2012 IRTA MotoGP Jerez Test Day 3 Round Up: The Preseason's Over

The preseason is finally over. The final day of the final test at Jerez saw a familiar pattern unfold, with the factory Hondas and factory Yamahas fastest, the rest some way behind. Jorge Lorenzo led the session for seven hours and fifty minutes, until Casey Stoner stepped up the pace. Was it so important to stage a last-lap dash and steal top spot, one journalist asked? "Nope, just trying to be cheeky!" The World Champion responded.

Despite sitting just off the top of the timesheets for much of the day - until he decided to make his point rather forcefully, that is - Stoner is blisteringly fast. In the middle of the day, the Australian posted a run of 10 laps, all but one of which were in the 1'39 bracket, the only aberration a low 1'40. Both Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo also posted long runs, but their pace was all low 1'40s, the 1'39s only coming on shorter runs with new tires. But for all three, what is most impressive is the metronomic rhythm of the lap times, Jorge Lorenzo being the most robot-like of the trio.

Stoner was happiest about finally being fast at his bogey track. Ever since he first rode the circuit, back in his days in the Spanish championship when he was a young teenager, he had had problems with the circuit, disliking its layout and never quite getting to grips with it. That dislike attracted bad luck too, Stoner always suffering some misfortune or other whenever he raced at Jerez. To leave on top of the timesheets, after three days of consistent domination was frankly a relief.

The bike was in pretty good shape, though Pedrosa said the Honda RC213V still needed some improvements in braking and corner entry, that being the bike's weakest point. But the Yamahas and Hondas were fairly evenly matched, said both Stoner and Pedrosa. The Australian pointed out that it had always been this way, with little real difference between the bikes. "Some days one bike is better, some days the other; some days one tire is better, some days the other," he said. "Somebody very wise said to me 'Riders need to be arrogant about this, because if you don't blame something else, there's nothing to blame but yourself. If you can't do it, then there's no reason to keep coming back to try to win each week.'" That self-belief is what keeps riders going, and without it, they may as well retire.

Over at Yamaha, they are less convinced of the parity of the Yamaha and Honda, but they are very confident that they have closed the gap massively. Both Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo described this winter as the best preseason he had ever had, and were very happy with the machine they had to start the season with. The extra capacity cut the power deficit to Honda, and the trademark Yamaha handling allowed them to benefit. Where the Hondas are complaining of chatter and instability, the Yamaha is pretty well sorted, with only set up now to fine tune. This is where you would want to be if you were to start a championship, especially against Casey Stoner on the Honda.

Over at Ducati, things were a little more difficult, though clear progress had been made. Valentino Rossi had cut his deficit to Stoner by eight tenths of a second, the problem being that Rossi is still over nine tenths behind the Australian. The team had lost a day of testing due to the weather on Saturday, but even worse, they had been headed in the wrong direction. Fortunately, they reversed direction again on Sunday, with a big improvement in his times as a result.

The good news was that they had found some of the front-end feel Rossi was looking for, the bad news was that the bike still suffered understeer, wanting to run wide in corners, with little the Italian could do about it. On Sunday evening, Rossi described the situation thus: "This is the real Ducati." This is what the bike is capable of in its current guise, with only small improvements to be gained from set up. The positive for Rossi was that he felt much more confident this year than he did last, but he is still no where near the front. Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa were too far away, and then there was Spies, Crutchlow and Dovizioso. Rossi felt he would be leading the group behind that, and setting his sights on satellite Yamahas. That is hardly what the goal of a nine-time World Champion should be.

Nicky Hayden has slightly different problems, as witnessed by the differing wheelbases the two teammates are working with. Hayden, too, has understeer, but he is not suffering with it as much as Rossi does. Hayden's problems are more at the rear, at finding traction. But the American was mainly focused on getting to Qatar and racing; he felt the next test would be to see where Ducati really stands, and it is only possible to judge that by actually riding with the rest of the field, and seeing how the Ducati stacks up.

The Yamahas are clearly the cream of the satellite crop, both Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso mixing it with the factory Ducatis. Alvaro Bautista is strong on the Gresini Honda, while Stefan Bradl is making big steps on the LCR machine. The German rookie has made rapid strides on Lucio Cecchinello's satellite RC213V, and is already close to Bautista, ending the test less than a tenth behind the Spaniard.

The CRT pack is split down the middle, with the teams with the most help from Aprilia at the front. Randy de Puniet was the fastest of the CRT riders, exactly as had been expected, but the Power Electronics Aspar rider came very close to the satellite Ducatis. De Puniet finished just 0.022 behind Karel Abraham on the Cardion AB Ducati, demonstrating rather graphically the point of the CRT machines. Abraham's bike costs between 2.5 and 3 million euros a year to lease, at the end of which you hand the machine back to Ducati. De Puniet's bike costs around 1 million a year to run, and at the end of the season, Aspar will have ownership of the bike, and is free to either put it in his front room or try and sell it to another CRT team. Though it is a glib and unfair comparison, it is hard to resist pointing to the fact that the Cardion AB team is paying 1 million euros for each one hundredth of a second they are faster than a CRT bike.

The big surprise of the test is Danilo Petrucci on the Came Ioda - the Italian electric door manufacturer's name is pronounced "Kah-may" but as an English speaker, it is hard to see past the past tense of the verb to come. The young Italian ended the test behind the two Aspar Aprilias, and some 3.1 seconds off the time of Stoner. But given that the bike is extremely new, and Petrucci has had little experience with the Bridgestone tires, that should be regarded as a pretty strong performance all in all. The fact that the Ioda project is run by Giampiero Sacchi - formerly of Aprilia - and his team consists of most of Max Biaggi's former Aprilia World Superbike crew points to the level of knowledge and experience with the bike the team has on board, and Sacchi is also legendary for his ability to spot riding talent. We could well hear a lot more from Danilo Petrucci before the year is out.

From some angles, the CRT project looks rather worrying, as 6 CRT bikes were slower than the time Claudio Corti set on his Kalex during the Moto2 test. But that comparison is not fair for a number of reasons: though the Dunlops are widely regarded as being inferior tires to the MotoGP Bridgestones, the Kalex has nearly three years of development on it, and in that time, those bikes have made massive steps forward. Some of the bikes slower than Corti have had just a few months' development time; the FTR Honda being used by Michele Pirro has seen just two days of testing with Pirellis, and another two and a half days' testing at Jerez with the Bridgestones, while Pirro himself has only just started to use the Bridgestones.

There is still a lot of potential left in the CRT machines, but there are also mountains of work in front of them. And in the case of the NGM Forward Suter BMW ridden by Colin Edwards, even masses of work may not help: that bike has been under development for nearly 18 months, and it is still suffering from chatter and issues stemming from having to develop a brand new electronics system. The CRT machines didn't show themselves up the way that so many people had feared, but - with the exception of Randy de Puniet on the Aprilia - they have not set the world alight either. There is still some way to go.

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Stoner is really getting rather good at playing the mind-games thing - his comment re the last-lap time has two levels of impact for the competition. The first is that he was merely having a bit of fun after doing constrained runs all day; the second is that he might have gone harder if he'd really tried.

I don't think Lorenzo is fooled in the slightest and will know exactly how hard Stoner was really trying, but even so, if you were Lorenzo and had been doing hard yards all day that sort of flippant dismissal of a faster lap wouldn't have you hopeful that Stoner is a worried man (at this stage, anyway).

Every time I hear one of those glib Casey-isms, I ask myself: What Would Colin Say? I think Colin can be equally flippant, but in a more, errr, like-able way.

I was surprised at how funny and likeable Lorenzo is, and his approach to racing is as professional as I've seen, he would not be concerned by Stoner's comments in the least.

In fact I always interpret Stoner's words in reference to Rossi, Vale played plenty of head games with a young Stoner, one thinks its a bit of getting square.

Last year, even after Casey established series dominance, Lorenzo never gave up for a second. If Casey made a mistake then Lorenzo extracted the maximum.

This is shaping up to be a fabulous match race, provided they both stay fit and healthy.

Its game on, and the two best going at it fast, handle bar to handle bar, and hopefully ALL SEASON.

Besides the Top-5... the racing of the remaining riders will be more entertaining than the front group! The Ducatis VS the Satellites VS the CRT machines will be studied more than anything else I think.

"Over at Ducati, things were a little more difficult, though clear progress had been made"

9 tenths at a circuit this short is actually very slightly worse & is the equivalent to a loss of about 3 seconds over a race distance compared to Rossi's times in Sepang (if testing times can be taken as an indication of comparative race pace)... clear progress?... unfortunately it's clearly not reflected in the times... compared to the competition they're pretty much in the same place they were at the end of the last test but at least they're not actually going in the wrong direction.

Very astute observation. The race at Jerez is six laps longer than the one at Sepang, so if you're looking at total race time to the front, the Ducati went backward in comparison to the Sepang times...

That more than two riders are in with a shout of winning races this year. With sponsorship essential for the survival of the sport; the last thing we need is the winner being decided by the end of the first lap.

In order to attract new money, Moto GP needs to attract new fans and surely the easiest "win" is from the F1 crowd. In order to do that, there needs to be lots of position changes and dices for the lead in the last few laps.

Marco will definitely be missed this year.

MotoGP would already be way in front of F1, and more people still would tune in to watch Moto2.

The bad news is, it's not that. People want a hero they can identify with and they want to see him win. Just like the movies, the good guy has some challenges early on to create suspense, then comes through at the end to establish that all is right with the world. And it's why nice bone structure and star-status win more money than great acting skills. And it's why more people are following Valentino's struggle to make the top 5 than care about Casey winning. Such is life...

That's the point...

Even with close racing, Moto GP is considered the poorer cousin - this is because most adults can drive a car; far fewer can ride a motorbike.

To attract people over it needs to be much more exciting on the track to the casual viewer than F1 - especially considering the decline of Rossi. I don't know what the viewing figures are for last season; but I would imagine after an initial surge when he started riding for Ducati; it dropped off once it was clear that he wouldn't be competitive. I believe that more of the casual fans would have stuck around if Lorenzo and Stoner had been exchanging the lead throughout every race and the season. Even when he was fetched off in the rain by Rossi, the champion never looked like being anyone other than Stoner.

I agree that some of the casuals are only watching for Rossi; however are they (and their money) not considered "worthy" of Moto GP? With the current state of the economy, that kind of elitist attitude is not going to work.Barry Sheene was a very popular rider; was he bad for the sport?

I'm the 4th generation of biker in my family and I appreciate the talents of all the riders; however I prefer last laps scraps rather than break-aways and consistent lap times - the TT does that far better.

Whilst the people "following Valentino's struggle" may be sneered at by "hardcore" fans; it needs to be remembered that in order to generate more revenue; the sport needs more followers, not less. Yamaha don't currently have a title sponsor - and they're one of the teams that have a chance of fighting for the title; what hope does that give the CRT teams on year two?

I don't know what the solution is; however I want the sport to succeed past the career of any racer - whether they prefer a kangaroo or a bulldog and the best chance for that is close exciting racing.

Just my pov from my personal observations in my home country and current residency.

F1 fans and MotoGP fans are never the same, at least the “casual” viewers pool. They simply watch because they think they can relate to the sports. Like what Nostraodamus said, F1 fans relate themselves because the fans have a car in their driveway. We can have all kinds of passing at a high frequency in a MotoGP race, but they would never relate, because these people are not interested in motorcycles. And pretty darn sure we are yet to be able to say “all motorcycle riders are MotoGP fans” so how is it possible to lure viewers from F1? Moreover, drivers and bikers seems to have different mindset. Lots of drivers have no reserve when talking about how "badass" they drive but bikers (in both countries) tends to be more reserved because something usually don't turn out good to the last biker that bragged about himself/herself. This could also be due to the fact that there are more drivers than bikers in most developed countries and could be thus class as generalization.

Even the more than “casual” MotoGP fans have their own agenda, some choosing to worship their idol, some simply for the racing/riding and some for the prototype technology. I used to not be able to stay awake watching a whole race simply because I do not understand the skill set that these guys possess, until I turned my first wheel at the track. Been a MotoGP fan since simply because these guys are awesome (did a trackday at Sepang with a 250GP wildcard racer. He smoked everybody at the trackday, but was lapped by Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner in the actual race.). My wife used to watch simply because we would have a get-together every races with my buddies and their wife/GF. Now that we moved overseas, I'm watching MotoGP by myself. I'm not even sure if she will be going to Laguna Seca with me this year.

What I observe is to be a fan, there is always some form of subscriptions. Back home, I need to have cable access and an above average cable package. Over here, an extra subscription to SpeedTV or MotoGP.com. The question being....how many “fans” will actually drop cash to subscript any of these? In fact some of them watch as much races as myself last season but I'm also pretty sure they are not going to drop cash at all this season. They would keep showing up over at a friend's place.

Another reason for a sport to be “popular” is because of betting. The bookies are stranger to MotoGP and maybe they need to be the first target as fans....ha ha.

As far as the TT goes, I respect the roadracing series but I cannot bear to watch something that takes away life and talent every year.

Im not sure how people who like motorcycle racing (or racing in general) don't watch Moto2. Last year was spectacular. Plenty of on edge last laps, and heart-breaking (and season changing) crashes.

Not to mention the heroes/villians (you decide which is which).

Hello David, once again I see that my comment was deleted. I can only assume that because I choose to be critical of the rider(s) at times, this upsets your love affairs with them. Comments related to the public perception of MotoGP riders, Stoner in this case, are more than appropriate given the failing marketing and public relations MotoGP appeares to have as it applies to their fans and potential sponsors. No personal attacks, no curse words, no mention of family or anything of the like did I post and was no more glib than he. The subject matter was entirely based on Stoner's own comments and the way in which his words translate to the fans of MotoGP. Given he is the current MotoGP champion, I would think this topic would be of some interest. Most certainly, Honda, MotoGP, and Dorna have been paying attention to his aloof and standoff like behavior to which they have tried to address but with limited success. Your protection of the riders uber alles, unfortunately minimizes your journalistic integrity in regards to what we the fans are actually getting when reading such reports. I have long considered your site to be the best of the best. Now I must consider, with a grain of salt, each time you post a column because you wish to be loved first and entertain the truth second.

you seem to be confusing your perception with public perception. Your bigotry (aloof and standoff. Wtf?) comes across loud and clear. Public perception on the other hand is of course a multi headed beast.

You have long considered this strictly moderated site to be the best of the best, but when one of your own comments gets deleted, all of a sudden it is just the site owner's showcase? Hmmm...

I subscribe to ensure that the prat quotient on this site is kept to tolerable levels. Dunno what was deleted, but if it was, it must have gone over the edge. I trust David's judgement.
But, hey, if you need an outlet, there's always crash.net, where there's a troll lurking behind every second user account.

As is usually the case for this contributor, and I don't even need to read it to know this - it's not what you said, but what your contribution might in turn kick off.

Proactive management is the best management.

Yamaha/HRC slugfest on the cards from round 1. I read the press releases from all the teams and the general concensus across the board is that they are all champing at the bit to get on with it in Qatar.
Phil,what do you suggest ? Stoner convert himself overnight into Valentino ?
Aloof,I don't think so. Damned when he does engage the press and damned when he don't. No wonder he and Lorenzo have a comeraderie between them and Ben Spies is of the same ilk. Lorenzo has been the absolute Yamaha ambassador for them since he got into the team. His performances have been amazing in the face of all kinds of adversity.
Neither he nor Casey or any other rider are employed to satisfy the affections of the viewers. They are employed primarily to win races and Championships for their respective teams.
Casey always talks 'we' this and that. Ever wondered why ? He always saw it as a team effort with 'me' as just one cog in the teams gearbox.

'Pitbull' above has hit the nail on the head.

When I was a kid I used to race enduros in western New South Wales with a friend who was the most extraordinary dirt rider I, and the rest of the guys we raced, had ever seen. Although he had no money, someone from Yamaha had spotted him and he was 'given' a brand new YZ465 (one of only two west of the Sydney region back then)

This friend had become a bit of a celebrity in the enduro and dirt track community at the time, but he was the most humble, quiet, honest guy you'd ever meet. Although his insane overtaking manouvers meant everyone wanted to talk to him, he hated being the centre of attention.

I've met kids who were champion 'quarter horse' racers and cross country riders (male and female) who were the same. It's an Australian country kid 'thing'.....and it's exactly what I see in Stoner.

Trying to get him to be a Rossi or an Edwards is a waste of time, he'll always be a quiet kid who's just jaw droppingly good at what he does

Ben, Nicky, And Colin need to push very hard this season now that they are on 1000cc machines once again! The 1000cc capacity is where they spent most of their careers showing the world their true abilities. Time to do it again. Spies will need to take charge like Captain America. Spies knows, understands his mission and what he must do since all of Yamaha management is watching him closely. I think Ben will shine this season with Stoner and Jorge once he gets past Dani. Hayden has a tough battle ahead of him all season and no matter what weapons he has in his IronMan arsenal... he will be outgunned majorly with the Ducati. Edwards will need help from the BMW/Motorcycle gods like Thor since he will need to drop the hammer everytime he hits the track to be competitive. Of the 3, Spies is in the right place at the right time with Yamaha... this will be an interesting season.

Unfortunately The 1000cc bikes won't help the Americans as much as you wish. Nicky has said a few times the new bikes aren't like the old 990s. Electronics and fuel cap has changed the nature of the beast.

Only the Factories know exactly what the displacements are for their particular machines but the Americans will be more comfortable on their bikes this season! The electronics since the 990cc Era compared to now is probably 5+ times greater! Hayden and Edwards will have plenty of trouble getting the bikes to do what they want on track due to set-ups and electronics. However Spies? He has things dialed in so well that he left the track early and doesn't want to risk injury. Ben said that being on the 1000cc suits him and his riding style better! Ben will gauge things better in the race! So with the 1000cc M1... Spies is the American to watch!

I find it interesting the amount of Italians on CRT machines. I've read about concern for the number of Italians in MotoGP and not many up and coming riders in the support classes. But the CRT projects seem to be a way for some Italians, such as Danilo Petrucci - as you mentioned David - to be an up and coming rider 'hiding in plain sight,' if you will.