2011 MotoGP Qatar Day 2 Round Up - Magic Cogs

A long time ago, when I worked at a software company, we had a timekeeping system that consumed hours of our productive time as we tried to keep track of the projects we had worked on every week. One member of our team was smarter than the rest of us, however. He figured he knew roughly what projects he would be working on for the next couple of months, and would fill in his timesheets about 6 weeks in advance. He saved himself a whole heap of time doing that, while we struggled.

Compare and contrast the lot of a MotoGP headline writer. The way things are looking so far, we could fill in the headlines for all of the practice sessions and races for the next three or four MotoGP rounds well in advance, and get about 90% of them absolutely spot on. Put the following words in any order: Stoner, Repsol Honda, Pedrosa, Dominate, Clean Sweep. Throw in a couple of conjunctions, and you are set to go for quite some time.

It goes without saying that the Honda camp are happy, with both Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa half a second ahead of the rest. Stoner confessed to having spent some time watching videos from the 1997, 1998 and 1999 seasons, in which Mick Doohan, Alex Criville and Tady Okada battled all year long for the championship aboard Repsol Hondas. There was even a Yamaha fly in the ointment, in the shape of Max Biaggi, Jorge Lorenzo's hero as a child.

Stoner said he had not even really started pushing the bike yet, and - in a not-so-veiled reference to his former employer Ducati - emphasized that he had not yet felt close to the point where the front wheel would start to let go. That was what put Stoner out of contention on the Ducati last season, and those problems appear to be continuing on to 2011.

Stoner's teammate Dani Pedrosa was the last of the Honda riders to confess to the HRC magic going on in the gearbox, after Pedrosa's manager Alberto Puig had earlier denied that anything was different in the box. Pedrosa reiterated what Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso had said about the new gearbox, saying that it made upshifts much smoother, especially when the bike was leaned hard over. The only negative point was that shifting down while decelerating where a little aggressive, which explains why the Honda riders spent so much time working on the clutches and engine braking at Sepang.

We also asked MotoGP Technical Director Mike Webb whether he had checked the gearbox, and he confirmed that he had, and that it was "100% legal". All he would say about the gearbox itself was that it was "very, very nice" before clamming up entirely on the subject. As Mike Webb is one of the nice guys in the paddock, we decided not to push our luck.

But there is a huge veil of secrecy surrounding Honda's gearboxes. Apparently, there is only one engineer from each team allowed to actually open the gearbox and make changes to the gear ratios. To do so, that engineer takes the engine out of the pit garage to a closed room in the paddock where they can make the changes, reassemble the gearbox and slot it back in the bike.

There is confusion over chassis in both the Honda and Ducati camps, though for entirely different reasons. Dani Pedrosa still hasn't decided which chassis he wants to use for the season, alternating between the final 2010 season version and the new stiffer 2011 version being used by both Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso. Pedrosa feels happiest on the 2010 chassis, as he understands it best. The 2011 is more stable under braking, but is a little bit harder to turn.

Nicky Hayden then contradicted what Vito Guareschi told MotoMatters.com yesterday about which chassis he was using. It was not a special chassis, he insisted, but merely a standard chassis with the headstock set a little looser to give it a little bit more flex. It certainly hadn't helped much, as Hayden is continuing to struggle to get the bike to work.

The euphoria on the other side of the Marlboro Ducati was short lived. After posting a highly promising 5th fastest time on Thursday, the two sessions on Friday saw little improvement by Valentino Rossi. His shoulder was causing him a lot of pain in the many right handers around Qatar, but the squad had still not found a significant improvement in the setup. While everyone around him was going significantly faster, Rossi had only found a couple of tenths, ending the day in 8th.

The Yamahas were faring much better, both Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo pleased with their progress so far. Lorenzo's runs were particularly impressive, but were not producing the sort of information that shows up in the timesheets. Even then, though, both Lorenzo and Spies didn't believe there was much they could do about the Hondas. Spies said he would be happy if he could fight for the podium, and would be disappointed if he finished outside the top 5.

So far, it looks like we will have two separate races on Sunday: between the first two Repsol Hondas, and between Spies, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, and maybe Simoncelli and the one man you can never count out, Valentino Rossi. It may not be one great big giant dust-up, but the times between the groups look pretty tight indeed.

While guessing the exact podium is turning out to be trickier than it might seem, there is no doubt about who is going to end up in last place. Toni Elias' return to MotoGP has been dismal, the reigning Moto2 champion consistently 3 seconds off the pace, and half a second or more behind MotoGP rookie Karel Abraham.

Elias' problem is entirely down to the combination of his unusual riding style and the direction the Bridgestone tires have taken in the past couple of years. Even back in 2008, the construction Bridgestone was using had a softer carcass. Now, though, with the stiffer, new generation Bridgestone Battlax MotoGP slicks, the stiffness of the carcass was preventing Elias from getting any heat into the rear tire, and the slick was simply never getting up to temperature properly. Until the tire and suspension techs can find a solution to this, Elias - rumored to have bought his way into the LCR Honda ride - is destined to be stuck at the back.

Despite being a dead cert for last, Elias' chances of picking up some points ironically improved on Friday night. Alvaro Bautista had a huge crash in the final left-hander during FP3, tumbling through the gravel and breaking his left femur. He was immediately taken to hospital, where he is expected to have a pin inserted on Saturday, before being flown home to Spain.

Bautista's absence sparked a wave of speculation as to who would replace him, with John Hopkins ruled out by the fact that the American was already back in California, and couldn't be flown back to Qatar in time for qualifying, which he would have to take part in to qualify for the race. By a process of elimination, some paddock insiders hit upon Ant West on the hopelessly inadequate MZ to replace Bautista tomorrow. West has experience on a MotoGP bike and with the Bridgestone tires, having ridden a Kawasaki until the end of the 2008 season. But it may be wiser to skip Qatar altogether, if Dorna is willing to let Suzuki do such a thing.

The tire situation is exactly what has made making sense of the Moto2 class such a difficult task. Spec tire supplier Dunlop brought two choices of tire to the Qatar race, a harder compound and a softer compound. The hard compound is universally loathed in the paddock, and no one can get any use out of it. Several crew chiefs independently described the tire to me with a single, four-letter word. That word always rhymed with "kit".

The terrible tire caught a lot of riders out, with Kenan Sofuoglu one of the high-profile victims of the tire. The Technomag CIP rider spent Thursday on the worthless hard tire, and left the track fuming and confused at his fate. Friday turned out much better for the Turk, Sofuoglu getting more into the swing of things, though still down in 15th place, and a second off of the pace of Marc Marquez in 2nd place.

Sofuoglu was just one of many. I spoke to Robertino Pietro of the Italtrans STR team on Friday, and he said that after FP1, he'd been just about ready to quit. The tire had felt as if it had oil on it, and he had been dismayed to see he was nearly 8 seconds off the pace. After he put the softer tire on, he cut 4 seconds off his best time, and though not exactly up front, was at least in contention with the rest of the field.

All of the Moto2 teams are looking forward to Jerez, though. Dunlop is bringing the new tire they tested at Jerez to the race, and Scott Redding's crew chief Pete Benson reckoned that tire alone would be worth a second a lap. With the Moto2 class still so new, there's still a lot of work to be done on the tires.

As for the results, a picture of who is competitive and who is not is starting to emerge. Marc Marquez, Stefan Bradl, Scott Redding, Thomas Luthi, Andrea Iannone, Julian Simon and Yuki Takahashi are all fast, and all are looking competitive. It is probably Marquez who has looked most impressive, given that the Spaniard has yet to race aboard a four-stroke. Marquez is already being referred to as a potential winner.

Total votes: 383
Total votes: 120

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Comments

Great write-up but is the end missing?
Hope to see Hopkins back on a Gp bike soon, bad luck for Bautista

Total votes: 405

...back in the 'teens in FP3?

What happened there?  Saving the stripes?

Total votes: 370

Cruel blow for Bautista. Down to 16 bikes before the lights have even gone out. I'd like to see Ant West back in motogp, give the ride to him.

Total votes: 400

The contradictory statements continue to flow from the Ducati camp, to the point where one has to wonder if the riders can have a lot of confidence in management knowing where their arse is without a map (or worse, even WITH one..).

I can't imagine that JB is letting things get out of control, but even Rossi's comments that they had failed to properly assess an earlier set-up option properly suggests there is altogether an overwhelming amount of development stuff to wade through and simply not enough time nor coordination for it to happen smoothly and effectively. I am reminded of the description of a Ferrari F1 pit-stop in the 70's as total chaos with added spanners...

Total votes: 376

are probably some Machiavellian scenes unfolding. Having dumped # 27 at the behest of the Phillip Morris puppet masters and promised that the recruitment of God was going to deliver the second coming ( all be it at a hefty price !! ), Ducati have expended some serious $$$$, and are probably having to justify it, possibly under the eye of some corporate toady ( a failed engineer type maybe ? ) who is reporting to the bean counters, who are.............?

Maybe # 46 should resurrect the chicken helmet emblem, sans head...............

Total votes: 365

Hopefully West gets a ride this weekend.

I'd much rather see someone out there on the Suzuki than not at all, and West is a much better rider than his machinery in GP & Moto2 suggests.

Total votes: 371

Rewind to 2007.Casey's achievement gets plastered by many,citing a huge engine advantage by virtue of the Desmo valve gear.
Fast forward to 2011.Casey has a clear advantage by virtue of 'Desmo' gearbox.
I can hear it already.
#27 and the Magic Bullit is actually #27 Casey Stoner.
Ducati are finding it out the hard way.
Its really sad that Alvaro is down and out.I hope the remaining riders get through the rest of the weekend unscathed.
Inasmuch as qualifying and the race goes,I wouldn't be too complacent within the HRC camp.The Yamaha duo may not be the pace setter's,but over race distance with good conditions,watch out.
Especially in the latter stages of the race.In George and Ben,Yamaha have arguably the best 'scrappers' on the entry list.
Rossi is always a factor,but as ever he has his bases covered. Failure=shoulder.
Success=genius.Desmo and Ducati have nothing to do with it.

Total votes: 368

funny how rossi blames his shoulder and "losses strength" anytime he flops yet feels all good and ready to go once he finds a little improvement. burgess' interview that casey is the reason for honda's speed may just be a tacit acknowledgement of what we have known all along. casey is the fastest rider out there and with the ability to adapt and go fast on any machine...considering the different styles needed to ride the ducati and the honda. finally, Rossi and burgess will keep their noses out of casey's business and focus on trying to get close to winning a race on the bike with the most number of wins since the 800s. in the heat of jerez and on a tight and twisty circuit, we will finally know if the honda is a one off or if it can work as well as it has been on the fast and flowing circuits of sepang and qatar.

Total votes: 395

Stoner will nail this first race. And if Dani doesn't fly away in the early laps, Lorenzo's and Spies' breath will be felt all over his neck. Dani hasn't proved much of a fighter so far, so if the M1s aren't far in the back, they may have a chance for 2nd podium. Simoncelli could produce a nice surprise -but maybe this is just a hope.
Valentino could play a role, but only if one or two of the front guys commit suicide.
But, while a dogfight is good wherever it takes place, the game nowadays is named "winning the race", so if it doesn't happen for the top spot, people will get bored. This is not a B League game; it's all happening for the top spot.

Total votes: 376

Ask anybody-ANYBODY-what was memorable about Motegi last year, and they will speak of a dogfight that happened NOT for the race win.

Boring because not at the front? Methinks not.

Look up "boring" in the dictionary. You will find "10-second win from the front after flag-to-flag lead", complete with two or three riders' photos.

Total votes: 406

Pitbull I thought it was the tyre advantage Casey had in 2007 that made the difference. In 2008 he still had a massive power advantage(watch the racing again you will get a surprise) but with the same tyres Rossi made a monkey of him. Still what this has to do with today is beyond me some people just can't help whinging about how unfair it all is for Casey and how fortunate Rossi is... Talking of blame your hero didn't take any for Ducati going from total dominance to abject failure in one season now did he?? Why is it I get the feeling that the Rossi fans will enjoy watching Rossi trying to sort the Ducati and finishing off the podium, more than Caseys fans will enjoy watching him winning on a great bike...

Anyway Casey looks to be in dominant form here(as usual), watching his on board lap when he finally dipped under Danis early quick time was a thing of raw beauty, but I'm not ruling Dani out just yet Casey had to work hard to get there. Praying for racing.

For any technical people, something has been bugging me for a while, when a rider says he put a fast lap on a tyre that had already done 20 laps but had never run more than 10 laps at a time. Can they accurately mimic what happens with 20 continous laps on a tyre that has done say four, 5 lap runs??

Total votes: 405

In 08 stoner was within 20points of rossi after winning 3 straight races (donington, assen, sachsenring) before crashing out in 3 successive races in laguna, brno and misano. then we all know he began struggling to cure the front end problems of the ducati (as rossi has found out first hand) yet still finished runner-up to Rossi with 280 points, the highest amount of points ever gained without taking the title. the ducati has never been the same since the 07 season where stoner was all praise for the ducati front end yet he still ground out 3 victories from aragon last year. in recent years, winning the championship is (and will be) about the best rider/bike combination; the level of competition has skyrocketed to a level where only rider skill will never be enough to win the championship anymore. so even as we acknowledge that rossi is the best all round rider there is today, there will be no miracles at "welkom" neither will he win the championship unless the ducati solve their problem and give him a competitive bike.

Total votes: 389

The number of rounds increased to 17 in '05, and to 18 in '07. So it stands to reason that in '07 or a season shortly thereafter (e.g. '08) the 2nd place rider would score a lot more points than any such placed rider in seasons previously. You need to normalise the points scored to the number of points achievable in the season if you want to make a reasonably sensible comparison across seasons.

Total votes: 407

"For any technical people, something has been bugging me for a while, when a rider says he put a fast lap on a tyre that had already done 20 laps but had never run more than 10 laps at a time."

What they mean is, they didn't take the tires off the bike (or, more precisely, didn't switch tires) during trips in to the pits.  So, they continue counting the laps and report that when they feel it's noteworthy.

This is not the same as the tires have gone a continuous race distance, however.  The process of cooling down during a stop in the pits closes the door on what is called a "heat cycle", which alters the tire each time (usually making it more durable).  And, the heat build-up over the course of a complete race also works differently on tire behavior than would the same number of laps broken up by stops.

But, with the new rules and schedule, there's not going to be any other way.  The only guys running "race simulations" in FP3 sessions will be the ones who think they can't get their setup any better and have been previously suprised by something the bike did toward the end of a race.

Total votes: 364

Very odd that while everyone talks about Rossi's battle to try and "fix" the Ducati, there is little mention of the fact that until now, the Ducati has been the fastest bike at this track over the last couple of years. Stoner won the first race here and the following one, and was leading last year when the front end let go and he binned it.

Rossi does not need to fix it... he already has the bike which has always been the fastest at this track.

Or is it just that Stoner is a much better rider?

Total votes: 378

judging by hayden's poor performance so far in qatar, maybe we can say the ducati is a harder prospect this year and a step backwards compared to previous years...or last year when hayden was only a few secs from the podium. the ducati sure needs a fix undoubtedly, yet there is no doubt stoner is the fastest (not necessarily the better) rider on the grid...

Total votes: 378

So the fastest rider is not the better rider? Interesting concept. I thought this was racing?

And Nicky's poor times can be put down to the fact that he is being used as a test mule to try out new bits before Valentino decides whether to take them on or not. Gotta feel sorry for Nicky. He's gone from a guy who was pushing for podiums to being a test rider for Valentino again.

Total votes: 396

Delete it, David. I'm not lowering my standards.

Total votes: 419

As both a Stoner fan and a Rossi fan, I don't wish ill on either man, but there is a certain perverse glee in watching the GOAT struggle with the bike he told the world Stoner simply wasn't riding hard enough last year.

Total votes: 384

Stoner and Pedrosa have had similar race pace in past and the latter has crossed the finish line first more often than not. Back then Stoner was wrestling the mighty Ducati but the Honda wasn't fully sorted. When Pedro is on he's really fast. We've seen him post faster lap times during race compared to qualifying. I would not give the win the Stoner just yet. I hope neither one crashes trying to escape because the yams will gladly pick up the pieces.

Total votes: 434