ducati decals all over it. Sure, there have been changes - but you only need to hear Rossi's constant commentary of "Ducati need to make more parts" - "I am not an engineer" - "We have tried everything, Ducati need to make changes" etc etc.

OK, maybe not 'forced' to take notice, but it cannot be denied that Rossi's or JB's words/opinions on chassis design/set-up seem to have carried more weight within Ducati Corse than Stoner's did. The sheer volume of new parts is testament to that.

Rossi's arrival, and subsequent lack of success compared with Casey, has finally driven home the point that the bike design is fundamentally flawed for today's riders. Now I'm not saying that, in 20 years time, everyone won't have copied this design to build a successful racer but, as things stand, it is not a race-winning motorcycle for the current era, as the riders (other than Stoner) do not understand how to get the best from it.

And of course Rossi is saying "Ducati need to make more parts" etc, because they haven't yet found a solution that will allow him and other riders (as history tells us) to push the bike to the limits required to be competitive.

I beleive the biggest mystery in MOTOGP today is, exactly how was Casey Stoner able to win on the Ducati. From my vantage paint it appears that he posseses the truly unique ability to go fast without optimum setup, being able to somehow compensate as required. Maybe it's that Aussie hard nosed attitude 'if it hasn't gone down then it can still go faster'.

Soooo happy to see Chaz Davies finally able to show his worth. He's really had a journey-man career that's seen everything from AMA to MotoGP wildcard rides and a Daytona 200 win (admittedly in special circumstances). To now see him come full circle and become World Champ is inspiring to say the least. I wanna see this guy rippin' it up it Moto2 next year!

As far as Mr. Checa is concerned, incredible. After such a long and hard career, this really was an almost fairy-tale like season for him. We've been watching him quietly plugging away in the WSBK the last couple of years, and his consistency is what championships are made of. WSBK champ at what, 40?!? Awesome.

Two great guys who finally got their dues.

Congratulations to two well deserved World Champions!!

I've always liked Chaz and am chuffed to see him win the title (though I was barracking for Parkes), he's clearly been the class act in the field.
On Checa though, he's someone that I've never liked much. Despite him being one of racings nice guys, I've always resented him consistently falling over backwards from one factory ride into another despite generally mediocre results. However, the last two years he's really won me over. Really smart riding (no more regular crashing) and still plenty of raw speed, he's riding proof that booting out old guys for young bucks is not always the best strategy. Congratulations Carlos!

GrahamB29 brings up a very interesting point regarding GP racing today and the Ducati in particular. It seems more and more the winner is the guy (or alien) who finds the setup best and soonest or at least nails it on Sunday morning before the race. I don't know about 80/20, 70/30 or what makes up the winning package but some things are clear. If you have the talent to be a front runner you must also have one of the coveted factory bikes, at least a Honda or Yamaha at the moment. Having both of those still can leave you on the uphill side of the weekend if for some reason a good setup become elusive. Any one of the dominant riders are vulnerable if some aspect of the setup just won't come into line on a given weekend.
That brings us to the Ducati. From what we've heard both from the Rossi and Stoner camp is that finding a setup is very very difficult. I remember hearing that it has far more variables than the Japanese bikes further complicating things and that not only is it difficult and possibly overly complex from a setup point of view it does not respond to changes in a predictable way. That has made it difficult to improve a setup as any efforts to do so can often make things worse. Stoner is/was right. It is a winning bike but with a big IF. No doubt the crew that had lived with it in all its iterations were as good as anyone could at getting it in fighting shape week in and week out despite it's recalcitrant nature. JB and crew despite their years of experience seem to be getting a big education. These days it seems a spot on setup doesn't just give one an edge, it's crucial. Maybe the equation should be 75% rider, 20% bike, 5% setup. That 5% is a lot when every tenth counts.

That is completely different. A total absence of "x is awesome, y is crap". It seems some people have a hard time imagining that a particular issue is more complex than this.

>>two good weekends in a row will mean that they have really turned the corner.

Qualifying 7th, 1.2 sec out, and crashing out on the first race lap qualifies as a good weekend? 4th in a warm up is good but not the hallmark of a good weekend. Are they really making progress if they say a podium was possible but only due to the number of ride-throughs and crashes? Seems like it was Nicky on the old bike who had a great chance of getting a podium if he wasn't pushed into the dirt by his teammate.


thecosman - I've come to the conclusion that you think like I do - only better/smarter.

well let's see

............ Nicky ......... Rossi

FP1 ... 1'47.732 .. 1'48.667
FP2 ... 1'47.381 .. 1'47.975
FP3 ... 1'47.335 .. 1'47.161
QP .... 1'46.763 .. 1'46.467
WUP . 1'47.220 .. 1'46.980

Yes clearly Nicky was doing better than Rossi up until the first turn of the race.

Chris, hypothetically Rossi could have had a chance at the podium. That didnt happen, thats something different. He crashed out, and Hayden could not get onto the podium.. i believe there are no If's, But's, and maybes... so "hypothetically" rossi had a chance given the FACT his race pace was better than hayden's.. so hypothetically is the word...

But if you look at lap times during the race every rider back to 5th place was running a lot of 1:46 laps, something Rossi only did 3 or 4 times the entire weekend. To say he could have been on the podium is true in the same sense that I can win lotto tomorrow, true but highly unlikely. Unfortunately, to accept what he says and not look at facts is the tendency for any quote from Rossi.

Marco and Dovi lost 15 sec for their ride through, roughly the gap between 5th and 6th place. Stoner lost 10 sec on his gravel trip but came right back through the field. If Rossi didn't fall I would place him 7th behind Spies and ahead of Nicky.


Agreed. That would be about what he's shown as best possible this year so far. 1st Ducati, briefly fighting with but behind 2nd tier factory Honda & Yamaha machines, and placed between 6th and 10th. I say if he would have been excluded from all the drama everyone else experienced he might have been in podium reach for part of the race but those factory Honda bikes would be reeling him in and for sure Stoner would have passed and still been in third. This alternate take of things would also have not have had Spies balked by Rossi's crash so he also would likely have been further up the field.

i thought u were comparing Rossi and Hayden. and thats why i compared Rossi and Hayden...

ok, lets go to Jerez, did Rossi have a chance of victory in Jerez? Hypothetically yes... he could have won that race... his race pace was better than the rest on the field.. but u never know if his tires could have worn out... and fact is he crashed.. yet, hypothetically he could have won the race..

Rossi only said he had a podium potential because he crashed out before any proof to the otherwise could be had. Without proof, if Rossi said it, it must be so. Nicky was at least running in podium territory before making a mistake that pushed him back.

I brought other riders into the discussion to show that when comparing even Rossi's fastest times of the weekend to race times he was never in with a chance for a podium.

As for Jerez, if you look at the lap times through the race you can see Rossi never had a chance for the win. If you subtract the 30 sec he lost on the crash lap he would still finish 2 sec behind Aoyoma and still be in 5th place. He was fast in the opening laps then faded to mid-field times as the race wore on.


I think in Jerez, Rossi was burying his head in the sand. It was the second race of the year, he was still convinced he could tame the Duc and took risks that were way beyond the capabilities of the red/yellow combination. To me, you don't show good race pace by crashing out for no reason.
So yes, I think he hypothetically had a chance of winning in Jerez, just like Toni Elias had.

I recall Stoner expressing his concern about another earthquake rather than radiation being his issue attending Motegi,having experienced one. I guess his 280 km/hr tank slapper must have triggered some memories !!! Seismic moment it must have been for him.Great save and damage limitation.
No such problems in SBK for Checa and it was great to see him reach the pinnacle in any particular World Series discipline.
GrahamB29 makes a very valid point. The more variables you have at your disposal,the more exponential the perfect fix becomes. The limited testing merely exacerbates the issue. By no means am I suggesting that old heads have their heads buried in the sand,but older heads are reluctant to depart from tried and true. Burgess is perhaps a case in point along with Rossi.Alloy twin spar is all they know. Preziosi's new age thinking does not gell with them. Stoner's youthfull adaptability,well...adapted. Checa found a comfort zone within the old traditional pipe frame and a home. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Likewise a new trick is hardly welcomed by an old dog. A decade at the top of GP for a team and crew is generally as good as it gets. Less will probably equal more for Ducati/Rossi next year as a team,but they will come up short on race day,because the goal posts shift continuously.
Ducati have a curious mix in terms of riders. Old school acqainted riders in GP coupled to advanced thinking within the engineering department. It does not work. At least 2011 proves it.
No !, Rossi and Hayden have not lost any of their racecraft and ability,but they are ageing and adaptibility is fading. Its no wonder the plus 30's find it so easy to adapt to SBK. Current SBK technology has its roots in 10 year old GP prototypes. 30 year + riders adapt to past decade technology easily. Much hype about how Hayden/Rossi and who ?, will reign supreme in 1000cc next year.
Won't happen. 2012 technology will not revert to 2002 990 technology. Sad but true.

I can only look back as far as 1989 because the data available starts gettng really unreliable but, in that period, there has never been more than 2 jump starts in a single MotoGP race and that was Shanghai 2005 with Barros and Elias.

I was very disappointed they made them do ride-throughs. None of them gained any advantage and Simoncelli (I think) definitely stopped and then started again. All it did was add "drama" to a typically boring MotoGP race.

I really hope Edwards comes out and tromps them all in the first race next year. Hopped-up R1 motor with 24 litres of fuel!! He must be salivating at the possibilities!

I think the move to 1000cc will help, think somewhere in the middle of where the 800's are and the old 990's, some place in between. The torque of the 1k's will allow more variance in the corners than the 800's allow but how much nobody knows due to keeping existing fuel regs.

I also don't think being in the 30's matters as much as you think. Doohan was 33 the last time he won a title and that was on the smokers. The switch to 4 strokes has allowed much longer careers because the snap powerband changed to broad linear power.

I was reading an article once about Freddie Spencer and his riding style , Erv Kanamoto was sitting in the same position on the same corner with a speed gun and no matter what adjustments they made to the bike, Freddie adapted his style and road around at the same speed everytime. Maybe Stoner has that same ability, both are from Dirt Tracking backgrounds and both youngest winners of the Championship, both able to adapt quickly to the circumstances.Just a thought

Not at all, Kanemoto could never work out how Spencer would churn out the same lap time with radicaly different set ups. No matter what Erv did to the bike,Freddie could equal his best lap time. Finaly Erv worked it out, he had to look at Freddie's face when he took his helmet off, the more ragged he looked the harder Spencer had to ride the bike to get that time. Erv also said Spencer had a pre-concieved idea on what bike's the ideal lap time was at a particular track. Then went out and did that time. That was Freddie Spencer.

And you'll find cracks appearing prior to the public announcement of the aluminium version becoming the fad of the month.
Burgess became a believer that the CF frame can be made work and with the consistency shown at the end of 2010, who could argue? The desire to win at all costs is coming from the rider and be damned if he can wait for the wheels of development! The myriad of changes in the meantime has potentially added more confusion to their season of failure! Oh and by the way, calling Motegi a success is a little optimistic isn't it?

On reflection, there is a good reason to watch the rider in front of you: while the lights don't flinch, they don't stall, either. If the guy in front fluffs the start for whatever reason, it's desirable not to slam straight into the back of him... which takes surprisingly little time to do.

and anyone that can offer some legitimate opinion! In regards to the mid-pack MotoGP riders and remainder of the field, is it bike set-up that is keeping the riders in different zones? Or is it the riders' talent? Or is it the actual machines? Without comparing Rossi to Stoner or any of the other aliens and their bikes. Looking at Moto2 where most things are controlled: engines, tires, other mods... the racing is close and exciting to watch. Why is Hayden, Spies, and even Dovi not on the podium more often???

Good question. Why Dovi, Hayden and Spies are not on the podium more often is that the level of the aliens is so much higher. That gap is mainly about talent.

The differences between the rest of the riders is partly about machinery, but partly about setup. You can sometimes see the difference on two sides of a garage, with different riders of equal talent, the difference being mainly down to setup on each side of the garage.

But Moto2 is the prime example: the standard of crew chiefs vary massively, and some good riders have had some very mixed results. I chose the example of Ant West for exactly this reason, because his results have improved dramatically (especially his consistency) since Warren Willing arrived. Bradley Smith and Tom Jojic is another good example, working together to give Smith results you might not have expected in his first year in Moto2. Compare him to Pol Espargaro, who has been very inconsistent all year. Espargaro seemed to have the measure of Smith in 125s, but not in Moto2. 

Interesting and well written article ....now just to throw a spanner in the "Ducati needs a precise/perfect setup to work" theory, here's a gem from Stoner LAST year when asked by an Australian reporter if his bike was going to work ok at an up coming track;

"well, it kinda depends on what side of the bed she gets up from"

Seems like there was a bit of "hope for the best" back then to!!

Casey repeatedly complained about (No, I'm not Stoner-bashing) this issue throughout his time at Ducati, particularly after the introduction of the CF chassis/subframe. Not only would the required set-up vary wildly between tracks, it also never felt the same on his No.1 and No.2 bikes.

with all the varying parameters to setting up a MotoGP machine, I do understand clearly why the riders chase set-up throughout practice etc etc. When you say 'talent'... in what aspects are you referring to? All of the riders are talented and that's why they have a ride. What would be the deciding factor if they were all on the same machinery as Moto2 with the perfect set-up for their riding styles? What would separate Dovi, Hayden, and Spies from Stoner, Jorge, and Dani then? Say they were all on the same RCVs or M1s. How is it that Casey (in his 1st season on the factory RCV) can outperform Dani on the bike that Dani has been developing for years? Is it talent, set-up, riding style, or determination? A combination of sorts? Dani must feel some-kinda-way about Stoner's performance this season being in the same garage.

All of the riders are talented and that's why they have a ride.

Talent is a relative thing.

On the weekend I did one of those big, 15000 people fun runs, over 10km. I finished close to the top 10%, and in the top 100 for my age group. But I was >50% outside the world record!

I typically used to be in the fast group at ride days and I won a couple of club races, but on a 600, Adam Ferguson could lap me in about 10 laps. Maybe if I'd had a better bike it would have taken him 11. He won a few Australian championships, did ok in the AMA and rode in the Suzuka 8hr. Asked if he thought he reckoned he could run against the MotoGP guys, he said he wouldn't be close... it was a whole other level.

In the same way, Crutchlow and Edwards are simply not at the same standard as the guys at the front, despite the world titles in their pockets. And in fact remember that no one has ever won a WSBK title then gone on to win a MotoGP or 500 title... but a few who have been pushed out of GP have won on Superbikes.

No matter how good you are, you always eventually find someone better. I had the good fortune to find my limits early :-D

how do you define talent?

the ability to ride the wheels of any given machine? or the ability to set it up precisely to suit your riding style? or the adrenaline+determination of the rider? dont u think it involves everything?

As graham said talent is relative... determination, personality, riding style, getting the right setup, everything is included in talent.

Alex hoffman, was sacked from his ride simple because, he returned to his garage in the middle of the race and said i dont have any motivation... talentless? YES!

. . . Rossi's resume says it all and arguing that Stoner is better then Rossi/etc is rather pointless at this point! One thing in 'sports' . . . there will always be someone faster/better/etc. What I find interesting, is that at the beginning of the season, Spies said the only thing he feared was 'Stoner on a Honda' and recently said that they were lucky that 'Stoner hasn't been on a Honda for the last several years', or something to that affect. When Spies was on the Tech 3, learning the tracks, he said that he followed Jorge/Dani/Rossi, and while they were faster, he could see what they were doing/understood it, and was gonna improve to 'get there.' He followed Stoner (on the Duc) and said that 'Casey is making that bike do things it doesn't want to do.'

This is coming from a FAST guy!!!!

And guys, I've been a Rossi fan since he was on a 125 . . .

Any updates on that guy? Looks like he got knocked out during the crash.. hope he's ok.

With Nick Harris and Gavin Emmett talking about his huge crash there a few years back, they must have jinxed him!

Well, dont you think setup has been one of the important factors in racing right from the beginning of racing? the 2 free practice sessions and the qualify practice combined with warm up are all given to change the setup. And this has been the case through-out the history... and when you say 80% rider and 20% bike, the setup includes that 20%.

and the best setup you achieve depends on the rider. and when i mean setup, i dont think there's a universal, "best" setup.. its all about how comfortable and precise the rider can be.. and this has always been the case..

my personal opinion, i dont feel there's more importance given now.. there has always been only a handful of riders at the front, and one of the most important aspects of racing, (not just motorcycle racing, any racing), is how well you can setup your bike or car.. and that aspect is an amalgamate of rider+crew chief+mechanics... then comes the development part where the rider inputs are considered for bringing out new modified parts.

I think that 80/20 theory includes a well set up bike as you say but the difference suggested these days is that to get that full 20% potential, setup is crucial. You don't hear much these days where GP racers talk about having a bad setup but riding around it and taking the win as was more common in earlier eras. With the tires, 800s, electronics and the way the bikes have to be ridden you hear more complaining that it's the setup that put the rock in their shoe so to speak and prevented them from running the pace they knew they were capable of or had in the previous session or under different track conditions. In the past couple years how often have you seen Rossi, Stoner, or Lorenzo absolutely demolish the field one race and then struggle for podium pace the next. Often they complain about not getting the right setup. I think this is a fascinating subject and would love to see an in depth article on it. *hint, hint*

So for totally unscientific speculation based on post race commentary I'd say in the 500's and 990's a bang on setup gave you 19 or 20 out of 20% while a less optimal one gave you 15-17 of that 20% bike potential. Current tech would have me think it might be more like a spot on setup gave you that 19 or 20 out of 20% where not quite getting a good setup might limit you to 12% of bike potential down to as bad as 8%. Totally willy nilly numbers I'm throwing out there but the point being that not having a good setup is far more detrimental now than in other bike/tire/tech eras.

Maybe a good analogy would be with marksmanship. If you had a bare bones target rifle with adjustable iron sights that were out of whack your accuracy would only be affected so much as distance and detail are limited with the naked eye and that sight technology. You can compensate within those parameters to achieve similar results. Fast forward to x24 optics, laser range finders, free floating match grade barrels and ammo, etc then the criteria of accuracy and distances increase, or both. When the upper end of accuracy becomes a finer point not having a good setup has bigger consequences in relation to the next guy. There's less you can do to compensate. I'm thinking current tech MotoGP bikes are getting to that kind of difference.

like Hailwood and Fogarty had long careers with little understanding machine set-up.

Being a hugely talented rider is not enough. They must be able to concisely and accurately detail the machine sensations felt to their crew chief at various points on the track. Telemetry will help with gearing, suspension and geometry to some degree but ultimately seat of the pants still rules. I cannot see that anybody could question the abilities of any of the Aliens in this respect.

As Stoner said the level is so high between the top guys now, and as we've seen numerous times already this year, one small error can be enough not to be able to bridge to gap to the front. Witness Stoner and his tyre pressure issue at Mugello.

It's that the margins for everything are much narrower. Same goes for the riders' health too. They have to be on point with many things besides just throwing a leg over and twisting the throttle.

I think you are right that the margins have become tighter ... I think in part that is because the bikes have continually become heavier and more powerful. Riding around a handling problem on a 72kg 125 looks do-able (I've never been able to fit on pne long enough to verify, unfortunately). A 100kg 250 still responds to the leash, but even a 160hp superstock bike starts to be a barely ridable pig if the settings aren't right. On a 155kg, 240hp motoGP bike...

However to Fogarty I'm not so sure. While he wasn't exactly an engineer, there is an interesting interview with one of his Ohlins techs. He explained that Fogarty gave feedback in his particular style: it was the crew's job to learn to translate from Foggy-language to engineering language.

Ah, here it is
The tech is John Cornwell. He says it took Bass, Fogerty's mechanic at Ducati, six years to learn to translate effectively. This might be why when a rider gels with a crew chief, they tend to stick together for the rest of their careers: they recognise that they depend on that communication for success.

He also makes lots of other good points about how to a rider, either too much or too little weight on the front can feel the same... and for those who claim all the woes of Ducati arrived with CF
"especially on a Ducati, 1mm is a lot on a Ducati for some reason"
This from the era of the 996 and 748!

and Stoner's habit of many few-lap runs in practice makes sense now. If we remember Forcada's comments from when he was Stoner's crew chief at LCR, he stated that Stoner was very quick to evaluate the bike - one or two laps was all he needed to get the bike to its maximum potential for any setting (including 'out of the box'). The struggles at Ducati now have shown up that it WAS - and may remain - illogical in its response to changes, though Rossi and Burgess' latest comments suggest the newest iteration may have finally resolved that problem. If so, that is in fact a huge step forward.

Perhaps the greatest irony of this season has been that it has taken Rossi's struggles with the bike to demonstrate that much of what Stoner has said in the past is not the 'whinging' or 'making excuses' that was so readily laid at his feet by critics, but simple fact. The number of truly expert commentators (i.e. past champion racers) who have changed their opinion of Stoner this year in the light of Rossi's situation is remarkable - witness recent stuff from Rainey, Gardner, Agostini and even (most grudgingly) from Schwantz. Oh, and of course, you can add to that list: Burgess and Rossi himself.

If one accepts, as is pretty much incontrovertible, that Rossi is a yardstick rider of the highest calibre, then surely it follows that Stoner's achievement on the Ducati has been measured against the yardstick and found to be exceptional, in the literal sense of the word. Those trying to debase Rossi's capabilities are pitting their prejudice against a mass of evidence, and similarly those trying to debase Stoner's achievements are - again ironically - pitting their prejudice against the evidence of his achievements PLUS Rossi's own record. Time for everybody to move on from that quasi-religious scuffle and embrace the fact that we have, in motoGp, a grand story being woven before our eyes, as memorable as any in the history of premier-class racing. Hopefully in the 1000's era, that story will be played out in closer-fought races.

Well said Oscar. I think that some people assume that when comparisons are made between Rossi and Stoner it is somehow putting Rossi down. Not so, Rossi is the standard by which others are judged. Stoner will never match Rossi's overall career stats. It is nevertheless remarkable that Stoner's stats for the 800 era are significantly better than Rossi's. Remarkable because most of the 800 era Stoner was on the difficult Ducati and Rossi on the smooth handling Yamaha.

I believe that Rossi, being a clever guy, understood very early on that Stoner was a real threat to Rossi's pre-eminence in the premier class, hence the repeated efforts to unsettle Stoner on and off the track. As an aside though, it must have been a shock to Rossi when his new team mate Lorenzo starting beating him on his own bike. But I believe that Stoner's talent has been largely unappreciated even by the experts until this year. I don't really understand why that is, given how good his stats were even prior to this year.

So it is disappointing when people criticise MotoGP, because we are truly privileged to have such a level of talent currently competing. The fab four, a strong supporting cast, and some new talents like Marquez maybe about to join them. It would be nice to get closer racing, but these guys are seriously good, and rarely make mistakes. Next year should be very interesting indeed.

Motogpmd. Nevertheless from Stoner's utterances he's never intended to have a career as long as Rossi's. But then Edwards and a few others have also said such things. Oh nevermind.....

Nostro, Stoner can never match Rossi's stats in 125 and 250 no matter how long he races. That's what I meant about never matching Rossi's overall career stats. Stoner could match Rossi's premier class championship wins I suppose, especially if we are entering a period of Honda dominance, but it doesn't sound like Stoner is interested in hanging around long enough. Regardless of that, as Oscar says the whole Stoner/Rossi/Ducati thing is a remarkable saga that has made MotoGP intensely interesting even if the racing is not always the most exciting.

It will be very very difficult to beat the Rossi's career stat in top class ... Stoner needs 48 victories and 5 other titles for that ... good luck with that !

The fact is I don't think Stoner matters...

What has made Rossi so special is his ability to win through the years, different categories, different opponents ... do you remember when Rossi won his second title ? omg, it was 9 years ago .. his 31 st victory in top class ? 8 years ago ....when Stoner won his first 125 GP ...

I don't want to go in another pointless Rossi/Stoner opposition, I mean, that's a fact, Stoner is now the reference, and what he has accomplished with Ducati is astonashing ... but can we really compare on equal parameters a guy who is in his 6th GP year with 1 title (almost 2) with a "old" guy of 12 years GP seasons ?

Once again, I think Stoner doesn't matter, he just want to win more and more races, then at the end of his career, we can compare

PS: please, please, let me see Stoner fight again against ... anybody, but i'm tired of these "qualification races"

stats are not of any real importance to Casey Stoner. Stoner is trying to live up to the ideal of what he holds unto himself. Only he, his crew, and his wife may know what that truly is. The man just wants to win races and let his riding speak for him. Got to admire that about him. For a man that's leading the championship to feel sad and disappointed with a 3rd place finish at Motegi says a lot about him. He made a mistake and managed to pull off a great recovery... but knowing he could have won, it doesn't sit well with him. Stoner is a unique 'talent' unto the field. When you have 16 other high quality riders fearing you on the grid... some that are champions in their own right... it speaks volumes!

Somehow, I don't think that all the other riders are in fear of him. He has dominated this year, but I believe that if Pedrosa hadn't been injured, he would be right up there with Stoner. I think he has Puig behind him saying that he can beat Stoner, and I think he believes it too. Personally, I think that if Pedrosa was fit, he would have been more a problem for Lorenzo, however, I seriously doubt that Stoner has achieved such a high level of mental dominance on the scale of Doohan/Rossi in their golden periods.

Let's put things into perspective. Pedrosa has been with Repsol Honda for five hwole years, he's now in his 6th. He's been the team leader and leader in the direction of development since 2007 for the current 800cc RC212V. For sure, he'd be closer in the championship without his injury he sustained at Le Mans (let's not forget that Stoner was dominating the race at the time of his accident), and we saw him on his comeback race suffer from the effects of that at Mugello. However, it's obvious that by the next round his performance wasn't lagging much, if at all, when he beat both Lorenzo and Stoner at the Sachsenring. Since then, what has he done? It would be silly to assume that his physical condition has worsened since Germany, and the only time he looked to maybe have the legs on Stoner was at Brno, but even then I have my doubts due to the Burgess-esque bike setup breakthroughs that Stoner has recieved during Sunday warmup sessions with the best example of this being at Laguna Seca. The only reason Stoner hasn't won more races already is down to sheer luck and lack of experience and setup data in what is a new team and a completely new bike for him, really. In Jerez he was knocked off, in Mugello and at the Sachsenring it was lack of setup, in Misano he was tired and of course Motegi with the strange tank-slapper on the back straight. Now just imagine what little changes in the many variables that are in MotoGP that would've helped Casey win in all the races I mentioned where he didn't - he could've been a 13-time Grand Prix winner this year. I think we're lucky that these negating variables were in place or it would've been a truly snooze-worthy season thus far.

If Dani can't beat Casey now, then what hope does he have when Casey's become acustomed to the team? And with a new riding style required for the new bikes next year, the advantage that Dani had this year will be all but gone.

Both Doohan and Rossi were at their statistical best when there was little competition. 1995-2005 are what I refer to as the 'barren years'. No offense to the rest of the riders then, but they just weren't on the same level we saw in the late 80s/early 90s and the competition we have now with the four (or is it three now?) aliens. What Stoner is doing is quite incredible. To be able to dominate in such a competitive time rider-wise was never foreseen. Every time Casey wins he is beating another alien (Dani) on the same bike, in his own established team as well as the reigning champion who rides the very well-proven M1 which happens to be the most successful bike of the 800cc era.

This year has truly set in stone Stoner's status as the 'alien among aliens'.

I think the majority of what has been said in the above comment by Screamer is true; but weren't we saying similar things about Lorenzo last year? There is a parallel of sorts between Stoner-Pedrosa and Lorenzo-Rossi, albeit muddied somewhat by injuries. But aren't most GP rides carrying injuries of some sort or another - Pedrosa seems to have a fairly comprehensive and growing collection....

Lorenzo dominated Rossi and the rest last season at least as convincingly as Stoner has dominated Pedros and the rest this season.

Sure you can draw parallels between Stoner-Pedrosa (2011 Season) and Lorenzo-Rossi (2010 Season), but the big difference is, in 2010 all the aliens, apart from Lorenzo, suffered from either machinery problems or injury, Lorenzo already had a huge points gap when Pedrosa (the only one who had any chance of mixing it up in the 2010 championship) started to look competitive, the chance of mounting a challenge was soon dismissed by injury. I do not discount Lorenzo's championship as he was consistent throughout the year, but his huge point gap and final points gain was more indicative of the season than his ability to dominate a class field. 2011 has been quite different Stoner had to first catch Lorenzo and then build his lead, Lorenzo has been on excellent machinery that he knows well and has been injury free, this season has actually given a much clearer illustration of a class field domination than 2010 ever did.

Rossi welcomes the recent improvements made to the bike setup but Burges doesn’t share his enthusiasm as he wants the bike to be first properly fixed so Rossi can then add his value to it and win races.

Without Burgess realistic approach Ducati would keep on doing the same old thing, beating around the bush, trying to fix things rather than starting from scratch in the name of pride.

I don’t think Burges will retire at the end of this season.

To me the current season for Ducati has been a long painful process where the new comers (Rossi, Burges and crew) have been calling for changes that Ducati had only slowly conceded, allowing one little change at the time, taking their time, hoping that in the meantime Rossi would find out how to work in harmony with his bike.

They’ve got the data now and both parties made an effort to understand each other.

The bike will be fixed for next year, after Valencia they’ll make the most radical changes, and nobody will complain about it because fans are now ready to accept anything to see their bike/rider competing next season for wins.


Let's see: GP11, GP11 step 1, GP11 step2, GP12, GP11.1, GP12 alu, GP11.1 alu, GP12 deltabox, all that in 10 months and Ducati are reluctant to change?

They developed 3 different chassis for the GP11 then a completely new GP11.1 (destroked version of the first iteration of the GP12 that Rossi tested), then another frame with aluminum bits and different (extended) mounting points for the GP12 and GP11.1 and allegedly a third version of the GP12 completely different from the previous ones.

They are doing the maximum they can for Rossi, much much more than they ever did (how many bike iterations per season in the last 4 years? one bike with maybe 3 or 4 swingarms to test).

Surely you don't expect them to show up with more than 3 or 4 completely different bikes in one season, do you?

Some people feel these are "small changes" because the performance never really improved, but I doubt even Honda put in a similar situation could do more than that, running private tests every other week and rolling a new bike every couple of months?

If you noticed, the bike wasn't drastically changed in the main concept (not yet, anyway), certainly not regarding their questionable design/solutions. Ducati is still maintaining their position regarding their frameless chassis design, "massaging" their solution, over and over, to comply with certain demands (complaints) of their top rider/team, and not opening hand of that solution no matter what.
Otherwise it could also mean (indirectly) a serious marketing problem (disaster?) regarding their upcoming flagship sport-bike "1199 Panigale" with same chassis tech, to be launched in the next months, itself racing in WSBK only in 2013.

Whether the efforts increased because it's Rossi onboard or not... well, he's the most sucessfull GP rider still active at the highest stage. If he fails, it certain looks like it can be a final death blow to the marketing image, regarding what was already a questionable chassis solution in last seasons, when absolutely noone else except Stoner, ever made that racebike/chassis work - no wonder they're desperate!

This drama story is selling, that's why the media focus so much on the changes and fans get biased, nothing really "shocking" about seeing 4 different changes in one bike (for instances, the factory Honda RCV211v of 2004/05 with Biaggi and Barros complaints of "chatter", it had inumerous flagrant changes along the year, for frames, swing-arms, forks, even exhausts and fairings).

This is prototype racing, what else did you expect?
Every factory team receive continuous development/changes in the bike which started the season, along all the year, some more obvious and announced than others (Yamaha YZR500 of Rainey in 1993, with the ROC chassis substituting the factory one).

The number of days for testing have been ridiculously decreased, why not test for development while racing when the previous development bike is already a failure in the results?

Sure, this is what you expect from prototype racing. But it was not something you'd typically expect from Ducati. 'We simply can't bring new parts during the season' is what Preziosi told Stoner when he desperately asked for change. This year's approach has been revolutionary.

It's interesting to reflect that in performance terms, the 999 was a definite step forward from the 998 (once they got through the first few races). Yet it nearly buried the company because the fans didn't like the look...

So competition success isn't sufficient for marketing success.

Is it necessary? It's also interesting that MV Agusta have maintained an aura of desirability, despite a total absence (so far as I'm aware) of results in competition.

Maybe loud, red and pretty is all that matters?

Agreed, the 749/999 was a definite improvement over the 748/998 they substituted, but the typical Ducati customer/market was already different in 2002 to the one you had in 1994 when the Ducati 916 substituted the 888, or the one you had in 1988 when the first 851 was introduced.
It's even more different now with the 848/1198 (especially with other non-traditionalist models), commercially more "mainstream" and broaden, in a tougher economy.
Success in races translates well into an image of sucess for their sport-bike models, it's important for marketing, at least for the non-traditional Ducatista fella.

Food for thought regarding the "1199 Panigale" marketing... After betting a fortune in the MotoGP effort, isn't a bit obvious that Ducati was counting on Rossi's success (and then use its image) to launch their new flag-ship sportbike with a heavy slogan of "developped from revolutionary and winning MotoGP chassis technology"?
I don't believe they knew it would turn out into this fiasco/soap-opera, quite a dramatic turn of events for their plans (IMHO).
...I guess Troy Bayliss might be a better solution for the moment, at least as a temporary "patch" for that! :-)

Regarding the MV Agusta... that's a peculiar case, but you have to take into account that it was reborn from the hands of those responsible for the Ducati sucess and iconic sportbikes in the 1980s and 90s - Castiglioni and Tamburini (now Bordi as well, AFAIK). The MV Agusta is more of a "pedigree" or "collection" desirable brand thing, more so than a race bike for the road, although their F4 1000cc did well on the race track, on SuperStock and German Superbikes, ridden by Luca Scassa and Jorg Teuchert.
There's some interesting gossip about Francis Batta ditching Suzuki and use MV Agusta instead (WSS or WSBK), causing a lot of curiosity - we'll see how that goes.

"Don't sell the bearskin before you've killed the bear"?

I was thinking the same thing about the Ducati market changing... in a way I suspect it was changed by the 916, which must have succeeded beyond expectations.

Re MV, I was reading that when a team decided to run one in the Bol, they couldn't find even a race end can for it and so raced with the stock exhaust... which subsequently overheated and burst into flames. So if Batta decides to race one, at least there would be some race parts coming onto the market.

Assuming MV is able to keep paying the bills, of course...

about Stoner's accomplishments this season! I didn't intend to start another topic for debate. As mentioned before, Spies even said that Casey on the RCV is a scary thing to witness. And Spies is no slouch either. Stoner thanked Dani for his work developing the RCV that he is slaughtering the 2011 MotoGP season with... in CS's 1st year. JB even said that Stoner could be a possible Doohan for the next 5 years with the RCV, Team, and mind-set that Casey has right now. The 1000cc Era doesn't pose a threat to Casey's dominance either. He wants HRC to develop the RCV for everyone and not just himself. Stoner can make the bike dance. When he rides confidently, he becomes the bike and the bike is riding him. Watch Casey in super-slow motion.. he looks like Superman flying with grips in his hands. After Motegi, Jorge admits defeat to Stoner and the RCV. Points-wise and machinery, Jorge and Yamaha can do nothing but wait for the inevitable. Stoner would have to get injured and Jorge win the last 3 races for Jorge to keep his title. Dani needs a season like Stoner in 2012 for his Repsol ride to stay intact.

"Dani needs a season like Stoner in 2012 for his Repsol ride to stay intact."

Dani's going to need to win the championship to keep another small, highly talented, much younger Repsol backed Spanish rider of his Factory RCV in 2013..............

. . . well put. I posted earlier what Spies had said about Stoner and if someone as fast & talented as Spies is in awe w/Stoner's abilities . . . . As far as Dani goes . . . sorry, he isn't in Stoner's league! Dani developed the bike/rode it since '07 and Casey was faster the first time he rode the bike! Stoner is 'special' and as long as he's ridding the HRC bike, I don't think anyone gonna stop him. Quit frankly, the only rider that can stop him is 'him' and issues/set up/hitting bumps! I know that Jorge will ride the wheels off his M1 next year, but I think all he'll be seeing is the tailend of Casey's 213!

Good article (as usual), David.

Unfortunately it brings that nostalgic feeling back once again to an old fan like me.

Technology in the major class of GP has evolved so much and for every single component, technically and effectively (not mentioning the electronic assistance gadgetry), that it really gone to a point where that "fine tune" and "perfect setup" is absolutely vital to beat the next guy (not mentioning the name/logo on the tank), no matter how big your talent/balls/heart is. Much, much more so than some 20 (and further) years ago.
Otherwise, come race day, these guys have little chance.

It just looks like it has gone over-complicated and over-analytical, it really seems to have turned all the riders too dependable on "the perfect setup" for the results.

My particular view -and I observe many other "older guys" sharing similar views- is that the current MotoGP technology is much more cruel to the riders regarding their own riding styles/techniques and own ways to express that on the racebike, to overcome difficulties. Quite evident if compared to old school GP, and it's not a case of "rose-tinted glasses".

A quick example to illustrate my thoughts - I believe Nicky Hayden (among some few others) would have been a phenomenal rider on any 80's and 90's GP 500cc factory bike/team, yet the guy has been noticeably struggling to adapt/succeed on every MotoGP 800cc he has ridden.

Can well remember old GP riders carrying on and getting away even if one could observe the bike was not really "that perfect" setup wise (and not complaining), able to place their own style/technique at work somehow and get results nonetheless, not so much dependent on those factors.
Their talent/hearts/balls just seemed more important than anything else for the results?

Makes one wonder whether more technology can be too much of a good thing...

I think both riders' opinions on Stoner are interesting, maybe Dani's a bit more since he's riding the same bike.
But as far as Spies goes, if Dani is not in Stoner's league then Spies is nowhere. Dani never completed a season in MotoGP with less than 8 podiums.
Disappointing season by Spies for sure. His first GP win was in the cards and it's a great achievement but with only 3 podiums he's not setting the world on fire like many (including I) thought he would in his sophomore year.
So long for Rossi's comment that "next year Lorenzo would have his own Jorge in his team"...

Dani's first year in MotoGP was after 5 years of experience on the same tracks.

This year is Ben's second year as a regular in MotoGP and only his second outing on most of the tracks. And his first year on a machine capable of winning a race.

Last year Ben was on a satelite machine. No one has ever won in the 800 era on a non factory machine - for good reason.

Like comparing apples to french pastry.

Can anyone else confirm (by re-watching the start of the race)that Rossi also appeared to jump the start?

has been overlooked by all the other hype: Rossi/Ducati and Stoner/HRC. Ben has a lot more to show the world. He's been jumping through hoops of fire getting to understand the many adjustments of a factory MotoGP bike. He's relatively still new (like his crew chief) and he's a smart racer. He doesn't have the seat time of most of the others on the grid as far as track experience but he's still the dark horse in every race. Ben's results are not reflecting his true potential yet. From AMA to SBK Champions then his achievements in the top level of racing isn't something to just be swept under the rug. He's had his share of bad luck this year too. Once he get his starts down better, he will be closer to the sharp end of the grid. Ben isn't too far off of Jorge's results given that it's his first year on the factory M1. It took Jorge a while to become a constant threat I do recall. Ben has changed his riding style and dropped some weight to be more competitive. Spies, just like Jorge, can not out-ride the short comings of the M1 compared to the RCV.

Spies has been a disappointment this year. I don't accept that a top rider needs more than two years to learn the tracks. Plus, Aragon last year was new to everyone, and Spies knows Laguna Seca. But Spies was ultimately unable to stay with Lorenzo at both those tracks. Compare Stoner this year on a new bike. He and his team had the measure of Pedrosa from the very first test. That has been the case at most tracks. Also, history tells us that success in WSBK or any other lower class is not a good predictor of success in the premier class. At the moment Spies is lacking that edge that sets the top guys apart from the rest. Maybe the different style of the 1000's will help him. The champions in this class, Rossi, Stoner and Lorenzo, have shown that you must be at the sharp end every race weekend, not just the occasional one.

Our expectations of the performance/results of a rider, team, or motorcycle may lead to us feeling 'disappointments' in stead of the reality of it all. Dani not being able to fight Stoner or Jorge for the championship... that's a disappointment. Rossi/Burgess not being able to make better progress with the Ducati... that's a disappointment. Spies not being a full-time alien (yet)... that's our expectations of what we think his progress should be not coming to pass. He came from the AMA/WSB arenas and not the 125cc or 250cc GP classes. How long did it take for Hayden to win a GP race when he came to the top class? Edwards hasn't won a race yet like many of the other riders on the grid in MotoGP. What other rider has won a race other than the aliens: Stoner, Dani, Jorge, Rossi? Look at Dovi and Super-Sic and all their experience. They are battling against an American with less GP experience. Dovi is still debating for his ride next year! Yamaha knew/knows what they have with Spies. The way he had to cut through the field after poor starts of late (for whatever reason) shows that he has the potential to be on the podium more often. As said previously, Spies (and Hayden) may fare better with the 1000cc machines next year! Time will tell all soon enough.