2011 Silverstone MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Three Point Seven Six One Seconds

There is plenty to talk about after qualifying on Saturday - both here in Silverstone and over in Misano in Italy - but there is only one topic of conversation throughout the paddock. The magic number being bandied about is 3.761, the gap from Valentino Rossi - in 13th (yes, you heard that right, 13th) place on the grid - to the polesitter for Sunday's race Casey Stoner. A quick straw poll of the media center suggested this was the largest gap between Rossi and pole in recent history, with most journalists saying it is probably his biggest deficit ever in Grand Prix, and maybe even of his racing career.

So what is a nine-time World Champion doing so very far off the pace? Rossi knows exactly what the problem is - the Italian is struggling on corner entry, can't carry the corner speed he wants to and can't get the bike to to turn - but finding a solution is a completely different matter. Jeremy Burgess and his pit crew tried a bunch of solutions throughout practice and not one of them appeared to work. Whatever they did, Rossi stayed resolutely stuck near the bottom of the timesheets, and many, many seconds off the pace.

Rossi himself is mystified. At Barcelona, his team had cut his deficit to the race winner Casey Stoner by half since Qatar, Stoner's advantage around 7 seconds. Here at Silverstone, Stoner is pulling that gap in just two laps, and over a twenty-lap race Rossi could be crossing the line a minute and a quarter after the winner. When asked, none of the other riders had an explanation for Rossi's problems, saying only that Rossi simply did not look comfortable on the Ducati.

One theory put forward by paddock veteran Dennis Noyes is that Rossi is still trying to turn the Ducati into a Yamaha and ride it like one. The last person to win on a Ducati - the aforementioned Casey Stoner - is tending to agree. "Valentino keeps saying he needs to make the Ducati better for him," Stoner said, "which I guess is more like a Yamaha." This was not the right direction, in Stoner's opinion, and he picked out Nicky Hayden as an example. "The biggest surprise for me this year has been Nicky," Stoner told reporters. "It seems like he was waiting for Valentino to come along and fix the bike and make it better for him to ride," Stoner explained, "but if Nicky just concentrated and rode like he did last year, he'd be having much better results than what he's had so far."

I asked Stoner whether he took any pleasure in seeing Rossi struggle on the bike, after Rossi had made a few pointed comments about the Australian's performance on the bike in 2010, suggesting that it was hard to tell the potential of the 2010 Ducati because Stoner simply wasn't riding it hard enough. But what had upset Stoner most had not been the comments from Rossi about his riding, but from Jeremy Burgess about his team's inability to fix the bike's problems. "For me the biggest one was Jerry Burgess saying that he'd fix the bike in 80 seconds. This is saying things against my team, calling them stupid, basically, that we're useless, we can't do anything, we can't set up a bike. They've had it for long enough now to be able to do something with it, but they still seem to be struggling with it," Stoner said.

But Stoner still has sympathy for Ducati, though. "The fact that Ducati's struggling with it doesn't make me happy. I know how much effort those guys put into that bike and what they do, and they're not getting a reward for this. So I really feel for them, but at the same time, it's better if people keep their opinions to themselves until they've tested things,"Stoner added, referring to Burgess' comments on setup. "They looked at the bike from the outside and thought they knew exactly what it needed, and have since been proven wrong."

Rossi's problems are starting to have an even bigger impact on the series than at first meets the eye. The media are a fickle lot at the best of times - though no less fickle than the fans who devour their every word - and the daily press debriefs in the Ducati hospitality are starting to thin noticeably. At the start of the year, it was standing room only, especially when Rossi was holding court in Italian, but today there was room enough for everyone. The Italian press appears to be slowly migrating into Marco Simoncelli's garage, his debriefs (held in the back of the San Carlo Gresini Honda garage) now being held in front of a packed crowd. The press appear to be following the favor of the fans, as SuperSic is receiving the accolades of the British crowd all around the Silverstone track.

Simoncelli has been outstanding so far this weekend, and was strong on both soft and hard tires in practice. The Italian clearly has the pace to at least follow Stoner, though he may be missing the final tenth or so to be capable of launching an attack. But as Ben Spies put it this evening "both me and Marco have nothing to lose, we're not chasing a championship or anything. So maybe we can take a few more risks to get a result."

Spies has identified one aspect that may be capable of injecting a little interest into what is otherwise threatening to turn into yet another parade. Jorge Lorenzo is not too far off of Stoner, but unless he can beat him into the first corner, he will have little chance of holding him back. But with Stoner and Lorenzo the only two realistic candidates for the title this season, both are fractionally more cautious than they might be otherwise, preferring to score points for 2nd or 3rd, instead of risking it all for the win and crashing. Neither Marco Simoncelli nor Ben Spies have much hope of taking the championship, and so have a little bit more freedom to take risks chasing a win, especially important given that the race looks like being wet. If they do, then the race could be a lot tighter than we've been expecting.

Where Rossi will end is anybody's guess, his best hope is to get well inside the top 10. But it is far too early to be writing the Italian off completely, as Rossi has shown in the past. Silverstone is probably a complete write off, as is a large part of the 2011 season, but the return of the 1000s could see Rossi back at the sharp end. The improvement is probably not going to be from the extra power of the bikes, but rather from the rear end of the GP12. That bike has none of the rear stability problems that plague the GP11, but simply transferring the GP12's rear end onto this year's bike is not an option - at least not for now. Rossi could well be back, and competitive, in 2012, but he - and even more so, his fans - have a lot of grinning and bearing it to do.

Outside of MotoGP, the new wave of riders is coming through in the support classes. Marc Marquez grabbed pole in Moto2, while Maverick Vinales took top spot in the 125cc class, the first poles for each rider in their respective classes. With Alex Marquez and Alex Rins also set to join the championship from next year, there is another gaggle of outstanding riders set to join the paddock, and once again, rather worryingly, all of them are Spanish.

In Misano, another Spaniard is set to shine, despite having been pipped to the pole by Kawasaki's Tom Sykes. Carlos Checa has been strong all weekend, and his only real rival for the World Superbike title managed to crack a bone in his ankle during FP2 before Superpole. Max Biaggi's title chase is far from over, but with two races on Sunday, and two more at Aragon a week later, Biaggi is making it very far from easy for himself to defend his title. Ducati may be struggling in MotoGP, but in World Superbikes, they once again own the class, despite having withdrawn their factory team.

There's too much racing on Sunday - MotoGP, World Superbikes, the 24 hour race at Le Mans, followed by the Formula One Grand Prix from Montreal - but the benefit is we should see at least a couple of good races. What MotoGP needs is a close and thrilling battle all race long for the lead. Given Casey Stoner's recent record, there is a very good chance that that will turn out to be just wishful thinking.

Total votes: 435
Total votes: 64

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Comments

I feel like we've all heard this Ducati story before. Vale is going through what every Ducati rider but Stoner has: bad testing and season start, a weekend or 2 where they seem to see a light at the end of the tunnel, then another weekend when the bike bites back and they realize the light they see is the headlight of Stoner's oncoming Honda.

After seeing so many good riders go through the same progression the only conclusion is that Stoner's method of riding it at 110% all the time is the only way to go fast on the Ducati. A high DNF count is the unfortunate side effect. I think Rossi is just not willing to take those risks, especially after last year's injury. The only consolation is that most of Stoner's crashes were low risk front end losses. Looking back on the number of offs Casey had it is a wonder he was not injured that often. His comments on Nicky seem spot-on, I had hoped for much better results from him this year even if he had the same exact bike but he seems to have gone backwards.

Comparing Casey at his best on the GP1X and Rossi at his best on anything but the Duc you can see that Rossi at his best is always smooth smooth smooth, a style that the Duc seems to chew up and spit out. Can he change styles that radically? Time will tell but it is also against him.

On top of all these troubles are we expected to accept that with 2-4 days of contracted rider testing the 2012 bike at one track they have the rear end problem solved? Maybe Ducati need a bit of sunshine to brighten up their garage but until they release some testing times I find it hard to believe and sort of irrelevant. Rossi can't spend significant time testing the bike so at this point all it is is a distraction.

David, great detail on what you discussed but you only mention 4 riders! CE getting 8th with a freshly plated collarbone surely deserved a mention? Karel in 6th too. And if the extent of Rossi's poor results having a big impact on the sport are more reporters interview other riders them I think we are moving in the right direction.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 425

i await the day burgess, and rossi, will own up to their howler and apologize to stoner and his erstwhile ducati crew for that derogatory "gone in 80s" remark! its become clearer daily who the more talented riders are in this business given the level playing field that the single tire rule offers and the insight gained with riders switching manufacturers!!!
good thing too that rossi's shoulder is healed and we can know for certain where the problems lie.that said, i hope he sorts out that ducati before season over so we can enjoy some close racing

Total votes: 471

the fastest rider in the paddock on his day - but a racer? Not so sure. On the other hand the best defense is good offense for winning the title - I.E if no one can stay with him - he really does not have to race. He seems to be really hitting is stride with honda and this is not going to be good for viewing IMHO.

I think Rossi is popular for a number of reason - but for me, most of the racing I have seen over the past several years involved Rossi and someone. So I certainly hope he can make something of this year... though the sand is trickling through the hour glass week by week.

VR must be extremely frustrated, and sick of eating crow. But at this point he's not making excuses so I have to give him props for that. I think Stoner comments are right on about the whole situation. I also think that JB owes an apology. I am not fond of Casey's persona, nor a number of his comments (today's really hit the mark however) - but damn he can ride.

Total votes: 408

has so often been taken at the time as excuses, or moaning, or bad attitude, yet on many occasions he has later proven to have been correct. It seems at times as if it is only taken as correct when someone else says it - remember the whole 'Stoner only wins because of the t/c' urban legend?

I'm not surprised that he was more annoyed at J.B.s comments, because he is very loyal to his team (and has been pretty decent about Ducati as a whole). Then again, he actually doesn't need to say too much, because what is playing out now is saying it for him.

Total votes: 439

My take is that the big bang was a great idea for an inline 4, but a disaster for a V4. Ever since it was introduced the words 'understeer' and 'too much rear traction' keep appearing. Stoner suggested that Rossi use the screamer engine in 2011, but the reason he gave was speed. I am sure Stoner would have elected for the screamer had he stayed with Ducati, and not just for speed. Why have Rossi and Burgess stuck to the big bang? Rossi was still carrying an injury when he tested the screamer. Thus it cannot be considered a thorough test. Why did Ducati bring the screamer engine to the test if the big bang was supposed to be superior?
I also suspect that, having being credited with a great deal of the success related to the cross plane Yamaha, Rossi's judgment is impaired. In professional life we always tend to stick to our successes, and motorcycle racers have huge egos. This is what I have made from the details and the race results since the beginning of 2010. A little bit of investigation by David would be able to uncover a lot more about this, and I am sure an interview with Stoner could be quite revealing.
Of course my hypothesis is excluding the possibility that the big bang could be made to work. Does a V4 need to be made more tractable, an inline 4 does of course, but a V4? Even if it could be successful, it should not be the rider's responsibility to carry that burden. Racers win because of their own self belief, and it has been my experience that they are fragile. One bad crash, one incident that threatens that self belief and it becomes a downward spiral. I hope David can follow this up.
cheers

Total votes: 419

obviously do his talking on the track, he need not say much else. But then he does, which is great for the media and the fans. Being fastest on the timesheets tends to add credibility to your comments, as #46 demonstrated for so long. So now that the 2011 pecking order starts to work itself out, it's also interesting to observe Stoner's off-the-bike performance, he seems to take that aspect quite seriously as well.

Total votes: 403

"At Barcelona, his team had cut his deficit to the race winner Casey Stoner by half since Qatar" We hear this sort of comment all the time from various riders/teams, however this assumes both riders are riding at 100% for the whole race (or being forced to conserve the tyre?). The reality is that often the leader is managing the gap to the second rider for much of the race and the other rider may or may not be settling for position several laps before the race finishes. This is hardly a useful method to measure your development progress.

Total votes: 444

superb comment! obviously stoner was coasting home to victory and seemed to be able to lower his times anytime it seemed like lorenzo reduced the deficit thereby managing the lead at a rather comfortable level...something he couldnt do on the ducati which required that he kept pushing hard to keep the heat in the tyres as any drop in tire temp would result in a crash. stoner also had to thread carefully when it started drizzling so rossi and ducati may just have been basking in false hopes of halving their deficit to the front. how easy that ducati must feel to ride compared to the hugely bucking and weaving GP10.

Total votes: 469

superb comment! obviously stoner was coasting home to victory and seemed to be able to lower his times anytime it seemed like lorenzo reduced the deficit thereby managing the lead at a rather comfortable level...something he couldnt do on the ducati which required that he kept pushing hard to keep the heat in the tyres as any drop in tire temp would result in a crash. stoner also had to thread carefully when it started drizzling so rossi and ducati may just have been basking in false hopes of halving their deficit to the front. how easy that honda must feel to ride compared to the hugely bucking and weaving GP10.

Total votes: 400

Bring back the trellis frame! Unfortunately with the new superbike going "frameless" I fear this may not happen. Ducati may have a very long road still to go to truly solve this problem.

Total votes: 442

Burgess said recently;

"There are a number of settings I’d like to go through with him again that we ran earlier and I think it would be beneficial. I think we can make big steps quite easy but we have been there and it is a big change to the bike. When we did it before he wasn’t at his best and perhaps a lot of the stuff we changed we didn’t get the correct answer from him in the sense he wasn’t fit enough to ride the bike or understand how it was."

Is it possible they've been testing these settings at Silverstone during practice in an an attempt to include/eliminate them from future thought processes?

Rossi has been top Ducati to now, and is also riding the bike just as fast as Casey did last year at the tracks visited so far. Three point seven six one seconds is not indicative and even the smuggest of doubters must realise this will not be a reality come race day..especially if it rains.

Total votes: 438

Not sure what stats you are looking at, because Rossi in 2011 has generally been slower than Stoner in 2010 at the tracks visited so far. And the problem is that both Honda and Yamaha are generally faster than last year at these same tracks, and sometimes a lot faster. So Rossi needs to be faster than Stoner was last year, but he is not. And to make matters worse, Hayden is generally slower than he was last year. So it has be concluded that Ducati have gone backwards since Rossi and Burgess joined the team. And Rossi's performance at Silverstone so far is just plain embarrassing, mystifying, and rather sad. He was just as far off the pace in the wet as he was in the dry, something Rossi himself acknowledged, so a wet race is not likely to help him. This kind of performance from Rossi and Ducati is not good for MotoGP, because MotoGP needs Ducati to be competitive for the sake of the sport. Unfortunately the only solution Ducati ever had is called Stoner, and he has gone to greener pastures at Honda.

Total votes: 429

Raceday: 2010 to 2011..

Qatar: Stoner 55.5, Rossi 56.0, fastest lap race.

Jerez: Wet 2011, Rossi fastest lap.

Estoril: Stoner 39.0, Rossi 38.3, fastest lap race.

Leman: Stoner 35.5, Rossi 34.2, fastest lap race.

Cataly: Rossis 2011 race time is faster than Stoners in 2010.

Total votes: 424

You selectively quote only those stats that support your case without looking at the whole picture. As I said, Honda and Yamaha are faster this year than last, so Ducati ought to be faster. But looking at the whole picture (testing, practice, qualifying, race) Rossi has generally been significantly slower than Stoner was last year. Of the fastest laps you mention, Stoner crashed early at Qatar, Le Mans and Estoril so his fastest laps are not representative. Rossi's race lap at Jerez in the wet is irrelevant to this discussion because Jerez the previous year was dry. Rossi's race time at Catalunya was almost identical to Stoner's the previous year, but race total times are subject to all sorts of other factors so are not realisitic comparisons. For example, in 2010 at Catalunya Stoner was stuck behind Pedrosa for much of the race which undoubtedly slowed him down by a couple of seconds over the race distance.
And at Silverstone, even though Stoner had a difficult race weekend in 2010, Rossi was so much slower than Stoner was in 2010 that it's frankly embarrassing.
And don't imagine that Rossi can be excused because it's his first year at Ducati. It's also Stoner's first year on the works 800 Honda, and see how well he is performing.
Maybe it's Karma. Maybe Rossi and Burgess next time will refrain from rubbishing the efforts of other riders. Stoner wasn't pushing the Ducati? Really! 80 seconds to fix the Ducati? Really!!

Total votes: 433

There are no points for testing, practice or qualifying.
You say I'm selective, then say because Casey crashed it's not representative?
You asked for the stats, now your'e wriggling expecting me to accept that conditions were worse last year than this at Catalunya?
All impartiality you may have hoped for is blown to pieces by your last couple of sentances..you're just not a fan of Rossi and refuse to accept facts that show him in a better light than you want.

Total votes: 418

Kindly moderate your tone, everyone, or I shall start deleting posts. Quoting statistics is fine, abuse of other posters is not. 

Total votes: 413

"You selectively quote only those stats that support your case without looking at the whole picture." Couldnt have said it better myself motogpmd.
Here is qualifying 2010-2011
Qatar
2010 Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 55.007s
2011 Valentino Rossi ITA Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 55.637s
Jerez
2010 Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 39.511s
2011 Valentino Rossi ITA Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 40.185s
Le Mans
2010 Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 33.824s
2011 Valentino Rossi ITA Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 34.206s
Catalunya
2010 Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 42.410s
2011 Valentino Rossi ITA Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 43.223s
Silverstone
2010 Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 2m 4.394s
2011 Valentino Rossi ITA Ducati Marlboro Team 2m 5.781s

I dont think Rossi would even suggest he is having a better season on the Ducati than Stoner did last year, only wosideg would.

Total votes: 451

Qualifying wins you what?

2010, 6 races in, Stoner 7th, 51pts.
2011, 6 races in, Rossi 4th, 68pts.

Hello..I said HELLO!

Total votes: 412

You said, and I quote "Rossi...is also riding the bike just as fast as Casey did last year at the tracks visited so far." That is simply incorrect, and that is what we are discussing. You have now chosen to change the subject. It has nothing to do with race results, points etc because that is not what we are discussing. And for the record, you are right, I am not a Rossi fan, or a Stoner fan, or anyone else's fan. I have been watching MotoGP/500's since the mid 1980's and it has nothing to do with any particular rider. The fact is that Stoner has unfairly copped a lot of crap from Rossi and his fans and now the chickens are coming home to roost, as they say.

Total votes: 431

We are going to have to 'agree to disagree' my friend..the stats I gave you after you disagreed with my 'just as fast' statement, are fact. IMO they show that on 'raceday' in the first five rounds, at the same circuits Rossi has NOT been riding the bike any slower than Stoner last year. Relatively, he is higher in the standings with more points too.

Stoner is riding fantastic at the moment and did a great job with what he had at Ducati..but, an up until now unfit Rossi hasn't been quite as slow or unsuccessful by comparison, as some fans like to make out.

Total votes: 441

Hi!
The distance is from the race winner.
Qatar
2010 C. Stoner DNF (crashed out of 1st)
2011 V. Rossi 7th +16.431sec
Jerez
2010 C. Stoner 5th +10.034sec
2011 V. Rossi 5th +62.227 sec
Estoril
2010 C. Stoner 2nd +6.294sec
2011 V. Rossi 5th +16.555sec
Catalunya
2010 C. Stoner 3rd +4.956sec
2011 V. Rossi 5th +7.374sec
LeMans
2010 C. Stoner DNF (crashed out of 4th)
2011 V. Rossi 3rd +14.594sec
Silverstone
2010 C. Stoner 5th +7.494sec
2011 V. Rossi 6th +64.526sec

Rossi may have more points this year, but only because he has been more consistent. He has picked them up by riding around slowly, unwilling to push the bike. He sure hasn't been faster than Casey was last year!

Total votes: 433

Actually Rossi has more points only because people ahead of him have crashed out (Jerez, Estoril, Le Mans, Silverstone), not because of anything special that Rossi has done.

Total votes: 439

To see Rossi 4th place in the championship! Admittedly it is because of the the misfortune of others but as a rider you take it however you can get it. Yet another of his skills, damage minimization. Its not his fault other riders crashed. Well, except for Stoner, who now seems to be on a roll.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 438

So we've just seen that in 6 rounds (a third of the season) Rossi in 2011 has never qualified faster than Stoner in 2010 (nor obviously Stoner in 2011).

Then we can compare the races themselves.

Obviously, Stoner crashed in 3 of those 6 races, which leaves only 3 rounds to compare.
In those 3 rounds, Rossi has systematically finished further away from the win that Stoner.
The other 3 rounds show that the Ducati went faster twice (Estoril and Le Mans) in 2011, but mainly because we compare Rossi in 2011 with Hayden in 2010 (Rossi's race time in 2011 in Qatar is slower than Nicky's in 2010).
In fact at Estoril Rossi gained 37" on Nicky's 2010 time (Nicky was 5th 27" from the win) but the race went 26" faster in 2011.
At Le Mans, he gained 20" on Nicky's time (who was 4th 9" from the win), but the race went 25" faster in 2011, thanks to Stoner.

Then because of the weather at Jerez and Silverstone in 2011 there is no point comparing data, Rossi is much slower due to the weather.

In the end, we can only compare race time between Stoner in 2010 and Rossi in 2011, in identical track conditions, for 1 round, Catalunya and Rossi recorded a faster race time by merely 6 tenths.

Vale recorded a faster "fastest lap in race" in Estoril and Le Mans (where Stoner crashed), the rest of the time he was slower than Stoner's race pace in 2010, including in Qatar where Casey only recorded 5 laps!

So basically the Ducati went faster in race (not in qualifications) in only 2 rounds, Estoril and Le Mans, which corresponds to races when Casey crashed.

Yes, in 2011 Rossi crashes less (in race) than Stoner did in 2010, but statistics make it very hard to say that he is faster than Stoner was the year before, it is simply not true, whether we compare qualification times, race times or fastest laps in race.

More worrying for Ducati, Hayden has been slower in 2011 than in 2010 both in qualifications (except Qatar) and races!
And he finishes further away from the win.
Admittedly it does not really show in points since he is only 1 point down in the rankings compared to last year, but he is certainly not faster in 2011!

Total votes: 443

Being realistic if you're a former world champion there isn't much difference between two 7th place finishes and two DNFs, which is what we are talking about here. Neither result meets expectations and neither wins you a title. Do you really think Rossi, Lorenzo or Stoner would ever be pleased with being the 7th fastest rider on the track?

(and continuing the Rossi/Stoner comparisons, Stoner may have spent far too much time in the gravel in 2010 but he never ran as far back as Rossi in 2011. Stoner's 3 worst finishes were 5th; Rossi has matched that in the first 6 races and added a 6th and a 7th for good measure. Its pretty clear that Stoner was relatively faster if more erratic)

Total votes: 417

Only the hondas are going quicker than they did last year, that;s all of them it's a great bike.

Total votes: 443

The gap between Rossis and Haydens fastest laps. He was five point zero slower than Hayden near the end.
He was very lucky to get 6th I think

Total votes: 425

Ducati doesn't want a bike that has to be ridden the way Casey had to ride it to win. Ducati wants a bike that can become competitive for every decent MotoGP rider that hops aboard it. Ducati wants a bike that can compete in the constructors championship and have multiple attempts from multiple riders at reaching the podium. Because once you have this, you have a foundation to really start dominating a grid. Look at what ALL of the factory Honda's are doing this year. Look at what ALL of the Yamaha's were doing the last couple of years. Tech3 and San Carlo Gresini are by far the strongest of all the satellite teams with an almost guaranteed top 10 finish.

Unfortunately, what Ducati needs is going to be, by far, their toughest challenge and that is making the Ducati more like a Yamaha. Something smooth that turns in, something that gives the rider excellent feedback because when a rider has this confidence they ride faster and faster as they are still pushing to find that limit or until they are winning races.

Changing Vale's riding style may show a small improvement in qualifying, but it certainly doesn't aid the future development of the bike or increase Vale's confidence to make the strong passes he is so well known for making. Having just got done watching "faster" it's quite clear that even during the 500cc era Valentino was successful because he was able to be smooth on the bike, not because he went around tail sliding it like Gary McCoy or Stoner. To take away Vale's smoothness is to take away his real ability to ride a motorcycle fast.

It's a very interesting situation they are in because in effect, Rossi needs to ride the bike like Rossi during FP1, FP2, and FP3, find the best settings possible that move the bike in the smoother direction and then ride it like a bat out of hell during Qualifying and the Race just in hopes of finishing in the top 5 which I'm sure is very scary to a guy who is amazing at being smooth and has 9 World Championships to verify the success of this style.

I really do feel for Vale this year. I'm sure he really has questioned this move to Ducati deep down inside although he'll never let it show to the media. He must feel a lot like Senna did after leaving McLaren to drive the Williams Renault. And what's even worse is that basically all of the Ducatista are all relying on him to magically make the Ducati a consistent winner, not to mention his own self-ego after leaving a perfectly competitive Yamaha and always being able to brag about being such a great developmental rider. However I think, and hope that over the next 2 years we COULD see Rossi rise to a whole new level of greatness. This is probably the biggest challenge of his whole career and unfortunately it's when people expect the most from him. Can he face this challenge and stay determined through thick and thin, through low-side after low-side, through depressing results and depressing press debriefs? Hopefully. We will truly see what really defines Rossi as a person and as a racer over the next 18 months. In a completely non-biased opinion, I think he can succeed and even if he doesn't win another World Championship, just making that bike viable for a podium consistently from multiple riders is a success in itself.

Lastly, I just wanted to send some praise to Casey Stoner as a person. He is handling this situation very maturely and is definitely deserving of an informal apology or two. He could easily be throwing knife after knife into every person in that Ducati family right now as well as making a complete mockery of Rossi, but he isn't. It's very obvious now that Stoner has an amazing raw talent to go extremely fast, even on a bike he's not 100% confident in which tells you a lot about his desire to win races. As boring as it may turn out, I actually want Stoner to win this world championship by a landslide just to show everyone who gave this guy so much flak about being a whiner, or not being media friendly, or not being that fast, those that questioned his competitiveness when he went down from the lactose intolerance sickness that would cause him complete fatigue and especially those at Ducati who ignored all of his complaints about the bike, shame on all of you.

Total votes: 439

I was at a fundraiser a couple of months ago and Burgess was the speaker. It was run by a Ducati dealer, yet Burgess didn't hold back when asked about the quality of the Ducati GP bike - "what quality?" was his response.
He was very complimentary of Stoner's ability to ride the Ducati fast, but suggested that he lacked skills as a development rider.
He may be right about that, but what we are seeing now is Ducati's inability to provide a bike that any one of their riders can ride as fast as Stoner.
You are right about some apologies being warranted, not the least from the extreme end of the Rossi fan-base, who will have nothing adverse said about their hero, and savage anyone who dares to criticise him.
Ego is a necessary thing in any competitive environment, and all the top riders have it in spades. The issue is where the ego (and the desire to dominate others) clouds judgement that things get out of hand. In saying some of the things they have said, Vali and Jeremy both sought to mentally dominate their rivals. And in making some of the claims they made, they have started to look like fools.
I have always thought that Stoner was forthright and matter-of-fact. Something one could not say of Vali, who plays the media like Macchiavelli.
Now he has gone quiet in the face of performances that pale in comparison to Stoner's efforts on the Ducati, and I wonder too if he is not rueing his move to that marque. I suspect the Ducati stage of his career is likely to tarnish his image in the sport, unless he finds a way to go quicker on that beast.

Either way, the statistics will remember Stoner as the winningest rider of the 800 era.

Total votes: 411

...but suggested that he lacked skills as a development rider.
He may be right about that, ...

I think we don't know yet how good Stoner is as a dev rider, his comments about the time at Ducati suggest they ignored his wishes.

Total votes: 427

I agree that transforming the Ducati presents a new and unique challenge, but to me he is ultimately judged as a rider. As a rider the last 18 months have not been kind to the man who previously had always been able to dominate his team mates, and ride anything with 2 wheels. 2010 saw Lorenzo beat him comprehensively, and 2011 sees him failing to emulate Stoner's performance on the Ducati. To me he has been knocked off a pedestal that only he has ever occupied. Unlike many, I do not dance on his grave - I find it a bit sad that the god is after all only a great.

Total votes: 434

So Rossi can't get the front end feel on the way into the corner, can't get the edge grip in the middle of the corner and is still suffering from suspension pump from the rear on the exits.

I can understand that the first two are complex and difficult to deal with. But the suspension pump feels like it is something that could just be tuned out with a combination of suspension settings and traction control settings. I find it difficult to understand why it should need a whole new rear suspension, swingarm setup. And it's a problem Ducati have had with this bike from even before the carbon frame. Go back 3 years and I seem to remember Stoner looking properly lary on corner exits with the bike bucking, weaving and shaking as the rear suspension pumped up and down. Even at the very first 800 test in Jerez, Stoner looked out of control everywhere while Hayden just looked uncomfortable.

It's tempting to think that there's something in Ducati's DNA that builds bikes that reward really aggressive riders. Fogarty, Capirossi, Bayliss, Stoner. But then you watch Checa and he's so smooth he doesn't look fast at all. Despite that exception, perhaps the MotoGP bike can be ridden with big balls and blind faith and (mostly) get away with it. The problem being that the rider won't be able to tell when it's going to let go. And I don't feel like I've seen Rossi ride like that for some years now apart from the very occasional instance when there's a rival to beat, twice with Lorenzo, once with Stoner.

Also thinking of Melandri. How many more rider's careers are going to be sucked up and spat out by Ducati because they don't have the mind set to be able to exploit Ducati's strengths and get destroyed by their weaknesses?

Total votes: 420

However I feel that even when Rossi had to rise up to the occasion to beat Stoner in the past and Lorenzo in 2009, it was his smoothness and confidence on the brakes as well as his confidence in how the bike would react that led him to be the victor, not riding the bike like a raging bull.

Total votes: 392

When he qualifies poorly, Rossi always (well, unless he crashes) does better in the race, sometimes phenomenally so -- I've seen him put on some amazing charges up thru the field to win. So I'm pretty sure he'll get at the very least into the top ten.

I'm more concerned about what will happen up front, since the race -- like many MotoGP races recently -- has the potential to be a bit boring as far as who wins.

Still hoping the rain stays away; hate it when it rains. Hate crashes as well.

Total votes: 422

The season so far has been interesting for a lot of reasons, however racing is not one of them.

The whole paddock circus has turned into a soap opera and depending on who you are cheering for, determines which garage the pantomime villain occupies.

When Rossi was dominating Stoner; the Rossi fans delighted in telling everyone how he was overrated. Now Rossi struggles to get the Ducati to work whilst Stoner disappears into the distance on the Honda, the Stoner fans can barely contain themselves with talk of how Rossi is finished and Stoner is untouchable. What both sets of fans seem to be unable to grasp, is how bad the current situation is for MotoGP.

If you were to make a highlight reel of the action on track this year, it would be about a minute long and 58 seconds of that would be crashes and super slow motion shots of bikes sliding.

In a year where the two most likely candidates for the title have been unable to secure a main title sponsor for themselves (Stoner was originally going to be sponsored by Red Bull, but they declined, meaning that he runs Repsol colours, for allegedly no more money), it's clear that big business feel that the sport is unlikely to attract the floating supporters that it feels would make sponsoring a MotoGP bike worthwhile. I follow bike racing because of my father and has been part of family life for as long as I can remember; however friends who are not bikers and watched occasional races seem to be drifting away. If Silverstone turns out to be the snore-fest that Catalunya was; then it can't be good for MotoGP.

We need a race, not a F1 like parade on two-wheels (that analogy is actually more worrying than ever, as despite the dominance in the championship, there is plenty of drama in the races). If the current trend of deathly dull races, bereft of overtaking (let alone wheel to wheel duels) continues; then I fear for the future of motorcycling's premier division.

When you have fans praying for rain; that shows you how badly we need a close race.

Total votes: 416

...unfortunately.

Add to that that historically there are only a couple of manufacturer who can really compete with continuity and that makes the situation even worse.
I believe the drama around can be a nice «extra» to make thee sport even more marketable but this is not wrestling ... if the racing is poor people will simply not watch it. The drama is not the sport. Or a substitute for it. Recently MotoGP has not been able to attract a big amount of new viewers. Sponsor will not pay. The series will slowly go down. Which is a shame. Because I love MotoGP since Freddie Spencer.
One of the issue maybe that Rossi was shining so much that has masked the dark spots that were coming up. Whatever it is I hope it will change for better soon. F1 had to reinvent a bit itself to overcome some shady years. I hope MotoGP won't have to endure that.

Total votes: 412

Just to point out that the carbon frame was introduced in 2009 the year that Stoner missed 3 races due to illness. He was at the front of the points table before becoming ill and came back with a vengeance afterwards. He only crashed once that year and that was during the warm up lap in the last race. In 2010 the big bang was introduced and I am sure you all can recall he had 5 crashes during the season with the well publicized steering problems.

As much as Ducati need to have a rider friendly racing motorcycle, it should not be Rossi who has to develop it. He has only just declared himself 100% fit and has never raced the machine prior to this season. If he were to take the GP7 and do 100 laps on it, and then the GP8 another 100 laps, and so on. Then he may have some feel for the development history of the chassis and engine characteristics that accompanied it. He had this level of expertise with the Yamaha and it became second nature for him to be able to make an accurate assessment. It is obvious that the development process is headed in the wrong direction. If someone can offer another reason for Karel Abraham to be the top qualifying Ducati then please do.

By the way, I think the quality of comments here is excellent.

Total votes: 435

True 2009 was the first CF chassis year, but they still had metal tubing in the front part of the chassis/airbox. 2010 was the first completely CF chassis year with all metal tubing gone.

Total votes: 406

There just might be something in the vibrations of the engine that causes the difficult front end problems the Ducati has. Everyone is looking towards the carbon chassis but since they can't seem to get it sorted out there just might be something to this theory. I.e carbon chassis + big bang = front end vibrations, yielding instability (somehow).

Total votes: 391

Find it hard to understand why Rossi was so far off the pace this weekend.
Would of thought VR and his team should of understood the Ducati enough by now to find a reasonable set up, or certainly enough to match Haydens bike.
Or maybe they are going in the wrong direction with GP11 development, must say it is hard to see any improvement in performance since the start of the season. The seven seconds or so closer to Stoner at LeMans is not [as someone pointed out] a good guide as we do not know how hard Casey was pushing, plus it started to rain at one part of the race.
I hope it was not a lack of motivation starting to creep into VR, and no i`m not a
`Rossi basher` i think he is the best thing that has happened to bike racing in the last decade.
Think only time will tell on any of this.

Total votes: 434

So the Duc crank spins forward - anyone know which way the Honda crank spins ?

Total votes: 407

The Yamaha is the only bike with a jackshaft and back-spinning engine.

Total votes: 402