2012 Estoril MotoGP Friday Round Up: On Intra-Team Enmity, Electronics, 285 hp Engines And Rookies

There appears to be a new rule of thumb for gauging the weather: If there's a motorcycle race on, then chances are it will be raining, at least for some of the time. After a weekend of climate-curtailed practice 7 days ago at Jerez, the weather looks like being a major factor at Estoril as well. Though no rain fell during any of the 9 sessions of practice - two Moto3, two Moto2, two MotoGP and three Red Bull Rookies - took place, the rain was still very much a factor. The day started with a wet Moto3 session, the track taking a long time to dry out after the overnight rain that lashed the circuit. The track started to dry during MotoGP FP1, and by the second half of that session, it was dry enough for everyone to run slicks, albeit the softer compound that Bridgestone has brought.

By Moto2 FP1, the track was nominally dry, but problems with the damp remained. Parts of the track have been resurfaced, in particular, Turn 6 and Turn 13, and though the new surface is pretty good in general, the problem is that the new asphalt is still dark, and it is impossible to see where the damp patches are. At Turn 13, the sweeping Parabolica that leads back onto the front straight, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that water appears to be seeping up through the ground, which is still saturated after weeks of heavy rain.

As a result, though the afternoon sessions all looked to be perfectly dry, in fact there was still a lot of water in the final corner. Worse still, the water was invisible to the naked eye - or at least the naked eye travelling at upwards of 160km/h aboard a racing motorcycle. Consequently, everyone was taking it easy through that final corner, and losing out massively in terms of lap times. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow estimated that most riders were losing about 1.5 seconds in that part of the track, not just in terms of corner speed, but also due to losing the drive on to the front straight. Top speeds for the 1000cc MotoGP class are only a couple of km/h faster than in 2011, when the bikes were still 800cc, and had 30-40 hp less. At a track with a reasonably fast final corner followed by a kilometer-long straight, the 1000s should be slaughtering the top speeds set by the 800s. The MotoGP bikes are four tenths down in the third sector, and nearly half a second slower in the final sector, including the final turn and run on to the front straight. All that means that lap times are seriously down on where they were last year, in all classes.

Or at least, for everyone except for Scott Redding in Moto2. The Marc VDS Racing rider does not appear to have received the memo which decreed that the track is slower. Redding crushed the race lap record during FP2, getting in under a quarter of a second faster than Andrea Iannone's lap record. Marc Marquez is the only rider to get near the young Briton, also managing to get under the lap record but still two tenths slower than Redding. Two tenths further back, a bunch consisting of Thomas Luthi, Toni Elias (making a welcome return to the front of the Moto2 field) and Pol Espargaro are all close. It is still early days, but Redding has impressed so far at Estoril.

In the MotoGP class, the bikes lined up by factory very much as expected, with a Honda leading a gaggle of Yamahas. The name of the Honda rider is barely a surprise - Casey Stoner is fast any time he gets on a bike, and despite a chest infection and a nasty cough which kept him awake at night, posted the fastest time in the afternoon session - but the two Yamaha names are a little more unexpected. Second fastest in the afternoon was Ben Spies, the Texan finally getting some feeling back into the front end of his M1. After two miserable races - at Qatar due to chatter induced by a cracked subframe, at Jerez caused by a setup that just didn't work - Spies is back and flying, after a major weight distribution change to the bike. Spies' crew chief Tom Houseworth and his team took some weight off the front end of Spies' bike, and paradoxically created much more feeling from the front tire. This was a change that Spies had tried on the 800, but which he had never liked. The different character of the 1000s means that the changed worked out nicely, and Spies was once again feeling confident on the bike, saying the front end now felt "100%" better.

In 3rd is Cal Crutchlow, and perhaps it is no longer fair to say that it is a surprise to see the Englishman so far up front. After two 4th places and a front row start in the first two races of the year, it is clear that this has been breakthrough year for Crutchlow. A lot of factors have helped: the new tires warm up more quickly and are much more responsive, and the bigger engine is much more forgiving than the 800 ever was. But all those appear mainly to have been just kindling, while the arrival of Andrea Dovizioso in the Monster Tech 3 team has truly lit the fire that burns in Crutchlow's belly.

The atmosphere is clearly tense in the team; last week, Dovizioso made comments about Crutchlow saying that the Englishman benefited from having "a superbike style" when riding the 1000s. Crutchlow was livid. "Maybe he needs to change his style to ride like a Yamaha," Crutchlow said of Dovizioso, referring to the problems that the Italian has had in adapting to the Yamaha after spending so long riding the Honda. "He says I have a superbike style, but if you look at the data, I ride now more like Lorenzo than any of the other Yamaha riders. I've spent a year looking at data and learning how to ride. Whether it was Colin's data, or whether it was Ben's data, or Jorge's or whatever, but learning to ride a MotoGP bike is difficult. But I'm more like a GP rider than I ever have been, or else I wouldn't have finished 4th last weekend." The pressure from Dovizioso, and the competition at Yamaha - only Jorge Lorenzo's seat is safe, Spies' place in the factory team is uncertain, and Bradley Smith has a contract with Tech 3 to ride in MotoGP for 2013, leaving Dovizioso and Crutchlow fighting both over a seat at Tech 3, with an eye to promotion in the factory team as well - is driving Crutchlow to excel, and forcing Dovizioso to do the same. And this is a very good thing for MotoGP fans.

The other factory Yamaha rider is a little further down the order, Jorge Lorenzo not happy with the setup of his bike. The rear wheel is "blocking" - by which Lorenzo appears to mean grabbing under braking, and getting the bike sideways - which upsets the Yamaha on corner entry, costing Lorenzo a lot of speed. The Spaniard chose to sit out the morning session because of the conditions, and with hindsight, a quick sortie may have highlighted the problem so that crew chief Ramon Forcada and his team could have spent their lunch hours dreaming up solutions.

As for the Ducatis, the bike has been working reasonably well under the difficult conditions. Now that Valentino Rossi has accepted that he will have to make the "Ducati-style" settings work, he has set about trying to get the best out of them. Corner entry is now much better, Rossi able to brake into the corner as he wishes, but the rear remains a problem. The Ducatis suffered more than most in the patchy, damp final corner, as well as in the second section of the track.

That is down to the one problem which Ducati is yet to fix, and which is not done so easily. The Ducati's power delivery is extremely aggressive, and producing in the region of 280hp makes it difficult to use. Such power cannot be controlled using just electronics, major changes to the engine internals are also needed. Whether such parts will be available for testing on Monday is not yet known, with everyone inside Ducati very cagey about the subject.

Though the figure of 280hp is the speculative figure being bandied about inside the press room, there are hints that the number is not a million miles off being accurate. Today, Casey Stoner let slip a ballpark figure on MotoGP horsepower figures, when talking about the role of electronics. When asked what he thought of the idea of a spec ECU, as used in BSB, Stoner was less dismissive than usual. Stoner pointed out that he did not believe the manufacturers would accept a spec ECU - a point of which Carmelo Ezpeleta is all too aware as he discusses the rules for the future of the series - but he was broadly in favor of limits on electronics. The problem, Stoner pointed out, was that the last time the bikes ran without traction control, they had 185-190 horsepower. "We're getting into the regions of 85 and probably in the not too distant future, close to 100 horsepower more than what the old bikes ran without traction control." Stoner's remarks put the horsepower of the MotoGP bikes at somewhere between 270 and 290 horsepower, so 280 is pretty much bang in the middle of that.

Trying to control that was difficult, Stoner said, and when it goes wrong - Stoner was careful to say when and not if - "It will spit you sky high." Stoner revealed that he had ridden the old 990cc RC211V a couple of times without traction control, and to do so required careful planning and a different approach to managing the engine. At the Sachsenring in 2006, he had been told that his traction control wasn't working so he had to ride his way around the problem. Since then, the bikes have added another 35-40 horsepower, making it even more complicated.

Stoner was very much in favor of some kind of limit to how much traction control the riders can actually use. "Fun-wise, some kind of limit of [traction control] would be great," Stoner said, but there should be a small amount as a safety measure, to catch unsuspecting riders when they hit a wet patch on the track. "A lot of the riders in this paddock criticizing traction control are actually the ones who use it most, so without it, it would be interesting to watch those particular riders as well," Stoner said. He did not specify further just who those riders were, but given the enmity and long history of accusations in the past, it is not hard to guess who he is referring to.

The subject of Stoner's retirement has now passed as a topic of conversation in the paddock, after the Australian denied that that was on his mind. But concerns remain in HRC, as Stoner has simply not made up his mind about next year, or the year after, or any of the years after that. At this moment, he has every intention of racing next year, but until he signs a contract, it is not inconceivable he could change his mind. Highly unlikely, perhaps, but it is not impossible that Stoner could walk away at any time.

Though Stoner's retirement is exceptionally unlikely, the minds of the media - especially the Spanish section - has turned to 2013, and where to put Marc Marquez. The Rookie Rule is being hotly debated, with most of the talk focusing on Honda's stated desire for the rule to be dropped. The independent teams assembled in IRTA are radically opposed to such a change, as they consider the Rookie Rule a success, as it is their best chance of securing the services of a high-profile youngster. Nobody is under any illusion that a rider like Marquez would receive anything other than full factory support, but the independent teams would rather he received such support in one of their teams, much as the late, lamented Marco Simoncelli did at San Carlo Gresini, or Ben Spies did at Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. Cal Crutchlow was quick to see the positive side of it, if solely from a selfish perspective. "At the moment it's a great thing, because it means Marquez can't go straight into a factory team," Crutchlow said, implying that that left one seat open for himself. Valentino Rossi summed up the situation succinctly: "For me, the problem with the rule is that Marquez is Marquez," he said. "Is not a bad rule for the rookies, but maybe Honda has a problem because they want to put Marquez in the factory team, and have a problem with the rule."

The Rookie Rule is just one battle front in the ongoing war between Dorna and the factories. IRTA will be hoping that it is a battle that Dorna wins. Whether Marc Marquez wants Dorna to win is another question.

Total votes: 186
Total votes: 72

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Comments

Excellent article. Gonna be tons of great racing this weekend...

Total votes: 170

When Stoner decides to hang the leathers up, he will be missed not only on the track racing, but also in the paddock when talking. Nobody else simply comes close to him. Always great stuff.

Total votes: 172

There's always gotta be someone that the fans and the press love to hate, and it's better than normal because he's currently winning.

His last times off the podium that wasn't a Ducati front end crash (his own or Vale's...lol) was San Marino 2010...5th, and before that he was on the podium a lot too.

Total votes: 184

Over on GpOne, Livio Suppo has stated that it's no use pushing Stoner towards a contract, he'll take his time and make his decision and stick with it. Suppo knows Stoner better than most so his word is worth listening to. In the meantime, Stoner will ride every race to his best ability, as he did until getting off the Duc at Valencia in '10, so in the context of this season, it's a non-issue. However, his competition are possibly not looking forward to the time when Adriana and the Pebble come back to the paddock and make Stoner more relaxed with life, especially as a string of tracks he likes will be happening around then. Meantime, Lorenzo and Pedrosa have scores to settle with him...I think prisoners will not be taken this weekend.

Total votes: 172

Nice summary as usual David and what makes me smile the most is the way Crutchlow is going about his business. At the moment he's doing and saying all the right things and even though he comes across as quite introverted his comments of late seem to show a real confidence, determination and self assurance which we haven't seen in a British rider for years. When toseland was around he often came across as a caricature of himself, his public persona was cocky, arrogant even, almost as if he assumed that riding a motogp bike would not be an issue for a rider of his 'calibre.' whilst Toseland would ultimately lose his confidence and to a certain extent, respect from the British contingent, crutclow has clearly put the work in, adapted his style and learnt from his mistakes. I feel he's also coming out of his shell a bit and his new found confidence has made him a more appealing prospect to the british fans, he has a nice simplicity about him, the kind of no nonsense 'let your riding do the talking rider' that we need. The pressure he's putting on Ben and Dovi is also nice to see. Whilst Ben and Dovi on paper seem like the more appealing prospects for the factory seat next year, in terms of track record anyway, as we all know its your performance at this moment in time which matters.. the rest as they say, is history.

Total votes: 160

285 hp on a bike that weighs 346lbs (157kgs) with carbon brakes, the best rubber on the planet, million dollar electronics, etc.

Screw being jealous over their money, the girls, the fame... the BIKE is what I'm jealous of. Just plain amazing. Forget all the politics and rider bashing.

And that these guys can push a bike like this to the very limits with machine like consistency lap after lap, shows how truly gifted these guys are. And, I'm not a big Stoner fan, but anybody that wants to turn off his electronics (and truly mean it) on a bike with that much power for the "fun" of it has my respect. That would be a lot of fun to watch, especially with his aggressive style.

Total votes: 183

Great to hear riders like Stoner saying TC should be diminished, or reduced. Every rider in recent memory has stated their preference for it being significantly reduced.

Total votes: 174

Like Stoner said some of those guys are the same ones that use the most traction control. Stoner would benefit most if that rule change was to ever come in.

Total votes: 175

Have we all just become acustome to calling it the "Ducati setting" Is this not just the setting that Hayden has been using? Since when has the bike had its own setting? You think Stoner uses the "Honda setting"

I bet thats why Spies has turned his game around, Houseworth finally convinced him to use the "Yamaha setting"

Yes I understand that a bike has an optimal setting based on computer generated figures, But after how many chassis and parts, now Rossi has found a setting to work with and he'll go from there? "The Ducati is much sweeter".... I lose more and more respect for Rossi every race weekend that he is with Ducati.

Total votes: 178

JB and VR said that they wouldn't goto Ducati and try to turn the bike into an M1. Then when the new perimeter frame came in they rotated the engine, raised the bike, and shortened the wheel base in an effort to make the bike as close to an M1, sans I4, as they could. Well it didn't really work, probably because the 90V just doesn't allow it to run that way. Rossi has to adapt to the engine.

It seems like Hayden's crew have been trying to work with the nature of the engine since the beginning. According to what I've read, 90Vs push on entry and you have to work around it by having the rear be loose (something Stoner could always pull off) which is a different feeling to what Rossi's used to. Hopefully once they get the engine more compliant and gain traction then they can make some real progress.

Total votes: 167

It seems like Hayden's crew have been trying to work with the nature of the engine since the beginning.

Hayden was and is in a different situation than Rossi, it was always clear that Ducati wouldn't build a bike to his wishes, so he had no other option than to get the bike he had working. Pretty much like Stoner had to when he was racing the Duke.

Total votes: 182

To his credit, Valetino did state, once, that they were changing to a setting that was based on Nicky's set up. I don't, however, expect to hear the term "Nicky's settings" , out of his mouth again though. It will be "Ducati's Setting", from here on out, lest he be accused of doing with Nicky what he was so adamant that Jorge should not be allowed to do to him; that is, look at his settings. ;)

Total votes: 192

I got a big hoot out of V's post-Jerez statement, "I always wanted to try Nicky's setup..." Yea, suuuure you did, just the way you "Always did like Green Eggs and Ham." The dude ought to run for office!

It does piss me off a little to see the Dream Team calling it the 'Ducati Setup.' I guess it's true in the sense that Ducati are the ones telling them to run it... but would it really kill these people to give a little credit where it's due? IMO, #46 can/will only make progress when he sets his ego aside. Until then, the Karmic Beatdown will continue.

Total votes: 189

Lines like 'he has a more Superbike style' is such a cheap meaningless pot shot. No basis in fact and merely drawn from Crutchlow's route to the top. Pure snobbery from Dovi and somehow meant to demean. A good strong retort for Crutchlow. Perhaps Dovi should be adopting this 'Superbike style' of his teammate.

I am also tiring a little of Dovi's line of 'oh I need more time to understand the Yamaha'. Stoner made the RCV his after about three corners of Valencia 2010. I feel Dovi's hiding behind this one a little too.

Whilst all the factors David mentions have been positives for Crutchlow this year, the biggest point is that he has - as he says - adapted his style and learnt how to ride a MotoGP machine, together with now knowing the tracks. His form towards the end of 2011 pointed to what has come to date. The man strikes me as a fiercely determined, level headed, intelligent, articulate and witty spade caller. Keep sticking it up the establishment Cal. You've been a breath of fresh air in the series so far.

Total votes: 184

To be honest, if I was at Yamaha I'd be getting ready to keep Cal and give Dovi the boot. Cal's ceiling is way higher, he seems to be very adaptable, and rides the line between crazy and intelligent that is essential for the guys that just have that little bit extra. Dovi has had so many more years to prove himself, and hasn't shown that hes got it. Maybe he'll prove me wrong, but I doubt it at this point. Like a lot of guys, he's fast enough to be in MotoGP but not any faster.

Total votes: 169

Interesting as always, the debate about electronics is unlikely to go away. The problem is, you can't "uninvent" this biker aid. However, to see how 280 bhp is handled without electronics why can't Stoner, who seems to favour more wrist control, take his bike out in free practice at, say the British GP, with all the electronic wizadry turned off, to see how his times compare and the way the bike handles.

I for one, would pay to see that spectacle !

Total votes: 173

Who's inventing these figures?

We've been lead to believe the last incarnation of the 800's had around 230hp. Honda's full fat one litre RCV 213 is reputed to have around 250hp. Just how on Allahs scorched earth is the GP12 - again presuming it's around 920-930cc and revving it's tits off in 800 fashion going to produce 24% more power than the GP11 with only a 15-16% increase in capacity whilst running the same 21 litres of fuel?

Total votes: 151

Yesterday it was pretty shocking looking how Nicky Hayden overtook Colin Edwards on the straight (*...woooosh...!!* like C.E. was standing still!), so I expect the factory racebikes to be producing power well over the estimated ~220hp of the CRTs.
Still, I also find these supposed ~280hp figures a bit odd for the very same reasons that you mentioned, Nostro (that's a good call there).
Perhaps some good insight into the 2012 machines would make one nice article for later (David?). :-)

Total votes: 156

According to my calcs, the 81mm 1000s would have to achieve at least 28m/s mean piston velocity. That would be an incredible feat, and since the reliability rules reduce power a bit, maybe we are talking closer to 29m/s. I'm not an engine guru, but those numbers seem more like fantasy. During bore-limited F1, before the rev limit was added, 27m/s was a rumor.

I do believe that the 1000s have considerably more peak power than the 800s. First, Rossi made it sound like the 800s were rev limited to 19,000rpm, which is consistent with the request Yamaha made in 2008. HRC have already signaled they are open to rev limiting as long as it doesn't interfere with the fuel rules so 800cc rev limits aren't inconceivable. If the 19,000rpm rev limit was ratified, the 800s would have made 230-235hp in qualifying trim with the engine rules. Super trick HRC engine technology might get an 81mm 1000cc to 27m/s, around 260-265hp. In race trim they should be theoretically equal, BUT engine friction is a matter of fluid dynamics so reducing the rev ceiling with a bore limit should make the engine more fuel efficient. I think.

Total votes: 180

A good metric for power is total piston area: the power you make is proportional to the air you move per unit time. That is largely determined by valve area, hence by piston area. Short or long stroke makes little difference in the same state of tune: smaller gulps at higher revs or larger ones less often amounts to about the same.

With an 81mm bore limit, the 1000's have about 200cm² of piston area.

1hp/cm² is about the max for a road bike.
1.1hp/cm² seems to be be about the limit for a privateer race bike.

1.25hp/cm² has been seen as the limit before engine life starts being measured in minutes and I believe it is about what F1 motors generate.

280hp from a motoGP would be 1.4hp/cm². Remarkable. Or maybe the press-room dyno needs re-calibrating?

Total votes: 146

280hp from a motoGP would be 1.4hp/cm². Remarkable. Or maybe the press-room dyno needs re-calibrating?

You forgot the "desmodromic factor" in your calculation, depending on who you ask it can make more than these extra 0.15hp/cm²

Total votes: 182

Relative to springs, or to pneumatic valves?

If it's worth that much relative to pneumatics, why aren't all the F1 teams using it?

And why is Stoner's Honda at the top of the Max Speed charts?

Total votes: 155