2013 Valencia MotoGP Friday Round Up: MotoGP Mind Games, Burgess' Dignity, And Rossi's Swansong

MotoGP fans have been rubbing their hands in anticipation of this weekend's final round of the championship. The race has everything: a mental Moto3 race to be decided outright by the rider who wins, with just five points separating Luis Salom, Maverick Viñales and Alex Rins; a triumphant homecoming for a newly crowned Moto2 champion, Pol Espargaro wearing a positively regal helmet to celebrate, while his title rival Scott Redding wears special leathers and helmet thanking the Marc VDS Racing team who have stood behind him for the past four seasons; and a shootout for the MotoGP championship, between Jorge Lorenzo, a man with nothing to lose, and Marc Marquez, who has to balance between riding hard enough to keep the bike working properly and not taking any unnecessary risks, while ensuring he comes home in fourth, something which sounds easier than it is. There were even a couple of sideshows: the presentation of the Honda RCV1000R production racer, and Yamaha's annual technical presentation, in which they brief the media on how they have developed the bike to be so competitive.

All that is forgotten. Valentino Rossi's shock announcement on Thursday that he had told long-term crew chief Jeremy Burgess that he wanted to replace him with someone else has dominated the headlines, as well as the hearts and minds of almost everyone in the paddock. In the search for the elusive last couple of tenths of a second which separate Rossi from the three Spanish superstars who have dominated the 2013 season, the Italian is leaving no stone unturned. Even the most revered of institutions - Burgess is held in extremely high regard throughout the paddock, even by his fiercest rivals - are no longer sacred. Rossi still wants to win, and so far, he has failed. 'We've been chasing rainbows for four years,' as Burgess so succinctly put it, but to no avail. 'We haven’t nailed anything decent in those four years. These are long periods in racing and it becomes more and more difficult.'

Even Yamaha's technical presentation has been canceled, adding yet more rain on what should have been a wonderful parade. The problem, a Yamaha spokesperson told me, is the seamless gearbox. As this was still in the middle of its development, Yamaha did not want to present any information which was still too recently changed, still too current, to be safely shared. The technical geeks in the paddock - of which, you will be unsurprised to hear, there are many - wiped away many a tear at this news. The carefully prepared lines of question - in my own case, how Yamaha hoped to manage in 2014 with just 20 liters of fuel, and why the hell they had agreed to that in the first place - can now be crumpled up and filed in the circular archive.

Before we get to the Saga of Rossi and Burgess, which is too big a story to ignore, we owe it to the 2013 MotoGP World Champion, whoever that may turn out to be, to cover at least the highlights of the reason we are all gathered in Valencia. There are two championships still at stake, and the protagonists are taking it just as seriously as it deserves.

While Pol Espargaro appears to be treating the Moto2 round as a lap of honor, dominating the Friday practice sessions, the battle in both Moto3 and MotoGP is as tense as ever. Salom, Rins and Viñales were fastest in Moto3 by a comfortable margin, though little separated the three of them. Salom was fastest in the morning, while Rins took the honors in the afternoon, the pattern seemingly set for the weekend. The scene is set for a battle royal in Moto3, and the top trio are doing everything to live up to that expectation.

The picture in MotoGP is very similar, with nothing to choose between Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo. The two Hondas are ahead of the Yamaha, but that does not appear to mean much when you look at the analysis timesheets, with all three men looking capable of banging out long and consistent runs of laps in the 1'31.5.

From track side, you can see the vastly different styles between the two bikes. Lorenzo rides imperiously, nanometer perfect, no sign of motion or movement on the machine. Coming into turn 12, he flicks the bike right, then heels over for the long left of turn 13, before braking hard for turn 14 and then full on the gas onto the straight. Though he must logically be performing all those actions, his movements are imperceptible from the side of the track. You see him slow the bike, and hear him crack the throttle early, but the bike never budges, neither braking nor acceleration visible.

The Hondas are almost the polar opposite, bucking and weaving while never looking totally out of control. There is little visible difference between Pedrosa and Marquez as they hammer the brakes for turn 12, fling the bike through turn 13, lighting up the rear as they go, before sitting up and banging on the brakes for the final corner, then firing out onto the straight. Where the Yamaha is motionless, smooth, like a swan gliding through the water, the Honda bullies its way along like a pit bull, hard, aggressive, fierce, on edge and always ready to snap. The engine notes of the bikes suit the riding styles, the low, lazy boom of the Yamaha sounding as if it is barely trying, while the Honda shrieks like a banshee preparing to eviscerate the unwary the first chance it gets.

Though times are close, the battle is still intense, early skirmishes taking place on the timesheets. Marquez walked away victorious on that score, topping both sessions on Friday. But Lorenzo has no intention of rolling over for his young rival, racking up the pressure with a few mind games. As he came up behind Marquez for a practice start at the end of the afternoon session, Lorenzo rolled up and just bumped the rear wheel of his rival's Honda. It was harmless, a friendly touch, but clearly meant to intimidate. Lorenzo dismissed the touch as 'just a little joke', but Marquez knew full well what Lorenzo's intention was. 'Jorge is trying to use his experience,' Marquez told reporters. 'It's normal they try to put some pressure on me.' It would not work, he reassured his listeners. If anything, it merely acted as a source of extra motivation.

That is almost certainly what Jorge Lorenzo intended. The more 'motivation' he can give Marquez, the more likely the youngster is to make a mistake. Each little confrontation is aimed at making Marquez even more determined to face Lorenzo down. What Lorenzo must be hoping is that every added piece of motivation cranks the tension up just a little bit more, increasing the likelihood of an explosion. Lorenzo wants Marquez as tense as possible, in the hope that the youngster implodes under the pressure. Marquez is not there yet, but it is too early to say whether he will.

And so to the question of Jeremy Burgess. In response to the tidal wave of interview requests from journalists for a few minutes with the veteran Australian crew chief, Yamaha wisely decided instead to organize a joint press conference with both Valentino Rossi and his crew chief Burgess. It was a strange affair, uncomfortable, tense, emotional. They fielded questions from journalists, the pair sitting hunched behind a table, yet it developed into an open, disarming, sometimes almost painfully honest affair. Both Rossi and Burgess were honest about their opinion of the matter, though both men trod carefully, unwilling to offend the other partner in a relationship which has lasted for 14 seasons. The atmosphere was an odd mix of mutual respect, desire to win, and brutal assessment of the predicament Rossi finds himself in.

Yet despite the difficult situation, the overwhelming sense was one of dignity, most especially for Burgess and the grace with which he handled himself. That same sense of grace shone through in Rossi's answers too: this was not a decision he had wanted to make, but he had to try something to try to close the gap. With every other avenue exhausted, this was the only variable still open to him.

Did Jeremy Burgess feel it was a betrayal, being left in the lurch by Rossi? 'No, not at all,' Burgess said. 'This is a business world, people have to make decisions.' This was a double-edged sword. 'We have year long contracts, and we are at liberty to leave at any time,' Burgess said. Loyalty - even the kind of intense loyalty built up over the period of fourteen years - only goes so far in the paddock, something which both men knew and understood.

Burgess had not suspected anything, until he had been invited to Rossi's motorhome. 'Clearly, it blindsided me. I was not expecting it whatsoever but I knew yesterday when Valentino invited me into his trailer that we weren't going in there to discuss my Christmas bonus.' Despite the suddenness of Rossi's announcement, Burgess completely understood why the Italian had made the decision he had. 'I have read many sports biographies and in many cases, top sportsmen in the latter part of his career may have a change of caddy or change of coach. This is part of that fix, this is part of trying to get Valentino back on top, to extend his career and be competitive,' he said.

It had not changed his opinion of Rossi as a person, Burgess said. 'There have been too many good times and Valentino has always been up front and honest about what he wants. So when he said to me yesterday that this is what he wanted, for me it's more important that the future of Valentino is the priority going forward, and always has been the priority. To do anything to prevent that taking place is not really being helpful.'

Burgess gave his vision of the background to Rossi's decision. 'I think he can see on the racetrack exactly what's going on, it's a new group of people, and it's going to become very difficult for anybody. Another year on and we often say that the preservation gene starts to kick in a little bit, and I think as you get older it may be more difficult to be at the cutting edge of Grand Prix racing.' Rossi's results had been frustrating for everyone, Burgess said. 'Valentino this year, we've been in 4th position at almost every race. Unfortunately, many times closer to 5th and not closer to 3rd, and so this has been something that we have tried to correct. And we haven't been able to do it. But I think with another year on the bike, Jorge on the other side of the garage on the same bike, these are things that Valentino's been looking at all year. He has the product, he now has to basically make sure he can use it.'

Was it the right decision? 'It's always the right decision, because it's a decision we need to make to change something to go forward in performance. We can only judge at some time in the future.' Burgess said. 'Whatever we've been doing, we haven't reduced the gap enough. He knows what he has, he knows what his teammate has, so clearly, on that side of the garage is the marker, this is what he has to do. He's very lucky in that sense, because he knows what is next door. He has to beat Lorenzo, and if he beats Lorenzo, he's going to beat a lot of Hondas. If this reignites the spark which he finds within himself, then this will be a success.'

Burgess leaves with many good memories - which fortunately, are likely to end up in a book, he hinted - of success, rivalries, and fierce battles. He named Erv Kanemoto as his greatest rival, still grating at having fought fruitlessly for so many years against Wayne Rainey with Mick Doohan. 'Trying to beat Erv was always a battle,' Burgess admitted. 'Probably the hardest part of my career was the battle with Mick Doohan against Wayne Rainey. Even now, as much as I see Wayne, I struggle to see him as a friend, I still see him as the enemy!' Burgess joked. 'That's a little bit cruel, but he beat us so badly for so long, that those were really tough times. There have been been terrific moments.'

Leaving Valentino Rossi's side now was something he could live with. His success rate with Rossi was good. '14 years, 80 odd Grand Prix wins. That's basically over five a year, so those figures are good,' Burgess said. 'What we’ve done I think has been terrific. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.'

Though Burgess was happy to retire, and had no immediate idea of seeking another role in the paddock, he still felt he would miss the people around him. 'I think in life, everything's about people. You meet people, you walk away from things and you'll know one day in your mind, when I get on to the plane to go back to Australia, I may never see those people again. When you know that you're coming back here next year, you don't think like that. When I go out of here whenever it will be, it could be five years before I come back to Europe.'

The big question was, of course, why this news had emerged now, rather than later? Rossi's answer was blunt: 'Because some f**king journalist says it in the newspaper,' he joked. Yet as soon as he had made his decision, he knew he had to tell Burgess as soon as possible. 'In my mind I made the decision last week and I don’t want to stay the whole weekend with Jeremy working with him and knowing this inside of me without saying to him. I’m not able to joke like this. So I think that the first time I see him I have to tell him.'

That was exactly as Burgess wanted it, the Australian said. 'I'd say that I would prefer it the way it happened. I think this is a far better way to do it rather than sign off on Sunday night and say, right, ciao, it’s all over. I'm more comfortable like this than I would have been had it been a Sunday night decision, which I think it was going to be at some stage.'

But why, after so many years, had Rossi decided to push Burgess aside and try to work with someone else? Because he had to be certain where the root of the problem lay, and as Burgess said, this was the simplest variable to control, removing one piece of the puzzle and replacing it with another. It had nothing to do with the team, Rossi said. 'I don’t have any particular issue, regrets or problem with the way to work of my team and especially of Jeremy. But I know that it is a key moment because I have in my mind that I want to try one time in another way and I think this is the moment.'

It is a statement of intent on the part of Rossi. 'Now the level has been raised a lot by the top three and they are able to ride these bikes very fast. The lap time in each track improves a lot and it is a great challenge for me and I know it is difficult,' he said. Could he beat them, did he believe? 'Yes!' came the emphatic reply. Yet there was also doubt. 'Sincerely, I also want to wait for next year. In my mind I want to continue, but I will decide next year after the first races, depends also on the results.'

Taken together with Rossi's decision to drop Burgess, that last statement looks like preparing the ground for retirement. There are are only three reasons why Rossi cannot challenge Marquez, Lorenzo and Pedrosa: either the bike is not good enough, his team can't set the bike up sufficiently well, or he has lost his edge. With Lorenzo currently the rider with the most wins, and still in contention for the title, Rossi cannot reasonably blame the bike. That leaves only the set up or Rossi's riding ability, and with just two variables, he has to explore the set up option first. It is the job of a crew chief to give the rider the tools with which to finish the job, and so Rossi's first option was to take Burgess out of the equation. If that fails, and Rossi's results are the same with a new crew chief as they were with Burgess, the only explanation left is that the problem lies with Valentino Rossi himself.

Of the people I spoke to - journalists, crew chiefs, veterans, youngsters - nobody expected dropping Burgess would lead to better results. The overwhelming sense was one of shock, that Rossi would even consider this, though there was also understanding. When faced with any engineering problem, you work through the possible causes one by one, eliminating each one as you go. After two years on the Ducati, Rossi switched back to the Yamaha, expecting to be in contention once again. While his results improved drastically, he was still finding it hard to keep up with the front runners. Where on the Ducati he struggled to keep up with the second group, consisting of the satellite Hondas and Yamahas, now back on the Yamaha, he is having a hard time catching the first group, the leaders.

The bike has moved him from the second group to the first, and a new crew chief will either move him from behind the first group to the middle of the first group, or not. If a new crew chief doesn't help, then there is only one conclusion left: at nearly 35 years of age, Valentino Rossi's time at the top of Grand Prix racing is at an end.

Will he carry on in if that is the case? It seems unlikely. While there is still hope of improvement, Rossi is still motivated, and from standing watching him at track side, still riding just as hard as ever, and trying to emulate his teammate's smoothness. But if he spends another year having to fight for fourth spot, then that will be too much to ask, and he is more likely to retire. He is not an early retiree like Casey Stoner, but he will also not hang on well past his sell-by-date, as Loris Capirossi did. Rossi has business interests to earn him an income, and racing interests outside of his own riding career in helping develop and bring on young Italian riders. If he decides to hang up his leathers for good, then he will still have plenty to do, and have an active role in motorcycle racing.

That leaves Dorna with one year to prepare. If Rossi does decide to retire - and frankly, I believe that his decision to drop Burgess is as clear an indication that he fears the end might be near as anything you could imagine short of turning up in a dressing gown and slippers - then Dorna will face the cold, harsh, empty reality of a series without their major draw. Though Marc Marquez is being groomed as a possible replacement, the charming, funny and likeable Spaniard does not have either the wit or the charisma of Valentino Rossi.

The retirement of Rossi will force Dorna's hand, forcing them to finally make good on their threats of taking away the electronic playthings of the factories. The MotoGP series is primarily a form of entertainment, with audiences paying indirectly (through TV contracts) to see a show. If the sport's great natural showman is no longer pulling in the crowds, that means bringing back the spectacle in racing, which in turn means taking a lot of the electronic controls away. In the long run, that will be for the good of the sport, but first, Dorna has to ensure Honda don't walk away. Or rather, at least not until there are enough competitive, team-owned bikes in circulation that Honda's threat to leave the series if spec software is imposed does not leave the series bereft of top equipment. With the introduction of the RCV1000R, and despite their best efforts, Honda may just have given Dorna the biggest bargaining chip in the discussions which will start to take place next year. The future is uncertain, but it was ever thus.

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Beautiful article David, I'd say even moving, such as the footage of JB sitting next to Vale. You'd really wanna go up there and give the man a hug.

But still, even though everyone is - rightfully - shocked, I do believe everyone secretly hopes this could turn VR's fortunes. As I do believe seeing his "racing son" win again, would put a smile on JB's face as well...

I don't understand the shock of the fans or journos. Nobody should be able to keep their job purely based on past performance, one has to be able to continue to produce quality. It's been obvious for a while that it's either Vale or JB unable to make it work. I really don't buy the theory that Vale being 34 means he's past his prime, there are plenty of examples of athletes over that age winning against younger opponents, I think it's more likely JB being 60 could mean he's past his prime. If Vale can't compete, and since he hasn't really been able to since he was 31, it'll have nothing to do with his age and everything to do with the competition being more skilled/talented than he is. But plenty of Rossi fans can't accept that, so they blame age.

Where's your evidence? What 60 year old crew chief has won a championship in GP or WSBK? What's the oldest crew chief since electronics have come into play to win a championship? What's the average age of crew chiefs for the top riders in any series? Erv Kanemoto, who everyone sites as one of, if not the greatest crew chiefs ever, was 54 when he won his last championship with Biaggi.

on the grid "more talented" than Valentino Rossi. If indeed he is attempting to ride Jorge's bike,which is clearly not a good fit,then he has a possible fix to the problem and potential of more success ahead. If not,then he is indeed not up to his old standards. But it is laughable to think or write that Rossi in his prime would not and could not compete and win against any and very rider who has ever seen a flag drop.....age takes its toll,if only in the chances that are taken in blind youthful ignorance,reflexes fade,priorities change.What a thirty five year old has seen and lived cannot be comprehended by a twenty five year old,much less a twenty year old.Reality to a thirty five year old multi-time World Champion is that racing is the most fun you can have and the glory and the riches are stupendous,but family,love and life do not depend on those things as they once did,and trading them for racing glory is simply not possible with the age acquired knowledge of what is more important and irreplaceable......... There can be little doubt that Rossi of today is not the Rossi of ten years ago....a rider as talented,if not more than anyone,ever....

Age is a huge factor. Given how far a bike travels at 200+ MPH, a few thousandths of a second's difference in your reaction time when you pull the lever on the right handlebar can put your bike in the kitty litter. Once you get past mid 20's, the human body is on the decline.

Like most, I suspect he's just too old to compete with the youngsters for a spot on the podium. Like most, I don't suspect hiring a less-experienced, less decorated crew chief will change that fact. But as Nicky says, that's why they line up on Sunday.

At least we all have a new reason to look forward to the first tests of the 2014 season now.

The results of Checa, Biaggi, Doohan and Byrne contradict your assertion. It's the mental game that matters the most, not the physical. Look at George Foreman winning if you want to see a seriously old athlete beating significantly younger opponents in a sport that truly requires fast reflexes.

Because they could win in WSBK and BSB? Any rider who has competed in WSBK and GP says GP is at a whole different level. And the results of those riders In GP before they went to WSBK reflect that. Marco Melandri is another example. Then you look at Somoncelli who was able to get straight on the WSBK podium and beat Biaggi on the Aprilia in a one off race. Crutchlow has said on various occasions that he was amazed at the step up in class required to be competitive in MotoGP.

But still, I don't actually think Rossi has gotten slower. The fast guys are just faster than they used to be back when he was winning.

We are at Valencia. The circuit where an aged WSBK star won a MotoGP race as a wild-card rider. BTW Doohan only won WSBK races before his MotoGP career, never raced WSBK after MotoGP

The only thing that the GP guys who went to WSBK and vice versa proves is that there are three or four guys in GP who are significantly faster than those in any other series in the world. The talent of the rest of the GP field is roughly on par with the top 10 WSBK guys.

Checa, Biaggi and Byrne all succeeded in lower tier series. Sure the BSB and WSBK are great series, but the level of talent is no where near as high, nor do the bikes have to be pushed as hard as they do in MotoGP

offer the opportunity for youth to excel while providing opportunity for experience,steadiness and practical knowledge of the veteran to compete and win equally as well. When the young have no chance or the experience of a veteran is not an asset to victory,then the balance is lost and the competition suffers. Older riders(can) gain certain things,even as other attributes are lost.Foreman never relied on speed or reflexes to win and his last Belt was won throwing a (relatively) slow but expertly delivered punch that his opponent(Michel Moorer) still to this day hasn't seen coming.....skill and expertise triumphed youth and vigor in that case.....Vale has yet to show himself to be the rider he once was. He can still "race" with anyone,but full race pace eludes him. The idea,as put forth by some, that he is just as capable as ever but the competition has simply outclassed him is ludicrous. If indeed he is no longer capable of winning,it is father time,not lack of talent which brings forth that result. I personally believe he is riding a bike ill suited to him in certain crucial ways(and wonderfully suited in others). I am hopeful he and his team can make the changes necessary to compete at the top step level once again,but am also prepared to see him ride off into the sunset after next year.....legacy intact. Then we wait for the future day when some one says that Marquez is simply not talented enough to compete,not because of age,but that the "modern" rider is simply too talented..Those who are ignorant of history and its lessons are ......simply ignorant fools given to uttering nonsense based entirely on their own narrowly limited experience....

"The idea,as put forth by some, that he is just as capable as ever but the competition has simply outclassed him is ludicrous."

You have no evidence to back your statement, he has been saying for the past five years that his competitors are tougher than ever before. You are blinded by your hero worship of him. That's okay though.

You saw exactly the same happening with Michael Schumacher in F1 after he returned from retirement.

Still fast but that little extra he always had over the competition was gone.

I've been a peeping tom. enjoying motomatters multiple times a day. Your reporting stretches my Sunday through the rest of the week and your insight makes the sport so much more enjoyable.

Great article. I just got my subscription. Your my NPR of moto racing.


#1 Which possible candidate for crew chief would sign up with Rossi? Little chance of a long term relationship, on a hiding to nothing if Rossi's results don't improve & if he does the job as well as JB (a big ask!) & maintains the current engineering standard it will still be judged a failure as Rossi's position will stay the same!

#2 JB has been a pragmatist regarding electronics, putting chassis set up as first priority. Could Rossi be looking over the wall at JL's crew & seeing the philosophical inverse, using electronics as the primary set up tool, leaving him wishing for a new age crew chief?

When VR was coming up through the ranks there was really only one person he had to try and beat and that was mighty Mick Doohan, and by the time he got to the MotoGp/500 cc Micks injuries had taken their toll, we had a great couple of years of Italian rivalry with Biaggi Caparossi, Valentino and Melandri and coming up through the ranks keeping an eye on who they had to beat was Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Casey they knew the level where they had to be and for outright speed Casey was tops but some times sheer speed will not work and evn Lorenzo was fairly erratic and hotheaded in his 250cc years. Pedrosa's small stature helped him in the 250 class but frankly I think that is what has stopped him reaching his championship potential in the top class. Its a combination of machinery and keeping an eye on what is coming and what the machinery will be capable of. I can't see Valentino winning another race unless the top three have a major brain explosion and that is just not likely to happen these days, they race hard and they race fast and usually respect each other, and they know all valentinos tricks which used to work (Where is Sete now?)
So I can see retirement looming and I think VR knows it too.

I think the presentation that you have made David is a little bit too sanitised. I think irrespective of how Jerry Burgess appeared at the press conference and spoke "objectively" I am willing to bet a lot on the idea that he is smoldering inside and his ego (which is probably as big as Rossi's) has been pricked. At times such as this the PR of Yamaha brought them together into the open to try and make it appear that there is no bad blood anywhere. Unfortunately, this is such an often employed strategy by corporates that nobody will believe what they see and what they hear. I do not attach any significance to Rossi calling Burgess "family, father etc" since one wouldn't treat people whom you respect this way. Burgess could have been asked to "retire gracefully" and then there would have been none of this debate. Much as I like your attempts to be non partisan in your presentations, I think this piece by you has taken the sting out of the scorpion's tail and makes it look as if it was one happy decision taken by all for the good of the champion. I liked Rossi and Burgess, but even I cannot see this as a happy exercise. And Marquez may not be like Rossi but he has his own way of endearing himself to fans as does Cal Crutchlow. So Rossi leaving is not the end of MotoGP or the world as we know it. About this Dorna and all Rossi fans can rest assured.

And also heard that the JB VR press conference was at JB's request.

Don't quite understand this:

"With the introduction of the RCV1000R, and despite their best efforts, Honda may just have given Dorna the biggest bargaining chip in the discussions which will start to take place next year."

It appears to me that Honda is saying with this bike, go ahead, Dorna, bargain away. Pick your set of rules, and we'll still stomp on everyone's heads. 24 liters and spec software? OK, here's this one - which will be faster than everything other than a factory-spec Yamaha or factory-spec Honda. And we're not going to even add the seamless gearbox or pneumatic valves - unless we need it.

Like it or not, Honda is the only factory that stepped up to the plate when Dorna asked for a proddie racer. Ducati is serving up warmed-over s**t and Yamaha is foisting off old bike parts on the Forward squad. And Honda is the only factory that actually understands the spirit of the rules, even if it means getting beaten in Moto3.

Like it or not, Honda has been a stalwart supporter of GP racing through thick and thin for a very long time.

At the birth of moto3, Honda played dorna's game and produced an affordable gp racer. KTM 'did a Honda' throwing serious r&d and components money at their bike to produce a faster machine. Finally Honda have decided they want to win, so they have chosen to rise the big money route and will return with a competitive bike. If you want close, unpredictable racing you need hardware parity and well matched rider talent.

Honda tried to make an affordable profit bike for moto3 and that effort hadn't been supported by the series. Now they will do it the way they have done in the premier class. Still they will get criticism for outspending their opponents in gp.

I bet Vale would instantly be on pace w Pedrosa if he was on a Honda, it suits his style.
Burgess for sure has less ego than thr average Joe. Very sensible guy. Thanks for the magic Jeremy!

I'm a JB fan. Nothing can take away his unprecedented success as a crew chief. Or diminish his stature as a man. But, things move on. JB's an analogue man. MotoGP is a digital world, where electronics have become a, perhaps the, determining factor. The days when, after struggling in practice, JB would throw an inspired suspension setting at the bike in warm up and Vale would ease to victory are gone. Long gone, actually. The signs have been there since 2009 when Jorge started beating Vale regularly on the Yamaha that Vale developed and thought of as his bike. And even more so in 2010. Few were suggesting then that he was beating a Vale who was past his best. No, Jorge and his crew were winning because they were able to get more out of the bike. Still are. And that's electronics for you. My feeling is that the end of the 2009 season was the time for the two men to go their separate ways. But of course other things got in the way. As they do in life. Will a new crew chief have a substantial effect on Vale's results? If there were more opportunities for testing, I would be confident that we would see Vale on the podium at the first race next season. Even without that, I expect better results next year than this, partly because with a new crew chief Vale will have nowhere to hide. Will anyone want the job? Of course, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. And there's no risk. The crew chief will get the credit if results improve and Vale will get the blame if they don't. But no matter the results, I don't think we will see Vale out there in 2015. Like JB, he's an analogue man at heart and I think he knows his time is near.

I can't imagine any fan of racing will tune out if Rossi is no longer there to ride around in 4th.

I personally am more apt to tune out due to the way the series is going with spec and locked equipment. Boring!

I also find it hard to imagine that a new crew chief will make Rossi younger, erm, I mean faster.

Rossi is a victim of his own success. Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Marquez and every young gun coming up the ranks knew what level they had to beat in the premiere class long before they got there, and it was Rossi's level. Rossi raised the level in all 3 classes. As JB said in "Faster", it was always going to be one of those young guns that would beat Rossi. Only now it's not just one young gun. It's every young gun moving up into MotoGP. When I say young guns I am talking about the aliens, not the Bradls/Bautistas/etc. who are obviously fast riders in their own right but not on the same level as Stoner/Pedrosa/Lorenzo/Marquez. Even Pol Espargaro and Redding I don't think are at the alien level (happy to be proved wrong by them though!).

To suggest that JB is an analogue man in a digital world and that's why Rossi isn't winning is naive. They call it a team or a crew for a reason. Yamaha have plenty of people who think in binary and hexadecimal. Do you think JB would ignore them while Rossi is getting beaten, just because he's old skool?

The signs were there since 2009 when Jorge was beating Rossi? So what's Rossi's excuse for 2007? Oh right, I forgot, the Ducati was the best/fastest bike (but no one else could win on it). Bridgestone had the best tyres. Any reason except for the fact that Stoner was a freakish talent just like Marquez and was riding the wheels off a piece of shit to completely dominate the field.

I do believe Rossi has lost the edge. Not because he's getting older. He's lost it because he started getting beaten by the young guns who had targeted him, at which point he started losing confidence. The more he got beaten the more confidence he lost. He proved he can still be fast when he won in Assen.

...what a MotoGP crew chief actually does these days?

They seem to have huge numbers of people in the garages these days, and it's not obvious what the heck the structure and the responsibilities are anymore. Seems likely there are lots of specialists, lots of data crunchers. Nobody actually works on engines. So what do all these people do? What does Jeremy do? How many are present in a typical garage?

People talk of controlling costs through regulating hardware, maybe a better approach would be by regulating the team. One crew chief, one wrench, one bike, and whatever spares would fit in one rusty Ford Econoline van. And no more Puigs. Maybe that could work.

I think I might have seen that before. You can race whatever you can get into a single LWB White Transit. The extreme version of this says that the rider, mechanic and race engineer also have to ride in the same Transit and sleep in the tent and awning off the side.

If it was good enough for Chas Mortimer[1] in 1973, it should be good enough for Marc Marquez in 2013!

[1] the only rider to have won FIM Grand Prix races in the 125, 250, 350, 500 and 750 world championship classes.

I don't understand this. If the choice is between MotoGP constituted so as to:

* allow it to be a playground for electronic and software R&D, at the expense of racing


* limit the scope for R&D, and maximise the racing

I'll take the latter, even if HRC don't. Why do we need HRC, when it's HRC primarily who have driven MotoGP down the former, sterile, path?

It's a false choice, an attempt to determine the answer with the definition of the question.

Really, has the racing and the season so far sucked because of the machinery? World Superbike was more of a snooze, and BSB only slightly better, saved at the very end by two days of rain. (Maybe Carmelo can get to work on the random rain generator. Bernie actually suggested it in F1.)

Here's why you need an HRC in the mix: Four bikes on the MotoGP grid this year, six or more next season. Engines in every single Moto2 bike. A Moto3 bike that was actually built to the spirit of the rules.

Honda is the unofficial equipment supplier of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. If Honda goes away, who do you see stepping up and performing its role?

Lastly, what makes anyone think that Dorna can come up with a set of rules under which Honda won't dominate? They might struggle for a season or two, or get beaten by a spectacular rider - Rossi in his prime, for example. But over a long enough arc, Honda takes its racing seriously, and if GP racing is forced to go with spec electronics, spec suspension, spec frames, spec bodywork, spec seat foam, spec paint and spec tires, I'd still put money on Honda taking the constructor's title.

p.s. History has shown that dramatically dumbing-down a series rarely generates a dramatic increase in the public's interest. What has always worked is making B+ level equipment available to lots of people.

I enjoy your posts Morbidelli. I have a nagging thought that something is qualitatively different from historical trends regarding electronics, and for sure one could argue many sides to this and not be right/wrong or good/bad. Rather than "dumbing down" or diluting R&D in general, just to reduce costs, I feel like it is important to look at electronics specifically and rules around them to consider their appropriateness rather than thinking more generally about overall spending. Also, the process by which technical rules changes are being made.
Sincere question put out there to folks: is there ANYONE that believes that rules to limit fuel amounts or the # of engines in a season at 2014 regulations is preferable? That it is effective at "cost saving"? What do you think the % of the MotoGP paddock (everyone involved either providing or receiving a paycheck say) that is in favor of this is?
And then keep going in the same manner for other rules and regulations...
"Turn by turn" or gps-like electronics?
# of sensors on a bike?
Of course when we get back over into "having traction control" and such the vast majority would be in favor, no need for going back to the stone age. Just a mild correction. I love Honda's bikes and have one and am in full agreement that racing and the whole industry is by far the better for them. Their technology is amazing, and bikes are so rideable. Do folks disagree that the electronics tech duel has gotten a bit over represented in the sport?

It's a really interesting question, the issue of whether electronic development is somehow different than that of disc brakes, mag wheels, twin-spar frames, "big-bang" 500cc two-stroke motors, etc. I remember Rainey complaining that the "big-bang" motors made the bikes too easy to ride. Interesting echo of the current complaints about electronics.

I completely agree that fuel limits and engine limits are silly. But in general, technology marches on, and one way to kill this sport quickly will be to have GP machines that aren't half as trick as the bikes that fans are riding to the races.

My suggestion - which I've actually started to see in some rulebooks - is exactly what you wrote: Limit the number of sensor inputs to whatever the street machines have. Then you drive electronic development in a manner that the street machine/rider benefits, and racing is an easier sell in the boardroom.

Pure racing spectacle hasn't been what has made GP racing the sport that it is, and honestly, as a guy who still puts on leathers and a helmet and races, the "spectacle above all" philosophy scares the crap out of me. I have friends that are in Macau to race next weekend, and that event is quite a spectacle - and nearly every year, someone goes home in a box. I just hope it's not one of my friends.

Strictly speaking, I didn't give a false choice. I asked a question, and gave my own answer to it, framed as a dichotomy. I didn't say they were the only options though, and I was inviting others to be given, ending as I did asking the question again. :)

I see your point. I concede that it is indeed the case that HRC supply a lot of the grids today. However, I do not see how this means that without HRC there'd be a problem with supply of equipment.

Moto2 engines are Honda *despite* HRC, from what I remember. HRC were not happy with Moto2 rules initially, and distanced themselves from it, I seem to recall (but can not find the link). The CBR600 engines are supplied and maintained by GeoTech / Geo Technology - not HRC - on a contract from Dorna. CBR600 engines are not exactly a rarity or difficult to acquire in the numbers needed to support Moto2, even without help from Honda. Further, even if Honda are assisting with engine supply in some way, they definitely aren't subsidising the costs, as the teams have to pay around €90k+ for the engine lease[1].

Indeed, Moto2 is a shining example of what you get when you *do* effectively ban the massive, deep-pocketed, conglomerate manufacturers (HRC, Yamaha, etc) from grand prix racing. You get a wealth of small, independent manufacturers suddenly being able to enter the competition, with a diverse range of bikes (some good, some not so good - but the not so good ones don't last). It's been great to see this.

The Moto3 point on rule bending seems tangential.

So, sorry, I still do not see why HRC need to be pandered to so. The Moto2 example in fact shows precisely why they *should not*. Dorna went *against* HRC in formulating that class (AFAIR), and that actually worked out *very well*. A similar disregard for the self-professed interests of HRC, etc., would be great to see in MotoGP, as far as I'm concerned.

1. http://motomatters.com/news/2010/03/04/moto2_costs_about_400000_euros_a_...

Your last paragraph should give everyone hope for improvement for the future - at least if they believe the championship should be more about the rider than his machine that is. I don't care at all about what electronic trickery is on the stuff sold to Joe Wristpin, there are cars nowadays that park themselves - do we want to see the bikes go round via radio control? I want to see MEN (not robots) racing on two-wheeled machines that they alone control, without the help of electronic trickery programmed by tech wizards with laptops.