Casey Stoner

Cristian Gabarrini Intervew: On Turning Bagnaia Into A Winner, How Tires Affect Braking, And Casey Stoner Through Turn 3

In 2021, Ducati came close to fulfilling their dream of winning a second MotoGP riders' championship after Casey Stoner in 2007, Pecco Bagnaia falling just short of holding Fabio Quartararo from the title. That came after an impressive second half of the season, in which the factory Ducati rider won four of the last six races, and finished on the podium in a fifth.

That is quite a turnaround for the Italian. Bagnaia's first season in MotoGP was dismal, finishing fifteenth in the championship with just three top ten finishes and six DNFs, including four in a row between Jerez and Barcelona. But he had shown promise in the preseason test in 2019, ending in second place behind Danilo Petrucci with a lap of 1'58.302. That time was just 0.037 slower than Bagnaia managed on the second day of the Sepang test at the start of February 2022, with three years of experience and a much improved Desmosedici underneath him.

The man who has guided him in this transition is crew chief Cristian Gabarrini. The Italian engineer is no stranger to success: Gabarrini was crew chief to Ducati's only world champion, Casey Stoner, from 2007 to 2012, and worked briefly with Marc Marquez on his arrival at Honda before returning to the fold at Bologna.

Gabarrini is a quietly spoken, intense, thoughtful man, who weighs his words carefully. He wears his razor-sharp intelligence lightly, listening carefully and giving precise and thoughtful answers in clear and easily understood language.

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Casey Stoner Video Series - On Turn 3 At Phillip Island, Anxiety, And Much More

By now you have probably already heard about it, but if you haven't, it is worth catching up with this series of videos of an interview with Casey Stoner on the Gypsy Tales podcast. The original podcast is some 3 hours long (and having not had a spare 3 hours yet, I have not yet listened to the whole thing) but the clips on YouTube are more than worth your while. This is no surprise: when he was in the paddock it was always a pleasure to interview Casey Stoner, as he was the best by far at explaining to laypeople the intricacies of riding a MotoGP bike.

His explanation of Turn 3 at Phillip Island, the corner that would later be named after him, is exemplary in that respect. In one video below, Stoner explains why he risked sliding through Turn 3 at 265 km/h. The objective, he explained was to get the rear stepped out as it made losing the front much more difficult. But the purpose was not to go faster through Turn 3, but to prepare Turn 4, Honda Corner better. Sliding the bike put him on a better line for Turn 4, where he could brake for the corner in a straight line and load the right side of the tire better, massively reducing the risk of crashing at one of the trickiest parts of the Phillip Island circuit.

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Casey Stoner On Competing, And Why Qualifying Is Better Than Racing

After a prolonged absence, Casey Stoner returned to the paddock at Portimão, where he gave an extensive press conference to the media present on site and via zoom. Just as when he was still racing, his observations were well worth listening to, and without the pressure of race weekend and an endless string of media commitments, was even more thoughtful and insightful than usual.

One subject which he was particularly interesting on was the question of competition, why people race, and what drives them, and especially, what drove him. The pursuit of perfection, of wanting to do everything just right to extract the maximum performance from themselves and from the bike is one of the most important motivations for most motorcycle racers, and indeed, most elite athletes.

That pursuit of perfection explains their obsessive attention to detail. The many rituals you see riders go through before they get on the bike and leave the pits is part superstition, but also a way of eliminating errors. By doing everything the same way on each exit, it makes it easier to ensure they haven't forgotten anything: boots, leathers, gloves, helmet are all securely fastened, correctly fitted, and not causing discomfort, and therefore distraction.

The devil is in the detail

This attention to detail can become quite compulsive. Andrea Iannone's nickname "The Maniac" was not given to him for his wild riding, but for the obsessive way he would arrange everything, in his pit box, in his motorhome, in every aspect. At media debriefs on site, Valentino Rossi would carefully arrange the various voice and memo recorders placed in front of him to for a neat configuration, rather than the chaos created by journalists flinging their recorders onto the table at the last moment.

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Casey Stoner On Adapting To The Motorcycle, Rather Than Adapting The Motorcycle To You

Casey Stoner has made a return to the paddock. He turned up at the Algarve round of MotoGP for a number of media appointments, which included a press conference in which he discussed several fascinating subjects at length. Although I will be posting the entire transcript at a later date, I want to highlight one or two of his statements to discuss.

Despite the fact that he hated talking to the media – we did not help him go any faster, so we were wasting his time – Stoner was always one of the best people to ask about technical aspects of riding, or machinery. He had both a deep understanding of bikes and riding, and the eloquence and clarity of thought to be able to explain it deeply. It helped that English is his first language, of course (at least for those of us with the same mother tongue).

So it is worth highlighting some of the things Stoner talked about, and examining it a little closer. First up is something he said about adapting to the bike, rather than adapting the bike to you. He was asked why it was so difficult for MotoGP riders to switch bikes. Jorge Lorenzo took a year and a half to adapt to the Ducati after he left Yamaha, and Andrea Dovizioso is finding it similarly challenging aboard the Yamaha, after so many years on the Ducati.

The Australian started off with a proviso: "I’m not inside that person or their mind or anything like that." But went on to explain the way he saw things. "Everybody has their way and their system of getting to grips with things. Lots of people like to do lots of laps and get their feeling. They want this feeling to sort of come to them."

Working with the bike

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Crunching The Numbers: How Likely Is Marc Marquez To Win The 2021 MotoGP Title?

Can Marc Márquez win the championship this year? Has he left his return too late to catch up? How fast will he be on his return to MotoGP at Portimão? The answer to all of these burning questions is "we don't know", but that doesn't stop us from asking them. And from trying to make our best guess at what might have happened by the end of the year.

The best place to start to answer these questions is the past. We don't know how Marc Márquez will perform in the future, but we do know what he has done in the past. And by examining his past results, we can extrapolate in the hope of getting a glimpse of the future.

You also need something to compare Márquez' performance against. So I have taken the points scored by Marc Márquez in every season he has competed in MotoGP – 2013-2019, as crashing out of one race in 2020 is not particularly instructive – and calculated the average points per race, and what that would work out to if he were to score that average over the 17 races which (provisionally, at least) remain of the 2021 season. Points have been averaged for each of his seven seasons in MotoGP, as well as over his entire career.


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The Forcada Tapes - Radio Ocotillo Interviews Ramon Forcada - Part 3, On Working With Famous Riders, And What Sets Morbidelli Apart

Radio Ocotillo, the podcast from the Cinta Americana website featuring the Spanish-language work of Dennis Noyes, spoke to Ramon Forcada, crew chief to Franco Morbidelli of the Petronas Yamaha team. Veteran journalist Noyes was joined by Teledeporte commentator Judit Florensa and journalist Cristian Ramón Marín Sanchi, and spoke to Forcada for some 90 minutes. Noyes translated that fascinating conversation into English for readers, and split it into three parts.

In part one of Radio Ocotillo's interview with Ramon Forcada, he explained how he and Yamaha had managed almost an entire season on just two engines. In the second part, Forcada talked about all of the bikes he has worked on over the years compare, and what he thinks of MotoGP's current set of technical rules.

In the final part, Forcada talks about some of the riders he has worked with over the past thirty one years. From Casey Stoner to John Kocinski, from Alex Barros and Carlos Checa to Franco Morbidelli, Forcada explains how each of them were different and how he learned to understand them and collaborate. And he talks at length about what sets Franco Morbidelli apart from the rest.

Franco Morbidelli after qualifying for the Portimao MotoGP 2020 Grand Prix

Radio Ocotillo: After so many years in the paddock, you have worked with so many riders with such different personalities, if you had to choose the three riders whose company and character you must enjoyed, who would they be?

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The Brains Behind The Bikes, Part 2: Andrea Zugna On Practical Experience vs Data, Working With The Greats, And The Will To Win

Data: this is the information which engineers try to mine in pursuit of ever more performance

In the first part of the interview with Andrea Zugna, the former Honda and Yamaha engineer told the story of how he came to MotoGP, brought in by former Yamaha racing boss Masao Furusawa. Zugna talked about the different roles he played at Yamaha. And he gave an engineer's view of the MotoGP technical regulations, and rules in general.

At the end of 2009, Zugna left Yamaha to join Honda. As Head of Performance at HRC, his role expanded to include the entire bike, and not just the electronics. "In general, performance analysis is where you look at the whole package - rider, bike, tires and everything - and you try to figure out where to work, what works and what doesn't, and so on," Zugna explained.

"I think now every company, every manufacturer has kind of a performance analysis group, also because we are at the point of refinement where you don’t make big steps. It’s more about refining, analyzing deeply and so on. So objective numbers are getting more and more important. But, at that time in 2010 it was just starting," the Italian told me.

Things have changed a lot over the last decade, however. "Now, maybe ten years later, it’s common practice. Not only in MotoGP - you have data science, whatever, machine learning, cloud computing… all these terms that are now normal, weren’t ten years ago. So maybe that was more of a general process in how you tried to get the maximum out of the data you had."

An ocean of data

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Crunching The Numbers: Rider Of The Decade 2010-2019

Who is the greatest MotoGP rider of the past decade? Followers of the sport will all have their own answers to this question, based on their own criteria. One way of trying to answer the question objectively is by using numbers to quantify performance. Sure, the numbers may overlook certain factors. But going over the numbers from 180 races held over the space of 10 years helps eliminate outliers, and separate the signal from the noise.

To qualify for consideration, you have to win races. The 180 races held between 2010 and 2019 have seen 13 different winners: Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez, Jack Miller, Dani Pedrosa, Danilo Petrucci, Alex Rins, Valentino Rossi, Ben Spies, Casey Stoner, and Maverick Viñales. Of that group, Iannone, Miller, Petrucci, and Spies have all won only a single race, ruling them out of contention. Alex Rins has won two races, but the Suzuki rider has only been active for three seasons, meaning he made little impact over the full decade.

That left eight riders who have won multiple races this decade: Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Márquez, Pedrosa, Rossi, Stoner, and Viñales. Of those eight, Andrea Dovizioso is the only rider to have started in all 180 races (he actually started 181 races, but the 2011 race in Sepang was red-flagged after Marco Simoncelli's tragic death, and would have started in Silverstone last year, had the race not been canceled due to the weather). Two other riders have started every MotoGP race held while they were in the class: Marc Márquez has competed in all 127 races held since 2013, and Maverick Viñales has started all 91 races held since 2015.

Clear Victor

Whichever way you run the numbers, one rider stands head and shoulders above the rest.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Ducati’s man-management disaster could cost it MotoGP glory

Ducati won its first MotoGP race in five months on Sunday, but the weekend proved that the Italian factory has forgotten how to look after its riders

MotoGP wasn’t supposed to have a silly season this summer, because all the big names have two-year contracts to the end of 2020 or one-plus-one deals that seemed certain to roll into next year. Then all of a sudden MotoGP is having a stupid season.

At Sachsenring last month Jack Miller announced that his 2020 contract renewal with Pramac Ducati was all but signed. “We’re just sorting out the pennies,” he said.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Do MotoGP greats need to prove themselves on different bikes?

There’s a theory going around that top MotoGP riders, such as Marc Márquez, must prove themselves by winning titles with different brands. And it’s nonsense...

Marc Márquez’s current HRC contract expires on December 31, 2020. That’s 600 days away. And yet journalists are already hammering away at their keyboards, wondering aloud which brand of motorcycle he will race in 2021: will he stay at Honda or will he go somewhere else? Of course, it’s all guesswork, because no one has a clue what Márquez will do.

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