2012 Catalunya MotoGP Test Round Up: Progress For Some, But Honda Hampered By New Bridgestone

Timesheets don't tell you everything. That much is clear from looking at the results of Monday's MotoGP test after the race. After a race weekend where everything has been focused solely on going faster than the others, the finishing order is not quite as important during testing. Cal Crutchlow summed it up perfectly: "You know when a test is just a test when the race winner by 5 seconds is 7th or 8th. So you can't take anything from today's results."

Crutchlow's day did not start off as planned. The Englishman had a 200 km/h crash on the way into turn 4, which completely wrote off his bike and took a good deal of skin off his shoulders and leg. Crutchlow said it was entirely his own fault, but it is not an unusual crash at Barcelona, as Andrea Dovizioso explained. "I had exactly the same crash in FP1 two or three years ago," he said. The problem is caused by the bridge which runs over the track, which provides just enough shade that when a track is drying after the rain, a few wet spots can still remain, but these are impossible to differentiate from the dry tarmac.

The crash threw a spanner in the works of the test plan Crutchlow's team had worked out. Crutchlow basically had three different things to test on Monday: a new engine, some new electronics, and some settings, so his team had the engine on one bike and the electronics and settings on the second bike. After stacking the bike with the new engine in, that had to be removed and swapped over to his second bike, meaning he was having to test a lot of different things together. Engineers will tell you that the way to test is to change one variable at a time, so this made it hard to understand which changes were working and which werent.

Given that Crutchlow's report was broadly similar to what Monster Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Andrea Dovizioso told reporters, it was not too much of a problem. The new electronics were a significant improvement, Dovizioso said, especially for tire wear, helping to make the tire last as long as possible. Just how well it works was illustrated by Cal Crutchlow, who did a 1'43.0 on a tire which had 37 laps on it: that's 12 more than race distance, or nearly 50% more. The new engine had good points and bad points, strong acceleration once going hard, but slightly weaker pick up after changing gear. Dovizioso said he needed "a step" to be able to compete with the front runners, and that while the new electronics were not sufficient on their own, they would have made a big difference if he'd had them during the race on Sunday, as they are the electronics that the factory Yamahas have been using all year.

As for the factory Yamahas, Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies were working on different plans. Spies is still working to get back his confidence, which seems to be damaged at every race. Whether it be mechanical issues, visor problems, set up issues or just plain mistakes, everything seems to be going wrong for Spies so far, so he is just focusing on being comfortable on the bike. He did try the new engine on Monday, and though it gave a small improvement, it was not a massive difference. "You know the riders," Spies joked, "We always want 10 km/h faster on the straightaway..."

Lorenzo confirmed Spies take on the engine, saying that they had not gained any advantage from the new engine, with good and bad points, but the test had provided Yamaha with enough information to work on improving the engine. What he really wanted was more acceleration and more top speed, the areas where the Yamaha was still suffering against the Honda, Lorenzo said. At the moment, the Yamaha was losing out especially on acceleration out of the slow corners on to long straights, like at Le Mans or Qatar. Tracks like Barcelona and Phillip Island, with much faster corners, the Yamaha was much better. But the difference with last year was significant; Yamaha had definitely closed the gap.

At Honda, they spent a lot of time working on the chatter at the rear that has plagued the bike since the start of the season. They found a few solutions to the rear chatter, though Casey Stoner was still cautious, saying he'd rather wait till he got to Silverstone to make a more complete judgment. They did feel that they had an idea of what was causing the chatter, and so had a direction to pursue. "If we could make a few new parts for Silverstone, it would be fantastic," Stoner said. The Australian was coy about the parts that he had tested and that had made the difference, saying only "It's a very small part, something we didn't really expect. But there you go, it's usually a two dollar part that makes such a big fuss, it can be a two dollar part that breaks in a race and ruins your day, so hopefully it will be a two dollar part that makes my day and helps us finish out this year without chatter." That was what he did not want to do, Stoner said, spend his last year of racing fighting against chatter.

But while the rear chatter is on its way to being fixed, there is a much bigger problem at the front. The new spec front Bridgestone is proving to be the bane of the Repsol Honda riders - when asked why the satellite riders didn't have this problem, Dani Pedrosa said simply "Look at their lap times," - creating massive chatter problems at the front. Both Stoner and Pedrosa were particularly upset by the course of events, with Pedrosa being positively angry. "I don't think this is fair on Honda," he said, referring to the way the decision to introduce the new front tire had been made. It had been presented as a safety issue, Pedrosa added, but while it made no real difference to the other bikes - the Yamahas and Ducatis prefer the "33", the newer spec front Bridgestone, but the old one works just fine - it was causing the Hondas such massive problems that they were having to ride at the limit in every corner. The front chatter was terrible, and would take a lot of work to fix.

Actually doing that work was being made impossible because of the lack of the new front spec tires for testing. At Barcelona, the riders only had two of the "33" spec tires, and none at all at the extra test day at Aragon on Wednesday. Without the new tires, testing was pointless, Pedrosa said, and Honda had decided to skip that test altogether. While it may be argued that chatter is a problem with the Honda - the RC213V has had chatter from the very beginning - as the other bikes don't suffer from it, the lack of tires available for testing does look amateurish and very poorly organized. Honda may be to blame for the chatter, but they have to be given a chance to fix it.

At Ducati, progress was limited, with both Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi focusing on setup changes rather than any major new parts. Rossi tried the new aluminium swingarm once again, and had the same chatter with it that he had on Friday, leaving the team mystified as to why it worked at Mugello and not here, tracks which are similar in nature. Perhaps the most disappointing part of the test for Valentino Rossi was that after having spent a day trying lots of different setups, they found the one that worked best was the one they had used for the race. On the one hand, it means that they are sure they are going in the right direction; on the other, it means they cannot find the half a second or so a lap that they need to be competitive.

Ducati and Yamaha now head to Aragon, for a one-day test on Wednesday, but with the track expected to be dirty from not having had bikes on the track for a while, progress there will be limited too. The real benefit from this test will be found in under two weeks, at Silverstone. Then again, being Silverstone, there is a good chance it will be soaking wet, and it will be much more of a lottery. But that's racing.

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Comments

give casey a great bike for the rest of the season so he can go out in style!!! PLEASE!!

this chatter business is amateur - you're getting beaten by tech 3 for crying out loud!
The prodigious talent of your two riders has saved your blushes so far.

I'd like to hear from from the the two honda satellite bike riders to see if they are having the same problems. Their results have been disappointing this year. They seem to occupy a space between the tech 3 and the ducats, and are therefore not dicing with anyone.

Is this an HRC electronics problem, or a chassis problem?

Don't underestimate the technical abilities at Tech3 - they are a VERY good race team.

And this early in the season, there is little between their bike and the full-factory prototype.

"tech 3 for crying out loud" is a rookie call and one that doesn't give credit to the thousands and thousands of hours Colon and co have spent wrenching on the M1.

What will change is when the factory get hot-up parts that T3 don't have access to, then we will see HRC and Yamaha full ahead - at the moment it is very much a level playing field.

It keeps amazing me that we have dirty tracks making a significant impact on races / testing. Wouldn't it be worth it for these tracks to buy a couple of street sweeper cars to clean the track before testing? Or pay the local government to do a few cleaning laps for all I care. Or will this not make any difference?

"Dirty" is relative...

They won't be covered in mud or grime, but what they won't have is a layer of tyre rubber laid down.

A street sweeper would do little to make the track better.

Maybe the should have a couple of track days with bikes and cars before the big guys comes to play?

seems almost incomprehensibly ridiculous. Bridgestone have been - as far as we know - several months ahead of the production schedule for each race; IIRC the tyres for a race weekend are shipped many weeks ahead of the event itself, and some of those have manufacturing dates of months before.

How could Bridgestone not have switched production to the new-spec fronts early enough for this test? It's interesting that it is Pedrosa who seems most fired-up about this; Stoner has given Bridgestone some broadsides before (and one wonders whether there's not a little bit of pay-back for that in this situation) but seems slightly more resigned to it.

There's material here for conspiracy theorists, but perhaps it is just no more than ineptitude on Bridgestone's part. It's certainly absolutely clear that the Hondas have at times quite a lot of chatter from the existing fronts, albeit in a small range of conditions, so if the new ones are worse it may well look rather like Yamaha's '06 season...

Anyone want to bet that Lorenzo won't be too hasty to put pen to a new contract until he sees how Honda manages with the new-spec fronts?

The Aragon test was a late replacement for the washed out Estoril test. It was announced 4 weeks ago, hence not enough time to produce/deliver the new tyres in time for this test. This was known to IRTA and the teams but most of the teams still wanted to go ahead anyway.

At the risk of sounding like a skipping record (look it up kiddies) once again proof its the control tyre rule that is ruining MotoGP.

From the top down we hear that rev limiting ECU's with common spec traction controls & the advent of CRT teams will destroy the ideal of prototype racing. The sad reality is that a control spec tyres forces chassis design to a single solution.

Was Ducati's prototype carbon fibre hyper minimalist chassis design a failure because of inherent design limitations? Or did it fail because they were prevented from working with a tyre company partner to maximise the potential of their prototype? Now the might of HRC is now forced to kow-tow to the constraints of the rubber Bridgestone sees fit to supply rather than being free to experiment with alternative prototype chassis solutions. I guess by 2014 Moto1 will be a class of CRT replicas of Yamaha M1's running Bridgestone tyres & we can all tune in earlier to watch the diversity of Moto3 instead.....

First post on this site, so congratulations for the great site and community around it.
Regarding the tyres situation, a very interesting comment was made by Pedrosa on the post-race conference. He said that this situation was very strange, because they have to use the 33 tyre without any proper test, apart from the 2 tyres at each race and 2 more tyres for the whole testing on Monday. He also added that it was very strange that Rossi (and Ducati) were testing at Mugello with the new 33 tyre, but it would not be available for Aragon.
If we add the fact that the minimum weight was raised 4Kg because, according to Stoner, one of the manufacturers (Ducati) could not get the bike weight down and there is a lot of material for conspiracy theorists.
Is it in the rules that only one type of front tyre can be used by all teams? Why doesn't Bridgestone allows for Hondas to use the old 31?

Bridgestone are a Japanese company. They're highly unlikely to be involved in any conspiracy that seeks to humiliate other Japanese mega-conglomerates by favouring a small European bike maker.

The change of tyre was not Bridgestones' or Dornas' decision. Bridgestone developed a new specification of tyre to address safety criticisms: namely that the old tyres were too hard to get heat into and retain heat, and that this was causing crashes. The teams then *voted* to change the specification.

The conspiracy theories that are popping up in comments here are just ridiculous.

I would think that Bridgestone wouldn't want to upset Honda based purely on being an OEM supplier for Honda motorcycles, cars, and possibly the HondaJet.

I hate to suggest this, but I can't help but feel the Europeans change the rules with a degree of suiting their own, the collateral damage this time was Danni.

How can a control tire be in short supply for testing? It defies logic.

As the economic subsidence of Europe concludes and the rise of south east Asia is completed, the rule makers may have new economic masters. They'll be speaking Mandarin, Hindii and Indonesian. I would not be surprised if no quarter of respect is given or frankly deserved.

Think about the MCC's control of cricket and their almost irrelevance now in the face of the super rich IPL and the all powerful Indian Cricket Board. The subcontinent and Asia love motorcycles and their purchase of them will continue to grow exponentially.

Goodbye and good riddance to Dorna and co...

+1

It can't happen quick enough.................roll on the Spanish €€€€ crisis !

Maybe the Germans will orchestrate a bailout " buyout " , or would " giveaway " would be more apt ?

Dorna owns GP racing in the same way Bernie Ecclestone owns F1 - they bought the commerical rights in 1992. And just like Ecclestone, Dorna aren't going anywhere soon... it's theirs lock, stock and barrel.

What could happen is that they lose their contract with IRTA, but that is unlikely to happen - all they would do is to buy their favour.

Casey was being a bit sarcastic about it actually being a $2 part. But it was probably something real simple as opposed to complicated.

I think maybe a steering stem bearing or spacer not working 100% the way it should...

Tyres can make or break racing, as shown in F1.

Read Micheal Scott's interview with Ben Spies in the last issue of GPweek. Ben says that if you want better racing tyre performance should be 20% down on current level, so everybody can reach the max performance easier. (source: mag.gpweek.com)

And of course he is right.

Not that this is going to happen, because that will mean that MotoGP lap times will be slower than WSBK.

Is this tire situation a joke? Isn't this Moto GP, the cutting edge of m/c racing and HRC isn't going to a test because they can't get the tires? Is any pressure being applied to Bridgestone, or is it just 'sorry, the tires aren't ready'? And they want to CUT COSTS? Conspiracy theorists are having a field day!!!

HRC: how in the hell can HRC screw up their bike after Casey decimated the competition last year? Casey was untouchable last year and now he's having nothing but problems! If Casey can't ride the bike......

It does make the year interesting, doesn't it!

It is a poor argument Bridgestone makes about the teams "voting" for the new 33 tire. If you are a slow team and you know that the fastest team can use a tire to produce more performance from their motorcycle then it's a very simple thing to "vote" to deprive them of that tire. Safety has nothing to do with this.
And additionally, Bridgestone by not producing enough of the new 33 tire for testing is actively depriving Honda from attempts to solve their chatter problems related to this tire. They are thereby manipulating the championship and illustrating why a single control tire supply policy is wrong in any form of Grand Prix racing.

Man, as a racer, I wish to hell I could vote on what tire the guy kicking my ass gets to run!

:)

And people wonder why Casey's upset about the direction of MotoGP ...

With a single tire rule, getting rider feedback on the tire options to use going forward is still the least worst solution. What is the alternative, have Bridgestone build tires no one likes? That's what happened the last couple years, and why they are getting feedback and changing the tires for this year.

Fair question. Here's what you do. Take a bike - any bike - from the MotoGP paddock. Build a tire that works on that bike. Give it to all of the teams in the middle of the season and tell them that will be the tire for next year. That gives everyone a fair chance to adapt to that rubber. Yes, you get the conformity of design that a spec/control tire delivers. But at least every team is working from the same set of rules and can adapt (or fail to adapt) on merit, not on a mid-season tire change mandated by their competitors.

Yes, but will it be prototype racing?

The irony for is that after Honda got the formula it wanted... 4 cylinder 4 stroke (no pesky 2 strokes, or Italian twins, or even the possibility of British triples or rotaries, German Kompressor revivals or outlandish V8's to sully the purity of the holy V4) an 81mm bore (puts paid to the desmo advantage at super high revs) no CVT or dual clutch or 10 speed transmissions or any other ideas that my spring from unhindered engineering... that I found myself defending Honda in this thread because the restrictive tire rules box their prototype GP racer down a single development path...

Alvaro Bautista stated that the Gresini team had a very productive test at Circuit de Catalunya and he spoke at length about their Showa suspension and the progress they were making. Gresini is the only Honda with Showa suspension and Alvaro never mentioned chatter problems once. It would be interesting to have a suspension engineer from Gresini talk about this subject, no?

HRC/Honda/Bridgestone and Showa/Ohlins. Thanks for the reminder regarding what Gresini are running and are improving with race by race.
Much ado about tires. Solely controlled by Bridgestone.
Good post Nealio. Currently, Dorna have no clout with regard to suspension options within the ambit of the rules.
Very interesting option. Stuck with the tires,but not with the suspension supplier.
Brakes neither. Brembo are not allocated as sole tackle for GP1. Nissin and Tokiko may have a bite of this situation for a hell of lot less than a Brembo CF rotor and caliper. Really Brembo ? Umpteen bucks for nothing better than 20mm circumference and 20mm more contact patch on the friction pad ?
It may translate into 1/100th per lap but surely it will not upstage the black magick that sticks the force to the ground. Suspension options often can circumvent this issue. Ohlins are in a comfort zone. Showa has a huge opportunity to shoot them in the foot and make a profit.

I don't see Bridgestone as the party at fault in the pathetic tyre situation. Dorna are setting the rules and it is them that have declared the timeframe for the complete switch to the new front. If Bridgestone are unable to supply sufficient quantities then Dorna should not be setting a date.

MotoGP is a debacle. This switch in tyres in conjunction with the late change in minimum weight is just the icing on the cake of nearly a decade of poor technical and marketing decisions.

The is more than enough room in these latest changes to find a conspiracy. Whether there is or not is irrelevant, it is the perception of manipulation of rules to damage one team/rider and assist another that has bought MotoGP into disrepute.

I fear that in a few short years MotoGP will be unrecognisable as the pinnacle of Motorcycle Racing.

Most teams believe the new tyre is slightly better in some conditions but are ok with the old tyre, Honda are clear that it's worse in all conditions... so what do they do? - mandate the new tyre mid-season - and then don't ensure that the teams (i.e. Honda) have adequate access to test and resolve the issues.

Honda should be threatening to boycott the races unless they can have access to the old tyre for the rest of the season.

By all means mandate it for next season, and allow the teams a full off-season testing cycle, but this mid-season, restricted access situation, is just begging for a bunch of lawyers to be let loose.

I still don't know what's wrong with the original tire(32?). I haven't seen a post on that or either I've missed it. Why are they mandating a change in tires mid-season? The issue last year was tire warm up, that was solved with the tire they're running now, so why the change?

Repsol Honda threatened to stink up the show. That's what was wrong with the old tire.

Yeah, I know, I'm a conspiracy theorist, and probably off-base. I'm not even really opposed to a control tire. But the way Dorna is handling this ... ugh.

My thoughts exactly. This year's tires are new from last year (that is the impression I am under), nobody is complaining about time to come to temp and for whatever reason, a new tire is being introduced. I don't get it!

Anyone remember when Michelin would cook new tires overnight during race weekend to respond to rider feedback and climate? At least, that was what was widely reported that they were doing. Just saying ...

And imho, those saturday night specials for only a few select Michelin riders (ask Casey Stoner about the Michelins he received on his satellite LCR Honda), is why MotoGP now has a tire control rule.

**to clarify: I meant that this favoritism and overnight tires lead to the limited tires rule, which lead to Bridgestone's domination, then to loud criticism about tires destroying the sport...

Correct. I simply was pointing out that the time to whip up a batch of MotoGP tires to a settled specification is measured in hours, not days.

That was Michelin, not Bridgestone. Different companies, different tires, different processes, different situations.

Bridgestone also are just now getting the new "33" spec tire in large enough quantities that Silverstone is the first race where the riders have more than 2 for the weekend. It's doubtful they could have produced enough for this rescheduled test, especially as the compounds for Aragon are different than Estoril.

....reading some of these posts, chiding Casey for his 'work ethic' is mind boggling. Casey is, arguably, the fastest man on the planet, and a bunch of you are pointing fingers at him saying he's the problem? Casey can get on a bike and say 'X,Y,Z' about the bike, in about 2 laps, but fixing it is another matter. The 'great' bike guru, Rossi, has been lost at Ducati since he got there, on a bike Casey won on! NO, I'm not pointing fingers fun at Rossi, or HRC. Pushing a bike that .5-1 sec faster shows its issues/problems/etc., and very few riders can do that....and they're all in in MGP! Am I a Casey fan? Your damn right I am! Just like I'm a Jorge fan, Spies fan, a fan of ALL the riders in MGP! I think the real telling point is that Dani is complaining and getting vocal on the tire issue. That says volumes about the problem, as he very rarely says anything negative issues like this.

David, is there an article coming on this stupifing 'tire' delimina?