2013 Barcelona MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Pedrosa's Scorcher, Lorenzo's Engine Travails, And Vinales' Penalty Points

Cal Crutchlow called it right on Friday. "We know the Hondas take a little bit longer to set up, but when they come out Saturday morning, they normally take a second off." It was more like half a second on Saturday morning, but by the afternoon, Dani Pedrosa took nearly 1.6 seconds off his best time on Friday, smashing the pole record which had stood since 2008. That was a lap set on the supersoft qualifying tires still used at the time, which had Nicky Hayden happily reminiscing about the fun to be had on the sticky one-lap rubber.

It was an extraordinary lap by Pedrosa, though the Honda man himself was not overly impressed. When asked if it was his best lap ever, Pedrosa acknowledged that it was good, perhaps one of his best, but still not as good as his lap at Valencia at the end of last year.

Pedrosa's blistering record lap was not the only excitement during qualifying, which turned into an intriguing session. It started off with Jorge Lorenzo taking off out of the pits in his customary fashion, only to cruise back in again after his first full lap. The clutch on his Yamaha M1 had destroyed itself, and so he had to leap back on to his second bike and try to set a time on that. That machine never felt the same as his number one bike, and so Lorenzo didn't quite have the confidence to push as hard as he hoped to. That left him third on the grid, but at least still on the front row.

Lorenzo's travails benefited Cal Crutchlow, the Tech 3 man once again equaling his best qualifying. He played down his achievement as usual, admitting that Lorenzo's problems helped contribute to taking second spot on the grid, and making him the fastest Yamaha rider. His lap was still impressive, though. Even if Lorenzo had been on form, the Englishman would only have been bumped a place, his lap having assured him of a front row start.

Behind Crutchlow, two more men who were quick, those the names of Alvaro Bautista and Nicky Hayden were more of a surprise. The soft tires worked for the Gresini Honda rider, allowing him to push for a fast lap and take fourth, while Nicky Hayden described his qualifying as the best of the year, though he felt he could have gone faster. He had encountered traffic in the final sector of his fast lap, and though he had not been hindered by it, it had been enough of a distraction that it had prevented him from putting in a perfect lap.

That perfect lap is hard, as Marc Marquez found at Barcelona. The many long corners make it hard to get every part of every corner perfect, and once you miss out in one place, the lap tends to be ruined. Though fastest on Saturday morning, Marquez could manage only the sixth best time during qualifying, the Repsol Honda man more at ease in the morning when conditions were cooler.

Marquez starts ahead of Valentino Rossi, the Italian once again falling short in qualifying. Three tenths was what he was missing, and he was losing them a tenth at a time in three braking points around the track. Braking in extremis remains Rossi's weakest point on the Yamaha, the Italian finding it impossible to brake later, and still get the bike to turn into the corner.

In terms of race pace, the only real reflection of the grid is that Pedrosa is clearly fastest. Jorge Lorenzo believes he can stick with Pedrosa, something which Cal Crutchlow agrees with. Behind the two leaders, a group of three, with Crutchlow, Rossi and Marquez all more or less on the same pace. The question will be who gambles correctly on the set up to help make the tires last for the entire race.

For tires will be an issue. Opinion is still clearly split, with both soft and hard tires being an option for the race. The difference is in how much the rear tire drops off after the first few laps, and whether the rider believes they can manage the tire home. For the Ducatis, the choice is clear, the hard tire loses too much once the early grip disappears, and it just starts to spin up. The soft tire also drops off, but it still grips and provides drive out of the corners, something missing from the harder tire. Cal Crutchlow believes he can use either tire, the question will be whether he will have an advantage at the end of the race over the soft tire.

Whatever tire is chosen, Valentino Rossi believes that everyone will make the same choice in the end. All of the top riders will look at each other, and in the end all go for the same tire. That means that most likely, everyone will plump for the soft tire. Its performance degrades after a few laps, but the lap times stay about the same level as the hard tire, and it offers extra grip and speed in the early laps of the race. The two questions to be answered at Barcelona will be who can catch Dani Pedrosa, and who can hang on for a podium.

Along with tires, engines are a major topic at Barcelona, for both the MotoGP and Moto2 classes. In MotoGP, the engine lists published after qualifying showed that Yamaha are struggling to make the end of the season. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have both had one engine withdrawn from allocation, and a couple of others appear to be suspect. Yamaha's 2013 M1 engine appears to have a minor design flaw, one not big enough to show up during testing, but just large enough to cause problems in the heat of a racing season. With Rossi and Lorenzo having used four of their permitted five engines (see separate story), the 2013 championship could be decided by technical knockout, rather than in a straight slugging match.

The engine durability rules were the brainchild of the manufacturers, in response to demands from the FIM and Dorna that the factories come up with saving money. The MSMA felt that reducing maintenance would help reduce costs, and provide exactly the kind of engineering challenge which the racing departments could use to sell to their executive boards to help get a budget to go racing. Like the fuel regulations, the engine limits are there at the behest of the factories, and like the fuel regulations, they can have some unforeseen consequences. Just how keen Yamaha will be on retaining the engine regulations if they lose a championship due to a minor design fault remains very much to be seen.

Meanwhile, Honda's reliability looks positively soul-destroying. All four Honda RC213Vs are still only on the first two engines, with no sign of weakness showing anywhere. Paddock insiders like to joke that Honda would really like to reduce the allocation limits to just two engines for a season, though they might be willing to concede a third engine for the last few races, to make it a little easier on the other factories.

Yamaha's engine problems sound the death knell for any hopes of a seamless gearbox for the Yamaha. The gearbox will not be tested this week at Aragon, and it is unlikely to see action at all this year. If it is ready in time for the Misano test in September, then it will not be raced until 2014. This could be a very long year for Yamaha.

Engines are also talk of the town in Moto2. Though Pol Espargaro's pole position was merely proof that he is in devastating form in front of his home crowd, Scott Redding struggled with a lack of top speed. More surprisingly, so did his teammate Mika Kallio, the much lighter rider usually among the fastest through the speed traps. At Barcelona, after being handed new engines at the beginning of the weekend, both Kallio and Redding were over 12 km/h down on Pol Espargaro, a gap that is much larger than usual. When I left the track, the team was still debating whether to request a new engine and risk losing their deposit if the engine they are returning is not down on power, or try to manage the engine and focus on Redding's riding. Redding's comfortable lead in the championship will come in very handy at Barcelona, where damage limitation will be the name of the game.

Scott Redding will not be going lying down, however, and has taken to stirring things up. Redding likes to have something different on the back of his helmet at every race, and at Barcelona, the track just a few miles from Pol Espargaro's home town of Granollers, Redding has taken Espargaro's slogan of "Never give up" and plastered it on the back of his helmet. It is a clear taunt at Espargaro, but so far, the Spaniard appears unfazed.

The Moto3 class also saw the first penalty points awarded under the new system, for an egregious breach of track safety by Maverick Viñales. The young Spaniard had a crash early on in qualifying, and on the next lap after rejoining, Viñales discovered that the crash had also caused his engine to die on him. The problem arose halfway along the front straight, Viñales pulling over as his bike began to slow. Seeing an opportunity, he pulled directly across pit lane exit, and right in front of another rider who was exiting the pits. Viñales then added insult to injury by trying to push his bike the wrong way down pit lane, an offence under the safety rules of MotoGP. It was a rash, if understandable move, but awarding a penalty point may help press home the seriousness of the incident.

The Moto3 race itself should be a cracker, as it is so often at Barcelona. There are six riders all on roughly the same pace, and if they stick together, it could be a massive battle for the win. With nobody clearly faster than his rivals, the Moto3 race could be the race of the day.

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But the real question is how's his race pace?

David, could you (if you know) tell us what the Yamaha's small engine design flaw seems to be?

Should be an awesome race, as is par for the course at this circuit.

Some get engines 12km/h slower and some get engines 12km/h faster. Looks equal to me!

Sure was! Maybe the camera angle but had he been just a second earlier he might have collided with that rider that was entering the track.

Then pushing his bike back up pit lane... that's been a BIG no-no as long as I can remember - which was when I was racing back in the '80s...

Someone might want to remind him what happened to Nobuyuki Wakai. Granted, completely different circumstances but it's part of the reason why we have very strict safety rules regarding pit lane.

Was it a single point? Will that drive the point home? Perhaps there should be a hefty monetary fine attached as well?

I like Maverick, but rules are rules - especially when it comes to safety.

Coincidence or by intent....

A Brit is WAY ahead in the Moto2 points and this week's race is in Spain. Their hometown hero is not up where he should be and needs a boost.

Dorna can fix that.....

This really good engine goes to Pol, the golden boy elect. (nice dyno chart)

This errrr..engine goes to that Redding kid. (that motor is close to spec, right? Close enough.)

No mention in terms of Ducati L4 usage. 3rd stone from the sun. Like the HRC weapon its built like a gun. The MSMA get much flack for the engine limitation ruling compromising riders over a seasons length. On the other hand the sport evolved from engineering,not riders. Who came first? The chicken or the egg? Bikers became bikers as a result of bike manufacturers' products and not the other way around. I don't buy into suggestions that a Dani Pedrosa title year will be coloured by a Yamaha 'big bang' failure. Generally a racer/team enjoys freedom of choice pertaining to equipment they select. George and Dani have stuck with their choices. Sometimes the kit rolls an 11,sometimes the dice turns up snake eyes. That is hardly the manufacturers' problem. The Yamaha don't turn as good as it used to,front end issues,tyre wear in the heat. More freedom and fewer rules,in fact much fewer rules will cut costs and improve the spectacle. Fuel limit..check. Capacity..check. ECU..check.Rolling mass..check. Thats about it. Rewind back to the Bol d'Or back then. Patrick Pons and Sadeo Asami roll up with an OW31 Yamaha at a 24 hour endurance race. The stroker made HRC's mighty RCB look stupid until 19 hours in when a 5 cent O ring stopped the clock for them. This is what the game needs. Less rules and not more. For Gods sake bring back the tyre war. If only to make 1 of 3 prototype manufacturers competitive against the other 2. Give the engineeers more freedom and the riders/teams have more freedom of choice to their benefit or detriment.

Rossi says everyone will end up using the same tyre but I doubt it. The Yamaha might be able to get away with using the soft but the Hondas will chew them to bits over race distance. Despite Dani's superior pace he might not be able to use the soft tyre which will hand the advantage back to Jorge.

Generally agree with jstrasser above. I don't think its intentional,maybe its the nature of Catalunya circuit,but those top speeds at a quick glance look skewed.
All the more reason to open up the game.
Moto 2 should never have been a 600cc 4 stroke Honda engined class from the get go.
Smartly,it should have been the intermediate class for 500cc twins of any persuasion 4 stroke. I guess HRC would not countanance that,given that a half ltre sport bike does not exist within the ambit of motorcycling today. Wish they were here.
Simplex and competitive formula. Moto 3 (which is the race of the day on any Sunday anyway),250 single. Moto 2 500 twin. MGP 1000 4.
500 twins for Moto 2 is perfectly logical given the bore limitation in MGP. I guess its still capped at 81mm.

I also wish it had gone with that formula, 500cc 4 cycle twins. Didn't Aprilia have a few engines in the works?

Just imagine the cool little bikes we could have now in the showroom floors. Same overall size of the GP250 bikes with a more forgiving powerband for the street (in street tune, of course...).

I know I can't walk into my local dealer and buy a Kalex, Suter or even Moriwaki to take out on the weekends. They're supposed to be "prototypes" after all, right?

".5 L Sportbike Does Not Exist"

(Edit, I realize now the poster above was not replying to me...)

I feel you're missing the point. It's not about basing it on a street engine, it's about developing technology that can be used on the street. That used to be the "prototype" part. There have been plenty of 500cc-twin learner bikes built over the years. Maybe great for some low budget club racing action but definitely not something to base a GP machine on.

I dont mind the 600cc IL4 format. What I don't like is the single engine manufacturer rule. Make it a power limit of 140 rwbhp and a engine from any manufacturer, I cant see a single logical reason for the single supplier rule, It's not as if the series has followed the same format in Moto 3..........

Kalex Yamaha v FTR Kawasaki v Suter Honda etc. Hell, I'd let the 675cc triples in too. You'd have different bikes with different strengths with different outcomes at every circuit.

Also as Dorna keep harping on about costs this would prove they actually mean what they say; costs would go down down to as teams could bike up a road bike engine in a free open market an do there own tuning on it. A really good 140 bhp 600cc engine could be built for €3000 - €4000 any tuner anywhere could achieve the figures without major difficulty.

From what I've seen, the Yamahas tend to conserve the tires the best, or at least Lorenzo makes it look like that, if they all go soft the Yammies shall fare a little better at the end, but I bet if all riders go soft , Marquez is going to go on hards and do one of his trademarks back to front races, the kid is something else!

I think the difference in engines of Pol and Scott doesn't hold much water. After all Scott is second in in the grid for the race. Luthi is another rider who was fast out of the box in FPs but struggled in QP. Cant say he had different engine for the two sessions. What is evident is that Pol is in super form for his home race. Difference in speed can be also attributed to location of speed traps and the varying riding styles of riders, their different braking and throttle points. Lorenzo and Dani usually have lesser top speeds then their respective Yamaha and Honda mates. But still they are faster than them. I dont think there is a problem unless Pol is 'undignifyingly destroying' the other riders on the straights.

I think most of the problems associated with MotoGP and GP racing are that far too many cooks have been cooking the broth. I cannot believe the amount of power that the MSMA enjoys in general and the amount of power that Honda wields in particular. I think the best way to do things would be to ask the factories to sign legally binding contracts which would penalise them heavily if they walked away without fulfilling their obligations and then telling them that there are two or three rules such as cubic capacity of the engine, safety norms to be followed on track and in pit lane and leave the factories to come out with whatever configurations of engines. If the threat of losing money if they cannot fulfill their obligations to the series in strong enough, the factories will cut costs on their own. Otherwise there are too many rules and some could contradict others since they have all been brewed by so many different parties all wanting to prove a point.

Bike setup is always a compromise - as was stated the other day Rossi prefers a shorter wheelbase. It is always going to be harder to stop as quick but has other benefits. His choice.