2014 MotoGP Sepang 2 Day 3 Round Up: Pedrosa Dominates, The Rest Fight Over The Spoils

The big news on the final day of testing at Sepang was not what was happening on track, but rather what was happening off track. The announcement – trailed here and all around the media since early January – that Ducati would switch to the Open category was the talk of the paddock. And social media. And bike racing forums. And biking bars around the world, I expect. Even though we knew this was coming, it is only now becoming clear just how much of a game changer this decision is.

The announcement was timed curiously, made at the end of the day when the bosses of Yamaha and Honda had already left the circuit and were unavailable to the press. Likewise, the press room had largely emptied out. It appeared to have been made to minimize the impact, especially on the other manufacturers. Honda and Yamaha now have a couple of days to gather their PR might and put together a carefully worded position on the move by Ducati, which will both give the impression they are entirely disinterested in what Ducati have decided to do, while at the same time exuding a vague air of disapproval. Expect to see the verb 'to disappoint' in various conjugations.

On track, however, the situation was largely unchanged from the last couple of days of testing: interesting names at the top of the timesheet, belying the utter dominance of the Repsol Hondas, in the person of Dani Pedrosa. Valentino Rossi was the fastest man on the day, and leaves as the fastest rider of the test, pleased with the progress they have made. But dig deeper, examine the times set during the long race simulations, and Dani Pedrosa comes out streets ahead, half a second or more quicker than the competition. Pedrosa's average pace is faster than any other riders best lap on their long run.

The biggest problem remains the tires for the Yamahas, with both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo complaining that the new construction favors the Hondas. The tires may work better at tracks like Phillip Island and Mugello, but at low grip circuits like Sepang, the heat-resistant layer never starts to provide benefits for the Yamahas, especially as the tires start to wear. Though Rossi only did a short run of 7 laps, he was well over 4 seconds short of Pedrosa's time over a similar distance. The Italian did say he had to cut his run short, after problems emerged with the front tire. How badly that slowed his race pace is hard to say. Jorge Lorenzo went further, doing 13 laps, but he was over 3 seconds slower than Pedrosa at the 7 lap mark, and 7.5 seconds slower over 13 laps.

Jorge Lorenzo was at least persuaded to talk to the press on Friday, and in truth, found some improvements to close the gap to the front. But those gains were still nowhere near what they needed, Lorenzo said. 'It's impossible for us to be competitive,' he told reporters. There were some positives to be taken from the test, Lorenzo said: they could finish the race with the 20 liters of fuel allocated, and the electronics package was improved. Just how real the improvements in fuel consumption are is open for debate: you can save a lot of fuel when you are half a second slower than your rivals.

Putting Pedrosa to one side for a moment, the battle for second (or rather third, once Marc Marquez returns to action) is turning out to be rather intriguing. Jorge Lorenzo is still the fastest of the rest on race pace, despite his complaints about a lack of grip, but he is only a little way ahead of Aleix Espargaro on the Forward Yamaha running under Open rules. Aleix, in turn, is a fraction quicker than Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda, a fact that will delight the elder of the Espargaro brothers, annoy HRC, and further raise Aleix' earnings potential for the future. Bradl, in turn, was much faster in his race simulation yesterday, turning in a sequence of laps on Thursday which was five seconds faster than his time over the same distance on Friday.

Andrea Dovizioso was also quick on the Ducati Desmosedici GP14 running in Open spec, running a race simulation which was around the pace of Aleix Espargaro and Stefan Bradl. Dovizioso may have ended in third on the timesheets, setting the fastest lap ever around Sepang on a Ducati, but that was on the Factory spec bike. The Open spec was still good enough to have made a big step forward, though. The improvement comes mainly from braking and corner entry, Dovizioso saying that this was the best Ducati he had ridden so far. The advantage of the extra fuel was negligible, though the disadvantage of running the championship software was similarly small. Ducati are clearly heading in the right direction, and the switch to the Open class, and the extra development and testing that allows, should be the push they need to get them back at the front.

Further down the field, the Suzuki improved on the final day. Suzuki have now implemented most of their own software for the Magneti Marelli ECU, and they tested a new engine and frame. The bike is now some one and a half seconds off the pace of Pedrosa, a big step forward since the season started. As for the other Open bikes, they are a long way off the front. Colin Edwards is over 1.7 seconds behind Pedrosa, and 1.6 seconds off the pace of his teammate Aleix Espargaro. Nicky Hayden improved on the Honda once again, putting the RCV1000R into 15th and 1.9 seconds slower than Pedrosa. Hayden is slowly adapting his riding style to get the best out of the Honda production racer, finding more time on braking and corner entry. But the bike is still down on power, and until Honda step in and boost power outputs, Hayden looks doomed to haunt the lower regions of the points.

The teams now split up, and go their separate ways. The factory teams head to Phillip Island, to test tires for Bridgestone. Ducati's switch to the Open class does not change their plans to test in Australia. Meanwhile the satellite teams and Open teams travel to Qatar, where they will test at the Losail circuit ahead of the season opener at the track on the 23rd March. Racing season is so very nearly in full swing again.

Back to top


So it's just Dovi and Cal going to PI, and then Iannone and Hernandez to Losail.

Or can Dovi and Cal go to Losail as well?

Since they're open class, and all.
Or would Nakamoto spontaneously combust?

Is Suzuki really doing the right thing, spending a year to develop their own Factory software (and all of the limitations that imposes) instead of spending a year to get their bike competitive as Open entry ?

Looks like we might've granted Jorge a little too much, too prematurely.

He's not looking like the type to ride around problems, or an improperly set-up bike.

Might he be one those "bike has to be perfect(to me)" kinda riders?

Even with 2 titles, I've never made the mistake of placing him with the likes of Rossi, Stoner and Marquez......and their ability to ride bikes with improper set-up/issues.

But it's still very, very early.

JL had the second fastest race pace of the testing session on a bike shod with tires that negate his riding strengths and yet you still question his ability to go fast? Currently his can't string a hot lap if his life depended on it but hot laps don't get you podiums on Sunday.

Ps Marquez has a very wild riding style that is lose on the bike but exactly when has he proved that he can ride a bike that is not suited to his particular strengths over the course of a season?

Pps using your reasoning what about Rossi who was never able to beat the top 3 guys (when they are all healthy) because last years bike didn't suit his style? Does that mean he can't ride around a bike built to his riding strengths?

My point is they are all professional riders at the pinnacle of the sport try to be a little bit objective when making statements like "ability to ride bikes with improper set-up/issues"

This stuck out -
"The advantage of the extra fuel was negligible, though the disadvantage of running the championship software was similarly small."

I assume that the second half of this statement is VERY promising news at such an early stage in working with the championship ECU. The first half seems likely to evolve as they get to work on it.

Regarding Lorenzo's statement that it is "impossible to be competitive" with that tire I think he is speaking some truth given the brutal combination of the 2014 Bstone tire with the fuel limit decrease hitting the Yamaha so much harder than other bikes. Contrary to the Ducati, the advantage of extra fuel will NOT be "negligible" for the M1. Last year we saw heroic work from JL99 and it was not enough.

I think most of us considered the Yamaha as a 2nd rate bike next to the Honda in 2013. Yes, 3 of the top 5 bikes were Yamahas but they also had Crutchlow and Lorenzo in amazing form. 4 of the top 7 bikes were Hondas, and the Yamaha just couldn't get around them being down on usable power from apex through exits. 2nd rate bike. And now even just with the liter less fuel the writing was on the wall for a dismal season for Yamaha. With the new Bstone tire clearly particularly hindering Yamaha (and most particularly JL99) this is a write off season for them. Unless we take AE41 and the turning tides of Open rules into account.

2012 of course we saw the reverse impact of Bstone's tire as the softer tire favored the Yamaha and most specifically JL99. Between the Hondas and Yamahas if you remove the tire advantage? Ben Spies craperbole aside it still appears the Honda was the bike to have but at least it was debatable. Seems like it has been since 2009 that the Yamaha was really 1st rate.

Ducati has gotten ahold of a unexpected leg up, just as they did with the Bstone tire development a while back. Wow, did anyone really expect this? I sure didn't! The smaller Open teams are going to be able to adapt to the electronics changes too, it will just take a bit of time and effort in addition to the Ducati lucky tricksters.

Re Suzuki, as with Ducati, it isn't a significant development change in the grand scheme of things to switch over to the championship ECU. They are in the process of adapting their software to get away from the Mitsubishi ECU now and are just held up. Plus, they have no reason to announce anything at all in this regard in press releases. They will go Open.

Anyone see the track temperature going on during testing? It got HOT! I know the track isn't abrasive and high traction, but what is going to happen for the Yamahas with the new tire at low temp low traction tracks? UGH.

Just wait and see what all comes into play in favor of Ducati now that they are Open. Not just a jump on ECU working for them, watch what happens with the Bstone softer tire development too. And if it stays soft, then it is a defacto qualifier as we are seeing now. Does anyone think that the Open bikes need a softer tire like the CRT bikes? With 24 liters and a bit less electronics? Anyone wonder if the new Bstone with its construction and additional layer of "protective rubber" on the more utilized side will be a better fit for the Open Yamaha vs the Factory one? Seems clearly better for Open.

First thing I think is...Jorenzo is a sure bet to get himself on Pedrosa's bike next season. Second is, the sooner Yamaha gets Open the better...don't let the boat get out of the harbor or it will be in Italian seas! Even with just the addition of Tech 3 to Open for 2015 at least the development of tires/electronics etc could be evenly split between Tech 3/Forward and Ducati x4.

And then what of the move of the small teams sitting on the old CRT bikes over the next 2 years? What will they be riding? And what in heaven's name is HRC going to do about all this (besides leave, which is going to look like silly talk in a year)?

Most interesting off season since 2001-2002. Or more so?! Holy kashmoli!

So what you're saying is that half of the top 5 bikes were from one of the only 2 serious factory manufacturers, and half of the top 7 bikes were from the other, so therefore one of them has no chance this year? I think you may be reading a little too much into it. The season hasn't even started - it may be a bit too soon to write them off.

13 seconds faster overall time than his last year race wining pace. Just over half second quicker per lap improvement. No one else came close to running a race sim distance or at this pace. It also show Pedrosa at same 1:59.999 as Rossi's fast lap. Rossi set his fast lap early as did the other front runners, Pedrosa made his fast lap at end of day.

"comes mainly from braking and corner entry". That sounds like improved software rather than anything else, but that was on the 'Open' bike which is the MM software rather than their own, so it must be a fairy well developed package already. Or am I missing something?

Edit - on second thoughts I suppose it is the extra fuel, allowing them to burn some of it in their corner entry strategy. Still, the electronics can't be way off.

Two things I wonder.

One. Will Suzuki try out the spec software this year?

Two. Dovi says the extra fuel on the Open configuration gave little advantage but. How do we know that Ducati, knowing they were going Open, didn't setup their "Factory" software to burn more fuel on their fast lap?

Why would they not be able to use full power during practice & qualifying laps? No need to limit fuel intake until the race. In that sense the software doesn't matter.

I think Hayden said the new software can't adjust corner to corner like the factory bikes. Unless that has changed since the first test.

but calling his spot at the top upon his return is a bit hasty. As a rookie,he showed an "all time great" ability and performance. He was faster than every one except JL on a consistent basis. His point advantage cushion (not necessarily his Championship,to be clear) was based on JL getting injured when he fell and MM not being injured when he fell.(banged up and in pain at times,but not injured)And he fell a lot. Assuming he will be so fast and so lucky (with regard to injury),particularly as he rebounds from his first debilitating bang up is assuming a lot. As is assuming he won't....we shall see,but there are no placeholders out there. MM has his work cut out for him. The ground is hard and unforgiving and hitting it so hard and so often normally take its toll in the long run....whether MM's luck is as great as his ability is going to be interesting to see.....

I think anyone doubting Marquez on any level is stupid.

He embarrassed everyone last year and he was a flipping rookie. He's on the best bike in the paddock. Good luck to everyone else. The more experience the kid gets the more he is going to cause frowns.

"Expect to see the verb 'to disappoint' in various conjugations"

Thanks for my laugh out loud of the day, David — you are a master of the finely-tuned bon mot!

The battling between the Factories is not over just yet, David! The actual racing hasn't started for the riders yet but the racing between Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati have begun. With the Genius move my GiGi I'm sure that was the straw that broke HRC's back especially after seeing what the FTR Yamaha can do. HRC as a whole isn't happy. They are sharpening their swords as we speak. HRC will be aiming to take some Yamaha/Ducati scalps in the coming weeks. The costs of upgrading the prod-racer will be thrown to the side at least for Hayden's bikes.

Hey David, could you enlighten me on the FTR Yamaha that Aleix has been testing thus far? What about it is FTR? It is being referred to as such, but the chassis is Yamaha and the swing arm is Yamaha. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if the FTR chassis fails to make an appearance on Aleix's bike. It will surely affect his lap times and would require some real work for the team to get to where they are after 2 tests with the current chassis. This 'Open' thing is really being interpreted in different ways in it's first year. Ducati are running their software, sidestepping that Open class disadvantage by making it available to the rest of the paddock. Is this another case of 'rule interpretation' with Aleix's bike? Does he have to run the FTR chassis, or is he essentially leasing a 2013 Satellite Yamaha M1 with spec software for the rest of the season?

On the FTR Yamaha this question relates to, but any factory level motogp bike over the past couple of years;

Do the frames of the bikes have a use by date or "mileage" before needing changing?

Does the Aluminium "work harden" or develop fractures after normal use, excluding crashes?

If this is the case, then the Open class may have costs associated with racing that have not been divulged or common knowledge to us, the fans/community.

This might be why Yamaha supplied one M1 frame to Aleix and one to Edwards, force the teams hand to develop/copy a frame with FTR.