Valencia MotoGP Test Day 1 Round Up: Of Debuts, Jealousies, And The Confounded Weather

If there is one subject that is getting mind-numbingly tedious to have to write about in motorcycle racing right now, it's the weather. Almost every race this year has lost at least one session to difficult conditions, and we had hoped that the 2013 season might start off a little better. No such luck.

After a dry, clear night, the first rain showers arrived shortly before 10am, when the track was due to open for the test. By the time the track opened, enough rain had fallen to make it slick, greasy and extremely difficult to ride. That put an end to almost everyone's carefully laid plans, leaving large groups of people wandering around and alternating between looking to the skies and carefully examining the track. A few brave souls ventured out on to the track - including Valentino Rossi, at a few minutes after ten, the earliest he has ever taken to the track during testing since I've been following MotoGP, Rossi notoriously ill-disposed to mornings (as, I must admit, am I) - but for the most part, silence prevailed.

This was perhaps toughest on the TV commentators. Because of Rossi's return to Yamaha, the first couple of hours of the test were streamed live on the website, as well as broadcast on both Italian and Spanish TV. There was virtually nothing to show, though, except images of crowds milling in pit lane, riders wandering around chatting, some in leathers, some not, and endless repeats of slow-motion shots from the few bikes that had turned a lap in the morning, leaving commentators racking their brains for subjects to discuss, leading at one point to a surprisingly long discussion about fruit, and the riders who eat it.

The TV got their money shot, though, Valentino Rossi having gone out early on the rather beautifully turned out Yamaha M1, carefully denuded of Yamaha stickers. Surveying the chaos as photographers and journalists milled around Rossi's garage, all vying with each other to get the best shot of the Italian on the Yamaha, Jorge Lorenzo commented from the pit wall "mira el campeon," a phrase which could be translated as "look at the champion," but which I like to think should be translated as "behold the champion!" Lorenzo, officially honored as the 2012 MotoGP World Champion, some 36 hours previously, got a glimpse of the media storm that follows Valentino Rossi around. Whatever Rossi does on the track, the mind games in the garage and in the media will be very hard fought indeed.

Whether Rossi will be quick or not is an unknown. The times themselves were rendered meaningless by the track conditions, though Rossi appeared to be lapping at a reasonable pace when he was out with other riders. I went out to the side of the track to get a look at Rossi in person, memories of standing at Turn 11 in November 2010, watching a stranger dressed as Rossi wobble around on the Ducati during his first outing on the bike, and had gone to the same spot on Saturday to see Rossi ride the Ducati again ahead of the test. Now back on the Yamaha, the Italian looked more comfortable, moving from side to side more smoothly than he ever had on the Ducati. More interesting was watching Rossi over a number of laps, building carefully from slow beginnings, gaining confidence with each lap, throwing the bike into the corner ever more forcefully and being more and more aggressive with the gas.

Maybe that was down to changing conditions, or maybe he was genuinely feeling more confident; without being able to examine the mind of the rider, that is hard to say. The body language in the garage was all smiles - real smiles, not the forced cheerfulness with which Rossi had tried to buoy his spirits while at Ducati - and not just from Rossi, but also from everyone in his team. It has not just been a long two years for Rossi, it has been equally mentally tough on Jerry Burgess and the rest of Rossi's crew.

Does Valentino Rossi still have it? That is the million dollar question, and one which it is still far too early to answer. Without seeing Rossi on a dry track, and comparing the times he posted, it is almost impossible to say. What is clear is that a weight has been lifted from Rossi's shoulders, and that his mental state is far more positive than it was on Sunday. What Rossi felt and thought on Tuesday we do not know, as his contract with Ducati expires at midnight on December 31st. Until then, there is silence.

At least we got to see Valentino Rossi lap on the Yamaha. The other eagerly-awaited debut - one of three - was abandoned entirely due to the weather. The assembled media crowded into the Repsol Honda garage to see Marc Marquez sitting on his RC213V - actually, Casey Stoner's RC213V with a special set of fairings - but we would not see him ride the bike. Honda and his team decided it was too dangerous for the rookie to ride the machine in those conditions, the team deciding to wait until Marquez has a dry track to ride. In theory, that could be Wednesday at Valencia, but that would only happen if the heavy rain every single weather forecaster has been predicting for the area turns out to be the product of a mass psychosis. The likely scenario is that Marquez will go home and wait for the private test Honda have scheduled for Sepang at the end of the month, mulling over all the team have told him about the electronics and bike settings in the meantime. That the Spaniard was keen to ride the bike was obvious from his demeanor, Marquez moving around the garage like a hyperactive kid on Christmas morning.

The last of the big-three debuts was Andrea Dovizioso riding the Ducati, and the Italian was remarkably upbeat. He had been expecting a wild beast of an engine, he said, but he had been pleasantly surprised. The bike was much better than he had expected, and he had felt the better traction the Ducati has in the wet which he had noticed when racing Rossi in the rain earlier in the year. But whether the bike had any real problems, and where such problems might lie, Dovizioso would not be drawn on. "It is impossible to put the bike on the limit," he said, and without reaching the limit, it was impossible to understand how it would react. He would wait until Ducati's private test at Jerez later this month, and hope for dry weather there. One phrase Dovizioso used over and over again when talking to the (Italian) media was "troppo presto", too soon. On a rainy day at Valencia, there is not much you can learn.

Testing continues on Wednesday, when Bradley Smith is likely to make his debut. If, at least, the rain falls steadily, and does not leave the half-and-half, wet-and-dry conditions which blighted much of the test on Tuesday. Yamaha head north to Aragon in the hope of finding more clement weather, an idle hope indeed if the forecasters are to be believed. We can only hope that the weather gods will finally grow tired of tormenting motorcycle racers, and move on to find another sport to ruin. I suggest tennis.

Back to top


Good write up and even with the crappy weather, still exciting due to all the bike hopping/switching this year....

What are the "jealousies" you referred to?

I would say Lorenzo's comment. He's WC yet he's left sitting along the wall watching the Rossi madness.

He's seen all this before, including the fairly scant treatment of his WC achievement over Rossi in 2010 in the 'Fastest' doco. He's in the box seat at Yamaha, and he also knows that whatever happens, there will be continual critical analysis of Rossi for his time at Ducati: either for the discrepancy between him and Stoner on the Ducati, or for the fall from grace for his 'legendary' development skills (and yes, I fully acknowledge the difficulties of that latter position - but Rossi did set himself up hugely for that fall before he stepped onto the bike. Stoner's: 'Wait till he rides it' will go down as one of the more sagacious comments of the last few years, and a model of brevity.)

Rossi is faced with a considerable task ahead to make his peace with himself for the Ducati years - and I suspect he knew what was about to befall him within those first few laps at Valencia two years ago. I doubt that will affect his riding ability one jot - he's too good for that - but it may make him less clinical in his judgement of racing situations. It's no slur on his reputation to say that he can make mistakes like any other rider - we've seen that over his career and we've also seen his uncanny ability to minimise any disadvantage / damage therefrom in a remarkably high percentage of the cases.

In the meantime, Lorenzo can simply get on with the business with little to distract him. He seems to have achieved a vastly admirable ability to make that work for him over a season; if he has any concerns at the moment, I'd bet they have to do with the new 'man of steel' demeanor of Pedrosa on track - he's brought it up a very considerable notch at a time in his career when that should worry every other competitor more than somewhat. If in the first head-to-head testing next year the Hondas appear to have an advantage over the Yamahas, Lorenzo will have something to worry about - more than he is likely to allow himself to be concerned about Rossi.

You sure did have a lot to write just to point out that someone isn't jealous......

All this kinda proves the point. You're correct, Lorenzo knows what to expect, which is why it's surprising he waited 18 seconds to say "hey look at me"

Regarding the 2013 season: Pedrosa will fly under the radar and might spoil everyone's plans anyway....

I enjoyed his articulate comment.

I'd like to know who is the jealous one in David's eyes as well. Lorenzo seems more amused then upset. If he had issues with Rossi he would not be on the team. Instead he will enjoy a year of beating him on equal bikes.

Rossi once went almost a full year without a win on the M1.

It looks like we'll have a season of the spanish cup with possible interruptions by an italian.

Enjoy fishing Casey. I think it will probably be more exciting than the racing in 13.

I doubt it's just Davids eyes, it's common sense.... If you were the new world champ and you were being largely ignored because of a. n. other rider(just happens to be Rossi) joining 'your' team, you just wouldn't be human if that didn't piss you off some.
Jorge craves the limelight himself nothing wrong with that, considering what he's achieved, it's just some fans of a certain ilk have painted themselves into a corner by trying to make out it's a bad thing. The simple fact that he was well beat in the 2nd half of last season will mean he is a long way for confident everything is in hand. Yamaha have a lot of work to do if they are to compete with Honda/Dani next year..
I suspect most fans have had it up to the nines with fans and riders alike dissing the sport, was rather hoping we'd seen the last of it.. Next year we'll have 4 top riders on 'full factory japanese' kit something we haven't seen for quite a few years, could be the best season in a longtime.. Sure we've lost the 3rd best rider this year but Casey isn't taking the sting out of the sport he's leaving just as it's getting really interesting, we have two new(old new in one case)riders both capable of winning races replacing him..Two real fighters..

Great to see the pics of Rossi back on the Yamaha. The pic of Burgess smiling while looking at the bike says it all. Home and awake from the nightmare that has been the last two years. There's no doubt that Rossi will be fast but fast enough for Lorenzo or Pedrosa is the question. Can Rossi elevate himself back to "alien" status. We use to have 4 and until Rossi proves it we only have 2 left.

Shame about the weather as MM93 debut was what I was looking forward to the most. This kid could very well be challenging for wins this year. If he can come to grips with the tires early on, JL and DP should be worried. He's going, hungry and in the words of Mad Max Biaggi "this is motorcycle racing, not ball room dancing".

Dovi has let his ego get the best of him. If he is to think that two world champions can't develop the bike into a winner and he can. He is more of a fool than I thought. He has had a great season last year but much of it was due to others misfortunes not a straight fight and win against another rider. He was upset at Yamaha for bringing back a 7 time world champion over someone that has had 3 years on Honda and hasn't proven squat. It's going to be long long year for him and his steady decline as his attitude will get in the way and AI will take his seat next year and more than likely beat him a few times this year as all 4 Ducs are the same this year.

Tennis, great comment David. I'm packing camouflage netting right now. Lol.

Dovi had a good season because he rode the Yamaha well. In a straight fight he managed to consistently out perform his teammate. Three riders on full factory machines finished well behind him in the points, though Spies clearly had amazing bad luck and you could argue both Rossi and Hayden were unlucky in that they were riding Ducatis. He's a damn good rider even if he hasn't cracked alien status. In five years his lowest placement in the championship was 5th. The only people ahead of him have been the four aliens. He will probably never be world champion material but he's a lot closer to the front than he is to the back.

As for his move, two world champions haven't failed to develop the bike, Ducati has. If Ducati can really get their house in order he has a chance regardless of what others have managed in the past.

I agree with everything you've said. It's his "I deserve" attitude that I dislike about him because well..he proven nothing. He's a great rider,very consistent and rarely makes a mistake and hits the deck. In terms of speed, he's like the other guy said "3rd to 5th". Now if he can do that with Ducati in 2013 he'd be doing something. Personally I would like to see A.I. kick every other Ducati out there this year.

Dovi got 6 podiums this year on a satellite bike and finished 4th in the WC, and was in the running for 3rd until the 2nd last race. He finished as 2nd best Yamaha, well ahead of Spies and Crutchlow and ahead of the 2 factory Ducatis, 55 points ahead of the guy who got the ride instead of him.
Probably not ever going to challenge for the WC granted but he would have been a perfect No.2 rider for Lorenzo. He never delivered at Repsol Honda so I guess that has to be considered but he deserved the shot.

But the "past (or historical, if you like) achievements" shouldn't ever be the deciding factor in picking a rider, it should be current/previous-season form. There is an exception in this case because of the particular rider in question (and in fairness, I would be amazed if Rossi doesn't get back on the podium regularly and sneak a win or two) but by your logic, Biaggi should have gotten a top MotoGP factory ride for 2013 before Dovi on account of winning 6 WC over Dovis one. Or Shane Byrne recently sealed his 3rd BSB title. Is he more "deserving" than say, Iannone or Smith? Ya know?

Yes, he had a great year considering. You can only race those out on track but you have to look at it realistically also. Last year he finished 4th in the WC and by a slim margin but only due to others misfortunes. DP was injured and missed 3 races and this year CS was injured and missed 3 races. He's done well, very well, to be there to pick up the pieces and that's what racing is about. Being there till the end. Unfortunately for Dovi his success in the big class has been mostly due to others injuries. There's no doubt that he's shown flashes of speed and racecraft (Mugello last year) but he really hasn't shown something that makes Yamaha think he was deserving of Bens ride over Rossi or Ben for that matter. So I will disagree that he was deserving of that ride. We'll see how he does on the Ducati this year and I hope he does well but I just don't see it happening. As for Biaggi and Byrne, both have been in GP and for different reasons are no longer there. When picking a rider for the team that came in 2nd in MWC and 1st in the RWC one can't say that a rider from a another class outside of GP is more worthy than a rider in GP. Too many variables.

"Unfortunately for Dovi his success in the big class has been mostly due to others injuries."

??? Last year he actually finished 3rd if memory serves, and injuries or not, hes consistently been there near the front on a satellite bike this year. You can only beat whats in front of you and he is not on the 3-aliens level but hes been the only one over the past two seasons to keep them in sight. Neither SPies nor Rossi have come anywhere near his level over the past two years, that is a fact.

The Biaggi/Byrne thing was an example, I wasnt suggesting that Yamaha GP should offer Biaggi a ride to keep him from retirement. I was making the point that recent performances are more relevant than past glories.

Dovi has been on excellent form for the past two seasons, Rossi & Spies have not. On form basis, Dovi deserved the ride much more than both of them.

wow he must be a horrible rider who is at best 3rd to 5th in a Motogp world championship... let see 6 factory rides his worst place overall was a 6th, 2 5th, a 3rd and a 4th. I guess with those results he is useless and should just be looking for a CRT ride.

I think dovi's paycheck on the factory team will sooth his troubles. If he was more interested in position he would have stayed on the t3 bike.

Doesn't seem to matter with dovi. Give him anything and he'll be 3rd to 5th most races.

I love the comment regarding Valentino. A less emotionally stable person would have had other words, I'm sure.

I too can't wait to see 93 on his new steed. But is/was it not possible for him to take the RC213V for a pedal at a previous test? He's basically on the same team anyway... why can't a Moto2 rider who knows he is going to the top ride the bike he's destined to end up on? Is there a rule against it?

And while someone is answering that, I'm also wondering if the guys who came up through the stroker ranks get to (or are even interested in) ride the replacement Moto2 and Moto3 bikes? Maybe another article topic there, David :)

Why did Capirossi ride the Yamaha? The conspiracy theorist in me would suggest it was because now that Rossi is on a Yamaha, Capirossi needs to understand how this bike uses the tyres so he knows what to instruct Bridgestone to do to make a tyre for Rossi the same as at the beginning of 2012.

My theory will be proven right if there is a change of tyre before the start of the season. You heard it here first!

So if BS change their tires for 2013 for any reason whatsoever your conspiracy is vindicated?

Someone in my state's lottery commission is conspiring against me by rigging the numbers selected such that they are never mine. if I don't win this Saturday, my conspiracy theory is correct.

Makes sense right?

So this year BS tire change which made so much chatter on Hondas was to assist Lorenzo?

The conspiracy theory can go in many directions. Depends how theorist manipulates the facts.

If BS does change tires... then your theory will stay just that. A theory. In your mind it will be a fact of course.

In 2011 Capirossi was riding a Ducati. He retired and started working as "safety advisor" advising Bridgestone on tyres. At the time Rossi/Ducati were having much trouble with the front of the Ducati. Ezpeleta needs Rossi at the front which is evident by his negotiating Rossi's move to Yamaha. I believe that Capirossi's role was to advise Bridgestone on what the Ducati needed tyre wise to help fix the front end of the bike. As we all know a new tyre was brought to tests and the official 2012 tyre was scrapped for this new tyre, much to the disgust of Honda and the new MotoGP World Champion.

I do not know if this tyre was definitely design to help Rossi on the Ducati but history is pretty full of Dorna forcing Bridgestone to supply and develop tyres for Rossi. Suggesting that my theory is categorically wrong requires you to know categorically that this did not occur. As know one here knows that then any theory that the experimental tyre that replaced the official 2012 was not specifically for Rossi is .... just a theory.

Now we have Capirossi testing the Yamaha, that surprise surprise his good mate Rossi has switched to, and not the Honda or the Ducati or a CRT bike I think that it is entirely plausible that Capirossi could be testing the Yamaha so he can understand the feedback the Rossi will be giving and help the development of a new tyre should one turn up. If someone can not entertain the thought that MotoGP is not "pure" sport, then quite frankly that someone would be a naive fool.

One might not turn up and then I will be wrong. But if one does turn up and is not unanimously approved of yet made the official tyre any way just like 2012 then I will consider that a vindication of my theory.

Dorna plans to milk the Rossi fans dry over the next 2 years and I believe they will stop at nothing to make sure he is a title challenger, just as they did in 2008.

"Dovi has let his ego get the best of him. If he is to think that two world champions can't develop the bike into a winner and he can. He is more of a fool than I thought."

Ever thought that perhaps thought isn't your strongest suit?

The world is changing my friend - that includes Ducati, Audi, etc.