2011 Valencia Post-Race Day 1 Round Up - Audition Day

If the first day of last year's Valencia test was one of the biggest media events of the century - at least in the MotoGP world - the first day of this year's test was a lot more interesting. Though the test was missing a number of big names - Jorge Lorenzo was ruled out with a finger injury, Nicky Hayden couldn't take part because he fractured his scaphoid in the crash on Sunday - this was a day that the future was on display.

The results sheet showed one thing all too clearly: the Hondas are on a different planet, Dani Pedrosa being a tenth faster than his teammate Casey Stoner, but the gap back to Ben Spies in 3rd is enormous. Spies was over a second slower than Pedrosa, and nine tenths off Stoner, and at the head of a group of eight riders separated by just over a second. When I asked one Honda insider about the Honda tests in Jerez at the start of the year, they used the word "insane" to describe the performance. At Valencia, we got a taste of what that meant.

The irony was that at the end of the day, I spoke to HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto, and he spoke of his concern at the situation of Suzuki, and Honda's need to have competition, and someone to measure themselves against. On the evidence of the first day of testing, they won't be finding it in MotoGP. Casey Stoner complained of chatter from the new softer compound Bridgestone tires, and said he did not expect this to be Honda's 2012 bike, with more work needed on stability in corner entry and engine braking. Fastest man of the day - by a whole second over the first non-Honda, may I remind you - Dani Pedrosa said that he still hadn't figured out how to ride the new bike, had learned a lot and was still piecing everything together. If they are a second faster than the rest now, Zeus only knows how much quicker they will be once they get everything sorted out.

The news - if you can call it news, we've been reporting about the aluminium twin spar that Ducati have been building since August this year. The story was first uncovered by Thomas Baujard of Moto Journal, and reported here back in mid-August. Ducati staff are resolutely refusing to call it the GP12, Filippo Preziosi referring to it as "step zero" and a benchmark from which to develop the bike they intend to race next year. It is all too tempting to refer to this iteration as "the TAFKAP bike" just for ease of reference.

Ducati Desmosedici GP12 aluminium twin spar chassis at Valencia

The good news is that the chassis is a big improvement. Hector Barbera said that to him, it felt like the front and the rear were connected once again. "It feels like my Aprilia 250," Barbera said, sporting his new Pramac Ducati leathers. He could now feel the front end going into the corners, something he had not been able to feel when riding the old version of the bike which used the engine as a stressed member of the chassis.

Valentino Rossi emphasized that the bike really was exactly the same as the previous version of the bike - as debuted at Aragon, with an aluminium front frame - but with the frame replaced by an aluminium perimeter chassis. Rossi said he still could not feel the front mid-corner, but the bigger engine made a big difference in feel. All of the work this week is aimed at the bike to be debuted in Sepang next year - or perhaps earlier, once the new testing rules are adopted - which will have a number of significant changes from the bike on display here. As Filippo Preziosi explained yesterday, the aim of this test is to get the data the designers need to build the bike they will race next year, hence Rossi not being too worried about the times they were setting.

Despite being 1.6 seconds off the pace - or perhaps more realistically, six tenths off the pace of Ben Spies - Rossi looked transformed on the bike. At the test last year, Rossi looked incredibly uncomfortable on the Desmosedici, helped no doubt by the shoulder injury he had been carrying all year. Today, Rossi looked like he had finally found the imposter that had been using his leathers all year, and kicked him out of the Ducati garage. Rossi once again looked comfortable, moving naturally around the bike the way he used to. The bike clearly needs more work, but it might at last be moving forward.

While the riders were out on track, MotoGP's silly season appears to have been drawing to a close. Though nothing is as yet confirmed, it appears that Alvaro Bautista has signed for Gresini Honda, leaving Randy de Puniet to take over at Suzuki. If there is a Suzuki MotoGP effort next year, something that Paul Denning and co are doing everything in their power to ensure. De Puniet rode the Suzuki today at Valencia, and immediately posted impressive times, going 4th fastest and  just three tenths off the pace of Ben Spies, despite riding an 800 while Spies was on the 1000cc Yamaha.

De Puniet was not the only rider auditioning for a ride. Stefan Bradl was riding the 800cc RC212V Honda for the LCR team, ostensibly as a reward for winning the Moto2 title. In reality, the ride was a test, to see how the German would fair aboard a MotoGP bike. The answer was "pretty well", Bradl ending the day two seconds off Pedrosa, and ahead of Karel Abraham on the 1000cc Cardion AB Ducati. Bradl is due to test the bike again tomorrow, but it looks like Honda and Dorna will stump up the funds to pay for the German to enter MotoGP, despite his team being committed to Moto2 for 2012. Having a German in MotoGP is vital for Dorna, as is having a Moto2 champion who can erase the memory of Toni Elias' ill-fated year in MotoGP. Though all parties are denying it, a contract for Bradl with LCR is in reality just a formality.

The biggest news of all - though we may not realize it yet - was the appearance of so many CRT machines. They varied in quality from outstanding to cobbled together home-made jobs, and the times were a long way off those set by the Hondas. But given the fact that this was the first time that most of the bikes had even turned a wheel on the track, and that every one of them was being ridden by someone with no experience in MotoGP, no experience of the tires, and without much success at international level to their name. More on the CRT bikes tomorrow, but if anyone feared that these bikes would be jumped-up street bikes, they are gravely mistaken. The bikes on display - especially the FTR Kawasaki being run out of the BQR garage - were stunning pieces of engineering, and beautiful to look at. They also added a level of aural richness that has been missing from MotoGP over the last few years, the bikes using different engine configurations to the current crop of MotoGP machines. They will improve very rapidly over the next few months, and thought a CRT bike is unlikely ever to win a world title, that will be more down to the riders at the helm of the machines, rather than the machines themselves.

If you don't believe the CRT machines are something special, here's a couple of shots of the FTR Kawasaki. This is no hot-rodded street bike.

The FTR Kawasaki CRT bike being run out of the BQR garage at the Valencia MotoGP test

The FTR Kawasaki by BQR with Yonny Hernandez at the MotoGP test at Valencia

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Nobody has sourced an Aprilia V4 engine for CRT as yet.

As always, David very good reporting. Assuming Bautista is taking Aoyama's seat at Gresini vs. our departed friend's seat? De Puniet is taking a bit of a risk maybe by signing with Suzuki who have not even confirmed participation next year. Bautista is looking to be the smart one.

Nice to see Crutchlow circling in the top 5 and out-doing Dovi who himself is no slouch at 7th on the brand-new-to-him Yamaha machine.

The CRT's are well off the pace as expected, but that they were even participating this soon in testing has to be good news to Dorna. I doubt any of them will be able to touch even a satellite Honda next year, but they'll look and sound cool trying.

The sort of detail we all crave but simply won't find anywhere else.

Ducati beam frame being rolled out to all teams clearly signals that the carbon concept is dead and buried.

Stoked to hear that Bautista will go to Gresini - this makes so much sense and he deserves it.

I think Pedrosa will be the biggest danger to Stoner in 2011, while another wasted year is sadly on the cards for Ducati.

Granted that Lorenzo (major piece in the puzzle) and other riders are missing, that this is just the first pre-season test, etc, but I start to suspect things won't differ much in 2012 from those results seen today.

The article on Dovizioso test at GPOne mentions some happiness with the bike but also some serious concern regarding same issues found in the acceleration of both the 800cc and 1000cc M1 (he tested both) if compared to the RCV212 that he was riding this year. He mentions a somewhat abrupt power delivery causing "acceleration pumping"(?), to which they can't seem to find a cure yet (work for tomorrow).

I'm disapointed with Ducati because, turning up with a "laboratory" bike (is it really?) at this point looks a lot like a major delay in development compared to other manufacturers (hopefully I'm wrong). It's good to know that Valentino looks to be more comfortable and that Barbera likes it better too but it doesn't look too promising, laboratory bike or not.
I sure hope Ducati has an ace hidden in their sleeves this time, because, at some point, people will call for their bluff (so much experimenting) and, if that fails, it will turn into a much bigger embarrassment than it was this year.

De Puniet is always quick at Valencia, and the engine power is not so important in there as, say, Brno or Mugello, so I would take those nice Suzuki 800 lap times among the new 1000s with a pinch of salt. Kudos to him for adapting so quick though.

The Hondas... if they're having problems and doing already so well with the laptimes, the 2012 season might become too predictable much to soon.

That comment of Nakamoto-San is interesting... still, that's what happens with too much influence, too much money. They already have what they wanted in Moto2 (spec-engine) and, most likely, will have too in Moto3. They always seemed to crave for global supremacy, whatever sport or market, at whatever cost, so they should not complain or be suprised if they face themselves alone in the premier category.

Lots of people don't like the CRT bikes but I look at them like blooming flowers in a garden, they feel positive to me somehow. It's the return of some "hand craft" works and the "little guy" to the series, after more than a decade of absence! :-)

1000s will doubtless test, practice and qualify faster, having effectively a 25% power advantage, however... the race might be a different matter.

Basic thermodynamics would say that, all other things being equal, fuel is the determining factor of the total amount of power available in a race.

The 1000s are limited to the same 21L as the 800s, and the 800s can be 3kgs (?) lighter.

Assuming the aim of the game is to use the full quota of power (fuel) available for a race, then to produce more power over the entire race, the 1000s are going to have to become magically more efficient than 800s, or manage their fuel use, or run dry.

That's a good point, the fuel consumption could turn out as an advantage for the Suzuki GSVR 800cc.
There could also be another possible benefit (having less power/torque), related to tyre wear.

However, and as much as that scenario can please us, it's doubtful that Honda and Yamaha haven't stress-tested all these ideas/doubts already. After all, these two manufacturers usually have the development fairly advanced once the first pre-season tests begin.

Would like to know how did Dovi fair up on his first M1 ride? Comfortable/Not comfortable/etc...

Honda is very good but remember that without Stoner, Lorenzo would have been WC again. If yamaha can come with a decent engine, a slightly better gearbox, they will be able to compete. Do not underestimate Stoner's talent.

to remember that Pedrosa broke another collarbone this year due to the incident with Sic. Before his throttle got stuck last year, he was catching up to Lorenzo and could have won the title in 2010. Dani looked fantastic at the end of last year only to have that throttle stuck and end his chances at a championship.

Without the incident with Sic this year who knows where he would place.

I believe Stoner is a better rider than Pedrosa but I'm not so quick to dismiss Dani or the 212v so easily.

Im guessing Bautista will ride the factory prepared bike that was going to go to Marco and Iannone will get the CRT?

I think Yuki Takahashi was already confirmed as the rider for the CRT of Gresini(?).

That's another one of the prominent CRT bikes still missing from these tests, along with the one to be ridden by Colin Edwards.

I think it was as much Honda as Stoner as the jump from behind at Valencia showed. Even Nakamoto in interview has confirmed that Honda (as in all factory Hondas had an acceleration advantage). While I agree Pedro is mercurial, he is also unlucky, had he not been injured it would be interesting to see how things would have gone. Either way Jorge had to ride way over the edge just to keep up particularly at the horsepower tracks. My view, Stoner best of the Honda riders and as always any of the aliens on factory Repsols this year would have won the WC. 2007 all over again. But I agree that had Stoner been hit by a bus then it would have been Jorge versus Pedro with Jorge possibly winning however, we think that because of 2010. Honda just annihilated everyone this year so maybe Pedro would have dominated with Stoner out of the way.

Was down to the superior line and traction Stoner got off the turn, not the Honda's horsepower in those damp conditions. If it had been Lorenzo in front of Stoner there's no way Stoner would have gotten by him before the stripe like that. Stoner said he saw Spies was weak there the lap before which is why he knew it was possible.

... that Honda won the championship and not Stoner. Rossi summed it up nicely: "(Stoner is) the best rider on the best bike." And Rossi would know, having been in that position quite a bit himself.

The final standings suggest otherwise. If it was all Honda it would've been a Repsol 1-2-3 on the final standings. Yes the Honda is a better overall package, it's been that way since the middle of the 2010. I still think that Rossi or Lorenzo on the M1 would have finished in front of Dovi and Pedrosa on the Honda.

The best bike normally wins the championship, so saying that Stoner won the championship because he was on the best bike is rather pointless. A case could be made that the 2004 Yamaha and 2007 Ducati were not the best bike, but even that is debatable. There is no doubt that the stars aligned for Stoner and Honda this year, but you could say the same for Lorenzo 2010, Rossi 2008/9, Stoner 2007, Hayden 2006 etc etc.

Back up the Rabbit hole? I'm pretty damn sure we've read David state that Rossi was looking more comfortable and more like his old self on the D16 once or twice earlier this year too. So many false dawns people soon won't hear Rossi cry 'wolf' C.J.

Anyway, Tuesday meant very little from a lap time perspective, today should paint a better picture. I'm encouraged by Spies stating he has no problem with engine power. I'm not sure I've ever read that kind of statement from a Yamaha rider before - not M1 or YZR.

I thought if Ezpeleta has his way we WILL see a CRT world champion 2013.

The turnaround time in producing an aluminium beam-framed bike has been amazing. This thing has been developed within months, not years. Imagine the work that would have involved. Never mind the lap times for now: the fact that they're able to put a bike up for testing at Valencia with a completely reinvented chassis (from their perspective) is pretty special.

If Lorenzo was at this test, there is no way there would be a one second gap between him and Stoner/Pedrosa. To say that the Honda is on another planet may be a bit premature without Yamaha's number one rider out there.

I am also sure Dovi raved about how good the m1 was on corner entry, which implies that the Honda is not the best bike on the grid in that area, no?

As for the run to the line in Valencia, it was my impression that in slippery conditions, all of the bikes have too much power to simply crack open the throttle to the stop. Surely throttle management and setup/gearing played a vital role rather than just straight hp. Of course the funny thing is, if Stoner was still at Ducati, then Lorenzo (or Rossi?) would be the best rider on the best bike with the HRC effort being an also-ran against the mighty M1.

"I am also sure Dovi raved about how good the m1 was on corner entry, which implies that the Honda is not the best bike on the grid in that area, no?"


Quoting the man himself as from the article direct translation:

"I immediately felt comfortable when braking and entering the curve, as I expected seeing Yamaha turn the outside - he explains - It 's almost like a 2 stroke as a guide, slipping behind is very good and has very little engine braking . Then you can count on very smooth delivery, which allows you to open the throttle with the bike still very steep, it is easy to control."
Some problem comes instead from the acceleration phase: "The biggest weakness is in output from the curves - says Andrea - The M1 rears very easily, not only 1000 but also the 800, and also suffer greatly accelerated pumping. (...) Output rather lose a lot, on the straights, accelerations, I can not harness the power."

I seem to remember that the M1 had a crank that rotated in the opposite direction to the wheels, at least at the start of the Furusawa era. Does anyone know whether this is still the case? I guess this wuold have been mentioned in the Yamaha end of season / end of 800cc era technical presentation. Would this (in part) explain the greater agility but poorer traction compared to other MotoGP bikes, especially the Honda?

...he did well taking this chance.
I hope he can deliver at least part of what Simoncelli would have, Gresini deserves that.

So what that means is that, if Bradl is going to LCR, De Puniet will be either with Suzuki or out of the series...?

It may not be cheap/easy for the "privateers" (remember what this word meant?) to source the engine(s) but I think it can be done: Aluminum twin-spar frame (one of the British manufacturers would do nicely, or ask Ducati Corse for advice) and the engine from the Ducati Desmosedici RR :)
It's a 989 cc 90° V4-cylinder 'Twin Pulse' liquid-cooled DOHC Desmodromic 16v with gear-driven camshafts (Ciao Aprilia!) which produces a claimed 197.3 HP (you can read the rest of the specs from Wikipedia).
Even Ducati itself can have a (third) CRT-bike in their garage with Iannone riding and Uccio managing!! (I'm so fed up with Ducati Corse this year.)
Just think about it...

Well, you're right Sir, I missed that little detail.
But I still think that Ducati Corse and VR46 can get around that by forcing a rule change (undercover of course!) in the middle of the season if they continue having this year's ridiculous results in 2012 also.

It is a shame that Ducati has kind of lost direction. They went to the top and know seem to be wondering in a mode of uncertainty. Honda is certain to repeat if Yamaha and Ducati continue to be looking for the handle.
It is early yet but the fact that the gap is so large this only gives the Honda guys a better chance of improving.
The CRT Kawasaki is impressive visually lets hope they are more competitive than in the WSB.
The Yamaha team has to shaking their heads wondering if they can close the gap. Ben seems to be some what recovered from the rib injury.
Rossi is probably a little pleased that the bike feels better. I would bet he is still not happy that the lap times are so far off though. Lets hope they can get the Ducati back to the front.
Good luck to the paddock this winter!

Don't sleep on the Ducatis. With a new willingness/ability to adjust and amend the configuration of the bike to better suit the needs of the riders, with Rossi and Hayden providing the testing and development, with the testing restrictions removed...I think we're going to see a much improved, much more competitive bike. Rossi and Hayden will be back where they should be next year, fighting at the sharp end.

I think the bulk of the problem with Ducati was unwillingness to change. Now that they have, I'd expect things to finally start moving forwards instead of backwards.

After losing the title for 4 years, Honda is not playing around any more. They should be feared by all as they are the NASA of the motorcycle world. Yamaha or Ducati, or both, are going to have be very crafty to come up with some engineering solutions to give them a run for their money.

The slow yamahas; spies was testing frames as well (omg yamaha, why you no make right frame already?). He said he was cruising and not racing. He's also pretty banged up.

Look how fast bradle and RDP where. Look how slow Dovi was.

I think it's a little too early to conclude the winner and failures of 2012

Stoner said they have chatter problems with the new bike and they have their own issues. So Yamaha and Honda are both having small problems that they need to work out over the winter. Meanwhile the Hondas are still in front by a margin.

Just looking at the FTR Kawasaki - as lovely and tarty looking as she is, she's a big old girl with wide hips and a lot of frontal area.

This may be part of the problem the proddie engined based inline CRT's face. Width, and by virtue of, being that much more difficult to toss around and dominate as a proper frisky factory filly likes and responds to.

but even if the engines were narrower, I'm not sure the production materials could tolerate prototype operating temps or dissipate 24L-worth of heat through an RCV-sized radiator.

"Like I said many times, if I believe pneumatic is better than desmo, I will use pneumatic valves, and if I believe that 72 degree angle is better than 90 then I will do that. But to be honest, I don't think it is a top priority issue, and I don't think it will help in what we are thinking of doing."

It's taken a while but it finally looks as if Ducati are going to give Rossi all of the changes he's been asking for.

I'm not saying they'll be able to turn this version of the GP12 into a race winner but it would be nice to think they could close the gap to Yamaha and Honda...

It was good to see Spies close to within a 1/2 second by the test's end, I'd expect Lorenzo would've been right up there as well. Yamaha will be a player in 2012 from all indications, especially considering the power deficit versus the Honda will all but evaporate with the extra 200cc, everyone should have a surplus now, it'll just come down to using the Bridgestones properly.

As for Ducati... there's no doubt Rossi knows what he wants and needs to ride properly, it's just a matter of Ducati engineers understanding their own craft well enough to deliver it. It'll be a real shame if they suffer again in 2012, Rossi will walk away relatively unscathed, but Ducati will take a serious hit to their cred if next season is another long, slow stumble across the finish line.

There's a rumour circulating about James Ellison returning to the series (rode the WCM-Harris in '03), that he has already signed a contract to ride for Paul Bird's CRT team in 2012 (Aprilia RSV4 engine, chassis unknown).
This is pretty interesting, any info on this at all?

Those aren't rumors, Ellison is confirmed with Paul Bird for 2012 in MotoGP aboard a CRT bike, probably an Aprilia engine in an FTR chassis.

Yes, things are suddenly moving along in quite dramatic fashion. It looks like the concerns about 15 or less bikes on the grid have evaporated...