The Fog Of War: Just How Do Rossi's And Stoner's Jerez Test Times Compare?

Testing the 2012 MotoGP bikes, when the series ups its capacity limit to 1000cc once again, has raised more questions than it has answered for the media and fans trying to follow the series. The first public test at Brno saw some promising results, with the Hondas and Yamahas fairly evenly matched, and the 1000cc bikes between 0.5 to 1 second faster than the 800s. But Brno has been the only public test, the others all being held behind closed doors - though journalists were present at the Misano test, that one being declared a private test only at the last minute when Honda and Ducati pulled out, leaving the track to Yamaha.

The times from the private tests have been much harder to track down, and though rumors have emerged from all sorts of sources, both verification or official confirmation have been absent. Journalists have been left to cast out their nets among their sources and try to make sense of the numbers being returned. It basically boils down to sifting through the times, and hazarding a guess as to which might be reliable and which are completely off base. 

The biggest source of controversy - probably because these are the most significant numbers for the 2012 season - have been the times from Honda's 1000cc test with Casey Stoner back in May of this year at Jerez, and Ducati's recent test of the brand new aluminium twin spar chassis which Valentino Rossi put through its paces at Jerez just over a week ago. Initial reports suggested that Rossi had been running 1'39s, closely matching Stoner's pace. But that assumes that Stoner was also running 1'39s at Jerez during the test, and paddock rumor has it that Stoner was running a good deal faster than that during his test earlier in May. Two seconds, was the figure most commonly quoted, and rumored to be accurate. 

That is quite a discrepancy, which required further investigation. How could a gap of two seconds be considered to be close to Stoner's time? Were the Ducati sources lying when they said that Rossi had done a 1'39? Were the Honda sources lying when they said that Stoner had done a 1'37? Did Ducati know exactly how fast Honda had gone in the test, or were they just basing themselves on the rumors we are all dealing with?

It's hard to make sense of any of these questions, but it is worth recalling that a private test is not as hermetically sealed an environment as the teams might wish. Along with the team the rider, there are the circuit staff (medical staff and corner workers have to be present, though in much smaller numbers), security staff, often an IRTA observer, staff from Dorna producing the video snippets that appear on the websites, and photographers, either from Dorna or from the agency that provides photos to the team. Keeping a secret among a small group of closely related individuals is hard enough, but when there are upwards of 50 people wandering around the circuit in various places - almost all of whom have a close interest in motorcycle racing - news is almost certain to leak out.

The smart teams allow such news to leak out, usually by leaking it themselves, spun in a particular direction to suit their own ends. Sometimes those times will be accurate, sometimes they'll be either higher or lower than the times actually recorded, depending on what the teams hope to achieve. And so we find ourselves here, speculating on who has the most accurate information, and what it all means.

It's been a frustrating situation for all concerned, and my own investigations have shed only a little clarity on the real times. Two reliable sources say that Rossi was close to Stoner's times: Dennis Noyes - a paddock veteran with deep connections both inside the Jerez circuit and at Ducati - stated on Twitter that his sources had Rossi and Stoner on similar times, and more importantly, Rossi had left the circuit "smiling like a Cheshire cat." Another source with a line into Ducati claimed that Rossi's times at Jerez had been just 0.2 seconds slower than Stoner's set on the Honda back in May. This second source puts Rossi's times on the Ducati well below a 1'39, much closer to a 1'38.0 or possibly even a high 1'37. Whether that is close to Stoner's times or not, that kind of pace on a brand new chassis being given its first outing by a rider is outstanding, and promises much for the future. Noyes' reports of Rossi grinning like a Cheshire cat could well be highly reliable, not so much because of the times set, but perhaps because of the improved front-end feel, the one thing he has complained about all year. The point of the aluminium twin spar is to give him confidence and feedback from the front tire; that is what has been holding him - and every other Ducati rider - back in 2011.

So if a time of 1'38.0 for Valentino Rossi on the aluminium twin spar chassis Ducati is realistic, how about Honda? Where the Ducati team seems to be as watertight as a rusty sieve when it comes to keeping information secret, HRC runs a much tighter ship. Yet even here, there are trickles of information, if you know where to find them. When I asked one source how close to 1'37.1 Stoner had been lapping, I was told that it was not far off, but was left with the impression that this was on the conservative side. The phrase "you should have seen the ideal time," was used, alluding to the theoretical time arrived at by combining the fastest time from each sector of the track. It is almost certain that Stoner's pace was at least in the low 1'37s, and possibly even in the high 1'36s. That would put the new Ducati still well behind the Honda, but with the Ducati having the most room for improvement, the new chassis likely to undergo a number of changes before the season kicks of at Qatar.

An improvement of over a second at a track like Jerez seems remarkable, but that does not mean it is not possible. Where the 2012 Yamaha machines looked fast but easy to control at the public test at Brno, at Misano, they were transformed into much more firebreathing machines. With no official timing, and no bikes to compare against, the 2012 Yamaha M1 wanted to wheelie its way all along Misano's front straight. It seems probable that Yamaha turned the wick up a little at Misano, close to the actual potential of the bike, having backed it off a little at Brno so as not to show their cards. There can be no doubt that Honda and Ducati may also have done the same thing at Jerez, and that Stoner lapped a good deal quicker than he had done on the 800.

In the end, though, we will only get close to the truth at Valencia, the first time all of the 2012 bikes take to the track at the same time. From Valencia onwards, sandbagging offers little advantage, and the bikes will start to run in something approaching their final form. Until then, we can only wait, and speculate.


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This Honda rumor is very confusing. Ducati's simulation (as trust wordy as they migth be) used to say the 1000 would be 0.5 seconds faster around Mugello than an 800 (I think) and some people have said that at some tracks there's not going to be much of a difference (CRT teams pleasing their hopes on that). So either the 1'37 is a little much or the experts know less than they think or the Jerez test was run without fuel limit making the time irrelevant.
Yes I do know that there is a 4th option; me not knowing anything about bikes. But if I'm going to consider that one then why even watch MotoGP.

It's fun, but meaningless. Different days, different weather, different amounts of rubber on the track, electronics not yet optimized for the power characteristics of the 1000's. Even with electronically recorded times accurate to the millisec, it would be hard to make anything of it.

The smiling is probably the most reliable data :)

There's so much that could vary since the Honda test at Jerez.

Personally, I take the Honda and the Ducati times with a pinch of salt... who knows if they are playing games or not, unfortunately, we won't know that until Valencia.

I think from a Ducati perspective (seeing as that's my interest at this moment in time), if Rossi was indeed smiling like a Cheshire Cat then something positive must have come out of it... I haven't heard of him smiling after any of their other tests.

Also, it is my belief that if the new chassis has come out of the box better than the GP11/11.1 then chances are it holds more potential to create big gains, whereas the other bikes have already been improved and tweaked, reducing the scope for large increases.

But, to be frank, I refuse to get my hopes up too high, until I have proof.

Riders are faster on the 2012 tires than on the current ones.
I doubt anybody would run tests without fuel limits, that would be a complete waste of time, especially since it's gonna be one of the main areas of development going from 800 to "1000" with the same fuel allocation.

And the half second improvement reported by Ducati could also be underestimated, so that people lower their expectations for the GP12...and then could be positively impressed.
Keep in mind that Ducati was happy with their GP12 times at Mugello, that is until Stoner rode there on the RC212V and went faster.

That's right! I keep forgetting about the tires. I just can't get excited about their development, probably because racing talk coming down to just tire talk was one of the reasons I stopped watching F1.

I wonder if we'll see a bigger disparity between practice and race times as the same fuel limits as this year force an even bigger battle to control fuel use in the race, while the second half of qualifying practice is done full bore.

After the Motegi MotoGP race, we shall finally see in Valencia who has what and the lap-time games will come to a halt. No matter what Stoner rides, he is super-fast. Stoner only needs to find tires that can withstand the punishment he puts the rubber through with his riding style. 800cc or 1000cc? Stoner will ride the wheels of the bike. Yamaha and Ducati are still playing the catch-up game to the Honda RCV. For Spies' and Hayden's sake, I hope Yamaha and Ducati come out of their corners throwing hard punches at Honda. However, with Stoner's talent and the RCV, Honda will still have the edge on their competition.

Couldn't the same have been said of Rossi/Yamaha when the format switched to 800s in 2007?

History now tells differently.

But yes, roll on Valencia for our first real glimpse of the 1000s. In the mean time, we do still have 4 races and three championships to be decided.

certainly, but 2012 and Ducati's 2011 keeps us entertained in-between races. I think that the more powerful bikes will work for Casey and not against him, the question is how close the Hondas, Yamahas ans Ducatis will be.
Earlier this year there where rumors of a British manufacturer (Norton I think) interested in entering MotoGP. What ever happend to that?

Yes Norton claimed they were looking to join MotoGP. It went exactly where you'd expect- nowhere.

I'm not a pessimist, but when I heard about that rumor, I immediately thought thats all it will ever be - a rumor.
I read a few weeks ago in MCN that Norton were struggling to fill orders at their new factory. They have since gotten a substantial €715K grant, which has upped production to 20 bikes per week.

Moto Gp is a bridge (or several bridges) too far atm. Hope they keep going though, they make classy looking bikes

In many ways 2006 and 2011 are similar. Honda getting a championship after not winning for a few years. The formula switching the next year. Rossi not winning in those years etc. Maybe Ducati can still pull something out for next year like they did in 2007. But if I had it my way I would be happier if they developed a solid foundation for the years to come with a bike that can move forward instead of backward.

Hardly worth comparing what Honda may have done 5 months ago at Jerez with what Ducati did at the same venue a few days ago. There exist just too many variables to even speculate. Patience and the Valencia test is what we have to wait for.
One thing is sure, the Valencia test, provided all the riders are game and 100% able, will tell the story about 'behind closed doors' testing and 1000cc R&D circa 2011.
Cheshire Cats ? Well,let's hope Ducati with Rossi on board have something to grin about post Valencia 2011 unlike 2010. Try as I may, I just can't visualise it.

With 7 of 8 days of private 1000 testing already gone for Ducati, i wonder if we will see the twin spar aluminium chassis with a 800 engine race this year [assuming the engine mounting points allow this]. Even with the smaller motor fitted it would give them much valuable data under race conditions for next year.

Quote from GPone website.

Preziosi denied any chances of seeing further technical upgrades before the Valencia post-season test, since any further chassis modification would require a new engine. "We are working with the mindset that we can't use any more engines, otherwise we will have to start more races from pit lane."

MotoGP needs Ducati to be competitive, so Ducati need to do whatever they need to do to make that happen. That means people like Preziosi may say things and then change their minds, and fair enough too. We want to see works Ducatis competitive with works Hondas and Yamahas, and satellite Ducatis competitive with satellite Hondas and Yamahas. And I am sure Stoner and Lorenzo want Rossi to be competitive because they want to beat him fair and square at every opportunity. No doubt Rossi will want to return the favor. That will undoubtedly boost the popularity of MotoGP as a sport and help MotoGP to survive in the difficult financial times ahead, and that is the most important thing.

My crystal ball sees Rossi picking up the 'phone to Preziosi's boss...

However, practically it would be very difficult for them to introduce a new frame and engine during the fly-away rounds.... assuming that the latest engine didn't actually have mounts ready for the latest version of the frame. And, given the short time span between aluminium v1 and aluminium v2, you might wonder if both were envisaged for testing at the time those engines were built.

If not, you'd wonder why not.

Conservative, manipulative, clinical, secretive, traditional, tight fisted, bland et al. Nothings changed since Soichiro vacated the premises and you'd never describe them as ostentatious or vulgar.
On the flip side we see a senior and much celebrated mechanic whose infernal and embarrassing bolstering of each and every miniscule upgrade of that ducati on his favorite social networking site, result in anything that resembles an improvement from a machine that was in inspiring form at the end of 2010.
While they continue to pin their hopes on a rider who is reluctant to find the limits of a developmentally unstable machine that would make Frankenstein's practice look prudish, ducati will continue to lag behind the rest by at least half a season.
No speculative, starry eyed reckoning will convince me to treat what I've read about the tests of the 2012 machines from this pair, any differently.

Nice tirade there Bob. Hard to disagree... earlier in the season I was thinking that the main outcome of the Rossi/Ducati disaster was the clear demonstration of just how good Stoner actually is, but as it has dragged on I am starting to think that what it really shows is how ordinary Prezioso is... hardly the genius that he is described as. Well, perhaps I am doing him a disservice there, but in general his legacy isn't looking too great at this point in time. Also that (as other posters have suggested) Rossi and JB have simply been riding on the coat tails of good design work by Honda and Yamaha.

Time will tell, meanwhile I hope they find their way because they are sorely missed at the pointy end. Rossi certainly deserves better.

As a footballer opined recently, "genius is really for guys like Norman Einstein" :-)

He seems a very smart engineer, but how did it become convention to describe him as a genius? When Stoner won in 2007? He certainly deserves some respect for building a bike that was good enough to win against Yamaha and Honda. Those bikes being designed by presumably large teams of engineers.

Other question: was Preziosi the designer of the 1098 chassis? It's significantly different to the 999 and it appears to work rather well (in the context of Pirellis and all that). Or was that someone else who we don't hear of?

Oh, ok... Wikipedia tells me it was Giandrea Fabbro, but he seems to be head of a "creative department" and is quoted as saying
"My creative department are closely connected to the technical department. Part of the success of a bike is its technical specs. It is always like this."

Wonder who was doing the technical side, and which dept insisted on the single-sided swingarm?

We don't even need to mention WSBK where Ducati enjoyed great success with various generations of bikes completely different from the japanese bikes, maybe the rules are tailored for Ducati, bla bla bla.

But Preziosi did not stop at designing winning superbikes.

So let's stick to MotoGP, can you imagine ANY factory entering MotoGP:
- scoring a podium on their very first race (and on a technology completely different)
- scoring their first win at only their 6th GP race
- collecting 9 podiums and 3 poles in their first season
- finishing their first championship 4th in the riders rankings
- finishing 2nd in the constructor championship and 3rd in the team standings???

That is Preziosi genius, that is Ducati 2003 season.

Since then, Ducati have had ups and downs (2004 was their worst season, the only one without a win, 2005 Capirex is 6th with 2 wins, 4 podiums and 3 poles, 2006 Capirex is 3rd with 3 wins, 8 podiums and 2 poles) but this first season tells everything there is to know about Preziosi's insight. I doubt anybody can ever equal this feat.

For sure they have dropped the ball this past couple seasons, and they made a huge mistake not listening to Casey when he asked for modifications, but I will not doubt their talent.

One theme I've not seen here (missed it somewhere?) is the issue of development. When Rossi announced he was leaving Yamaha (and when Stoner did the same with Ducati) is it not likely that development of the bikes by the stars of the team was limited or ended with these guys? Who would want (or expect) a guy who was leaving to be a reliable partner in developing next year's machine? What incentive was there for Rossi (or Stoner) to develop a bike for his rivals to use against him in the next season? Honda had no such problem and I propose that a lot of their good fortune in 2011 is for this reason -- an uninterrupted development program. It will be very interesting to see what happens in 2012 (though the testing limits will certainly come into play) with well-known development wizards like Rossi forcing Ducati to come up with a competitive machine while over at Yamaha, do Lorenzo and Spies have the development experience and skill to keep the Yamaha competitive? Will Stoner be able to improve on the Honda, though right now it's not in need of much, but that won't be the case long-term. As an old fart who raced against Rainey, Baldwin, Cooley, Merkel "back in the day" I can tell you I was worthless as a development guy - I could say "this doesn't work" but had little clue as to why or how the heck to fix it. I think there's a HUGE difference in guys who can ride and those who can also tell the engineers what's going on and how to fix it. I think Rossi has both skills but wonder about Stoner and Lorenzo. 2012 and certainly 2013 will see who's good in both areas. I'll bet Rossi, who's already convinced Ducati to try a completely different chassis, will emerge to be competitive again in the next few seasons.

It is normal procedure for riders not contracted for the following season not to do development for next year's bike. Its why Dovi did not test the 2012 machine yet but Pedrosa and Stoner have. I remember reading about Rossi feeling miffed when Yamaha would not let him test the 2011 forks Ohlins was developing. Seems perfectly logical to me. As for Stoner stopping development of the 2010 Ducati after he signed for Honda, he had his best results in the last 6 races of the year, not what one would expect if he was not still trying to get the bike sorted. Between Stoner's and Hayden's results you can say the season ending Ducati was a pretty good bike.

And as far as 'well-known development wizards' goes, maybe not. Rossi's been saying over and over again this year that he does not know how to fix what is wrong or even what the problem really is, that is the factory and engineer's jobs. While Rossi is great at giving good feedback he does not know the why or how of changing the feeling. All of the pairings' major successes were while they were at the forefront of well honed racing departments. It seems like they are a bit 'fish out of water' at Ducati who have a structure completely different than the Japanese racing departments that Rossi and JB cut their teeth on. It just goes to show that a rider's success is built on the work of many invisible people. The rider is a crucial ingredient and crew chief too but there are a lot invisible heroes at winning race teams.

Does Rossi really have a few seasons more? I think expecting him to be competitive in 2013 is a stretch purely on an age basis although he does love to exceed expectations. Performance-wise its do or die in 2012 and if Ducati fails again will he really resign with them for another year? If not, where to go? Stoner will stay at Honda getting more and more comfortable making him even harder to beat.


Doohan won his last championship, IIRC, at 33, on the smokers so on 4 strokes, well, Rossi has years ahead to still be competitive. Rossi is in his prime for a while yet. 4 strokes, I think, have increased their careers.

With all due respect to Mick Doohan, in his last years he didn't have anything like the standard of competitors Rossi has now (Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa). But still, writing off Rossi because of his age is very foolish. While I think that Stoner and Lorenzo are now better riders than the 32 year old Rossi, I am sure Rossi could still give those two a hard time on competitive machinery.

I dont want to strip up things, but quite frankly, i dont see whats so great about, pedrosa, lorenzo and stoner... Every season of the motogp championship, you have 4 top riders in the factory team fighting all the way... infact in the 990 era we have satellite Honda teams like Gresini and Pons fighting for the win...

1958 - John Surtees and Geoff duke ( both are legends now)
1960 -John Surtees 1st, Mike Hailwood 6th..
1965 - John Surtees retires, and Hailwood wins with Agostini in 2nd..
1970-73 - Agostini dominates, 1973, Phil Read takes over...

1985 - Anton Mang and Freddi Spencer competed in the same class

1987 - 1991 - Lawson, Schwantz, Rainey Doohan compete in the same class...

you can do it for all eras.. instead lets track Doohan..

Doohan enters 500cc arena in 1989, in 1990 he was 3rd, in 1991 he was 2nd, in 1992 2nd again, in 1993, he was 4th, and in 1994 he takes the first championship... the only reason he could not get from 89 to 94 was cuz of Rainey and Lawson... thats called competition..

same goes for Lorenzo.. when Lorenzo, and Pedrosa were in 125, pedrosa won all the time.. in 250, Pedrosa won the title with Lorenzo in the same class.. Lorenzo won the next 2 titles in 250 only cuz pedrosa went to MotoGP...

The level of competition did not change.. you are only witnessing 4 guys fighting for the top..

Doohan enters 500cc arena in 1989, in 1990 he was 3rd, in 1991 he was 2nd, in 1992 2nd again, in 1993, he was 4th, and in 1994 he takes the first championship... the only reason he could not get from 89 to 94 was cuz of Rainey and Lawson...

And a massively broken leg while he was leading the championship by a mile in 1992...

List the great premier class riders from the time Schwantz retired until Stoner arrived (on a factory bike) in 2007. Just two, Doohan and Rossi. And these two never competed against each other. There is not another rider in that period that can be compared to Stoner and Lorenzo (maybe Biaggi, but he never won a premier class championship). Yes I know Criville and Roberts Jnr won championships, but they benefited from the hiatus between Doohan's retirement due to injury and Rossi's second year in the senior class.

So no, there wasn't four top riders competing against each other in every era. We went from the Lawson/Gardner/Rainey/Schwantz/early Doohan era to the Rossi/Stoner/Pedrosa/Lorenzo era before we had three or four genuine topliners competing against each other. We know these three guys are top level because all of them have been able to regularly beat Rossi in his prime fair and square. In particular Stoner on a Ducati won more races than Rossi on a Yamaha in the same period, which we can now appreciate was a remarkable feat. Lorenzo was able to beat Rossi on Rossi's own Yamaha, in Rossi's own team. No-one had ever previously done that to Rossi.

So yes, these guys are special, in particular Stoner and Lorenzo.

I'm not denying any ability by these riders, however, I just want to put this out there... why does Lorenzo STILL want to prove that he can beat Rossi one on one then if he has done already?

He says this in an interview over on GPOne and also in the film Fastest. He certainly beasted the field in 2010, but he has not beaten Rossi to a title, both on competitive machinery and both fully fit (this includes Lorenzo's own injuries in 2008 & 2009).

If the guy himself says it, then why is there still this belief floating around that Lorenzo hammered Rossi on equal terms? Remember, there were only 9 points difference before Rossi's leg break and that included 2 races with a duffed up shoulder.

Don't confuse this with me saying Lorenzo only won in 2010 because Rossi was injured, but simply that I agree with Lorenzo that he and Rossi have never quite managed this equal, competitive 1 vs 1 that he desires.

The fact is that Lorenzo did beat Rossi to the title. Rossi's crash was his mistake: crashes and injuries are part of the business. Of course some people are going to say that Lorenzo only won the title because Rossi was injured. But that's history that can never be rewritten, and there is a question mark that Lorenzo will have to live with. But in terms of individual races it is undeniable that Lorenzo was able to match and sometimes beat a much more experienced Rossi on many occasions on equal equipment, and no other Rossi team mate has ever done that. As for Lorenzo's place in history it is too early to say. Stoner on the Honda is the dominant force in MotoGP at the moment, and it is impossible to know how long that might continue. Then there is the possibility that Marquez will become a force in MotoGP. So who knows how we and posterity will view these riders in a few years time. Just enjoy the ride, it will be very interesting!

Rossi IS the reference point. He is a prime candidate for GOAT. That's the whole point. That's the basis for saying that Stoner and Lorenzo are special. They are more or less currently on equal footing and maybe better than the rider who is possibly the GOAT. And in any case a rider who won more 800cc races on a Ducati than Rossi won on a Yamaha, a guy who has already won 31 MotoGP races and will very likely shortly wrap up his second world championship at the age of 26, all in the Rossi era, is obviously special. That is frankly beyond debate.

It's always the same, when a champion dominates many years like Doohan, Rossi, Loeb or Schumacher, the easy way to see it is saying that they have no real opponents.

Well I'm not sure, because when a winning machinary like these guys is on, it is really really hard for the opponents to get the confidence you need to become a champion.

What career Gibernau or Biaggi would have had without Rossi ? Gronholm without Loeb ?

So I'm not really sure we live a time with 4 aliens, Rossi is not the pilot he was, but with a good bike, he still can win (maybe not vs Stoner) ... but the domination is over and I really think the 2001/2005 Rossi would crush the "old Rossi"

By the way, I think Stoner is an alien and will dominate ... but who knows

I note the reference to Rossi's injured shoulder impacting his results. This was caused by a dirt bike accident.
Unlike many of the Australia and US riders, Rossi never raced dirt bikes. Stoner won multiple championships on dirt and this probably contributes to his ability to ride around issues with the bike.
You have to ask - why was Rossi risking injury on a dirt bike?
Normally he was seen in a rally car or testing F1 Ferraris.
Was it just for fun? Or was he trying to gain new skills?
Any ideas anyone?

...ride motocross as a fun activity to keep their fitness up. I think the fact it's risky is something which has always been debated and highlighted, but these guys love to be sat on a bike, whatever form it takes.

Out of interest and slightly off topic, what has Stoner won on the dirt? I've heard it mentioned lots of times, but something I've never looked into.
EDIT: Googled it and it's 41 Dirt & Longtrack titles and 70 State Titles... have no idea of the format or popularity of these, but I'm guessing equivalent of grasstrack in the UK?

Yes, traditionally a smooth dirt track with at least one speedway type corner, anti-clockwise but with one corner that turns right. People used to run the same type of bikes as grass-track, speedway-ish frames but with token brakes. Now I think they've been supplanted by MX bikes.