2012 Assen MotoGP Wednesday Round Up: On Chatter, Silly Season Updates And Expected Rule Changes

Three races in 15 days, right in the middle and most important part of the season. MotoGP lines up at Assen with one third of the season gone. By the time the triple header is finished at Mugello, just over two weeks' later, we are half way through the season and the title is a lot closer to being settled. These three races are crucial.

Not that it changes anyone's approach. During the press conference, I asked the riders if they took a more cautious approach, knowing that the cost of injury is much, much greater now than it is when there is more time to recover between races. They looked at me as if I were stupid - a conclusion they have some justification for drawing - and told me that they treat these three races the same as the first race, the last race, and every other race in between. Flat out, and trying to win. It is impossible to win championships without winning races, as Casey Stoner likes to point out, so it is better to focus on that than on worrying about what might happen.

Winning races for Stoner and Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa is no easy thing. The Honda still has debilitating chatter, making the bike - or rather, the factory bike - very hard to ride. The chatter at the rear is fixed, or very nearly, but the new Bridgestone front tire created chatter at the front, negating any gains from fixing the rear chatter. HRC's list for Santa Claus is very short: all they want is the 2011-spec front Bridgestone back again, and the championship would be blown wide open. That tire, though, is gone, and so they have to deal with the "33", the new-spec front Bridgestone. It's like the weather, one engineer commented to me: you have to deal with what the world throws at you, and what is out of your control.

For now, Honda's work is damage limitation, trying to keep the gap between Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo as small as possible. Lorenzo's recent form has been relentless, struggling occasionally in practice but always coming good during the race. The Yamahas are working well, and Lorenzo's is working better than anyone's. Andrea Dovizioso tried to explain what he had learned from following Lorenzo the last couple of races: what he could see was that Lorenzo was braking earlier but carrying more corner speed, and this, paradoxically, gave him more margin. Where Dovizioso, Ben Spies and Cal Crutchlow were all on the limit in mid-corner, Lorenzo had bought himself a little safety thanks to his corner entry, carrying more speed through and out of the corner, yet risking less.

That lesson had been an eye opener for the Italian, and something he was determined to exploit at Assen. After spending all of his career riding a Honda, Dovizioso is now a Yamaha man through and through. He now understands the bike and believes he can get on the podium regularly, though winning is a little more tricky given the level of competition and the fact that the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha satellite bikes are two engine steps and one chassis step behind the factory bikes, at least according to Cal Crutchlow.

Dovizioso has his eye on the prize, and that prize is the second seat in the Factory Yamaha team. Dovizioso was cagey on his options on Wednesday, saying only that he was talking with a few parties, as is customary at this stage in the season. He was cautious on suggestions of going to a satellite Honda squad - the Italian media have been linking him with a bike at Gresini - pointing out that what was important was the bike, not the team. His aim was the Factory Yamaha seat, on this, Dovizioso was clear, but reading between the lines of his answers to the questions put to him about next year, then only a firm commitment of a factory bike and factory support would tempt him to Gresini and away from a satellite Yamaha. This bike, he said, gives him his best chance of performing.

Dovizioso faces some stiff competition for the Factory Yamaha seat - MotoGP's hot seat for 2013 - from some big name riders. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Cal Crutchlow is hoping for a factory ride, and if he does not get one from Yamaha, then the 7-figure offer he has received from Ducati will tempt him away. He believes he deserves to make the step from satellite to factory equipment, Crutchlow said, as winning on a satellite bike was nigh-on impossible. "I came to MotoGP with ambitions of being world champion," Crutchlow said, "but you're not going to win on a privateer bike." A factory bike was a prerequisite, Crutchlow kept repeating, and Ducati were hard at work trying to make the bike competitive. Next year's bike, Crutchlow affirmed, will be much better than this year's bike. The problem is, the same is true of the Honda and Yamaha.

Valentino Rossi is now the key player in MotoGP's silly season, and he waved away comments from Carmelo Ezpeleta about being on a competitive bike in 2013. As far as he was concerned, Rossi said, that bike would be the Ducati, which by then should well be competitive. Work continues apace, but progress is slow, and for every step that Ducati makes, Honda and Yamaha make one that is bigger. The mountain they have to climb just does not seem to ever get any smaller. The new engine expected for Laguna may be a small help, but the changes to that engine are only minor, aimed at improving engine response and making the power delivery less aggressive. Rumors of an altered engine angle were just that, rumors, Vitto Guareschi told Italian website GPOne.com. The engine was the same, but with altered internals to improve power delivery. From the outside, he told MotoMatters.com at Silverstone, the engine will look identical.

On Friday, the Grand Prix Commission is set to meet, ostensibly to seal the future rules which will govern the series from 2014 onwards. So far, though, the major changes - a rev limit and a spec ECU - do not look like being settled here. The rule package for 2013 will be more or less the same as the 2012 rules, though the Rookie Rule will be officially dropped. But the proposals for one bike per rider and the ban on carbon disks look like being rejected. The one bike rule was never a serious proposal, more a symbol of good will on the manufacturers. But despite having proposed it, they secretly opposed it, working behind the scenes to get it dropped. The cost of carbon disks looks like being contained by Brembo, and with the one bike rule dropped, the need to switch from carbon to steel has disappeared.

All this, however, is just small beer. The really big stuff - the rev limit and the spec ECU - will not after all be decided here, the decisions being kicked down the road for further consideration. That they will happen is not in doubt; that they will have a profound impact on the current manufacturers is also not in question. The real question is when will the rule changes be introduced? As early as 2014, as Dorna and IRTA want? Or 2015 at the very earliest, as the manufacturers would like to see? That is a question that might take some time to answer. Friday is too early to say.

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Vitto Guareschi also said that Fuel limit was costing Ducati a fortune (A ton of money was his quote). If MotoGP is trying to cut costs, isn't about time we let the teams all have 24-25 liters?

All this talk of the faulty front tire is getting a bit annoying. It is what it is and this is what "spec" in racing is about. Last year and even this year Yamaha has been on average, about 5mph slower than Honda or Ducati. But when Stoner was running away with only Lorenzo at his heals, it was because Stoner was on the best bike and because he was a superior/GOAT rider. Now while Lorenzo has turned the tables, the reasoning is a bad front tire for the factory Honda. The truth of the matter is Lorenzo still won 3 of the first 5 races when Honda had the option of still using their preferred front tire. 2010 Lorenzo ran away with the championship wiping everybody (including Stoner's) asses in the process. Lorenzo has become the "in the shadow's" champion. All of this arguing over Rossi and Stoner being the GOAT's, has seemingly overshadowed arguably the all around strongest rider in the series. Lets also not forget that Lorenzo has only been in the series since 2008 vs Stoner's 2006 and Rossi's 2000. And lets be honest, clearly the Honda's front tire isn't all that bad since Stoner and Pedrosa continuously make up the podium with the sole Yamaha being Lorenzo. So give the man some credit because he is a bad mother f@#$! This is after all bike racing where although the equation may have diminished a little, the rider does make up the difference.

I rate Lorenzo very high because he's a magnificent rider. Last year, with all the limitations he managed to stalk Stoner and finished 2nd in the championship despite missing the last 3 races. That's how great he is.
Now, the bike is improving and he's literally on a perfect bike if not the best, that's why he keeps winning. You can't be a WC if you're not in the best bike. And are you saying Honda making excuses about the tyre and chatter? I didn't seem to remember they have complained last season, that's because the bike was perfect and they got the best rider to ride it. The same applies to Yamaha right now.
If you want the true comparison, take a look back at Jerez & Estoril. Those were races with no arm-pump, no front tyre issue, no bad setup, no faulty tyre. Those were races where the leader & the 2nd rider riding together but no overtakes been done. These last 3 races Lorenzo runaway just like Stoners did last year. How long till you start to call it boring?? And I remember Lorenzos been quoted last year saying that he missed the time when Rossi & him battled on Yamaha, while a certain rider pull off in front. How the time is changed now, and he the 1 does it. Oh the irony...
Yamaha probably 5mph slower, but would he change his bike with Rossis now to gain the 5mph faster?? Never.


"You can't be a WC if you're not in the best bike."

Not true. Rossi proved in '04 and '05 that he could win without the best bike. The '04 M1 even had cam chains like your typical road bike (the 211v had gear driven camshafts and Aprilia/Biaggi's WSBK Trim RSV4 had them as well and WSBK banned them because they weren't on their road bike and provided an unfair advantage) . The 211v was the best bike in the field every single year from 2002-2006 and still the greatest GP bike I've ever seen.


That could not be done today, with this rule set, not by anyone riding today. That rider/bike ratio has changed significantly since the 990cc era. The journalists and riders even say so.

I don't think it's possible to say the M1 was a bad bike. In '02, Rossi on the RCV211 was beaten by Biaggi on the M1 a few times. The funny thing is that Rossi and Biaggi basically swapped bikes, but still got the same results in '03. Other riders also got similar results over the next few seasons, including some who moved from RCVs to M1 (Edwards), some who went the other way (Melandri, Tech3 M1 to RCV) and some who stayed on the same bike (Checa on the factory M1).

Given how the riders relative rankings stayed quite similar, if anything the overall packages must have been relatively competitive with each other - even if each had different strengths and weaknesses. Certainly, the riders' abilities seemed to be a far bigger factor than the bikes back then.

Oh, of course, it's possible the machinery changed over the seasons to match the change-over of riders. I guess we could do a statistical analysis to see how strongly the riders results correlate with the bikes (though, there won't be enough data-points to get really clear view of significance, methinks).

"It is impossible to win championships without winning races..."

Tell that to Emilio Alzamora. :-P