2013 Barcelona MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of Boring Perfect, Weird Strength, and Yamaha's fuel tank

Jorge Lorenzo ran a perfect race at Barcelona. Well, not quite perfect, he told veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes that he made just a single mistake. 'Luckily nobody saw it, and you cannot see it on the data,' Lorenzo said. After a difficult qualifying session, Lorenzo put the hammer down from the start, attacking Dani Pedrosa aggressively into Turn 1 once again, just like in Mugello, and then pushing hard all race long, despite a front tire that kept threatening to let go.

So how did he do it? How did he pull off a win when most people were convinced that Pedrosa had the win in the bag? Two factors: his own mental strength, and a radical and inspired set up change during warm up, in preparation for a hot race with no grip. Wilco Zeelenberg, Lorenzo's team manager, explained to me exactly what they had done. "We created a lot less pressure on the front of the bike," the Dutchman explained. "That's not what you would normally do, but because you know you won't be able to do 1'42s all race, you know you don't need the best set up."

The extreme temperatures had caused everyone problems, and Lorenzo's crew, led by Ramon Forcada, had elected to give Lorenzo more feeling, sacrificing grip. "If you look at the lap times, they bring tears to your eyes. I mean, if Dani [Pedrosa] can qualifying in 1'40.8, and he ends up lapping at 1'43 pace, then there's something wrong. It means everybody is riding on eggshells." Lorenzo himself was uncertain of the revised set up. Lorenzo had told Zeelenberg that he wasn't sure that he was really any quicker, but he could get into the corner with a lot more confidence. "That didn't give him any advantage in terms of lap time, but it meant he knew he could go exactly this far, and no further," Zeelenberg explained.

Lorenzo himself emphasized his mental strength. "The important thing is that I never lose my concentration, I never go down mentally," Lorenzo said. "I keep strong, even after the difficult qualifying, and that's how I keep fighting for the title." The burnt clutch he suffered during qualifying on Saturday hadn't fazed him, nor had the news that his team had decided to take a fourth engine of the five he is allowed for the season, despite the fact there are still twelve races to go.

Lorenzo's focus is legendary, and it is this which allows him to ride with such precision. He is able to ride without distraction, whatever fate throws at him, apparently. The team which surround him play an important part in this. Wilco Zeelenberg was brought in as team manager to provide a cool Northern European head in the rest of the hot-blooded Latin garage, and both Zeelenberg and Forcada carefully shield Lorenzo from some of the harsh realities he faces.

This was brought home once again by the engine situation. Lorenzo has had one engine withdrawn, but the Spaniard is convinced he will get the engine back without penalty. Rather than disabuse him of this notion, his team are happy to let him carry on with that illusion, as it means he stops worrying about the situation. Forcada and his engineering crew will find a way to juggle engines to ensure Lorenzo makes it to the end of the season, without worrying him with the details of their plan. Lorenzo, in turn, leaves it all up to his team, and doesn't push for the precise details of the situation.

Something similar happened last year, when Lorenzo lost an engine after he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista (who appears to have a thing for crashing into Factory Yamaha riders). After the incident, Lorenzo was convinced that he would be given a fresh engine to replace the one he lost, without it being deducted from his allocation. It was only before the next race, once he had calmed down, that his team sat down and explained exactly what the situation was. It is not that Lorenzo's team lied to him, but they never confronted him with facts outside of his comfort zone at the point where it might weaken him mentally. Ignorance is sometimes not only bliss, but it is also strength.

Lorenzo's race was without doubt absolutely inch perfect, as anyone who watched his stunningly precise lines, hitting the same millimeter of tarmac lap after lap, can attest. But a perfect race does not make an entertaining race. In fact, the opposite is true. Watching riders circulate at the very peak of their ability for 25 laps is rewarding from an intellectual perspective, but it does not provide the visceral thrill which so many seek from motorcycle racing.

The same is true in other walks of life. Objects which are absolutely perfect and without flaw soon lose their charm, people preferring instead something which is a little quirky. The race-focused power delivery of a Ducati, the weird looks and odd power delivery of a BMW, the astonishing handling but uncertain reliability of an Aprilia, all these are judged to have character, and cherished for precisely that quality. Meanwhile, a Honda which works flawlessly out of the blocks is deemed to be bland. The most famous picture of a woman is not a photoshopped picture of a supermodel, with all of the flaws removed; it is of a slightly overweight woman with an enigmatic smile on her face.

And so it is with racing. Jorge Lorenzo often complains that his victories do not receive the recognition they deserve. He is absolutely correct: his wins are taken with such surgical precision that it is hard to criticize. Yet such precision is dull to watch: viewers would rather be entertained by gladiators hacking great chunks off each other, rather than watching the neurosurgeon's scalpel perform brain surgery.

The problem, of course, are the motorcycles. Bridgestone has built tires which perfectly suit a Grand Prix motorcycle, which means they are stiff and unyielding, allowing a rider to get the very best out of them. The rest of the bike is built around these tires, with chassis, electronics, suspension and brakes all built to maximize that precision, and allow a rider to hit the same square centimeter of tarmac for lap after lap throughout the race. Technological miracles they certainly are. Entertaining they absolutely are not.

Even then, the tires are not quite perfect. All of the top riders complained about the rigidity of the front Bridgestones, saying that they are simply too soft to be safe. The new front tires were introduced at the beginning of last year, and were designed in response to complaints about the tires for the lighter, slower 800s. Bigger bikes, now 10kg heavier than then, are starting to cause problems.

At the time, most riders welcomed the new tires. All except Casey Stoner, that is, who warned from the start that the tire was not stable enough, and that everyone would start to complain about them once they had been racing them a while. After a litany of complaints on Sunday about the tires - from everyone except Ducati, who need the softer tire to get their bike to work - one journalist pointed out to Valentino Rossi that Stoner had already warned of problems with the new, less stiff front tire. "Stoner is like a fortune teller who can see the future!" Rossi joked, before continuing more seriously, "Sincerely speaking, I never agreed with this tire, but last year I was with the Ducati, and I remember very well, and I said for me, I am in the shit anyway. So it's a decision between Honda and Yamaha. But I remember last year speaking with the Yamaha guys, and asking are you sure that for the Yamaha OK, the soft casing? I don't remember their answers, but yes, Casey was right. Because with the hot temperature and these bikes, we are always very much at the limit."

Cal Crutchlow, Lorenzo and Pedrosa all complained of the too soft front tire. Under braking, the tire appears to deform too much, providing not enough stability for corner entry, and making it a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. The riders have already spoken to Bridgestone about this, but whether Bridgestone will fix this for this season or not remains to be seen.

The Yamaha riders seemed to be having the most problem with the tires, but their issues are exacerbated by the design of the Yamaha. While Jorge Lorenzo romps away at the front, both Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi struggle with the bike in the early laps, and trying to get the bike stopped with a full tank of fuel. This problem was precisely why the factory bikes now have a revised fuel tank, which carries more of its load lower and a little towards the rear. Crutchlow does not have that fuel tank, and that makes it hard for him to push in the early laps. "I can't stop the bike at the start of the race, I lost time in the first two or three laps. We shouldn't be a second behind after one lap. We know the change the factory team have made and for this reason they moved the tank to be able to stop at the start of the race," Crutchlow said.

Rossi has the same problem. "Unfortunately, I still haven't my good setting and balance for the bike. Unfortunately, especially in the first part of the race, when the rear tire has better grip and with the full tank, I am in trouble with the front. I'm not able to enter very fast in the corner because I have pushing and moving from the front, like maybe we are a little bit out of balance, and especially the first three in that moment of the race are able to be faster than me, just 0.1, 0.2 per lap, just half a tenth for the sector, but they are faster," Rossi said after Barcelona. Rossi's problems with the factory fuel tank show that there is something more than just the location of the fuel at play; riding a MotoGP bike hard with a full tank of fuel is a lot more difficult than you may imagine.

If Jorge Lorenzo is simply too perfect to be entertainment, one rider who looks to be both entertaining and talented is Marc Marquez. It is an advantage that he has nothing to lose, as he is still in his first year in the class. But Marquez is exploiting that advantage ruthlessly, and taking risks just to learn as much as he can. "During all the race, I was very very close to crashing, maybe three or four times," Marquez told reporters afterwards. "But OK, I think for me, if I crash, everybody will say, it's his second crash, but for me I learn many many things when I am with Jorge and Dani. So for me is important to try to push, try to do my 100%, but try to be with them. Because maybe I can finish the race in 5th or 6th, but I will not learn the things that I learn when I follow them. So I take that risk. And OK, in Mugello I crash because I was too tired, I relaxed too much, but here I was pushing all the race and that was the key. "

This kind of calm, analytical approach, even to something as frightening as risk-taking, is what make Marquez such a threat. Those judgements he makes will stand him in good stead after a year in the class, and in the meantime, he remains a real threat in the championship. Marquez right now is like a sponge, absorbing any and all information which he encounters, and immediately trying to put it into practice. Once he has his first season under his belt, he will mutate from sponge to shark, and threaten anything which happens to cross his path. This, you would have to say, is a good thing. I for one am pleased.

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Pedrosa lost this race....more than Lorenzo won.

The tires, heat and (Pedrosa) set-up gave Lorenzo the victory.

After Pedrosa's ominous qualifying, it would take something beyond his control to cost him this victory....and Lorenzo got his wish.

All the (Jorge is the GOAT) paragraphs in the world won't change that....

I picked Jorge for the win. He had better pace every practice. Dani had a great qualifier for sure but one lap doesn't win races.

You are right though, Jorge's consistency is beyond Dani's control.

Dani had a clearly better pace in FP4, running low 1'42''s consistently. And FP4 is usually a good indication of race pace (same time as race, last free practice). It seems Lorenzo managed to maintain his practice pace in the race despite the heat, whereas Dani didn't. And I don't think that Dani underperformed, given the conditions. Lorenzo just rode the whole race at the limit.

I know people are going to have issues with my comment but here is my 1-cent! Stoner by far is a faster rider than all of the current front-runners in MotoGP. The reason being is that he's already riding faster in his mind than what the bike is actually doing and/or capable of. The bike dances underneath him when Casey is at the controls. So he wasn't seeing the future when he complained about the tires... he was already exploiting their limits! It took everybody else on the grid another year to understand what he was complaining about. I'm sure HRC has notes somewhere from CS27 on what he thought could fix the problem. They needed to work faster on it. Jlo99 and DP26 have different bikes so their riding styles, which are similar, have adapted to the machinery they ride. MM93? Marc never rode the 250cc. He's a very unique animal... a much younger version of Stoner's riding ability but with a calm, mature mindset + that killer instinct/desire! Marc will be stronger in the 2nd half of the season, a real threat for more MotoGP wins.

He is the most sensitive rider to the bike's feedback I've seen (Freddie Spencer is next), people have commented on his throttle control etc. for years, in the end he was understanding the feedback the bike was providing him with better than anyone else. Hence the ability to ride a bad bike fast... Remember though, the slowest/worst rider in this field would make most of us on our best day look like we have hands of cast iron.

You may get comments back that are negative. But I agree with you. Casey had a way of making the most out of riding a POS from his beginning days to argueably the best bike in Motogp at Honda in his last years. It was mental.

for graciously affirming that Stoner was right! (and let it not be overlooked, Pedrosa supported Stoner's comments at the time).

Given the history between Rossi and Stoner, a chapeau is necessary for Rossi's statement that Stoner was right. I rather imagine that if he had the time over again, Rossi might well wish he had agreed with another famous Stoner statement: 'Just wait till he rides it' by around lunchtime on the first day of the tests at Valencia 2010 ( i.e. around five laps after Rossi had swung a leg over the Ducati for the first time).

I don't expect any such grace from the myriad of Stoner detractors who, as always, found reasons to denigrate him when he made his statements about the Bridgestone fronts. Nor could one expect any moderation of the shibboleth that Stoner was a poor development rider, when this is a clear example of Stoner being able to detect the effects of a change and deduce the potential outcomes extremely quickly. Ramon Forcada knew of Stoner's technical ability when he was his crew chief in '06; Christian Gabbarini and Shuhei Nakamoto have endorsed this, and Gabbarini added his comments that beyond a certain point of change/development, Stoner would take it on himself to ride around existing issues for that last vital half-a-second of lap times.

In the grand story of motoGp, Rossi and Stoner will hold a place as the Yin and Yang of competition during their time facing off against each other. The sport is immeasurably richer for that history.

You couldn't had said it any better! Every races this year, I felt a certain void of emptiness not seeing #27 on the grid but little by little, #93 is starting to fill the void. What I really miss about Stoner are his interviews on how clear & to the point he is on the subjects, which means a lot to English speaking fans who do not understand Latin. If there's Mandarin interviews, it too would be awesome for me but it's not gonna happen, ha ha!

Gracious, really?

A joke (or piss take) followed by a "I knew as well" followed by a load of bull* followed by grudging acceptance.

That said, I agree with the drive of your comments. It was good to have the pair as natural counterpoints, I think it was a shame all too often Casey was given a hard time, much of it, it seemed, because he could beat Rossi.

*Unfair maybe given I am fascinated that while he was riding for Ducati, Rossi was talking to Yamaha engineers about how the tyres suited their bike. This, presumably, pre 2012 season when the tyres were introduced.

so it's not at all unreasonable or Machiavellian that he asked Yamaha for their appreciation. That's doing his job for Bridgestone fairly and competently.

If one were to ascribe anything negative to Rossi on this point, one only has to look at the difficulties he is now having with two of his major competitive strengths: braking and turning-in late to overtake competitors, to deduce that he was taking the more inclusive view. Being wrong is not the same as being manipulative - give the guy a break.

All that said, there's an interesting lesson in human psychology here: that the content of the message is lost because of the regard in which the message-giver is held. motoGp is in no way outside this paradigm.

I don't think I would ever say this, but I think I'd have spent my time better watching a game of golf.

And to think there is a possibility that Lorenzo could lose the championship because of an engine allocation rule, this is all starting to push my loyalty to the series.

That all being said, I hope Pedrosa rallies and starts putting it back on top of the podium. The season coming down to the last few races is worth the grueling tedium. Marquez and Crutchlow are the only really interesting pair race-to-race, because you can't quite predict how they'll fare.

Rossi? Where art thou?

and fell asleep a couple laps after Cal crashed. I don't think I'm a seer, but perhaps my subconcious saw the writing on the wall...plus I had hardly any sleep since my arrival in Europe from Mexico a week earlier. That Spanish sunshine was sooo nice after cold (for me) and blustry England. I sure wish Yamaha would support Crutchlow better so he could attack the Hondas without having to ride over the limit. I could see his front tire chattering like a jackhammer going into 7, none of the factory bikes was having that problem. Whether it was Cal's braking or the 2nd rate forks he's forced to use, I'll never know, but I suspect the latter. Personally, I'll be glad when the price caps on brakes and suspension components come into play, now it's just a way to control the field. Price something into unobtanium for non-factory riders and no-one knows what the factory teams are actually paying for the best equipment.

i was at turn nine in the grand stand in front of the very fast right hander called campsa corner.
watching those three guys taking that very fast bend was awesome. But that feeling you can't get watching from home.
I think we were treated to one of those special events, when a rider overcomes an inferior bike to get the victory, that needs knoledgeable fans to be appreciated.
i totally agree with lorenzo when he says that some of his wins are not given the respect they deserve by the media, and some fans, because they want close battle, overtaking etc. But after watching moto gp for 30 years, i must admit that a race like that in not the norm. And during the 500cc era was the same.
Lorenzo is without a doubt the best motorcycle rider spain has ever produced, and if he keeps his personal life under control, he may well be one of the greatests riders in the history of the sport.

Yes, the tyres are struggling because the bikes are too heavy. And the brakes also, with special dispensation for thicker discs at Motegi.

They are fat. We should be pointing and laughing at them to shame them into slimming.

That the peak class of motorcycle racing imposes a minimum weight only a few kg lighter than SBK (a difference easily explained by starter motors and steel brakes) is frankly embarrassing and another reminder of how much the rules have been taken over by the engine builders... and we are told that allowing lighter weight would increase costs. By the same people who tell us that reduced engine allocations reduce costs.

But it's all cool, because we have more power... which has reduced the lap record at Barcelona by how much since the 800's? Oh, not at all. More than double the hp to lap 4.5s faster than the production-engined 600's on the same day. Or 3.5s faster than Alex de Angelis on a 110hp 250 in 2007... a bike that was 60kg lighter than Lorenzo's Yamaha.

But boy, they go fast in a straight line. Lorenzo was 15km/h faster in QP this year than he was in 2009, resulting in a qualifying lap that was faster by... 0.4s.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing... why not get rid of the pesky corners and just go drag racing?

I was watching post race press conference and I was confused when Lorenzo said that he will get the engine back. That seemed pretty strange to me. It will be very hard for him to finish the season without penalty given that he's now on his 4th engine (one withdrawn).

For me Barcelona feels like it gave an accurate picture of the fields capability this year. Lorenzo a smidgeon ahead of Pedrosa, Marquez snapping at their heels, probably capable of going faster than both through sheer risk taking, but not yet quite able to out-play them strategically; Crutchlow largely able to fight for a podium but over-reaching, either his abilities or those of the bike, but either way he may chuck it down the road trying; and Rossi, sadly, no longer able to stick with the front three. We can blame it on the bike, the weather, the tyres, anything we like, but the reality is that anyone who's watched racing for 20 odd years will have seen this story played out many a time. Unfortunately it's the natural order of things. I wouldn't presume to say what Rossi should do now, I just hope he doesn't allow himself to be rattled down the ranks of manufacturers to end up as a virtual test-rider for some half-powered CRT over the next few years. While I disagree with almost everything I read about stoner on this page I will say one thing for him - he quit while he was ahead, reputation-wise if not in terms of championship wins.

The great shame is that it's so damn boring to watch now. More often than not Rossi made it exciting and that's not happening anymore. Hopefully Marquez will fill the void this year but it is starting to look like a two horse race again.

Three of the world's best riders on the most advanced racing motorcycles ever built nose-to-tail from start to finish right on the edge of crashing.

Boring? Really?

I give.

Maybe GP racing simply no longer fits into our ADD culture and mental capabilities any more. David pointed in a tweet to a Kevin Cameron piece that suggested that you have to be intelligent to enjoy MotoGP racing anymore. I believe Kevin is correct. And that may be an insurmountable problem.

Whaaat? What's that great sophistication behind the sport now that mere mortals don't understand? Set up, tactics and one vs everybody else doing circles in a closed circuit. That's it really. How's that supposed to keep people, busy people from all over the world interested and investing in it if it's not spectacular. Make no mistake, someone may CHOOSE to take it to the next level, but those that don't and just wanna see fights for all positions are not stupid. Yes, you may call them thrill seekers if you like, but not ADD examples, I think that's a little harsh, for someone of your... intelligence.

ADD Culture, it reads. Not individuals. It's the reason modern F1 cars are saddled with tires you wouldn't put on a minivan and are electronically harnessed with devices that force passing.

There is so much more to this sport than set-up, tactics and the on-track action. And yet, race after race, I log on here and see the same complaint - the riders weren't close enough together. There weren't enough passes. The complaints center around the few moments that occur on the track and lack of visual spectacle that takes no comprehension of the sport to grasp.

The sport remains the same as it always has (and I mean that; look at its history, the number of race winners in a season, the margins of victory, etc.) But in a world of billions of web pages, porn movies on smart phones and thousands of cable TV channels providing immediate visual spectacle, appreciating that sport may simply be beyond the comprehension of the casual fan.

I think it's ESPN here that had something called the Red Zone - where you can watch four football games at once and if one team got into scoring position the TV would switch to that game. I'd hate to meet the motorcycle road racing fan who needed that, and I'd hate to see the sport change to chase that fan.

OK, sorry about the ADD thing, it's not the point anyway. However, the football metaphor can take us some way down the road. Try to look at all those "Red Zone" football matches as ONE motogp race with many battles. And when there's an overtake about to happen, or a really close battle, the director switches to that. This is what motogp IS and has been for a long time (I'll agree with you on that). Now imagine all the games finishing 0-0. Wouldn't that be a disappointment for any sort of fan? Maybe we're looking for different things in sports, but a game with no goals is OK, a whole series with hardly any goals isn't. The difference of course is that in Motogp a classification emerges even with no overtakes (goals). In other words, an important part of the race is on Saturday. And I like QP, but I really want to see some battles man. Not blood, not contact (although I don't despise it as others), I love clean passes.

David got it right in the title: "Boring Perfect". And this wasn't the most boring race, I wasn't even complaining. But this "why can't you appreciate the level of rider and machine on the limit blablabla?" attitude I can't understand. Well, it's damn obvious why, because the rostrum was decided before turn 1... again... Don't try to overcomplicate the sport. It's just guys and girls riding bikes produced by people who wanna make money for people who like to go racing. When the "racing" part atrophies, so will the whole sport eventually.

And yet, Le Mans - which produces less "racing" than virtually any other single event - has been around forever, as have the Isle of Man TT races, where the riders don't even compete head-to-head.

The "Red Zone" thing works pretty well here as an illustration that the media viewer's expectation is what has changed. For decades, people struggled through the tedium of one football game at a time. Now, they don't even expect to watch most of the game; they just lick the icing from an endless series of games.

Racing is complicated, ripe with plots and subplots - you could write an encyclopaedia about the Honda vs. Yamaha battle of which each individual event is merely the latest chapter. Every time I see the lights go out, I see the ghosts of Rainey and Doohan battling it out on the best that Yamaha and Honda can create. You could not create a more compelling conflict than the one that is played out - in front of the cameras and behind them - between Pedrosa and Marquez. That's the stuff of movie scripts. Yet try - try - to get a casual observer to sit long enough to understand that.

I understand very clearly that I am in the minority. What Cameron is encouraging people to do is to appreciate what they are seeing. And I think that in a modern media environment, that simply takes more than most are willing to give.

Besides, races never end 0-0. Someone always wins. And if you want proof that passing does not equal excitement, find a video of an old CART race on a big oval with the Hanford device on the rear wing. You're sick to death of passing before the event is halfway over.

The problem is I've been watching the same races for the past 5 years. The same front runners, the same championship contenders, the same bikes. Utter domination is only interesting for so long. There is no chance for an underdog, an upstart, to win a race now, let alone a championship. And it's been that way for a long, long time. At the same time you watch the rules being written by those who are winning, written to insure their continued domination. Dorna continues to let the players write the rules.

I'm intelligent enough to realize that I've seen this season before. And before, and before and before...

I'm also intelligent enough to realize there are better things to do with my time. I used to avoid any/all social media or anything that might give away the outcome of the race before I was able to watch it. Now I don't bother; I'm intelligent enough to have a good idea what the outcome will be. Facebook can't spoil the outcome of a race for me any longer; history has done that already.

So now there is an intellectual snob factor to MotoGP? Should I have to show a copy of my degree to you before I can watch the races.

You can justify it all you want, 3 great riders, most advanced bikes, blah, blah, blah. The bottom line is that the races are boring, there is no passing and unless there is a crash the top 4 finishing order is decided by lap 3.

I see more and comments in the same vain, its boring and people don't bother watching any more. No one has a chance of winning except for the usual 3 plus maybe, Rossi. Who wants to watch an event where the outcome is for all intents and purposes is predetermined?

So now there is an intellectual snob factor to MotoGP? Should I have to show a copy of my degree to you before I can watch the races.

You can justify it all you want, 3 great riders, most advanced bikes, blah, blah, blah. The bottom line is that the races are boring, there is no passing and unless there is a crash the top 4 finishing order is decided by lap 3.

I see more and comments in the same vain, its boring and people don't bother watching any more. No one has a chance of winning except for the usual 3 plus maybe, Rossi. Who wants to watch an event where the outcome is for all intents and purposes is predetermined?