2013 Valencia Post-Race Test Day 3 Round Up: Ducati's Hope, Espargaro's Improvement, And Hayden's Honda

The rain that threatened didn't come, to both the relief and the despair of everyone at the MotoGP test in Valencia. After 18 races, three flyaways and two days of testing, there were plenty of folk who had been secretly doing rain dances so they could pack up and go home early. As much as we all love MotoGP - and given the number of people who have to work second jobs to be able to afford to be there, love is the only explanation - the season is long and tiring, and testing is necessary, but a real grind to both do and watch. There were a lot of jealous looks at the empty space where the Factory Yamaha trucks had stood, the team having upped sticks and left at the end of Tuesday.

There were plenty of people who were happy to ride, though, and people who had things to test. Pol Espargaro was delighted to be back on the bike, and continued his impressive debut on the Tech 3 bike. Aleix Espargaro continued work on the NGM Forward Yamaha FTR, while Hiroshi Aoyama and Nicky Hayden continued to ride the production Honda. At Ducati, a mildly despondent Andrea Dovizioso continued to turn laps, while new signing Cal Crutchlow learned about the grind that riding for Ducati can be, testing lots of things that don't appear to make much difference to the bike. Crutchlow remained positive, pointing to the fact that even though the experiments had failed to produce a blistering lap time, the fact that his feedback was the same as Dovizioso's and the other Ducati riders, it would prove useful in the search for improvement.

Ducati's hope - or more precisely, the hope of Ducati's riders - is now firmly pinned on new Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna. Though Dall'Igna has only just started, and will realistically not be able to make a major difference for another 6 months or so, the first impressions of him were good, for both Dovizioso and Crutchlow. Dall'Igna listens rather than speaks, and when he speaks, what he says is worth hearing. 'I like this, I think it is the right way,' Dovizioso commented. The Italian had not had anything to test, Crutchlow had spend all day playing with set up. Where yesterday, they had found something to improve the bike at the end of the test, on Wednesday, they found something which made it radically worse. Given that the bike is seemingly impervious to set up changes, with only a tiny window where set up seems to have any effect at all, even finding something which ruins it is useful data. Dall'Igna has his work cut out for him.

While the factory Yamaha team had gone home, the Tech 3 team were still hard at work. Pol Espargaro has been very impressive since Monday, getting up to speed quickly and ending just one and a quarter seconds off the time of Marquez. His progress has been marked, dropping his lap time by 1.6 seconds from the first day to the last. He was still learning to adapt his style from Moto2, feathering the clutch and waiting for the rear chatter to start from the spec clutch fitted to Moto2 bikes. That doesn't happen on the MotoGP machines, the bikes having much more sophisticated engine braking strategies and different tires, catching Pol out a little. The biggest thing, though, was the amount of lean angle he was carrying, dragging knees and elbows, and wearing through his suits. Espargaro told the press he needs to work on picking up the bike sooner, and using the power to help get it upright and driving out of the corner.

The arrival of Pol Espargaro has given Bradley Smith extra motivation. There is a fierce rivalry between the two, which is driving Smith on to find more speed where he can. When Espargaro's lap times started getting uncomfortably close, Smith turned up the wick, eventually posting a very impressive time just three tenths off the time of fastest man Marc Marquez. One lap was good, Smith said, but the job now was to turn one fast lap into five fast laps, then ten fast laps, until eventually he could be fast for an entire race. Now having the 2013 factory package, Smith felt he could ride much better than before. The package had no negatives for him, he said, promising much next year.

He is still a way off Marc Marquez, however. The newly crowned world champion ended the test the way he ended the championship: on top. Both he and Dani Pedrosa had spent the last day of the test concentrating on the latest version of the 2014 prototype, instantly recognizable by the massive air intake on the front of the bike. Gone are the slim eyebrow shapes, replaced with the whale shark mouth on the front, gulping air and forcing back into the fuel-starved 2014 RC213V engine. It was those fuel strategies that the two Honda men had been working on, testing how the bike felt with a liter less fuel in race trim. Was the bike down on power? 'The idea is not to lose power, but to save fuel somewhere else,' Dani Pedrosa said. That means Yamaha is in trouble, as Valentino Rossi has already complained that the M1 feels like a two-stroke jetted to run too lean, weak on power. Yamaha has a couple of months to search for better strategies before testing resumes at Sepang, time they will clearly need.

Both the Forward Yamahas and the Honda RCV1000R production racers will also need some time to work on the electronics. The bikes have not exactly been a magic bullet for making riders competitive, but they are clearly still in need of a lot of work. The biggest problem right now is finding the right set up with the spec Dorna software, something which is merely a matter of time. But even once the electronics are sorted, they will still take some work to get right. After the initial excitement of the introduction, where the figure of 0.3 seconds off the time of the factory bikes was bandied about, HRC staff is now being more realistic. Casey Stoner reportedly said the bike would be 0.5 to 0.8 seconds slower than a factory bike, but that time target needs some explanation. The gap of 0.8 seconds should not be taken to mean to Marc Marquez, but rather that if Marc Marquez were to ride both the production racer and the full factory RC213V, Marquez would be 0.5 to 0.8 slower on the RCV1000R than he is on the RC213V.

Unfortunately, Honda has not put Marquez on an RCV1000R, instead leaving Nicky Hayden, Hiroshi Aoyama and Scott Redding to ride the bikes. Redding is injured, and Hayden and Aoyama are still working on set up, but the question is how competitive they would be if they were on factory bikes. Hayden ended the test 1.8 seconds behind Marquez, Aoyama 2.2 seconds off the time of Marquez, and though there is still clear room for improvement, the better part of a second of the difference is down to Marc Marquez, rather than any kind of equipment difference. A more realistic target for Hayden might be to get the bike close to the top 10, and round the spot where the Ducatis are, unless they improve. The Honda production racer is clearly an improvement on most of the old CRT machines, but it's still a long way from being competitive with the factory prototypes.

MotoGP heads home now, for a well-earned rest. The Forward team will travel to Jerez, for a test at the end of the month with the Ducati test team, along with a number of other Open class entries. But the 2013 season is finally over, and on-track action is rapidly drawing to a close. It's been a long, memorable and spectacular season. And next year promises to be even better.

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Take your well deserved rest, David. I for one can't believe we have to wait until February to get started again. Such a long winter!

As I suppose that like all motorcycle racing fans I am bit sad that the season is over. I have got used to reading your wonderfully balanced yet incisive analysis day after a day and this has been going on for more than three years now. I hope you will be covering the last test by the Open Class teams. And I really hope you will be putting up articles of what happens behind the scenes during the break from now to Sepang. A very big thank you and I look forward to reading more of your work.

David, do you really think our new #1 is a second quicker than Nicky?

Nicky always seemed 2-3 tenths slower than Dani as his teammate and given that their relative speed is the same (no reason to think otherwise) it point to a lot less than a second, given that MM is maybe 1-2 tenths quicker than Dani

I am suprised at the gap considering Honda said the bike was only 3 tenths (or less) slower than the factory bike.

Did Honda maybe 'fudge the numbers' to persuade people to buy their bike?

The 0.3s gap between the Honda prototype and production racer was always a myth. It was perpetrated by Nakamoto in summer when they badly needed to sell a couple of these bikes.


The 0.3s number comes from Nakamoto's quotes from this article. The development work was done by Akiyoshi who tested the prototype and production racer and was lapping 0.3s slower on the production racer.

Question is whether that gap was because Akiyoshi rode the production racer to its fullest potential or because he rode the factory prototype well under its maximum potential? It more than likely was because of the latter.

In statistical terms this is what you call as "cherry picking"...selecting data that supports your hypothesis.

In reality as David said the production racer is probably 1-1.5s slower than the prototype.

Enjoy your well deserved break David...although your break means a few of us will be starved for our daily motogp fix!

The problem is that, as Livio Suppo revealed, Stoner only did a total of five laps on the RCV1000R. And which RC213V and which of its laps it was compared to is not clear. Was it just one lap? Was the 213 not using optimal settings? Was it running with a full tank? Was it running on a lean map? Was the RCV1000R running Honda custom software and not the spec software? Etc., etc. None of this is known.

Yes, at best, the .3 gap seems to the most favorable picture that Honda could present of the bike's speed.

I think we can expect it to be faster when it's fully set up and the software is tweaked, but it likely won't be that fast. Stoner doesn't seem to think so.

"and given the number of people who have to work second jobs to be able to afford to be there, love is the only explanation"
From what we saw this year regarding pilots having to pay for their seats, Pirro as a police officer, etc., this would make a great read in my opinion. We can all relate to paying out the nose for tires, fuel, parts, boots/gloves/leathers, track time, travel, etc. and I would appreciate learning what others do when not directly involved on Sunday.

A less Machiavellian read on the gap between the proddie bike and the factory bike might center on the electronics and setup.

The HRC crew running the test bike had full access to the factory data and settings, and could set the bike up exactly as the well-known and familiar test rider, be it Stoner or Akiyoshi, liked it. They had months to work on it and get it as perfect as they wanted it to be.

Hayden, Aoyama and Redding have had, on the other hand, a handful of laps on a brand-new-to-them bike with electronics they are completely unfamiliar with.

It's not like HRC is going to give Aspar full access to all of the data that the factory accumulated. They're not idiots. If Dorna does manage to ram spec electronics down the throat of MotoGP, there will still be the ability to tune the settings to the rider and bike - and HRC isn't going to give away the hard-earned, expensively-obtained data that it has on the proddie bike.

You guys who wanted bikes purchased by teams and development to be in the hands of the teams - this is what you get.

Remember that Aspar was a "non-factory" team that had Aprilia factory technicians all over the bike and in the garage and had access to Aprilia's WSBK operation, as well as Aprilia's electronics package and knowledge. But the Aspar team is also very good at what it does, and I expect that they'll figure out a trick or two about their new toy as they get to play with it some more.

Livio Suppo said the other day that Casey only did 5 laps on the production bike and Nakamoto never actually said it was Casey lapping 0.3 seconds off the factory bike. He said an HRC test rider had and when asked if it was Casey he said "Casey is an HRC test rider" and then laughed. That bike was design to be slower than the satellite Hondas.

Clever boy, that Nakamoto. I wonder if it was Casey on the RCV1000R and someone else on the 213V.

I'd bet that the bike will be faster when all the kinks get worked out.

Also bear in mind that HRC seems to be backing the Aspar program and Honda NA is paying for a big chunk of it, so while I certainly don't know for sure, I'd think they'd be willing to share at least some data. Hayden is, apparently, something like HRC's open class factory rider.

And Stoner only did five laps on the bike according to Suppo. No doubt it was set up better but it wasn't like it was honed to his perfection. So, I wouldn't expect miracles.

It's also possible that the Proddie Racer will be 1-1.5 sec/lap slower in qualifying trim (softer tires, 50cc fuel, Prototypes setting the engines for full power with no need to make 20l last for 25 laps, whatever else they do to gain the maximum they can for 3 laps...) but closer in full race trim, with full fuel tanks (including the extra 4 liters) and the CRT-only tires, assuming Bridgestone continues to offer them.

It's also possible I am being blindly optimistic.

¿Any news on the Aprilia ART? (yes, I am an Aprilia fan) Paul Bird was negotiating with them and the result of this test was going to be part of those negotiations. ¿Are there going to be any ARTs next year? ¿Will they have pneumatic valves and seamless?

It will be a few races in before we can see the potential of the Yamaha and Honda "open" bikes. There are so many variables - type of track, fuel, tyres etc.

Focusing on Nicky - he was only .8 of a second behind Vale after 2 days (not very long to forget 5 years of riding a Ducati). Ignoring Marc and comparing to the average of the 3 other Honda riders he is 1.1 seconds behind. All in all not too bad.

Better still is the performance by Aleix. 1.5 seconds faster than Colin and .3 behind Vale. Both of the Espargaro's could make it tough for Vale next year...

Thank you for this:

"Ignoring Marc and comparing to the average of the 3 other Honda riders he is 1.1 seconds behind ..."

A very useful way of looking at things.

Also impressed with Aleix. Did not expect the FTR package to be that well sorted so quickly.

Like you said, a long and memorable season. Fortunately there are sites like this to keep things entertaining even if the races might not be (though this was a good season for exciting races).
Another long winter to come for us moto racing fans.
Can't wait for Sepang, although that is as much of a tease as anything else with another 2 month break until tires hit the tarmac.
Hopefully the proddies can get things sorted and make the series less of a 2 class race (wishful thinking).
I'm going into next season assuming Ducati will make no progress, much to my chagrin, but reserving my expectations until 2015.
My only hope is that Yamaha can stay competitive with more than just Lorenzo. My heart bleeds for Vale, they gotta figure out something for the fuel consumption.
Here's to hoping
Roll on Sepang!!!

All the whining and moaning IRTA have done in the past about the MSMA, has been forgotten.

They have been stitched up and are as culpable as Honda in seeing over Aprilia's demise and the future integrity of competition in this, the supposed Blue Riband of Motorcycle Racing.

An inscrutable flash of the pearlies, a nod and a wink..a few pork pies with Casey Stoner central to the web-spinning, and the teams dumped on racing and backed the very people they'd complained were charging too much for uncompetitive leased packages.

No closer to the front, paying through the nose again, without a shot of truly being independent or running anywhere but the back. There ignorance has strengthened the MSMA's hand and in particular HRC's.

When all other suppliers are squeezed out, the perfect plan will be complete and the race teams will once more be over a barrel..spewing.

I hope they don't sort it out and are uncompetitive all year. They are MSMA and they didn't veto the fuel limit, so I hope it comes back to bite them. Maybe that will bring them to their senses.
Most of the field is uncompetitive anyway, so if the top tier consists of only two bikes instead of three so what. Maybe we will see exciting battles between Lorenzo and Bradl/Bautista.

Well,thats not the point.

Couple of different ways to look at this.. #1 the difference between the Proddie Spec Duck & the Factory Spec Duck with the same rider on the same weekend in the same conditions means that the Dorna spec software isn't all that bad

or #2 the difference between the Proddie spec Duck & the Factory spec Duck is much smaller
than the difference between the Proddy Spec & Factory Spec Honda which leads to the conclusion that Honda's real advantage is in electronics.

As Nicky Hayden is without doubt a better rider than Yonny, yet yonny's best time is very close to Haydens supports that view too. Adding to the mix that AE's Proddy Yamaha was a rocket in top speed but Rossi complained of lean running adds more fuel to the argument.

The sooner all bikes run on the spec software & with no fuel restrictions the better.

My semi-serious take on it is that it's more of an indictment of the factory bike than some indication of signficant improvement in the open class bike.

As to your conclusions, I think it's #2, and a bit of #1.

The Ducati open bike is virtually the same as the Pramac bike except for the electronics, which, of course, are important, and the fuel allowance. (Actually, there's nothing to say that it isn't the very same bike retro-fitted with the spec software/ECU). But based on this test, the spec electronics seem to be working about as well as the Ducati factory stuff, but it's a bit early to say. The difference in times is pretty small, so it could simply be a matter of set-up, track/temperature conditions (there's more rubber on the track, for one), traffic or one bike simply feeling bettter than the other.

The difference in spec between the Honda 213Vs and RCV1000R is much greater. One could reasonably argue that the Honda production bike in a much earlier state of development than the Ducati open bike, too. Also remember that Hayden and Aoyama were sharing one bike, so getting it set up for each rider would be tricky.

Just my observations concerning Hayden's time on the Honda and how it compares...

he turned a 1:31.870 during qualifying on the Ducati for Sunday's race.
His race pace was in the mid 33s during Sunday's race on the Ducati.
His quick time on the new Honda during the post race test was 1:32.1

I am encouraged that Nick was able to lap that close to his qualifying time on the Ducati and go faster than his race pace, especially considering that he has had 5 years experience on the Ducati and only 2 days on the new Honda! Granted he is way off of Marquez's time, but keep in mind that Rossi and Bautista had race paces in the mid 32s Sunday. I am not naive enough to believe that Hayden will be competing for race wins next year, but I don't think it is out of the realm of possibility for him to perhaps compete for some top 5 finishes from time to time and most likely be able to finish ahead of the Ducatis!

Without doubt this site is the place to go for news and analysis in this sport. Many of us Brits will be relying on you even more next year as our only conduit to the sport will be the MotoGP player, having lost the BBC and Eurosport.

Have a good winter and I'm looking forward to next year already.

It's a little worrying that Honda can produce a production bike for so cheap - in relative terms to the Factory bikes, that is quicker than the best Factory Ducati.

Not entirely surprising considering Espargaro's performance on the ART compared to the Ducati prototypes this year, though.