2011 Valencia MotoGP Friday Round Up - On Wet Weather, Josh Hayes Learning A New Bike, And The MSMA

Some semblance of normality has returned to the MotoGP paddock now that the bikes are back on track, and everyone is back doing what they are supposed to be. "For me, I was happy to be here, be around the team, see all the tributes honoring Marco and see everybody showing a lot of class and a lot of respect," Nicky Hayden said. "It's still kind of there at the back of everybody's mind, but it don't change what I do. We're racers, we ride motorcycles." His teammate Valentino Rossi agreed. "It's a good feeling to come back on the bike," Rossi said, adding that there were more positives than negatives from riding. Once on the bike, everything changes, and every ounce of focus is needed to get a MotoGP up to a competitive speed.

That task is made doubly difficult in the wet at Valencia. Everyone commented on the state of the track, complaining that it is incredibly slippery when wet. The cause, Dani Pedrosa speculated, was the age of the surface, the tarmac having lost a lot of its grip over the years. Normally, Pedrosa said, tracks were marginally easier to ride when wet, but Valencia is now so treacherous that it requires even more concentration in the wet.

Even when a dry line formed, it was still slippery, Hayden explained, and almost as bad as in the full rain. In some ways, it was even worse when not fully wet, at least as far as Casey Stoner was concerned. His Repsol Honda gave more feedback when it was properly wet, and allowed him to feel the bike and the tires much better.

Chief benefactors of the wet conditions have clearly been the Ducatis. While the Ducati Desmosedici struggles with a lack of front end feel in the dry, the bike was much better in the wet. "Our bike has good grip in the wet," Valentino Rossi explained, "and the balance of the bike is great. Hayden said that this was probably down to the stiffness of the frame, a factor which penalized them in the dry. "Our bike works really good in the rain," Hayden said. "There's a couple of different theories that we have. One is that it's quite a stiff bike, and it pushes the rain tires into the ground and generates some heat. It's the same way that if you look at the first five minutes of a session, it's often the Ducatis on top." There is more to it than just the stiffness of the chassis, though. "Our electronics are good and we got some good rain riders on them," Hayden added.

Another factor was the difference between the Ducati and the other MotoGP machines. "Sometimes we feel our bike is too stiff at full lean to go round the corners," Hayden said. "In the rain, everybody's bike is too stiff. At that amount of force, everybody's bike is too stiff. We're all in the same boat and we rely more on the suspension to do the work, you don't need the frame to do any work. It's definitely something we've talked about and thought about before to try to help understand what it is."

Valentino Rossi was looking positively optimistic. "Our bike is quite competitive in the wet," Rossi said. The feeling was good, he added, though they still had a small problem with the rear. Once that was addressed - and the rear of the Ducati is not the problem, the front end is where all the bike's issues are - then Rossi was confident they could finish closer to the front. "It would be nice to get a good result to dedicate to Marco," he said.

The wet conditions had helped Josh Hayes too. The double AMA champion had been excited to come to Valencia and test the Yamaha M1 - an opportunity that had come about as a result of work with Yamaha subsidiaries GYT-R and Y.E.S. who had originally planned to use some of the footage from the test in their promotional materials. After the tragic events of Sepang, which saw Colin Edwards damage his shoulder in the crash that fatally injured Marco Simoncelli, Hayes was suddenly asked to step up and replace Edwards during the race. He had given serious thought to turning the offer down, but the racer inside him forced him to take it. "Any time you put a checkered flag at the end of something, there's pressure," Hayes said.

As it was, the wet track took away a couple of variables. The rain meant that the team could run the rain tires, and leave steel brake disks on the bike. Hayes had been working himself up about learning to use the Bridgestone tires and the carbon brakes - and had been listening to Cal Crutchlow's scare stories about them, as Crutchlow and Hayes already know each other from joint cycling trips near Hayes' California home - but once he had gone to sleep knowing it would be wet, it made it easier to face the morning.

"I survived my first day," Hayes said, the biggest hurdle crossed, "and I was surprised by P10," his finishing position beyond what he had come to expect. Having to learn the track and the bike was huge, and he had spent almost all his time just circulating, getting a feel for the bike. "I pitted one time in two sessions," Hayes said, coming in to have a small adjustment made during FP1, but spending all of FP2 out putting laps in. "This last session I rode from start to finish, 24 laps," Hayes said, "It's just a matter of getting laps on the bike."

Comparing the bike to his AMA Superbike winning Yamaha R1 was impossible. The M1 is tiny - a point reinforced during Yamaha's technical presentation in the evening, where they had a 2010 M1 engine on display. It is lower and narrower than any 600 Hayes had ridden, the American having raced 600s in both World Supersport and the AMA. It is about the same length as a 600, but because it is so much lower, the way the weight transfers works completely differently. It made power differently, and made more power and was so much lighter.

The wet had meant that Hayes had gotten a feel for the tires, or at least the Bridgestone rain tires, so he felt that a weekend of rain would suit him. His biggest fear is that the weather clears on Sunday afternoon, and he has to go into the race with no experience in the dry. If it happens, it happens, but it would be far from ideal.

While the riders are focused on Sunday, elsewhere a storm is brewing. Carmelo Ezpeleta's statement that he wants to introduce a standard ECU and a rev limit from 2013 is causing consternation among the factories. MotoGP is currently in a kind of limbo, as it is unclear whether Ezpeleta has signed another 5 year contract guaranteeing the MSMA (the manufacturers' association) a monopoly on the technical regulations, and his recent statements appear to be chips in the bargaining process of thrashing out a new deal. As I wrote recently, it is clear that Dorna intends to take back control of the series from the MSMA, but the MSMA is just starting to get itself organized. The battle will be fought out over the next few months, with the biggest showdown likely to come at the meeting of the Grand Prix Commission scheduled for December. More on this over the next few days, as I speak to more people and more information comes in. But it's clear that MotoGP is changing, and changing fast. It could be almost unrecognizable in a couple of years' time.

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Minor point. Hayes is two-time AMA SBK champion, but he has been an AMA champion at least four times, including his two titles in AMA FX which was basically 600cc Superbike.

Not it warrants a correction, just want to make sure Hayes gets his due :)

Hayes won the Superstock title in '03 I believe, Formula Extreme 2 times and Superbike 2 times. He used to race WERA events all over North America, even racing a few Canadian events way back when with Suzukis. He was always fast, just a bit of a late bloomer in terms of winning at National level, which probably slowed his international aspirations somewhat. Glad to see him riding the M1 well, Josh put on a nice run in the wet today.

And a few doubted Hayes cause he likes to ride without much traction control but for this being a short notice weekend he is showing that he has the talent to learn many different things and do it quickly while maintaining a acceptable...more than acceptable pace. I know Hayes is getting up there in years but times are all that matter and with MotoGP contracts normally being rather short I'd like to see him move up and see what he can do on a MotoGP or WSBK before he retires. The important thing was that seeing the paddock back and riders out is the beginning of closure for everyone.

There is another guy out there who likes to ride without much TC, one Casey Stoner. So not sure why anyone would doubt Hayes on that basis!

Why does a new deal have to be offered to the MSMA?..surely nothing has been signed collectively if Carmelo is taking this stance?

The manufacturers have put self interest above the sport during their custody of the technical rule making book, we don't need them to make rules for the sport. A sport that they are competing in and stand to benefit from by controlling? It gives the impression that funny handshakes and corruption are rife. Who's to say Yamaha and Ducati, knowing Hondas desperate need to save face by winning the last 800 title, didn't get together and go easy on them this year. Sharing out the spoils so to speak? Unlikely I know, but you get my drift?

The factorys have too much power. Going into this new 1000cc phase, the other members of the GP commission need to have the big stick, that is control over the rules, firmly back in their grasp.

Ezpeleta and Dorna get cut a lot of slack on this site..it never seems to be his fault? But he was the one who handed the MSMA a veto in 2002, then sat and watched as they tightened their grip in 2007. Another five years have passed and will anyone, outside a factory pitbox, be mourning Sunday at the passing of 800?

Will the 1000s be any different if things stay as they are should be the concern? If Carmelo has already signed away the rulebook and any leverage he may have had over the manufacturers, it will show he is in their pocket. If he stands his ground, at worst it will be no tougher to watch for a year or two than this years snorefest with maybe some CRT light at the end of the tunnel for good measure.

Where else are the manufacturers going to race now that Bridgepoint and the WSB commission have got the other alternative stitched up?

..and another thing!

Some insight into this story would be appreciated..


What is Stoner trying to say?

Journalists at Bikesport News should stop letting their primary school aged children write their articles.

I think Stoner is misinformed. He doesn't like the technical regulation proposals from Dorna, and his employer doesn't support them either. Perhaps someone in the paddock made a remark about Ezpeleta voting for the 800s so Stoner imagined that it was Ezpeleta's idea.

I tend to believe Ezpeleta when he said that he was worried about the commercial possibilities of 800cc. I also believe Ezpeleta when he claimed that MSMA/FIM/IRTA had already made up their minds and he didn't feel he had the political capital to sway one of the other GPC members. I don't think Stoner knows about these things b/c he was just an 18 year-old kid at the time.

Regarding the MSMA, I think Ezpeleta is playing divide-and-conquer. It is an Ecclestone technique whereby the commercial rights company pays a manufacturer or multiple manufacturers a premium to keep their alliances with the commercial rights company. Ecclestone used Ferrari to break the GPMA, and he paid them 9-digit sums for their loyalty. Ezpeleta might be doing something similar. In fact, MotoGP has a small Italian manufacturer who needs funding to protect themselves from the deep pockets of the Japanese industrial conglomerates. I suspect Honda and Yamaha will stay loyal to one another b/c their ongoing feud has provided the competition that both manufacturers want; however, the other manufacturers probably see the value in eliminating the competition.

It might be just the conspiracy theorist in me, but I can even see manufacturers pulling out of MotoGP to establish their own "Manufacturers' Grand Prix Supreme Tournament" or something like that as the competition for real, first-grade, full factory prototypes. They would let Dorna's MotoGP (or would it be Moto1?) become the competition of second-grade prototypes patched-up from production-derived engines and custom frames. So, instead of Espeleta putting a leash on MSMA, we would rather end up with the manufacturers getting rid for good of Dorna (and Espeleta) ...

And I bet the manufacturers' newly established series would get a lot better marketed to the wide public (maybe reaching audiences comparable, to a degree, to F1's), so where do you think Stoner, Lorenzo and the likes would go to turn their skill into healthy paychecks?

So that would be the quid pro quo for Ducati and Honda getting together and allowing Yamaha to win in '04, and of course Honda and Yamaha getting together to allow Ducati to win in '07, then?

Jeez, it MUST be Suzuki's turn in '12. Bautista is one smart dude to stay around, hey?

Or, of course, you could just be perpetuating your eternal diatribe aimed at discrediting one particular rider. But kudos for finding yet another avenue to pursue that quest, your inventiveness is fascinating!

To be fair..I think the public shame and embarrassment HRC were facing had Casey not secured the title, was far graver than any analogy you've put forward?
Oh..and Suzuki had their favour last year with nine engines.

PS. aplologies..I was adding the Stoner story link to my first post when you hit the "save" button, which has put the chronology out of order.

Seriously - the concept that Ducati would allow themselves to be put through the ridicule they are experiencing and/or Yamaha would just roll over and say "jeez, we've had three on the trot, time we shared the spoils, those guys at Honda are nice blokes, let's just give them a leg up this year" is more unlikely than the second gunman on the grassy knoll.

Stoner is extremely loyal to his employer - and if you have noticed, he's had probably more encouraging words for Ducati this year than most people, so I think it's fair to deduce that he doesn't forget people who helped him either. He certainly remains in good odour with Ducati Corse - at least the guys in the pit-box. Hence he will come out and defend his employer who is a member of the MSMA - and realistically, what Ezpeleta has just done is to effectively tell the MSMA that all their expenditure to move to the 1000s is basically going to be wasted after 2012. Given the world economic circumstances, to tell a group of manufacturers that their expenditure in remaining in motoGp is good for one year only is playing with fire.

Personally I'm massively in favour of a strong CRT presence and looking to ways to make that more attractive to investment is a great idea, but I do think this is an arse-first, 'bargaining-chip' approach and I believe that Stoner is sensitive to the position of the manufacturers - he can foresee the possible reaction back at the corporate HQs. The corporate presence and expenditure on 'the whole circus' is a necessary part of keeping motoGp as a world-class sport in the eyes of the T.V. broadcasters - even if the racing in WSBK is far better to watch, it just doesn't get the T.V. coverage, premier-event status etc. Hell, here in Aus. we don't even get a broadcast of the Aus. round of the WSBK (and we're blocked from watching it streamed live from the WSBK site!). If the manufacturers pull out, motoGp will become a runt-of-the-litter sport for the major telecasters and we'll all be back to watching highlights of the races - if we're lucky - amongst the general sports reporting, right after the Mongolian Curling World Championship and the East Asian Farnarkling Tour event.

.. well certainly here in that other antipode of New Zealand (nice John Clarke ref btw - if I remember rightly the Bayliss's were good at Farnarkling). Coverage here consists of highlights only MotoGP on terrestrial and next to no WSB coverage - unless you're prepared to give the Murdochs your hard earned lucre. . To be honest I think the quality of racing has little to do with it - it's more a general misunderstanding of two wheeled Motorsport. And this from a country that bought the world Jon Britten, Graeme Crosby, Kim Newcombe, Aaron Slight, Simon Crafar, Ivan Mauger, Bert Monroe etc etc.
What's the answer? Personality and variety IMHO. Once Rossi is circulating the speaking circuit rather than those of the Tarmac variety, the spectacle will fade even more. Despite my protestation (and I can't believe I'm going to write this) maybe Bernie over in F1 has it right in extending the four wheeled grand prix into more countries with different formats ( night, street etc). If anyone has ever witness the lunacy of NZ's Cemetary Circuit, Paeroa or Greymouth street races will attest, different formats bring great racing - close racing - and it is this that draws I the punters rather than traction controlled processions.
Like Oscar I'm excited by CRTs coming into the game and hope that they are able to be both competitive and illustrative of what can be achieved with a mix of independent bike engineering and the 'best' the factories put out to the 'hoi polloi'. 2012 stands to be the most interesting since 2001.

did you see the size and the enthusiasm of the F1 crowd in the India race?

to attract global advertisers/sponsors MotoGP needs to go to Brazil, Russia, China and India even if Dorna has to organize and promote the races themselves.

I don't buy into his chassis being so stiff it forces the bike into the pavement line - surely this is merely weight and centrifugal force, but his second statement is of course bang on the money. They're all too stiff in the wet, certainly suspension settings and electronics is where it's at. In the wet they're never going to reach the lean angles of the dry and generate the corresponding corning forces bringing in their dreaded harmonic resonance / vibration / chattering / confidence - whatever it is - issue.

Anyway I'm with the riders. The wet is a pisser and puts a real damper on any weekend. Let it shine today. I want to see what Hayes can do in the dry.