2012 Assen MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Title Races, Lorenzo's Engines And Bridgestone Tires

There is a danger to thinking any championship is a foregone conclusion, especially this early in the season. Just as there is a danger to thinking that a race will pan out the way you thought it would after practice and qualifying. At Assen, everyone was afraid of three things: the weather, Jorge Lorenzo and Pol Espargaro. All three turned out differently than expected.

Best of all was the weather. After treacherous conditions on Friday, with rain falling, stopping, wetting the track just enough for Casey Stoner to bang himself up badly in the morning, though that did not stop him from blasting to pole, Saturday dawned bright and only got better: the big skies of flat-as-a-board Drenthe were mainly blue, with the occasional sighting of fluffy white clouds to provide a little cover and prevent egregious sunburn. But best of all, it stayed dry: no complications, just sunny, dry and calm weather.

Neither Lorenzo nor Esparagaro would prove too pose much of a threat either, Lorenzo through no fault of his own, but Espargaro would need no outside help in taking himself out of the equation. The crashes of Lorenzo and Espargaro - Lorenzo taken out by a boneheaded move from Alvaro Bautista, for which the Gresini Honda man will have to start from the back of the grid at the Sachsenring, Espargaro crashing on a bump at the Ruskenhoek - put an end to the domination of the two men in the MotoGP and Moto2 classes. Espargaro had blasted every session of free practice, and only a blistering lap from Marc Marquez had denied the HP Pons rider pole. Lorenzo's domination had been more subtle, his race pace clearly several tenths better than anyone else, though others on soft tires occasionally bettered the Spaniard during practice and qualifying.

Both crashes have also changed the complexion of their respective championships. With their main rivals winning - Marquez in Moto2, Casey Stoner in MotoGP - Espargaro's shot at the Moto2 title took heavy damage, Marquez now very comfortably ahead in the standings, while Lorenzo's 25-point lead evaporated completely, the Yamaha man now level in points with Stoner, though still leading on the basis of having won more races.

Race day started well, with a hard and at times bitter war of attrition in the Moto3 class. Four men were left standing at the end of the race, despite heavy blue-on-blue, or rather KTM-orange-on-KTM-orange, contact. Sandro Cortese, Danny Kent, Luis Salom and Maverick Vinales, any one of then could have one, or they could have taken each other out and handed victory to Louis Rossi, who sat just a fraction behind them. Cortese, in particular, had a couple of very physical encounters, one at high speed with his teammate Kent. The incident between the two was subject to intense investigation by Race Direction, but after reviewing the TV images, including helicopter shots, it was clear that Kent had been forced to slow after Vinales had blown by him, and Cortese had merely held his line and pace, which brought him to almost he exact place that Kent was on the track, and travelling slightly slower. Kent had been working on his aggression by taking boxing lessons, he told the press afterwards, which had helped to run at the front. It also left him slightly less surprised when his teammate slammed into him.

Though the race went down to the very last corner, the winner was probably not that much of a surprise. Maverick Vinales is the class of the Moto3 field, and even though Luis Salom used a brilliant line through the fast Ramshoek left hander to take the lead, he was trying just a little too hard to get a good result for his home crowd, and found himself running a little too hot into the GT chicane, and had the other three all blast past him. Just - Salom was eventually demoted to 4th by just 0.001 from Kent after a photo finish. Vinales had kept his calm the best, winning by what is a relatively comfortable margin after such a close race.

In Moto2, the winner was also hardly a surprise, though the manner of victory was positively magnificent, and a reminder of the reasons that Marquez is being fast-tracked into the factory Repsol Honda MotoGP team for 2013. Several seconds behind Andrea Iannone at the halfway stage, Marquez upped the pace to run over a second a lap quicker than Iannone, reeled him in, passed him a couple of times before making a pass stick, and then put the hammer down to leave Iannone standing. Marquez' win was something special. Espargaro's crash was a real shame for the championship, and no doubt he will be back battling for wins later, but Marquez really proved his predigree at Assen today.

Before it started, the final race of the day looked like being a Lorenzo whitewash. Lorenzo had the best setup and the fastest race pace, and Casey Stoner was badly banged up from a huge highside on Friday morning - what Stoner had described as "probably the biggest crash in my career". But Alvaro Bautista and Stoner's painkillers put paid to any hopes of a Lorenzo whitewash, and could have radically altered the outcome of the MotoGP title race.

The crash in the first corner left Lorenzo with one DNF, but the cloud of white smoke from the engine as it self-destructed will probably cost Lorenzo a lot more points. That engine had been fitted just the day before, and had just a couple of hundred kilometers on it, about 10% of the total required of an engine if Lorenzo is to make it through to the end of the season on his permitted engine allocation. With two old engines and three new ones, the chances of making it to Valencia without being forced from pit lane are negligible. Lorenzo was even more pessimistic in his assessment: "Impossible" he told the press.

He also told the press that Race Direction had promised to allow him an extra engine to replace the one that he had lost through no fault of his own. This, it seems, rests on a misunderstanding, Race Direction having expressed sympathy for his plight. But one look at the rulebook makes it perfectly clear that no such exception is possible, with no clause allowing Race Direction to use their discretion in situations such as this where natural justice might suggest clemency. There will be no new engine for Lorenzo, and this is down to the rulebook, despite the conspiracy theorists claiming that it was Honda which had blocked the allowance. Though HRC bigwigs went to make enquiries about the reports of an extra engine, all they were told was what the rulebook said, and that the decision had been made hours previously once the regulations had been consulted.

Bautista's boneheaded move cost Lorenzo 25 points at Assen, and probably another 14 or more later in the season. Despite Stoner's injuries and the Honda's chatter, Stoner is back on track for his title defense. The way he toyed with Dani Pedrosa, waiting for an opportunity to pass before putting the hammer down and leaving him for dead, was a lesson in tactics and managing a race. If Honda find a solution to their problems with the front tire, then the title race could be over pretty quickly, despite the fact that Jorge Lorenzo is in the form of his life.

While the Repsol Hondas are currently complaining about the front Bridgestone, behind them, the tires were providing real problems. Ben Spies lost several sizable chunks out of the right side of his tire, at least a couple of centimeters wide and twenty-odd centimeters long. He had been involved in a race-long battle with Andrea Dovizioso, and felt he had the situation under control until he felt a vibration at first, and then a chunk of rubber hit his leg, and his tire start to slide. The missing rubber was down to the casing in parts, and Spies, gun-shy after a horrific high-speed crash at Daytona during his time in the AMA, expressed his worries about the next few races, and especially about Mugello, where the bikes will hit north of 340 km/h along the front straight. Images of Shinya Nakano's disintegrating tire on the front straight back in 2004 were on his mind, Spies intimated, and with no time to introduce changes between now and Mugello because of the back-to-back schedule, he had to hope for the best.

Spies had not been the only rider with tire problems. After a good start, Valentino Rossi started suffering a massive vibration around the halfway mark of the race, something which had surprised the Italian as it was an issue the Ducati had not had before at Assen. Eventually it got so bad that he was forced to pit for a new rear tire. If Spies' tire was bad, Rossi's was worse, "three times as bad" according to the Italian himself, a very nasty issue indeed.

For Bridgestone to suffer issues like this is surprising, as their quality control has been outstanding in previous years. There may have been plenty to complain about with the old tires - not least their tendency to cause early morning highsides in the cooler temperatures - but they were consistent, predictable and reliable. The last couple of races has seen a rash of problems occurring, problems which cannot be put down solely to setup issues. There was a combination of factors which made life complicated for the tires, Valentino Rossi explained. More torque, more capacity, a softer construction of the tire carcass and higher temperatures probably all conspired to place greater loads on the tires than expected. Bridgestone have announced that they will be taking the tires back to their headquarters for further examination, and to try to get to the bottom of the failures. We can only hope that they publish the findings of their research.

The paddock now packs up and heads to Germany, a relatively short trip, and with an extra day to get there, with the Assen race having been run on Saturday, the cause of perennial confusion in the paddock (riders, media and teams consistently talk about "Sunday" when referring to race day, stubbornly ignoring the hard reality of the calendar), there is no massive rush. Next Sunday night at the Sachsenring will be different: the mad dash to pack up and travel the 1000 kilometers to Mugello and start to set up there is one of the most punishing schedules of the year. The MotoGP paddock can be a glamorous place, but it is also relentless and punishing. All part of the price that passion for the sport makes you pay, a sacrifice that is willingly offered.

Back to top


...that it was a good picture, although I couldn't tell what I was looking at, aside from what looked like a chunk out of something black and somewhat "tire-ish". Photo quality notwithstanding, THANK YOU for posting it! We appreciate it!

...enough to post a better picture, some clattering buttock (in between bouts of grunting and flinging poo at passersby) rates your post as one star.

I have the human presence of mind to say "thank you!", so... Thank you!

That picture is not only fantastic, it is TROUBLING. Seeing THAT happen to a modern MotoGP tire is hard to fathom. But, sad to say for Honda, that's a problem with the REAR tire, not the front. Here's hoping there are NO MORE 200 MPH catastrophes like Nakano's...

I'm not sure if this quality control issue over tires is serious. Regardless of tire problems the same usual suspects are at the front. The only anomaly would be Spies pace towards the end of races. In the past he would usually start slow and finish strong; it''s the opposite this year.

Pretty sure thats the back of somebody's head Javi..

This is not the first time a Yamaha engine has instantly self destructed once on its side. Seems to be a bit of an issue with their engine in particular, in which case they shouldn't get any special dispensations for losing one even though the crash wasn't Lorenzo's fault.

Wow. Watching Spies I thought that maybe he was managing his tires for a late race charge, and wondered why there was no late race charge. I guess now we know why. Of course, Spies runs an entirely different set-up to the other three Yamaha riders, so that might also explain why he had issues when Cal and Dovi didn't.
Any word about Hayden's tires? He was coming out of the corners sideways there at the end, it looked like he was riding a dirtbike.

Bridgestone have been asked to spice up the racing.
But they have given us a ring of fire.
An intensive probe has been ordered.
It could get messy.

When a third of the field doesn't finish and few if any don't have tire problems then its a massive failure on Bridgestone's part. They denied a problem last race now they issue an apology. Too bad for all concerned but if it's a safety issue, and it is, it needs immediate addressing. Let the teams use what ever tire they want.

It certainly did seem like Stoner was just biding his time - but I also reckon he was taking a close look at Dani's rear tyre given that they'd both gambled on the softer options. And made his move perhaps once he was sure about its reliability. Whatever the reason, it must have been pretty demoralising for Dani. Though I must confess he didn't seem that way - particularly with some extra attention he seemed to be showing to the champagne girl with the supergirl outfit on the podium.. ;-)

Hellloooo quality control! Imagine if this had been any of the championship leader's tires (Lorenzo, Stoner, Pedrosa). They'd be screaming to high heaven about it.

If it only happened to BS11, likely the whole incident would had not escalated as high as now. Fingers will be pointing that his setup and style is so different to the rest of the Yamaha, etc etc...Now, it also happened to VR46, the chunking tyres are flown overnight back to Japan HQ for throughout investigations. Have to give VR46 credit for this ;) I'm sorry this had to happen to VR46 but his opinion does weigh more when compared with BS11's alone.

Thanks for the photo, the best I've seen and clearly a mess. The problems need looking at, but oddly enough the Honda team that complained the most had no trouble with the softer option. Though admittedly the didn't have to run the pace Jorge was showing all weekend. The new tyres have been a great move for the future of the sport, bs will fix it this week.

Those words are extremely cruel yet precise. Dani is 0 wins as of today, 7th season in Motogp And still to get The championship. Do NOT understand.
Lorenzo's incident will put even More value on his title. Go !

It seems to me that the race being decided by the tyre is exactly what the spec tyre rule was supposed to eliminate. Surely if there not all the same then it's not a spec tyre!

It's funny though, several years ago at a F1 race at Indianapolis before they instituted a spec tyre rule, it was Bridgestone and Michelin.

Something went awfully wrong with the Michelin tires and as a result none of the teams running Michelin started the race... at the suggestion of Michelin.

So the grid had half the cars, spectators we pissed off, free tickets were given to everyone who attended for next years' F1.

That incident was used, precisely, to argue FOR a spec tire.

So the moral of the story is... damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Okay, so the real moral of the story is... a faulty tire batch has nothing to do with whether a series is running a spec tire or not, and if I had to pick between a faulty batch affecting the whole grid with equal probability, or it affecting only half the grid (like in the F1 incident), I would pick the former, because then everyone is affected equally by the risk.

And that is exactly what the spec tire rule is supposed to do, equalize risk and reward.

Of course... BS has to fix the issue.

Honda's tyres looked pretty okay to me after the race.
I hope they have solved most of the chatter issues.
If it wasn't for chatter, Honda would have been beating Yamaha every single race.

Stoner seemed to embrace a new strategy / technique this race.
Instead of going hard on hard tyres he seemed to go smooth on soft tyres.
Maybe emulatIng Lorenzo's recent style.

I only disagree on one point (sort of). Casey Stoner would be beating Jorge Lorenzo at most races. I don't think Dani Pedrosa have anything on Jorge - Stoner is the only one capable of beating him atm.

Both Spies & Rossi are the giants of the field. Maybe Colin's bike is too slow to have this problem or he didn't stay on long enough. A simple posibility but maybe they have too much weight over the back building just a bit more heat.

What a contrast of emotions.



[Editor's note: hot-linking images from professional photographer's websites gets me into a whole world of grief. Explaining hot-linking to them is a painful process and takes too long to do. I have changed the hot-linked images into links, please link in future. Thanks! David]

On the subject of new engine, it would be staggering if the race stewards allowed Yamaha another engine. There should be no such thing as bending the rules on 'compassionate' grounds. It was terrible luck against Lorenzo, however it is Yamaha's fault the engine went up in smoke.

Stoner hit a wet patch and crashed heavily through no fault of his own in practice - what if his engine blew up in the process? Would the race stewards give him special consideration? I think not.

I'm a Stoner fan, but I'm not sure if he would have had anything for Jorge. Yes, the Honda's did NOT have any tires issues, but that was at the lap times they were running. Would Casey's tires have held up running .5+ second/lap faster? We'll never know, but HRC still has a massive problem with their bike. The following weeks will be interesting, to say the least.

Ducati: this joke has reached a point that anyone thinking of wasting time with the company needs some therapy! Ya listening Cal? Are they unwilling, or unable to make changes to the pile they are calling a Moto GP bike? David, any comments/opinions on this topic?

Tires: How in the hell can BS screw this up as badly as they have? Spies and Rossi tire issues are a MAJOR SAFETY PROBLEM, especially withe Mugello coming up. Is anyone screaming bloody murder at this problem? David, again, any comments/opinions/quotes/etc?

Ducati: They have a plan, and are working through it. Last year, they changed a million things and lost sight of what they were doing, this year, they are being more methodical and changing one thing at a time. Probably need to find a more happy medium.

Tires: There were a lot of people who had serious concerns about this, Spies and Rossi both said so, and Bridgestone have said they will look at this closely. For a Japanese company, that's a big deal, almost akin to admitting they got something wrong.

Where does silly season put him in 2013?

Rossi's tyre looked really wonked. Glad he didn't crash.

I am no great fan of Lorenzo, but to effectively penalise him for his 'bad luck' seems totally incorrect. This engine rule was supposed to save money, I recall. Now it's influencing the championship. You could buy a lot of engines for the value of a championship.....
(If it was also supposed to improve technology then no-one in MGP has stripped a high mileage, standard production, sports engine lately....)
Bautista will have suffered enough too without shoving him to the back of the grid and spoiling another potential race for us all. He may qualify well and do the good old ride-through-the -field as well but I would prefer a straight race.
Fine him. Or, make him do 50 push-ups on the grid. Or, clean the camp site lavatories. Or eat his own weight in crisps. Just something that doesn't skew the results again or punish the team/sponsors (he has to pay for the crisps).
As for Bridgestone - perhaps we now need a compulsory pit stop to change both wheels, for safety's sake (perhaps Loris is working on this). That might spice things up a bit.... Actually, I would rather they just were free to choose the tyres they want - it should stop all the complaining and perhaps help the Ducati be competitive without having to turn it into an RCV-alike. Given that Bridgestone couldn't play the bespoke moulding game for one team when Michelin were leading the field the chance of any new-spec tyres being ready, or putting more UHU in the moulds, for the next two rounds is about the same as my suggestions happening or Ducati building a 75 degree engine.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the tires pretty much sum up the issues with the series and those who push through new rules all the time.

In 2007 (I think), overnight tires were banned, Michelin then dropped the ball for half a season, instead of waiting for Michelin to figure out how to produce a flexible tire compound (although in my mind it does raise questions regarding the tire quality for riders on Michelin tires which were not overnights prior to 2007 and it's affect on the series, btw I'm not targeting just Rossi, but all the riders on overnights), they who make the rules decided to immediately change the rules again, ruining any real competition between different configuration bikes in MotoGP (ie. Ducati which did quite well with no overnights but tires to suit their setup), and pushing development costs up temporarily again.

Same applies to bringing in the 1000's. Suzuki was catching up after 4yrs of development, and consequently dropped out if they were going to have to go through another 4yrs of running in the wilderness before they could be competitive especially considering that further rules changes are likely in that time.

As far as costs go, lets take Suzuki v. Honda, when with spec tires (which for the sake of this example stay the same for a number of years, as implausible as that seems) they are really targeting the same weight, geometry, riding style, power delivery, etc.

Honda has a budget of say 40m, Suzuki say 20m. To get within 1sec of the best possible lap time it costs say 40m, 0.5sec make it a further 40m, 0.2sec 40m, etc. Honda will get to the first milestone end of season 1, Suzuki will get there at the end of season 2, which at that time Honda will be a further 0.5 sec ahead. At the end of season 4 though, Suzuki will at worst only 0.5sec off the best lap time, Honda will only be 0.4sec ahead. At season 6 though, Honda may be on the best lap time possible, Suzuki will only be 0.2 sec behind, and it only going to get smaller, and this is dependant on Suzuki not getting a better rider which may make all the difference.

Unfortunately, to get within 0.5sec the rules need to stay the same for a number of years, and if you aren't confident in that, why would you try.

As for Honda supporting to rules changes, why wouldn't they, everytime there is a change, they get a free 4+ yrs of easier competition.

The engine count for the two of them should be adjusted this way. It will never happen but it would make up for some very poor thinking. I admire Lorenzo's control.

In past championships the affected rider usually recovers to win the championship. Last year Rossi's brain fade did not stop Stoner, I dont think this will stop Lorenzo, unless Honda have fixed the chatter then... well then you've got to go with 27.

Great round up, loved it... How good is this website!!!!

A subject for the safety commision ! :

The new front brake lever protectors are supposed to avoid big crashes when a bike touches the rear of another bike.

Now that's exactly what happened at the last corner of the last lap, in the second race of the Rookie Cup.

So the question is : are they completely useless ?

By the way, Cortese slamming into Kent, Bautista cutting Lorenzo in half, and Sofuoglu trying to kill (?) Foret, it wasn't a safe week-end...

From what I saw, that huge crash in the Rookies race was because Hanika's front wheel hit the rear of Alt. Had nothing to do with brake levers.

It seems to me the situation with Lorenzo's engine is more contentious than it initially appears. It has a parallel with test cricket. If the ball becomes damaged, they can't give the fielding team a new ball as the batting team will not have had as many new balls. Instead they open up a box of used balls and see if they can find a ball in similar condition.
So the problem with giving him a new engine is, in my opinion, the question of at what point is an engine too old to be replaced with a new allocation? If it was another several hundred kilometers old, would it be appropriate to do so as it would then potentially give him an advantage over his competitors such that it actually reduces the amount of kilometers per engine required for the rest of the season.

There's no point in blaming bautista for lorenzo losing an engine. bikes are always going to crash, whether others help with this or not is besides the point. Yamaha need to accept responsibility for their almost new engine grenading while it was on its side and engineer a solution to avoid this.

I remember not so long ago Stoner stating that other riders would not enjoy the Bridgestones so much if their pace was faster. I've read articles saying that Crutchlow, Spies, Rossi, Edwards and Ellison have all had chattering problems and now that the Summer temps. are up you can add delamination to the mix as well. What is the first thing a control tire needs to provide, a safe, consistent and predicable base for ALL the riders. MotoGP doesn't have that now despite Bridgestones harping on safety. It would suggest that their testing isn't what it should be and that the new tires were rushed to release too quickly. Given that Bridgestone will now take their time at revising the tires what will Honda do to push through modifications to enable Stoner to compete with Lorenzo over the rest of this season? Time is of the essence.