2009 IRTA Test Jerez Overall Times

With the IRTA Test behind us, it is an interesting exercise to map out the best times for all of the riders over the entire two-day weekend of testing at Jerez. Unsurprisingly, the best times for most people were set during the BMW M Award session, but the lack of qualifying tires this year, combined with the fact that that 45 minute session was disrupted by both the weather and James Toseland's crash meant  that there was not so much in it. Casey Stoner came out of both the M Award and the entire weekend as the clear winner, although both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo were closer than these times suggest. Jorge Lorenzo, in particular, made a big step forward, and looks like he could run with Rossi, Stoner and Pedrosa this season, though he is still not ready to challenge for the title. At least, that's what he says.

But the Suzukis are back on track again too. This is the third different track at which Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen have been competitive, and it looks like they could be close to the fight for the podium this year again. Mika Kallio pulled out a single perfect lap for the M Award session, but otherwise, was further off the pace, and the Ducatis which aren't ridden by Casey Stoner seem to be struggling once again. Vito Guareschi, Ducati's test rider, was out with a cast aluminium chassis, suggesting they may be experimenting with a chassis which copes with crashing better, anticipating the single bike rule expected to come into effect in 2010, but the factory riders stayed with the carbon fiber frame. Casey Stoner tried both an aluminium and a carbon fiber swingarm, and ended up on the carbon fiber item.

Honda look to be struggling still, and are badly missing the input of the injured Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso still lacking experience in bike development, though he is learning fast. HRC will have a lot of catching up to do once Pedrosa's knee is healed, and the Spaniard is back in action. While Hayate seem to have solved some of the rear traction problems they were having, at least on a dry track which has some heat in it. Marco Melandri may not end up being 18th everywhere after all, though Qatar could still be a problem, where a cold track could cause him problems.

In two weeks time, all this speculation will end, thank heavens, as the riders hit the track and start racing once again. The time for talking is nearly at an end, and the time for twisting the throttle is almost here.

Aggregate times from all four sessions at the IRTA MotoGP test at Jerez

Pos No. Rider Bike Time Diff Session
1 27 Casey Stoner Ducati 1'38.646 0.000 M Award
2 46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1'39.365 0.719 M Award
3 65 Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1'39.757 1.111 M Award
4 99 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1'39.791 1.145 FP1
5 7 Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 1'39.848 1.202 M Award
6 36 Mika Kallio Ducati 1'40.149 1.503 M Award
7 4 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1'40.168 1.522 M Award
8 59 Sete Gibernau Ducati 1'40.228 1.582 M Award
9 24 Toni Elias Honda 1'40.266 1.620 M Award
10 5 Colin Edwards Yamaha 1'40.305 1.659 M Award
11 69 Nicky Hayden Ducati 1'40.401 1.755 M Award
12 33 Marco Melandri Kawasaki 1'40.405 1.759 M Award
13 14 Randy de Puniet Honda 1'40.646 2.000 M Award
14 72 Yuki Takahashi Honda 1'40.814 2.168 M Award
15 15 Alex de Angelis Honda 1'40.869 2.223 M Award
16 52 James Toseland Yamaha 1'41.122 2.476 FP1
17 22 Vito Guareschi Ducati 1'41.485 2.839 M Award
18 88 Niccolo Canepa Ducati 1'41.551 2.905 M Award
19 64 Kosuoke Akiyoshi Honda 1'42.058 3.412 FP2


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I got the bright idea to compare this chart to last year's.  However, there is no direct comparison to last year; IRTA was in February last year, and was run with qualifying tires.  So, I considered the actual round at Jerez, and since nearly everyone achieved their fastest race lap before Edwards crashed out, I'm looking at the fast lap rider from round 2 of 2008 chart for this comparison.

Stoner's BWM-winning lap this year would have put him 2nd on the grid last year - well ahead of his time on qualifiers - and was nearly 2 seconds faster than his fastest race lap in '08.  Bogey track, indeed.

Rossi is nearly 1 second faster than his best in the '08 race.

Capirossi, .65 second faster, with Lorenzo just behind him on both sheets at .7 faster, but also including a change in tire brand.

Vermeulen is a good 1.3 second improvement over last year, and no doubt happy to be just a tenth behind his team mate this year.

Kallio would have been the fastest Ducati with this time last year.

Dovizioso is just about .5 faster; that time not necessarily confidence-inspiring with a move to a much better bike and away from Michelin.

Elias, in getting back to Honda, has gained almost 2.5 seconds.

Edwards and Hayden were in the same tenth last year, as well, though slightly closer.  Edwards gained nearly .3 in the tire change, with Hayden gaining slightly less in a bike, team, and tire change.  Both are probably upset by any notice they represent the least improvement among the healthy.

Melandri is 1.3 faster, sporting a drastic change in psyche.  With de Puniet, de Angelis, and even Toseland (though just barely) all faster, too, everyone can point to some kind of improvement.

Dani Pedrosa's fastest lap of the whole race, en route to a convincing win on Michelins, would place between fifth and sixth on this year's list.

With the pretense of lowering speeds on a spec tire completely out of the way, it bears pointing out that the spread across the field of 18 is nearly identical.  Eight riders in the same .5 second (this year) also garners a raised eyebrow.

The sudden appearance of the Duc cast aluminium chassis is telling, and the only apparent conclusion one can draw is the one made in the article - that Ducati are reacting to the one-bike rule.

The problem with c/f is that it is highly impact-intolerant and not able to be 'inspected' following a suspect impact by non-destructive means. From a product-liability POV, Ducati can't afford to send a rider back out on a possible fractured chassis, and of course from a sales POV a reputation for catastrophic breakages will echo back down the line, even if the difference between c/f and other materials is made apparent. The average customer simply doesn't appreciate the subtlties.

C/f is of course extensively used in aircraft - light aircraft in particular - and its real-life liability in a crash situation is becoming very apparent. A recent (double-fatal) crash of an extensively c/f material small aircraft has been characterised as an 'incident made a terrible accident because the aircraft basically exploded on a medium impact with the ground which would have almost certainly been quite survivable in a conventional metal airplane, such as a Cessna, Piper or Beechcraft.'

A cast-aluminium chassis can be chemically etched with great precision to tailor the stiffness, bending and harmonic reactions much as a varying-thickness c/f layup achieves. That Ducati are already moving in this direction shows that they are a very, very savvy company indeed - and that MotoGp still has relevance for the development of technology for the real world..

It's certainly plausible that Ducati are looking to reduce the risk of a CF chassis when the one-bike rule comes in. But perhaps it's also a sign of both how Ducati does things, and of what actually works in the real world.

Ducati may have gone with a CF chassis in the first place simply because no-one else does it that way. They clearly found benefits with it (or at least didn't reduce performance at all) - Stoner hasn't slowed down any - and in comparing it to their traditional trellis frames they may have realised that there's no going back, at least from a performance perspective.

Now that CF appears to be a potential liability they really had no choice but to take the next step with a cast frame - either that, or go back to trellis, and lose the benefits and value of the research they've done since last year. But as Oscar suggests, they are too bright to do that, and despite losing a slab of the 'heritage' capital that the trellis frame gave the Desmosedici, they are simply going with what will give them the highest bang for the buck.

A bit like BMW going Superbike racing without a Telelever front end : )

I don't think Ducati lost that much "heritage" exposure by not having a trellis frame bike in MotoGP. After all, they're not running a twin cylinder engine either.

If they went the Aprilia route in WSBK, and changed from the twin cylinder layout, then they're heritage exposure would really take a battering.

TSI - a fair question and very relevant to the use of c/f in bikes. In that case, the engine had broken in flight and the pilot had fired off the ballistic chute - that's a 'whole airplane' chute that is SUPPOSED to allow it to come down at a survivable rate of descent. There was something like 25 kts of wind so the aircraft hit the ground doing whatever the vertical speed was plus something like 25 kts, in a fairly nose-down attitude - the nose dug in, the thing flipped over and broke up as if a small bomb had exploded in the cockpit. I can't reveal the actual source of those words ( for legal reasons) but suffice it to say they were relayed to my brother who is an aeronautical engineer by someone who had as close to first-hand knowledge of the case as it is possible to get and who has the technical knowledge to understand exactly what he is talking about.

Those ballistic chutes have saved quite a few lives in mainly metal or glass aircraft, so the ground impact speed is in the 'medium' range - the plane is pretty banged-up but the people more or less walk away bruised but generally intact. 25 kts of ground speed is about half normal landing speed for an ultralight.
A hard impact is one in which the thing is pretty much flown into the ground at flight speed, combining death and recycling in one handy package.

Now, the relevance for c/f framed (or swing-armed, for that matter) bikes is that unless you know EXACTLY how the impact forces were transferred to the C/f matrix and what their magnitude was you can't know what the peak force loadings were throughout the matrix and therefore what damage has occurred at the micro-fibre level. Remember the old thing about throwing away your helmet after any impact? Same applies but with c/f being stiffer and way more brittle, the go/no go margin is very sharp indeed. To be on the safe side, even a fairly low-level practice crash - say Rossi's at P.I last year - would mean no race on that chassis.

F1 has talked about similar car / engine rules and there is not an engineer out there who would trade in their carbon fiber for some metallic material. However, there have been advances in spot usage of carbon fiber / metal interfaces. Clearly there are parts of a vehicle that could be made from carbon fiber and their replacement would not infringe on the one bike rule. Some other areas - the main frame assembly - run the risk. But as we have seen in production motorcycles, use of "core architecture" and modular subframes helps achieve optimized solutions to a wide variety of questions. I could see MotoGP teams heading in this direction, making the minimum frame (main motorcycle) from metal with CF subframes and swingarms.