2011 MotoGP Sepang 1 Day 1 Roundup

At last, the MotoGP bikes have taken to the track, and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Casey Stoner was the fastest man at the end of the first day of testing, and by a comfortable margin. But Stoner's time is a little deceptive: set at the end of the day, as the track started to cool, making life a little easier on the tires and quickening the track. At 5pm local time, Stoner was 5th fastest, four tenths off Jorge Lorenzo's time, but four laps later, the Australian had lopped well over three quarters of a second off his best time and had taken over top spot.

Before Stoner stormed to the top of the timesheets, two Spaniards spent their time contending the top slot. Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo came out on top in the fight, just edging out Stoner's Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa. Both Spaniards have stay put this year, and 2011 already looks like seeing a continuation of the battle which unfolded over the 2010 season, once Honda got Pedrosa's RC212V sorted. Pedrosa's shoulder does not appear to be troubling the Spaniard, as he put in an impressive total of 62 laps of the Sepang circuit, in typically hot and humid Malaysian weather.

Marco Simoncelli also continued his strong form from the latter half of the 2010 season, HRC's promises of equal equipment for the Gresini Honda rider being honored, at least this early in the season. Simoncelli headed up a gaggle of riders, all within a few tenths of one another, including Yamaha's Ben Spies, Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista, Simoncelli's new teammate Hiroshi Aoyama, Repsol's Andrea Dovizioso and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards. Spies' 2011 season got off to an embarrassing start, the Texan destroying his factory Yamaha M1 after just four laps, though Spies came away unhurt from the incident, soon picking up the rhythm again, once his crew had patched up his handiwork.

As expected, the Suzuki was fast in the heat of Sepang, temperature always the GSV-R's Achilles' heel. When it's hot, the Suzuki responds, and Bautista posted a very respectable 6th fastest time. Another impressive time was that of Hiroshi Aoyama, the Japanese rider posting the 7th fastest time, just nine tenths off the (blistering) pace of Casey Stoner, and half a second off World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. Last year's crop of rookies all seem to be maturing well, with Simoncelli, Bautista and Aoyama all showing strong form so far.

If anyone doubted that Honda are taking the 2011 championship seriously, they merely need to glance at the time set by Kousuki Akiyoshi. HRC's official test rider - who had a rather disappointing spell as a substitute for the injured Hiroshi Aoyama in the Interwetten team last year - ended the day in 11th spot, just 1.6 seconds off the time set by Stoner, and a second and a quarter behind reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. The RC212V is clearly a rocketship, and there is still work to do.

The contrast with the 2011 Desmosedici is painful. Fastest Ducati rider was Randy de Puniet in 10th, over a second and a half behind Stoner. The Frenchman was still two tenths quicker than the nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, the Italian's shoulder still clearly causing him trouble. Rossi put in half the laps that Stoner did, and was never on the bike for more than a few laps at a time. The Italian was pessimistic about the state of his shoulder, telling reporters that he feared it could be May or June before he is fully fit.

So where does that leave the development of the GP11? Judging by Nicky Hayden's times, worringly behind schedule. Hayden could manage only the 13th fastest time on the first day of testing, and complained afterwards of continuing problems with the front end of the Ducati. The bike has already undergone significant changes since last year, and it is clear that a lack of testing time is making it difficult to test such radical changes. While there are still two days of testing left to go, Ducati obviously has a lot of work to do.

Testing continues on Wednesday, before concluding on Thursday. There is no live timing nor live video of the event available, but the official MotoGP.com website will have video interviews from the tests, and MotoGP.com's Azi Farni will be providing live updates from the track on Twitter. You can also follow our MotoGP list on Twitter, which includes several people who are at the track, or our Riders list, which includes most of the MotoGP riders who are on Twitter.

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I was mising these posts, roundups and analysis!
Now it feels like winter is close to an end (even though it's hot scorching summer in Brazil).

...in my prognostication that, of the aliens, Casey is somewhat likely the man to beat this year.

I'm not handing out trophies yet, nor am I calling the season after one day of testing. I'm just considering past track record, along with current machinery. Nothing more, nothing less...

I think it would be fair to say that everyone from Rossi/Lorenzo/Pedrosa down knew that Stoner would be extremely fast on a Honda. He is without doubt the fastest rider in the world at the moment.

Well, being a hugemongous Spies fan, even I will concede that the fastest man in the world at the moment is the guy with the neat looking graphic of the number 1 on his machine.

Anyone can ride "fastest" for a few laps. The guy that crosses the finish line on the last lap in first place is the fastest - that day. The guy that ends the year with the most points because he didn't fall off and was consistently at the pointy end of the train rightly deserves the title of fastest man. Being fastest at an official test for a few days doesn't rate a title of fastest in the world. Casey earned that a few years ago but now Jorge is "the man".

Just my worthless and unworthy opinion.

If someone said hand the trophies out now they'd say your were barking and it's hard to see it otherwise.
Everything seems pretty normal but for Ducati. I can't help thinking that presiozi needs to have a rethink he's been trying to make the bike work properly for 3 years and it;s still away off. Very telling was Ducati sounding off at a 'brand new flexible package" something the other manufacturers take for granted as biult into the frame. The parts being changed and molded to get more flex are just being asked to do too much when they should be concentrating on their own tasks. You cannot give an inch in this sport and starting off with a framr that appears to been fundamentally flawed just seems like making a rod for your own back. A good engineer would have gone back to the drawing board by now.

I expect Rossi/Crew to get there but I reckon we will see a more regular frame layout before they do. Maybe even tomorrow??

I appreciate these stories because they give more insight than times alone could ever deliver. I am so happy to be seeing times period though the winter is over and finally I have something within reach. Bring on the 2011 season!

Rossi's shoulder seems to have gone backwards scince the operation. Three months down the road and now they are talking about another 5 months possibly. Well,either that or the radical fixes to the bike based on the Rossi/JB magic has cast a bad spell on it.
Of course it is way too early to draw conclusions,but any punter would have expected Nicky to be higher up the pecking order.Seems like the tempestuous D16 has taken a shine to Randy.
Any belief that Ducati and Rossi were 'sanbagging' does not hold water anymore.
The times are there for all to see. HRC and Yamaha are definitely not going to wait for Ducati to catch up 6 months into the season.
I await Thursday's times with much anticipation. Somehow,I get the feeling Ducati are dreading them.

Not really surprised by RdP, he's a talented rider and he showed it in 2010, I expect big things this year.
Bautista is going to surprise a lot of people this year, mark my words.
Good to see last years rookie squad coming along, its too early to say but this could be a very close season with a lot of overtaking.

although after a long off-season it is fun trying to determine early signs of the performance levels of different teams and riders. Looks like the two obvious early conclusions are Stoner is wicked fast on the Honda and we probably won't see Rossi's true potential on the Ducati until closer to mid-season...

Rossi move from Honda to Yamaha was easy because the two machines are relatively similar in chassis design. Yamaha had a great engine but the chassis was a problem. It was easy for Burgess to copy Honda's technical solutions and to apply them on the Yamaha. Now is a completely different story...

Burgess does not have any valuable data concerning Ducati, and the data that he brings from Honda and Yamaha are worthless here...Ducati is a completely different.

Excuse my ignorance, but didn't the original 990 Ducati have a traditional frame? It was a race winner. While old data, it wouldn't be like they had nothing to go on. Worth a try in my eyes.

Before the carbon fiber airbox/frame, Ducati was using a conventional (for them) steel trellis. AFAIK they've never tried an aluminum beam frame everyone else is using.

Ducati went to the carbon fiber airbox/frame because in order to get the trellis stiff enough there were more cross braces, etc than there was open space for airbox, fuel, engine, etc.

to use the composite airbox as a stressed member with the trellis frame if there was a flex problem. Depending on the methods of fixturing, and with some creative engineering, it could also have offered a means of varying chassis rigidity by utilizing different lay-ups.

The old Italian stressed skin space frame, ala Ferrari, 21st century adaptation.

There's one time at the other end of the sheet that also stands out - Elias. Please, no excuses guys - this will be a waste of a bike all year.

Ring Ring Hibernation over (and thankyou to dgmandell).

Yep its REAL - I've just looked at the neat photos on MotoGP.com.

Casey looks serene.

Having the resources of Honda behind you probably feels good, especially when they are coming up with the goods, including having their ex F1 engineers beavering away.

Im wondering about the winglets on the Duc - will they flex down at high speed to give more ground effect, as the "cheaters" did in F1 last yr ?

In aircraft, ground effect only happens within 1/2 wingspan of the ground.

Those winglets on the Duc are so short and so far off the ground (even at full lean) that IMO it's unlikely to ever have any ground effect.

I'm suspicious about whether they produce any significant downforce...they've got very small area and a horrible aspect ratio, so they're quite inefficient.

As has been noted here previously on MM, the effect on airflow out of the radiator ducts is likely the real reason for their existence.

I was jesting, but its still worthy of comment, thx. I know they aren't a few mils off the ground per an F1 front wing, and they're too short to provide any significant flex.
I guess the plan is to provide negative airflow over the louvers and produce a suction effect.

Or keep the minions busy building impressive looking bling while the bigwigs continue to delay the big decision of going back to a conventional chassis. :-)

I, too, am remembering that Capirossi was WICKEDLY fast on the 990 D16. While it's to be expected that the Italians will do just about EVERYTHING with passion, flair, and beautiful design, losing with flair...is still losing. I've been thinking for a long time that the trellis frame would be preferable. I also still remember the Motoczysz design with the flexible forks that allowed more flex at maximum lean angle...and I wish that someone-ANYONE-would try it out. It made sense to my (admittedly tiny) brain...

I've heard it said that the definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. At what point do you admit that your clever design is just too clever, and you then go back to the drawing board? Without his injury at Catalunya, Capirossi might well have come close to winning it all back in 2005. He was winning some races by a mile at the end of the season that year...

On sponsors, any word on a title sponsor for the factory Yamaha team?

I think that Capirossi doing so well was also a Bridgestone thing. If memory serves (without Googling) that year was when the BS tire finally started to work, while Michelin was floundering, comparatively. Things have advanced dramatically since then, and with the spec tire they are all playing at the same level. (is my memory correct?)

I imagine that a large part of the reason that the Motoczysz designed front end is not in use, is that it wont work as well as the Ohlins and Showa fork solutions. The flexible design sounds cool, but it cant be looked at in isolation- and with chassis design being conducted with standard forks...they may not work as hoped.
The support model is perhaps an even more important reason to stay with the standard fork. Who is going to provide the army of technicians and riders to develop a working model which can be scaled accordingly?
That said, I believe that similar designs have in fact been tried, over and over, with little if any improvement. ymmv

Official Lightweight Battery Supplier of Yoshimura Suzuki, KTM North America, Rickey Gadson, and Orient Express Racing.

In 06 (the year Loris should have won the title) the bridgestone was good only on certain tracks, not most all like Michelin. I think...

Yes, and no.

Actually, it was 2006 when Capirossi was taken out of the points lead by his team mate.  Up until then, Bridgestone had been working with Ducati to acquire data for each track and implement a gradual "assault" on the schedule, if you will.  Many of those tracks were heavily leveraged toward the beginning and end of the schedule, but they were certainly in the midst of their best season - to that point.

Michelin, on the other hand, were not really foundering, at all.  There was trouble with Rossi's bike, but not the HRC factory bikes.  They still possessed a distinct advantage at about half of the schedule, and certain weather conditions.

Indeed, things are much different since the arrival of the spec tire.

After the switch to the 800s, the weight of individual parts became critical to performance. Even though the minimum weight was increased from 145kg to 148kg (is it 150kg now? I don't remember) in 2007, most of the 990s were not at minimum weight. Furthermore, the emphasis on cornerspeed meant that the placement of mass was critical to achieving competitive lap times. If you want to place mass in a particular region of the bike, every component that is not near the center of mass needs to be relocated or lightened.

The 90-degree V4 isn't exactly a compact engine layout so Ducati have extra incentive to reduce weight in other regions of the bike. The new Ducati carbon fiber frame was doubtless received with skepticism and anger by the other MSMA members b/c titanium chassis designs have been outlawed for decades; however, Ducati claimed they didn't have access to the same high quality aluminum as other manufacturers. We're talking about Italian motorsports so they are surely lying (or at least hiding the truth), but regardless, they had to get is much weight out of the headstock region as possible. Chassis flex was not Ducati's primary concern, imo.

>>Ducati claimed they didn't have access to the same high quality aluminum as other manufacturers

I never heard such a statement from Ducati. Any sources? I was under the impression that the CF chassis allows better ducting for engine cooling, which was always a Ducati weak point.

Why would any other manufacturer be angry at Ducati's use of CF? It is clearly allowed by the rule book and is likely cheaper to make than a CNC/welded aluminum beam frame.


'Rossi just spoke. Shoulder is worse than in Valencia. Likely to be only 80% for Qatar and not fully recovered until May or June.'

'Just had quick chat with JB in paddock. Rossi's shoulder is a big issue. He can only do three lap runs. He reckons there's only 30% strength.'

David: I plucked these comments off the net - if this is inappropriate I suppose you will have to delete them, but I hope not.

I'm willing to bet good money that GP12 1000cc has a semi-conventional frame. They'll put their twist on it like a carbon fibre trellis or something but they've made a wrong turn and they have to go back to the fork in the road. Happens all the time in design.

totally agree gsvrfan, provided they really have had a good go of it. Only Ducati will know that.

I thought I read somewhere sometime ago that part of the reason for the cf was at Caseys request for a stiffer chassis, no doubt there are other aspects such as weight saving et al.
Could be wrong though.

What will be very interesting is if Vale and co get a good base setting and get it to work at all tracks. Will the clear advantage Casey(his ability notwithstanding) had on it at certain tracks, work at all tracks, or will getting a good base setting take away the aggressive nature that makes it competitive.

Exciting times in motogp no question.