The Tale Of The Tape: A Look At The Lap Times On Day 1 Of The Qatar Test

Whenever MotoGP testing is underway, there is a ravenous hunger for times among fans and followers of the sport. Every update is greedily consumed, every time heatedly debated, as we search to make sense of the posted times. 

Two factors stand in the way of making an accurate analysis of the times, however. The first is that only the fastest lap time set by a rider is posted to the results page, and the second - related - issue is that the full timesheets - containing the times for every lap set for each rider - are not made available to the public. The times are printed out and distributed in the media center, but they are not published on the official MotoGP.com website, unlike the results for each session during a race weekend.

Being at Qatar, we get to see the actual timesheets, and it is immediately clear that the final posted times do not tell the full tale. The order the riders finished in is distorted by a couple of riders who set a very fast lap. Here's how the top 7 riders finished, including everyone who set a time under the 1'57 mark:

Pos No. Rider Bike Time Diff Diff Previous
1 26 Dani Pedrosa Honda 1:56.271    
2 27 Casey Stoner Honda 1:56.414 0.143 0.143
3 7 Hiroshi Aoyama Honda 1:56.444 0.173 0.030
4 11 Ben Spies Yamaha 1:56.563 0.292 0.119
5 1 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1:56.682 0.411 0.119
6 5 Colin Edwards Yamaha 1:56.742 0.471 0.060
7 4 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1:56.780 0.509 0.038

Going by those results, Dani Pedrosa was clearly faster than Casey Stoner, and Ben Spies just edged out his teammate and reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. When you add in the number of laps set under 1'57, you get a slightly different picture:

Pos No. Rider Bike Time Diff # 1'56 laps
1 26 Dani Pedrosa Honda 1:56.271   2
2 27 Casey Stoner Honda 1:56.414 0.143 12
3 7 Hiroshi Aoyama Honda 1:56.444 0.173 3
4 11 Ben Spies Yamaha 1:56.563 0.292 1
5 1 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1:56.682 0.411 13
6 5 Colin Edwards Yamaha 1:56.742 0.471 2
7 4 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1:56.780 0.509 4

What immediately leaps out at you is that of all those riders who ran a 1'56, only two of them - Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo - were able to run them consistently. 

Looking at the times further, then the 0.268 gap which separates Stoner from Lorenzo is not as large as it at first seems. Examining the lap times in tenths of seconds, you get a better idea of what might be described as race pace. The fastest lap Casey Stoner was consistently setting was a 1'56.6, of which he posted 6, half of his total laps under 1'57. Jorge Lorenzo's pace, on the other hand, centered around 1'56.7. The Spaniard set 5 of his 13 sub-1'57s in either the 1'56.6s or the low 1'57s. The gap between the two is much closer than it appears on the headline results, and if they were to race tomorrow, then it would be a fair bet that the race would turn into a duel between the Honda of Casey Stoner and the Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo.

While both Stoner and Lorenzo were capable of consistently reproducing 1'56 laps, only one other rider could string 1'56s together in a sequence. Dani Pedrosa, Colin Edwards and Andrea Dovizioso all produced multiple fast laps, but they did them singly, with 1'57s between them. Hiroshi Aoyama, on the other hand, strung all three of his 1'56s together in a single run, his last three laps of a run in the middle of the test. Aoyama has been quietly impressive during testing so far, and his ability to put a string of fast laps together may throw up a surprise or two during the 2011 MotoGP season.

 

Total votes: 377
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Comments

for providing these precious insights into the full timing results, and demonstrating what a skewed perspective we receive from looking at the fastest laps from each rider alone and out of context.
This stuff really is priceless to us drooling masses, eager to get our hands on any info we can.
This analysis clearly demonstrates the cream rising to the top and only adds to the anticipation I feel.
May we witness some great battles at the front this season!
And ditto the above comments re the factory Ducati team.

Total votes: 400

being up there doesn't surprise me all that much - he was my 'dark horse' pick for last season but apparently didn't have a competitive bike. I'd be very chuffed to see him in the mix this year.

Total votes: 382

Very interesting data!

One thing EVERYONE wants is close racing this year. Add to that the desire to see a close battle for points for the rider and a close battle for the manufacturer points. This data at least gives us hope that we won't see a tearaway Honda year with all other manufacturers fighting for the scraps.

Total votes: 351

David, thanks for the enlightening info. Is it true that Valentino also made a useful stint of consistent laps? As 4 me, the more the merrier, I am looking forward to some real, combative, dog-fight racing. U light the candle of hope for us.

Total votes: 390

And this is why I love to read this site and ingest all the data like a gourmet meal.

Total votes: 374

Interesting to see Dovizioso knocking out more fast laps than Pedrosa. Also that Lorenzo was so dominant in that stat compared to Spies.

Total votes: 409

Whilst I take your comments on board David, the mere fact that Dani was able to run three quarters of a second under 1:57 indicates to me that he'd have had no problem doing sub 1:57's regularly if that was his agenda.

Total votes: 329

You're completely right. We don't really know what Pedrosa's agenda was, though he just said he'd mostly been working on fuel maps. That's what makes figuring out what the teams are doing so hard.

Total votes: 368

Thanks for highlighting the nitty gritty of this final test. Impressive stuff from Hiro. Expected stuff from George and Casey. Hearkening back to 250's final season,I'm really not too surprised that a fully fit Hiro on a bike equal to Simmo's could well shine.
Dani is a little confusing. Apparently he has still not decided on which chassis to run with whilst trying this and that with fuel mapping.
Therein may also exist some clarity.Dani is as quick as any of them on any day,
but fuel consumption issues over race distance at certain circuits last year may have given HRC something for Dani to expose. At the end of the day he is their most successfull and experienced racer in 800.
Tomorrow,after tonight's final test,I will be persuaded to look at another angle.
The nature of pendulums !!!

Total votes: 372

Thanks for the breakdown David! This is the kind of stuff that keeps me coming back. You don't get this kind of insight from some of the other sites

Total votes: 363

It's pretty typical for Spies to start slow and build to a crescendo as race time approaches.

I'm hoping this is the case this week anyway - :-)...

Can't wait for Sunday. I've subscribed to MotoGP.com this year and it's been worth the money just for viewing last years video's!

Total votes: 360

2nd through sixth places on the timesheets are separated by LESS THAN FIFTEEN HUNDREDTHS.

In the grand scheme, it means nothing, but it's cool, nonetheless...

Total votes: 397

...(of the minute-at-a-time lap time updates) can be found right now on the homepage of motogp.com if you like that kinda thing. :)

You can even write down the lap times so that you can keep track of the trends in the riders' lap times...or you can just let David do that (the better option). :)

Total votes: 387