2012 Sepang 2 MotoGP Test Day 3 Round Up: Of Mercury And Sisyphus, Or Speed And Hard Labor

At last a full day of testing: though Thursday started out overcast, the rain that threatened through the final day of the Sepang MotoGP test never really came in earnest, with only a few drops of rain keeping the riders off the track for an hour or so in the afternoon. After two days which were largely lost to the weather, worked was stepped up to an almost frantic pace to make up for lost time.

The name of the fastest rider of the day was as unsurprising as the direction the sun rose in the morning. Casey Stoner has established himself as the man to beat, realistically from the moment he left Ducati to join Honda. After yesterday's hiatus - forced on the Honda riders by HRC, after an engine warning light on Dani Pedrosa's RC213V saw the bikes confined to their garages as a precautionary measure - Stoner was back in charge, topping the timesheets comfortably once again.

And yet again, it was not just his fast time that impressed, but the apparent ease with which Stoner posted fast laps. Where others struggled to post a single lap in the 2'00 bracket, Stoner was either there or very close on almost every exit. Though the Australian did not attempt a race simulation, as some of the others did - reports from veteran journalist Dennis Noyes and experienced Spanish reporter Jose Maroto suggest that Honda had restricted riders to runs of 4 full laps or less in the aftermath of Pedrosa's engine problem, suggesting the problem could be heat- or lubrication-related - his pace was consistently better than anyone else's, Jorge Lorenzo the only man apparently capable of getting close.

Honda still has problems, Stoner asserted. The biggest problem is chatter, he told MotoGP.com, and despite all their efforts to counter it - shortening the wheelbase of the bike being their main prong of attack - the chatter was holding the Repsol Honda back a lot, Stoner said. When it is that bad, he cannot feel what the bike is doing, and that was badly affecting the bike.

Apart from that, there is little wrong with the machine, with Stoner pronouncing himself happy with how the bike responded. The balance of the bike was good, it was turning well, and most surprisingly, the Australian also said the traction of the bike was fine. Given that almost every other rider on every brand of machine was complaining that finding traction was one of their biggest problems, that is quite remarkable, pointing either to the genius of Stoner's crew chief Cristian Gabbarini and his team, or else to a Doohan-esque attempt at mind games, praising the bike in one area where Stoner knows the rest are struggling.

Though Dani Pedrosa was faster, Jorge Lorenzo looks like the only man capable of getting near to Stoner's pace. The factory Yamaha rider did a race simulation in the afternoon, running at a pace that was impressively metronomic. Dennis Noyes calculated that Lorenzo's race pace during that run was nearly a full second faster than the pace set by Valentino Rossi while winning the 2010 race. Lorenzo's consistency was positively fearsome: laps 7-9 of the 19-lap simulation were done in 2'01.811, 2'01.889 and 2'01.883; laps 12 and 13 in 2'02.092 and 2'02.062; and the last 5 laps were all within a tenth of a second. Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg refers to the 2010 World Champion as a robot, looking at his times it is easy to see why.

Lorenzo, too, has his problems, however, traction being one of the biggest. The new Yamaha M1 moves a lot at the rear under acceleration, and this makes getting strong drive out of the corners very difficult. This is likely also related to the new Bridgestone tires; the new softer, less stiff rears are showing a much greater rate of wear, and are starting to slide quite quickly in race conditions. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso earmarked tire management as being a key factor in 2012; good news for fans as this means riders have more strategies available, and races could be interesting over the full length, as those who took off fast run out of tires and drop back, while those who saved their tires move forward in the latter stages.

It's not just Lorenzo who is happy, though: all of the Yamaha men are overjoyed at the work the factory has done. Andrea Dovizioso was positively effusive, saying how happy he was with the bike and with the progress both he and Yamaha have made, and the work of the team. Ending the day in 3rd, ahead of Lorenzo - though with a flying lap made at the very end of the day when conditions were best - was all that he could have asked for, though the Italian was also keen to point out that his race simulation pace was not the same as Lorenzo's.

Lorenzo's teammate Ben Spies described the test as "great", praising the amount of progress that had been made, especially with the electronics and the throttle response, something that Lorenzo was also happy about, and the amount that he and the team had learned over the course of the test. Spies sat out the final part of the session, after a small crash at Turn 7 saw him tweak his neck. Having completed most of the work he and the team had set themselves, Spies decided caution was the better part of valor. The Texan has three more areas that he hopes to test at Jerez, before getting on with the important work of finding a base setup for the season.

Cal Crutchlow, too, is happy with how things have gone so far, though a problem at the start of the day frustrated his attempts to post a fast time. Rear grip and traction remains a problem, though Crutchlow also said that he still also has stuff to learn, adapting his riding style to the new bike. The engine braking system is causing him a few problems, as it is more like a two stroke than a four stroke, Crutchlow said yesterday, and having raced four strokes all his life, that requires reconfiguring his reflexes.

Over in the Ducati camp, things are not quite so rosy. Indeed, after the optimism of the first Sepang test, the mood has turned rather grim, with Valentino Rossi describing the test as "quite negative." The good thing about the test was that the gap to the front had been reduced, Rossi said, but the worst thing was that the bike was starting to display understeer once again. That problem - part of a collection of problems, including front-end chatter and a lack of feedback - had been addressed by the complete redesign of the Ducati, which saw the Desmosedici's engine rolled back, to shorten the bike and lift the weight upwards. But as one commentator pointed out, it appears as if their attempts to find more traction and solve chatter at the rear by moving weight backwards merely caused the bike to understeer again, the bike not turning as Rossi would like.

The two days lost to the weather cut into Ducati's testing program, and the new parts that Rossi had been hoping for are unlikely to appear until the season is well underway. Finding himself in 10th, and over a second behind Casey Stoner, is not where Rossi had hoped to be with just one more test to go before the season commences. Ducati team boss Vito Guareschi was more positive, pointing out that Rossi's fastest time was set in the middle of the day, while the conditions were at their worst, and that his focus had been testing, not pushing for a fast lap. Guareschi told GPOne.com that Rossi could have been faster, but that his priorities lay elsewhere. The Italian's times were around those of factory teammate Nicky Hayden's who is still recovering from shoulder surgery. This, Guareschi argued, was signal enough that Rossi was not anywhere near the pace he was capable of running at.

Whether this optimism is false or not remains to be seen, but as thing stand, the marketing marriage made in heaven of Valentino Rossi and Ducati has yet to reach the stage of wedded bliss. Rossi's situation is made worse by the fact that Pramac's Hector Barbera sits ahead of him on the timesheets on the satellite Ducati, the machine he tested at Valencia at the end of 2011. The sole consolation there is that Barbera set his fast time in the way that the Spaniard usually does: by latching on to the coat tails of a faster rider, and towing his way to the upper regions of the timesheets. Still, the fact remains that when pushed, the GP0 is capable of decent times, while the factory Ducatis are much further off the pace.

There is much work still to be done in Borgo Panigale; the feat of creating a brand new bike after Valencia to bring to Sepang at the end of January was a positively Herculean effort. A month later, Ducati Corse must be fearing that the hero of antiquity they most resemble is not Hercules, but Sisyphus.

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Lorenzo's times are truly unbelievable. I have a transponder on my bike to record lap times... and my times are usually all over the place. Absolutely amazing. A good example of why these guys are called "aliens" (although an overused term).

I try explaining this to people who don't follow racing as: try and do a few laps around the office a few times and see if you can be within a few 100ths of a second each time. Not very likely.

If Ducati are condemned to an enternity of rolling a stone uphill only to watch it roll to the bottom again, then that condemnation will most likely be delivered to them by Randy Depuniet on the Aprilia. The clash of the Italian glamour brands has Ducati in a position with little to gain and everything to loose.

Biaggi's breathtaking speed at PI during the Superbikes demonstrates the capability of the Aprilia engine, and with that extra 3 litres of fuel, they are shaping up as real threat to the slower prototypes.

I think Lorenzo and Yamaha were very smart for doing race testing yesterday, and its obvious the prototypes will be faster, but what happens when the ECU starts to restrict fuel usage and Depuniet is a 100 yards back with 4 laps to go? Yamaha knows!

You brought up a very interesting point regarding fuel consumption. I remember reading something during the CRT tests a week or so back where Randy de Puniet was claiming that his bike still didn't have quite the horsepower as the prototypes, even while they had a extra 3 liters of fuel to use.

I'm no engineer but could it be that the prototypes, because they are running pneumatic valves, are that much more fuel efficient than the CRT engines which use regular spring valves? Or is it just that the Prototype manufacturers have so much experience in using the electronics to conserve fuel that they've been able to get around the 3 liter deficiency and yet still make more power? Or maybe a combination of both?

Take a look at this link. It's a HRC Boss Shuhei Nakamoto Debrief Transcript from Brno test 2011. At Brno, Honda tested race configuration (for the fuel consumption), while Yamaha chased lap times.


Q: You are already testing here in race configuration for the fuel consumption? For the 21 liters fuel consumption?

Yes. We are testing in the race configuration.

Guareschi's claim that Rossi could have gone faster is meaningless. Stoner also set his fastest time in the hottest part of the day, and there is no doubt Stoner and Lorenzo could have gone faster if they had wanted to.

Rossi's public negativity is a rather surprising and disappointing development after the earlier optimism. So Ducati's form remains one of the big question marks this season, along with tire degradation, the effects of fuel consumption, and the performance of that Aprilia CRT.

Man, I`m truly a hardcore fan of Rossi since the beginning. If he pulls it off this year, I will never ever doubt his abillities, but I have to admit that even I am losing my faith in his decision to go to Ducati and that he will get competitive there.
Ok in the past he was never the Pole position King and it was not important for him where he started from at the race, but it became more important due to the competition I believe.
So can he allways find the extra strength during each race to go faster than the others? It would be a super human effort. I've seen him doing just that, but even he cannot do that on a daily basis I must admit.
The hope that he can rise again though will not die in me until his retirement....but at the moment its hard to keep the faith alive.

I'm sure Vale has regretted the decision since the very moment he swung his leg over the GP11. It must be very humbling to know that he would have been better off taking the pay cut at Yamaha and riding alongside Jorge. Vale on an M1 last year would have taken an equal number of wins as Lorenzo, Stoner would still be the WC, I have no doubt of that, but Vale would have been competitive. However Vale's ego and self confidence blurred his judgement. He let himself get gently shoved out of Yamaha and the only other Factory to go to was Ducati or Suzuki, and surely with the apparent competitiveness of the GP10 in the hands of CS, it was the logical decision at that time.

I truly believe Vale will regret leaving Yamaha for a long time. He will never admit it publicly because he is too smart politically. Now this is not to discredit Ducatis efforts of recent in any way. For the size of their capital they really are attempting to take on a powerhouse in Honda Racing.

What is very apparent is that Vale is starting to show signs of frustration in relation to the amount of time that he has left to prepare for the 2012 season. Sepang 2 was rained out for 2/3's of the test, basically forcing the Ducati team to run through test programs rapidly.

Hector doing his usual thing on a bike, getting a tow, when he is strictly chasing setup and confidence while setting a time faster than Vale has probably gotten underneath Vale's skin. Everyone inside the paddock knows VR46 is the fastest man on a Ducati, however when HB does something like this it feeds the crash.net-esque frenzy and all of a sudden the stories are all saying VR is washed up and the satellite riders are faster when in reality, like Guerreschi has said, Vale was doing more data gathering than anyone else, and especially with the limited time on the track, was really unable to chase for the fastest lap.

I really hope Jerez brings at least a glimmer of hope for Ducati this season.

I would venture that, if by the end of 2012 Vale is challenging for podiums on the regular, he would probably sign another contract with Ducati in hopes of a 2013 WC contention. Because in reality, there really is no where else for him to go in GP. Honda/Yamaha would probably never give him a factory bike out of spite even if it was his own team. That leaves Ducati, WSBK, retirement, or WRC. I really don't see Vale as a person to give up on the sport out of frustration.

Lets see what Aprilia's plans are before writing off all of his MotoGP options.

I can't see it making much difference though. There are class riders out there now. Top shelf. Rossi has had competition before, but absolutely nothing like the aliens sitting at the top of todays GP paddock.

Even on a good bike, WC's are far from a given - especially now that his real competition are on the same kinds of bikes (and budgets) that he himself has enjoyed throughout his career.

I think this humble pie munching is a good thing for the sport. Rossi sees how hard it is to compete when he doesn't have everything he wants thrown at his feet instantaneously. When crying foul when beaten, and a bottomless bag of excuses gets him nowhere. A young gun beats him on the same bike consistently.. and his arch rival sits head and shoulders above everyone else, whilst Rossi himself had to throw his leg over the shit box he had been competing on (and regularly beating him on) and realising just how different it is on the other side.

To top it off, Marlboro came to the same plate with their hat in hand asking for a piece of that very same humble pie.

Let's just hope the accompanying drink isn't milk. They might just choke on it.

Hard to say if Rossi regrets the decision or not...I would not assume he does just because he's having trouble competing for podiums.

After all, Rossi has been the premier MotoGP class racer for a long time, and his accomplishments speak for themselves (to say the least). I remember when I first started to follow MotoGP back around 2004 or so, and would marvel at his ability to overtake and win from almost anywhere on the grid. Just amazing.

But there comes a time in life when you just accept that things are different...no matter how good you have been, and how eager to compete you still are. And let's face it: even on exactly the same machinery, IMO Rossi would have his hands full beating guys like Stoner and Lorenzo to the title. So maybe Rossi is at this point in his life/career. And he has always said the challenge was to attempt to win a championship with a 3rd manufacturer. Given the problems experienced by e.g. Melandri and Hayden, I think he was smart enough to know it would not be easy (also confident/arrogant enough to want to try), and therefore he was more or less ready to fail at that.

In any case, from everything I know his contract at Ducati is quite lucrative compared to what he would have earned at Yamaha. So he's 'crying all the way to the bank', as they say.

Wasn't it a couple of years ago VR said if he was competing for 5th or 6th he would know its time to stay at home ?

For my money, Stoner established himself as 'the man to beat' when he was at Ducati -- his wins (most during the 800cc era) and pole positions show that. If he had not been ill and crashed so often he'd have at least a couple of more world titles than he has now. Not that it would have been easy with competition like Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, et al.

I would love to see Rossi in WSBK. It seems to be the series where once great Moto GP riders find one last chance for glory before retirement. It's a series where rider skill can still make a difference, how much fun would it be to see Biaggi and Rossi battling once again!

I was thinking a similar metaphor the other day. Except using the Greek gods Zeus and Kronos.

You can guess who is who...

My money's on Guareshi.

Rossi "It’s also nice that the new electronics work well, but it hurts being down on the timesheets compared to all the others. Honestly, I expected to do better than tenth."

Racers are racers and always want to go fast. Of course he tried for a time and of course not getting one hurt Valentino. He's in a real mental downward spiral and must be struggling with what many of us realise. He's been outpaced by the young guns.

Given what Barbera in particular has done on the Zero, there is potential in the GP12. Rossi's just not the right man to extract it.

Lets not get caried away by the Barbera result. The reality at the moment most probably is:
1. Stoner's race pace at Sepang is 1sec faster than Rossi's. It won't that much at Jerez as it is shorter track, plus not one of the Stoner's favourite - I am not sure whether he has podium there yet.
2. Stoner's race pace at Sepang is 0.3-0.4 sec faster than that of Dany and Jorge.
3. Rossi's race pace is better that that of Barbera, probably close to that of the satelite Yamaha bikes.
4. Edward's race pace on the CRT at Sepang is about 5sec of Stoner's.

How many weeks left til Qatar??? The question(s) I would like the answer(s) to... among the factory-riders, who is really sandbagging their true performance level? Does Stoner, Jorge, and Spies have more in the locker? Will Hayden outpace Rossi on the same bike? If he does, will Ducati ask him to dial it down so Rossi can be upfront and not lose face? At the moment, Stoner will need some help battling all those Yamahas on the grid.

First, if pneumatic valves are an efficiency advantage, there is no rule that says Aprilia couldn't build and sell some pneumatic-valve versions of the RSV4 heads.

Second, it's amusing to consider the theatre Ducati made of building a new frame over winter. This was apparently such an effort that they could only build them for the factory bikes, leaving Barbera and Abraham on the dead-end GP-zero (although those plans may be coming back off the server as I type). Meanwhile, both Yamaha and Suter calmly built new frames between the two Sepang tests to deal with the chatter issue. Can Ducati not even match Suter's level of commitment?

Third, it seems a worry that Honda didn't test for more than 4 laps at a time if the new tyres degrade significantly over race difference. 7 lots of 4 laps isn't necessarily the same as 28 laps in one burst.

Fourth, we know nothing until the flag drops in Qatar anyway.

As many would point out, racking in lap after lap with Lorenzo efficiency is typical of Lorenzo. Now if he tried to do anything to eyeblind his opponents it would be obvious. Likewise,should Stoner drop down and remain consistently .5 off the pace and end any test in fifth, it would be obvious that he was playing games. (Presuming of course that injury or clear mechanical/tire issues were culprit). The team mate comparison by and large prevents any 'sandbagging', unless its a deliberate team order. I've never seen it.
So,what we got in the summary is pretty much as it is is right now.
The usual suspects, as usual setting the usual pace.
On the Ducati front, Rossi suffers another blow. It is all well and good to lay blame at Ducati's doorstep, but there has been a rider ability,call it what you may,shift in his case.
Whenever Rossi's name is mentioned the stats go with it. He was always a second a lap better than any team mate (barring Lorenzo).
The status quo has remained intact within Lorenzo/Spies and Stoner/Pedrosa.
I don't believe Hayden has found a turn of speed. Rather, Rossi has lost a yard by comparison.
In my opinion Ducati are stuck between a rock and a hard place. No matter what they bring to the party, their riders can't get to the level required.
Its like trying to get your kid to hit a coke bottle with a .45 from 10 meters and he keeps missing. Give him a 12 bore and it sits him on his backside. Give him a .556 and he can't aim it because it doesn't feel comfortable.
In my opinion things changed for Rossi forever after Mugello 2010, in spite of some great results.
That was Sepang 1 & 2 2012. A circuit Rossi pretty much owned in the past and Ducati were always competitive there nevermind which format.
Jerez is going to prove even tougher for them. You know when you have old Iron Frank (Ducati test rider) not far off Hayden and Rossi's pace at a circuit as vast as Sepang,you know you're in trouble,rider wise.

Ducati stuck between a rock and a hard place .....

Good front end (but not great compared to Yamaha) and problematic rear, or less problematic rear and more understeer.

How does JB manage to have a good head of hair left?

HRC apparently 'decreed' 4 lap runs. Obviously they had some or other engine issues they considered to be something other than a duff idiot light on Pedrosa's bike.
Tire wear is an interesting one though. Its one thing doing 100 push ups in four quick sessions and another entirely doing them in one frenetic burst.
I look forward to hearing a little from Loris Capirossi about the tires post Jerez.
It does seem that management of the 'black magic' will play a crucial role this season.

This is a google translation from a gpone.com article featuring Shuhei Nakamoto:

"The M1 is very fast, and represents a huge obstacle for us - he said - We are not at the same level. Honda is very powerful, but the Yamaha has great handling. As a package, is the best bike at the moment ".

Lorenzo's race simulation times scared him to death!

I've always wondered about how the Yamaha and Honda stack up. Always thought wasn't much in it, Yamaha with a better front, and the Honda with better rear.
I presume the Honda and Ducati thinner V4s allow more aero for higher top speeds moreso than gruntier engines. To make up the speed defecit, The Yamaha probably has to sacrifice mid range grunt for top end power, thus sacrificing some corner exit.
Back on topic, it's interesting that Nakamoto would publicly state that he thinks the Yamaha is better. Dovi is the indicator, and his results seem to align with what Nakamoto said.

The times Stoner is setting in these tests are making this year look like his year again. It is a long season and many things can happen, but that man is impressing me more and more. The Yamaha Clan I think will be much closer when it comes to the front come race day. Ben and Jorge seem to be real consistant. Seeing Dovisioso put in a good time should worry the Honda Satellite riders. Dani Pedrosa seems to be fast, but will he crash and hurt himself is a big question. I hope he surprises and fights for the Championship until the end. He definitely has the speed to hang with and beat Stoner.

Then there is Ducati. Nicky Hayden looks spent, he is recovering physically so I will leave the door open for him. Rossi looks like a US President after a few years in office. The weight of the work he has to put in to make the bike fit him better is showing. Rossi used to look like a mischievious elf from Santa's Workshop. He is beginning to look like an old man that lived a hard life. He has proved himself too many times for me to question him. And has showed he does not have to be faster to still win. But this task might be one too big for even him to overcome. I will not count him out, but it does not look good.

The CRTs are looking very slow. They are improving, but I think it will take the whole race year to see where they really are at. They may have more in determining the championship, because backmarkers will be an issue this year. There will be people getting in the way of the leaders of the race all year long. It is almost guaranteed. That will cause some excitement if the front of the race has people with a couple of seconds of each other.

Can't wait to see how it unfolds!

... am definitely counting "him" out. I'm not going to go back and count exactly how many posters said they could not rule him out for a championship this year (or maybe they were referring to race wins), but it seemed to be a repeating theme amongst the faithful.

REALLY? I mean if you had to bet money, maybe the plain truth of the situation would be easier to see... The Dream Team has produced and looks to continue to produce much of nothing. Lay the blame wherever you want, team, machine, rider, or any combination thereof. I don't expect the results to be much different than last year.

In fact, I would be flat out SHOCKED if Rossi won a dry race this year. Nothing is impossible, but the reversal of fortune seems set to continue in 2012.

LOL! Ok, ok. I see your point. But there have too many times I HAVE put money against Rossi and lost. That is how he got me to respect him. The last time I bet against him was 2008. After that, never again. I see your point, but it has been as if the man SENSED when I put money against him, and he pulled it out. Whether it was for a season, race, or just pulling out enough time on second place so that he did not have to do a ride through.

So I hear you, but until he retires, I just cannot write him off. I know people hate hearing that, but I do not give a damn. I have lost too much money has been lost over that guy.

Indeed VR and the factory Ducati performance seemed dismal, and hard to defend even by the most ardent of Rossi fan.
But what the hell, i will give it a try !
With such a new bike (essentially the GP12 second outing), it will take time for the engineers to fully understand how to set the bike up for different conditions.
As i think Colin Edwards said "we are having to do our dirty washing in public",
referring to his CRT bike, much the same applies to Ducati. I wonder how many times the Honda and Yamaha GP bikes were taken on the track in Japan before Stoner, Lorenzo and co, rode them in public ?
If VR had been .4 of a second faster every lap at Sepang 2, that would of put him 6th in the one lap dash glory tables, and more importantly, far more sub
2`02 laps which would be very respectable for such a new bike. And in my opinion .4sec on a 2 minute circuit is not a massive amount, considering the handling problems he was having.
In fact i think I've talked myself into thinking that it was not such a disaster of a test for Rossi and Ducati as it first seemed !
VR seemed very negative about the bike after the test, but that is i think, understandable after such a good initial test in early Febuary, only to find some of their old problems reappearing again.

I totally agree. I believe this will be a year where so called "lessor" riders will show brilliance at some races. The 1000s will at least allow the rider's ability to be more of a factor than the 800's did.

VR46 being one second back on this track is good news for the MotoGP circus!

What was it about the 800's that limited the influence of rider ability that will not be present in the 1000's?

This year, unlike the last 5, all riders will have more power on acceleration than they can use. The riders and teams that can properly apply it will be successful.

There is nothing more frustrating than catching a slower rider on braking into a corner and passing him in the corner and then getting passed again down the next straight because your bike is down on power.

Why do you think that there were no non-factory winners during the 800cc era?

If all of them have more acceleration, how will it make any difference? And if the ECUs were cutting the power to the 800s at the end of a race to make it to the end on 21 liters, how will a 1000 make it to the end of a race on the same fuel load without cutting power?

1000cc bikes with full electronics = more of the same.

This year the acceleration advantage that the Hondas had will not be there. All the riders will have access to this and it will help level the playing field.

Where did you see that the ECUs were cutting the power? If it did happen, it must have been very rare. I don't recall that being a factor last (or any other) year in MotoGP.

I think/hope this year will be more competitive, especially with the satelite vs factory machines. Stoner will still be hard to beat but other riders will at least have a chance to stay with him on acceleration.

Only time will tell.

Edit: I just read this article. This guy said it better than I can... http://www.superbikeplanet.com/2012/Mar/120302y.htm

There were no non-factory winners in the 800c era because there were four exceptionally talented riders on the works bikes. It's simple statistical probability that with four exceptional riders it will be difficult for anyone else to win. The odds massively favor one of those four riders winning every race. Nothing to do with power, electronics or anything else.

It is extremely unlikely that any non-works rider will win a race this year. Not impossible, but it would require unusual circumstances for a non-works rider to win a race.

...."The odds massively favor one of those four riders winning every race. Nothing to do with power, electronics or anything else".....

So using your "logic" and "insight" then - if Marco Melandri was on a Honda or Yamaha for those 5 years and the 4 so called aliens were on Suzukis, Marco would never have won a race in the 800cc era?


You have a right to your opinion. I just don't agree with it.


Not at all, if Marco Melandri had been on a works Honda or Yamaha and the aliens had all been on Suzukis the statistical probability would have been totally different.

This is not about an opinion, it is about statistical probability.

The fact is, for every year of the 800s there was at least one alien in each of the three main works teams, Honda, Yamaha and Ducati. The fields were relatively small, which also reduces the possible outcomes, which further favors one of the four aliens on works bikes. For anyone else to win it would require all four of the aliens to have problems. It is very improbable that all four would have problems in any one race.

This is quite different to the 990 era, when there was only one alien. If Rossi had problems there were several riders at a similar level below Rossi who could take the win.

2011 is an extreme example. There was in effect 8 works riders if we include MS. The odds were overwhelmingly in favor of a works rider winning every race.

It's simple probability. We could actually calculate the probability if required. Four aliens, head and shoulders above anyone else in ability, all on works bikes, so the odds massively favor an alien winning every race.

You're using defense mechanisms to convince yourself that the sport is an absolute meritocracy. Absolute meritocracy is what you want to believe in, so you do.

Reality is a bit different. In reality, the satellite bikes are detuned and factory technicians watch over them to help satellite teams manage reliability and go more slowly. In reality, the factories allocate updates based upon a rider hierarchy. In reality, the sponsors throw their weight around to obtain the best possible equipment for the rider they back. In reality, tire manufacturers built and allocated tires based on a heirarchy. Was it Gresini who said that Honda was making him run a different rev limit? IDK. But whoever it was received threats of excommunication from the high priests at HRC. We've all heard the KRJR Soupcast, as well (or everyone ought to have listened to it).

It is okay to watch a sport with flaws. MotoGP has them. No more Pollyanna nonsense.

"We've all heard the KRJR Soupcast, as well (or everyone ought to have listened to it)"
Haven't seen it. Does anyone have a link? My Google-fu is letting me down.

a very educating listen.

lol @ "anorexic anonymous" @ ben and nicky slimming down for the 800's.

These "soupkasts" are really, really interesting to listen! Very recommended to anyone who missed these.
The KRJR one is particularly interesting, for somewhat exposing (and sharing opinions about) those less glamorous bits of MotoGP racing that we all know happen but never hear/read about.
Thanks for these, Phoenix and David! :-)

It seems some observers are horrified at the thought of lapped riders and the potential dramas with overtaking. Just watched Classic GPs and Doohan and Co were lapping riders before the halfway point in the race. Just another obstacle in thier march towards the chequer, if the lappee is aware through pitboards marshalls flags etc they will not be surprised . Sometime of the overtakes may not be at the ideal time, but to these "aliens" i`m sure will just blast by at the first chance they get. All forms of racing have faster and slower competitors, we need the bikes on the track. (perhaps it`s a way of keeping Casey closer to the chasers)

All the comments I've seen about the possibility of lapped riders (the horror!) have been going on about the danger. The riders will know that some riders are likely to be lapped, and they will cope. The 500 races used to have riders lapped in every race, and that's the era that all the nostalgia is aimed at.

I was hoping that Ducati was finally serious about correcting the problems of last years bike, since it was quite obvious that no amount of setup changes could fix an inherently flawed bike, and that major changes were in order.

I'm shocked that despite this, Ducati has chosen to stick with the same engine configuration, a 90deg. L engine.
How much more evidence do they need, before they realize that this configuration causes serious handicaps that no amount of tweaking can overcome?

Since its creation, Ducati's MotoGP bike has seen three different frame materials, a number of different rear suspension systems, swingarms, forks, riding positions, etc. as well as a number of talented riders, yet every one of them complain about the same issue, the lack of front end feel and grip. The only thing that hasn't changed throughout it's entire life, has been the engine configuration!

Ducati's 90deg. L engine is clearly the longest motor in the paddock, so it should come as no surprise why the cant get enough weight on the front end.
The Yamaha IL4 engine is extremely short, allowing it to be placed further forward, so it's no coincidence that it steers and turns so well. The Honda with it's narrow angle V doesn't steering quit as well, but apparently well enough to get the job done.

The Yamaha has great front end feel and grip, but is somewhat lacking in rear grip, while the Honda has a little less front end grip but better rear grip, for a more balanced overall bike.
Since the advent of traction control, the 250GP riding style of high corner entry, and mid corner speed has been most successful, which accounts for the success of Rossi, Lorenzo and others.
In order to be fast, the rider must have complete trust and confidence in the front end, since this is the area that can and must be exploited to turn a fast lap. Without that trust Rossi cannot use his talent to go faster, period.

It's my belief that once the weight balance of the Ducati is right, Rossi will know it immediately, and be fast, even with a steel trellis frame, or the CF frame. Ducati has been working very hard to window dress a flawed design, instead of starting with a solid design from the beginning, then fine tuning it.

It's quite possible that Preziosi is fully aware of this handicap, but didn't have the time or the resources to create a completely new engine in time for this season, and rotating the engine back was the only option. For his sake, I hope that was the case, if not, he deserves to be fired, for not seeing what is so obvious.

...I could not possibly agree more with your point of view.

Regarding the testing times, I believe that you are operating in a totally different mind scheme when you are testing one or more specific changes made to the bike. Its just impossible to focus at every corner how exactly the bikes steers, leans over, banks in whatever...AND to achieve a super fast lap time...it is just impossible. BUT given the ammount of laps done, one or two should be commited for the purpose of maxing out the bike to achieve a yardstick of the overall developement. I'm sure VR did that and the time achieved was his fastest possible lap time. So the problems must be still big and unfinished-which is not a miracle at such a new bike.
To be pacient after a whole season spent at changing a bike and a following winter of redesign, even for me as a bystander it is almost unbearable to not see a real top result. It starts to remind me at that crazy Newzeeland guy and his indian motorcycle on its search for the land speed record.....

When does the 80 seconds start? The 80 seconds that Jerry Burgess said (in 2010) it would take for Rossi to "sort the Ducati". If this is "sorting" the Ducati, then perhaps Jerry's idea of 'sorting' came from his early years at Suzuki... Ducati is very much looking like the new Suzuki in Grand Prix racing. Perennially propping up the bottom 10. Also consider this: Ducati did not listen to Stoner and he rode around the problems, scoring 23 wins. Ducati listened to Rossi, "improved" the bike (last year was such a constant stream of Rossi-demanded updates that most will have lost count of the changes). None of them worked. So clearly, Rossi does not know how to set-up a MotoGP bike, and the press (particularly English) description of Jerry Burgess as a 'guru' just shows how shallow the English motorcycle press is.

Rossi and Burgess are not engineers. Burgess' job, and one that he is very good at, is to optimize the bike that the engineers gave him, to his riders riding preference.
It obvious that what's wrong with the Ducati cannot be solved by simply changing the setup. Ducati's problems are much more fundamental, and not something that Burgess or Rossi can fix.
They probably figured that out in the first 80 seconds too.

Right, and in fact Rossi has said that he knew that they were in trouble the very first time he rode the Ducati . That probably would not have taken much more than 80 seconds. The Ducati clearly has a design flaw, which has nothing to do with the development skills of either Rossi or Stoner and their respective crews.

Stoner has stated that whilst the GP9/10 had a very narrow set-up window, when it was good it was very good.

Although difficult to judge there are few reasons to believe the steps Ducati took last year were not improvements. Same goes for 2012.

Are Yamaha and Honda without problems in 2012? Of course not.

Just how perfect does perfect have to be for Rossi to consider himself able to compete?

If only one rider can get consistent results with the bike, then that bike has a design flaw. The fact that there is one rider who can ride around problems, and who has a crew who can figure out how to neutralize the flaws of that machine and give their rider what he needs, does not remove the fact that the bike is flawed. It was unusual for a Honda or Yamaha satellite rider not to be able to get the bike to work. It was unusual for a Ducati satellite - or even factory - rider to be able to get the bike to work. Unless they were Australian.

In a class that in five years of existence only had four different dry race winners, + 1 x for Spies, that makes such a statement very hard to quantify.

What you describe as flaw neutralisation is nothing more than simple set-up compromise. A direction every team & rider must work towards to maximise strengths and minimise weaknesses. By your definition all machines are then flawed.

Colin Edwards had 7 years on the M1 and at almost every race weekend I would read of him complaining about turning the thing inside in an effort to find a setting that worked. And this is a man the media acknowledge as one of the best in the business.

That's not to say the Ducati wasn't a difficult motorcycle. It very obviously was. There's a very good case for saying it has always been the third best motorcycle on the grid throughout the 800 era. Tyres perhaps skewed / masked that fact 2007/08 and magnified it 2010/11. But the thing has been close enough for a talented crew and rider to extract some pretty fine results from it. Even a clear second tier rider like Hayden managed to string some consistent results together on the GP10.

Sections of the media just need to get a little more honest with themselves and stop apportionng all blame to Ducati Corse. If Rossi was head and shoulders the best Ducati rider out there I'd have a little more sympathy for your argument David. However he's not, and accordingly I don't.

In 2011, Rossi finished 14 races. He was best Ducati in 9 of those races. Of the 5 where he was beaten by another Ducati, one was at Jerez, where he crashed out and rejoined, one was at Silverstone, in positively diluvian conditions, one was at Indianapolis, with freak grip conditions, one was at Aragon, where he started from pit lane 10 seconds after the rest of the field, and one was at the Sachsenring, where he was beaten by his teammate by 0.066 seconds. Rossi didn't rule Ducatis the way that Stoner did, but he was clearly the best Ducati rider by a measurable margin. Perhaps your expectations of Rossi are too high.

David, I'd love to see simple direct comparison regarding rider positions when entering a corner on the Ducati.

1. Stoner was a very good flat track racer as a youngster, he moves the top half of his body (shoulders/head) to the inside of the bike fractionally prior to his lower half (weighting the front end to the inside slightly sooner and further forward, giving him a little more front end bias to the INSIDE).

2. Rossi, like most of the Europeans starts moving his weight to the inside beginning with his hips (classic road racer). Meaning that Rossi needs a bike with more front end bias and why he can't warm the tyres as quickly or as much as Stoner.

We all know that the Duke has the longest motor, meaning the centre of gravity has to be further back, leading to issues for all other riders.

If its possible, would you post a video of both riders entering the same corner and it will demonstrate what I'm talking about.

It leads to the question 'can the bike be fixed for other riders?'. In my opinon, only if they shorten the engine... that's less than a 90 degree V. Or they take speedway lessons.

Do I think Rossi is a not the rider he was? Not a chance, the man is a truly great champion!!!

Unfortunately, I am unable to post any video comparing riding styles, due to licensing and accreditation issues. But I think your analysis is essentially correct. Stoner has a rather odd riding style, where he uses his weight almost independently of the bike, whilst Rossi uses his weight to manage the bike, relying on the front end more than the Ducati allows.

Dave this style you talk of in separating the weight is common in Australian racers. I believe it comes from a flattrack and dirt back ground. Many of the top riders I've spoken to over since arriving in Aus say they don't even sit on the bike. They are crouching on the foot pegs allowing them to weight pegs, control slides into and out of corners with ease. Tried it bloody hard work, but very effective!

Greg Hancock the FIM Speedway 2011 world champion is a Yank. Masters of dirt ovals on some of the other continents as well.

REALLY interesting comments Auskid, DE, 2v.

I've many times compared VR's upper body postion with CS: you can see that CS projects his upper body lower and maybe further forward (than VR). A handicap in this regard is VR's height.

I thought it was my imagination, you've probably covered this in past articles, but I've only recently found your website (4 or 5 months I think?).

When discussing this with my fellow riders, they seem to look at me thinking... make sure we keep the red away from him tonight!

How can expectations for Rossi be too high? Yes, Rossi had the best Ducati results but by a pretty small margin over riders he usually only sees at the year end group photo. If someone hopes to be the GOAT then expectations of winning are completely natural.

I'm sure that Ducati had higher expectations of Rossi. We're now into the second year with no appreciable progress yet plenty of minor and wholesale technical updates. I find it hard to buy into the 'he's lost it' opinion but there are fewer options to consider as time passes. If he (or JB) has conceded that he is not willing to take the risks that Stoner did to win then it seems to me that he will not win as there are plenty of other riders that will take those risks.

Hayden's 2010 Ducati results were pretty acceptable and I think better than most of his 800cc Honda days. Nobody accused the Honda of having a design flaw, just problems that needed to be overcome with consistent evolution, which they clearly did. As far as the Ducati being impossible to adjust to for someone besides Stoner, Capirossi was an old dog and not likely willing or capable of learning new tricks and Melandri was a random number generator even on the Honda V5. Hayden shuts up and plugs away trying for results and they started to come. Then Rossi came on board and the development path was completely changed and his results have been poor ever since.

Another aspect is that Yamana and especially Honda, cultivate riders for years before letting them into the GPs. I think Ducati take more of a walk-in approach to leasing bikes and it shows in the results of their non-#1 and satellite riders.

I think the crux of the problem is that Ducati does not have anywhere near the history of being able to develop motorcycles in an engineering sense that the Japanese do. In doing my Ductax project I was astounded to see how many common parts are inside a Ducati twin going back 15-20 years. I mean the same exact part! When they find something that works they stick with it forever but I'm not sure they actually know why it works which makes developing new solutions a shot-in-the-dark exercise. The Japanese are constantly making small revisions to their designs so they learn more about the why of things working which allow them to find new solutions easier.


I think it's about time people stop slagging Rossi&Burgess for the unfortunate comment on the 80 seconds thing. It was funny (humble pie and all), but it's gone old now.

The obvious point for anyone to see is that Ducati is not Honda, nor Yamaha. Never was.
The racing departments are not even comparable (HRC alone is probably bigger than the whole Ducati thing in Bologna, much less Ducati-Corse).
The new parts development and supply for Ducati MotoGP are slow in comparison (to Honda and Yamaha), and perhaps that's what Rossi&Co. should have thought about before signing the contract...

I'm getting the impression that Rossi is pissed not just because the plans haven't gone so well as desired with the GP12, but because he knows it will take a lot of time for Ducati to bring new parts again (with uncertain results, if going by the usual).
If you notice, even Preziosi has already announced that, yes, there are some main points they can improve, but such improvements will only be seen on the racetrack probably after the first three races...(!)
It's starting to look like 2011 all over again.

Also, the "constant fixes" we've seen (last year, and this pre-season) still don't mean they've really fixed anything (???), it's like they're always into the unknown.
They experiment and try hard, but the doubts transpire, it's never certain that such supposed "improvements" will be any better.
Now, compare these working methods and response (despair, confusion, failure?) to the Japanese MotoGP factory teams, which for years hardly failed when introducing anything, always very secretive but extremely effective (when they do it, they do it right). Almost embarassing.

Which means, for the Ducati fans, that we're about to witness more testing and experiments (and unknown results with it) on race day, so during the period that should be used for the riders to race a trusty and worthy fine-tuned (or developped) "final" racebike for the current season. Which is pretty much what the Japanese factories usually deliver for their "works" teams, even satellite teams, and their respective riders, every season.

80 sec fix is not a joke, it's an arrogant and over confidence statement. If rossi and jb kept their mouth shut and fix the duke then i think people will have sympathy to them. Changing parts is not the answer right away they need to understand the bike first but rossi's ego plays the game. He wants this and that blah blah then what happened? back to start! they have no idea how to use the allow frame like japs honda, yamaha and suzuki they're rookie in terms of using allow frame. I always respect rossi's achievements but his nickname goat is now shattered and gone.

The end of 2010 as I recall. That makes it old and quite stale in racing years. JB & Rossi cant fix the design. Engineers design bikes, crews assemble & set them up, and riders ride them. That's it. Period. They only use what they're given when it's given to them. They give feedback on what it's doing or not doing & pass that info back for the engineers to "fix". That goes for Ducati, Honda, Yamaha, & anyone else who wants to play the game of burning through capital trying to make a motorbike go in circles quickly. Unfortunately for Ducati their bike & race effort are under the harsh light of playing catch up with the big manufacturers who are not exactly waiting for them. Sure, if you froze development for a couple years on all bikes from giant multinational transportation corporations then yeah Ducati would surely have the time to come up to parity. Maybe even some of the CRT's as well. Not likely to happen so maybe they'll just have to recruit some development help from all the voices that seem to have the answers. Problem is they don't have room for that many armchairs in the pitbox.

From a Burgess Sportsrider Interview of 19/10/10
"I can watch some of these lesser riders on the Ducatis and you can see that the bikes are, in my opinion, unsuitably set for what they want to try and do with them. I’m not saying anybody’s doing a bad job. I see these things wobbling around. When I think, clearly, if we had that issue with Valentino it’d be fixed in 80 seconds, but some riders don’t like the hardness of the bike,..."
I haven't seen any other interview where the 80 seconds was applied to Stoner's bike or to the Ducati bike in general.
Is there one?

sounds like you're defending your rider/jb. Anyway it doesn't mean it was directly applied to stoner but he was talking about the ducati that they can fix in 80s. Sometimes we need logic and a little bit of sense of humor. How about stoner was not pushing hard enough? his (stoner)team doesn't how to set up the duke? Rossi and jb criticized stoner but stoner never criticized them. In my opinion rossi and jb made a very arrogant statement there. Now where's ducati? even max biaggi is laughing. I always acknowledge his past achievements and rossi will always be the legend.

It's interesting that nobody have a comment on added 4kg that causes chatter, and why this rule has been introduced. As we all know, Honda and Yamaha are having a great problems with weight distribution because of this rule. Strangely, It seems that only Ducati doesn't have serious chatter issue.

Here is an explanation why this rule has been introduced and the reason why MSMA was not unanimous against it:

In the pre-season test Sepang, Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna CEO explained why the rules regarding the increase of 4 kg is too late to be announced. According Ezpeleta, It seems to have been caused by a “misunderstanding” in the Grand Prix Commission, where decisions are made regarding the MotoGP rule changes. Grand prix Commission consist of Dorna (the commercial rights and organizational event), FIM (governing body), IRTA (the teams) and MSMA (the manufacturers), but the structure of the sound depends on the type of proposal being discussed.

“There is a proposal made by Dorna and IRTA, for the Valencia Grand Prix Commission meeting, to raise the minimum weight to 160kg,” said Ezpeleta. ”Because it was difficult and expensive to CRT bike to reduce their weight. So if everyone is able to run the same minimum weight which will help the CRT.

“We propose to weight gain, but MSMA said the unanimous decision of the MSMA is against it. If the decision is unanimous MSMA(Grand Prix Commission)can not agree on the rules, because the technical rules.”Then when the minute came, was that it was not a unanimous vote by the majority .. If not unanimous opposition from MSMA we have no obligation to follow.

“Then at the Grand Prix Commission meeting in December, we said, ‘Excuse me, the other day we had a misunderstanding about whether the decision was unanimous MSMA. I think if it was not unanimous we have the right to enforce it.”.

And,”Finally we are asked not 160kg and 157kg for 2012 was approved by a majority of the Commission Grand Prix.”. And the 2013 season will be a minimum weight of bike is 160 kg.


Honda has the biggest problems with chatter of the factory prototypes. Jorge Lorenzo's crew chief Ramon Forcada said they had some chatter, but it was not their biggest problem, their biggest problem is traction on corner exit. Ducati either have rear chatter or understeer, depending on the weight distribution of the bike. So although the chatter is a problem, it is a question of priorities, and given that the Honda is pretty good already, the only serious problem they face is chatter.

The CRT bikes have also faced serious chatter problems. The Suter of Colin Edwards has gone through 3 iterations in an attempt to get rid of chatter, and have been reasonably successful so far. The Aprilias had bad chatter, but that, too, has gotten better and better.

The truth is that the additional weight is only one factor in the chatter. The main cause is the softer rear Bridgestone, this is cause the problem in different bikes regardless of their original weight. The added weight certainly causes problems for weight distribution, but the chatter starts in the tire, and it is up to the factories and teams to cancel the chatter out with a mixture of chassis flexibility and bike setup.


Sorry this off topic, can't contact David Emmet any other way as I am stuck in this stupid mobile phone web site, even on laptop. How do I get to the main web site? The old one?
Thank you.

You should be able to switch between the two sites and force the site to use the desktop theme by adding the following to the site URL:


So, of you go to http://motomatters.com/?device=desktop you should see the desktop site.

But if you're visiting the site on your laptop, it should automatically send you to the desktop site, and if you're logged in, you should see the old layout. I don't know what laptop you are using, or whether the browser you are using is reporting itself to be a mobile browser, but it should switch automatically to the desktop site. If you are not having any luck, send an email to webmaster@motomatters.com and we'll look into it.

Thanks David, got my laptop back on the straight and narrow. Occurred to me that it happens because I use wireless modem thru mobile(cell phone) network. All good now,apologies for calling mobile site stupid, as its not, I was getting a bit frustrated!

Here's a point to ponder. In 2010, Ducatis finished first and third at Aragon. In 2011, on the new, 'Rossi-improved' machines, they were fifth and eighth. The first one home was seven seconds slower over race distance than the 2011 winner. And the eighth placegetter was 33 seconds slower, and more than a second a lap slower than he was in getting third in 2010. Some may think this is 'improvement'. Others know it for what it really is...

I was watching a replay of Phillip Island's Superbikes on the weekend and the commentators commented that Max's Aprilia had recorded the highest speed of any bike. He was doing in excess of 325ks per hour. I checked last year's motogp speeds, the front runners were doing about 325kph... interesting result for me...

last year, it was winter (like every year) in motogp

In winter the air is cooler (and according to Boyle's law) denser, so more oxygen per bang, the bike should make noticeably more power and go faster. Unless you're suggesting that the denser air is loading the bike's aerodynamics? I dont know when or if the loading overtakes the increased power output.

Max was doing 325+ in 40 degree heat?? I know the 800s went close but no cigar, not sure about the old 990s...

A superbike that has more top speed than a motogp bike, think I might go put some cash on Max to win that title...

And a few bucks on Randy to finish number 6 at year end...

Biaggi hit 324.6 kph in each race this year. Last year, the fastest speed of a MotoGP bike in the race was Dovi at 321.4 kph.All of the Aprilias and the factory BMWs were quicker than Dovi in a straight line.

Not really sure that denser air directly translates to higher top speeds - I mean, that would require you to shove the bike through thicker air at 200mph, correct?

Biaggi's new Superbike lap record of 1:31.7 is still a second off Stoner's best lap of 2011.

All 90 degree V engines have suffered from a weight/mass centralization issue. AKA you can't get the weight far enough forward without compromising the front wheel. It could well be that the current 90 degree Ducati motor is the problem.

So, a three month wait for new parts? That sounds like a major change to me. I wonder if they are repackaging the engine. Three months might be enough time to narrow the V of the engine and install a balance shaft. You'd be able to place it anywhere inside the new beam frame you've made. The first couple of the engines of the season would effectively be junk, but who cares if you fix the problem!

Leaning the front cylinder forward puts the weight of the cylinder head close to the front of the bike. However, you soon run into the limit created by the front wheel. Rotating the engine backwards (so the V is more upright) allows you to move the entire engine forward, without fouling the front wheel. The whole engine has been shifted forward and upwards, so the weight is higher and much further forward. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

Dave I agree you can rock the cylinder banks rearward. And Ducati seems to have done this. All the evidence points that way.

However with a 90 degree engine rolled backward on the axis of the crank you run into major issues with packaging. Particularly positioning the rear suspension unit and its associated mounting points. On a Vtwin this is a lot easier as the engine is narrower. Ducati have moved the rear shock off centre in the 1199 to allow the rear cylinder clearance, and avoid the shock being cooked. A V4 leaves much less room to achieve the end result of a well packaged bike. Rolling the V back allows you to move the engine forward, YES. But it will not allow you to put more weight onto the front end as a narrow angle V engine will.

I think Ducati are going to narrow the V to attempt to replicate the centre of mass, and possibly the crankshaft positioning that RCV and M1 can achieve.

I can not see why a new frame will take three months. A new engine. Sure it will!

I thought VR sounded dispirited by the long wait, so I'm guessing no new engine.

With all the Ducati/Rossi talk... has anyone touched on the real battle for the 2012 MotoGP season??? No, not the Stoner vs Jorge vs Dani battle... But the battle between Spies and Dovi!!! Spies is coming into his own as he usually does in any series. But Dovi has a point to prove to everyone especially Honda and Yamaha management! Dovi is still healing from his injuries and he's already showing good potential on a satellite machine. Good pick for Herve. Ben will be focusing on the other factory riders but to have Dovi nipping at his elbows and knee-sliders will make for some great racing entertainment. I would like to read anyone's take on who will win between Ben & Dovi and why...

This will/should be BS11's year to shine. I expect him to be duking it out with JL99, DP26 and CS27 for the championship. I think Dovi will be fighting with his teammate and the Ducati's for 4th.

Just my opinion.

I agree that Spies will have the other front-runners to contend with for the championship but all the while Dovi may be closer to them than one might think... at least until the performance difference of the Factory/Satellite Yamahas change during the season. It may be the year of inter-team battles as well. Dani vs Stoner and Spies vs Jorge! Still wouldn't count Dovi out though. I doubt if the Ducati team will have an impact for the 4th-6th finishing positions.

Looking at Dovi's times at Sepang II I started wondering if he feels more comfortable on the Yamaha, if its strengths are a better fit for how he wants to ride. Could be interesting.

Yep, best guess is Dovi fighting for 4th/best satellite rider. May aim to sneak on a podium in the first few races but by the time the factory Japanese upgrades start coming he'll be exiled from podium hopes and best target will be 5th/best satellite unless he can pounce on a rare mistake by the leaders. The factory riders should easily have his number unless they put a foot wrong. I think he'll be fighting mostly with Cal and Bautista.

Spies has to be mixing it up with the remaining aliens. He has no choice. Those are the expectations levied on him. If he keeps it cool and together I think he could pick off any alien that is having a less than a stellar weekend.

Pedro and Jorge are hell for leather. To be dominated again this year is unimaginable for either of them. I expect to see some real hard riding from both.

Cal and Bautista as said above will be fighting for 4th with Dovi. Might be some good scrapping there in the second group.

Factory Ducati? Oh man. Really have a prayer out to them that development starts taking steps forwards rather than waltzing in place. Unfortunately I don't think that's a prayer needlessly spent. For Rossi I'm really hoping he has the year in 2012 that was expected for 2011. Struggle in the first half of the season with progress making podiums and a possible win by year's end. Hoping Hayden gets up to be messing with Cal, Dovi, and Bautista.

Really I'm just hoping for good racing. I never thought the news of the current BS tires going off as good news but it should allow for some race developments post lap 5 this year.

Talk of VR being battling for the podium from race 1 was gone in 80 seconds!