2012 Valencia MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Of Anticipation, Determination, Preparation, And New Rules For 2014

The atmosphere in the paddock at Valencia is an odd mixture of fatigue, excitement and anticipation. Fatigue, because it is the end of a long season, and the teams and riders are barely recovered from the three back-to-back flyaway rounds; excitement, because this is the last race of the year, and the last chance to shine, and for some, the last chance to impress a team sufficiently to secure a ride next year; and anticipation, because with so many riders switching brands and classes, they are already thinking about the test to come on Tuesday.

Or in Casey Stoner's case, thinking about a future outside of MotoGP. As his departure from the championship grows near, it is clear that he has had more than enough of the series. Asked if he was worried about the politics in V8 Supercars, where he is headed in the near future, he said he wasn't, because he understood that V8 Supercars is a different kind of championship. MotoGP, though, was supposed to be a professional championship, and in his opinion, it was 'a joke'. Four races in Spain, another just over the border in Portugal, this was not a truly world championship, Stoner said. Instead, MotoGP is too much of a European championship, and it needed to rediscover its roots.

There is still a sense of disbelief that Stoner could retire from MotoGP at the tender age of 27, but he has been consistent and clear. This was not a decision he had reached just a couple of weeks ago, this is something he has known was coming for a long time, he told the pre-event press conference on Thursday. It would be unwise to bet any money at all on Casey Stoner ever making a return to the series. The loss of his talent is a tragedy for the championship, but as in an unhappy marriage, it is better for the two parties to go their separate ways.

The race, however, looks promising. With Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa on six wins each, and Casey Stoner having five, there is plenty at stake at Valencia. Stoner told the press conference he would be approaching the race just as he had Phillip Island, words which must have struck fear into most of the paddock given the Australian's utter domination at his home track. Fortunately for them, he added that he did not expect it to be quite as special as Phillip Island.

If I had to call it, though, I would say that Jorge Lorenzo exudes the most determination at the moment. With the weight of the championship off his shoulders, he can ride a little more freely, he told the press conference. The fact that he is only equal with Pedrosa on race wins was not a concern, nor the fact that he could end the season with fewer wins than his Repsol Honda rival if Pedrosa were to take victory at Valencia. "This statistic doesn't worry me too much," he said. "I just want to try to win, and for sure I will take more risks than the last race." Earlier, when complimenting him on a near-perfect season, I mentioned that he needed to finish either first or second to keep the streak alive. "I don't like second position," Lorenzo quipped. "I will go for the win." The competition has been warned.

Lorenzo's flawless season received much attention from some quarters, his run of six wins and ten second places drawing universal admiration. Ducati's Nicky Hayden was effusive, when he was asked about Lorenzo's year so far. The American had seen portents of Lorenzo's title even as early as Malaysia, but there was one factor which Hayden believed had been crucial. "Lorenzo is really strong mentally," Hayden told the press on Thursday. "Even this winter, we got to the Jerez test after being in Malaysia for two tests, and me and Filippo Preziosi were talking about something, saying Casey this, Casey that, and I said I think if I had to pick a champion, I thought Lorenzo was the favorite."

Lorenzo's preparation and attitude had been decisive, Hayden said. "He works extremely hard during the weekends, during testing. In the first practice, he'll be the first guy on the track, and the guy with the most laps." High praise indeed, coming from the man who as a rule has the most laps every single test. "Even in the winter in Malaysia when we were testing, when it was hot in the afternoon and most people were staying in the box, he was out doing really long runs. Some people talked about long runs, but he was doing full race simulations, and it was clear he was ready, he was very hungry for this title," Hayden said.

Lorenzo's team boss at Yamaha concurred. It was his work ethic and his preparation which had made the difference, Wilco Zeelenberg said. "You saw it in the first few races. What were Casey and Dani complaining of? Arm pump. Jorge was ready, he knew the 1000s would put more strain on his arms." Lorenzo had been putting in the hard work in testing, running full race simulations so he knew just how much more effort the 1000s would take to ride. He had adjusted his training and testing schedule to cope with the differences, and it paid off in spades.

Beyond Sunday, and even beyond the test on Tuesday - speaking of anticipation, Valentino Rossi almost had to remind himself he was still riding for Ducati when he was asked about riding the Yamaha on Tuesday - a rulebook for 2014 and beyond looks to be drawing near. The battle which was being played out both in the press and behind closed doors has settled into a debate, and for the first time, there is real progress, one source told me. Though the rules are still not completely settled - when asked whether the spec ECU would be enforced or not, the reply was "this is changing hour by hour" - the trench mentality has disappeared, and a genuine dialog is taking place. There is give and take on both sides, and both sides are actively making proposals to move the process forwards.

On the side of the manufacturers, things which had been deal breakers - such as a spec ECU, which Carmelo Ezpeleta told the French magazine Moto Journal that Honda is now very close to accepting - have now become bargaining chips. From the side of Dorna, there is a recognition that the investment the factories made in the switch to 1000cc needs to be respected and appreciated. Honda, Yamaha and Ducati all signed up to the 1000cc, bore-limited rules, and spent the extra money to build new bikes to suit the formula, just as Dorna asked them to do. They supported the championship, and the championship needs to respect that.

But the manufacturers have also accepted that Dorna needs to have something they can sell as an entertainment product to TV companies. That, after all, is what helps pay for the championship, where the R&D merely costs money. The grids have to be filled, and too much of a disparity makes selling the show a tough proposition.

The turnaround in relations came at Motegi. Two developments were key here, one old and one new. The old development is one which has been discussed at length previously: the use of CRT machines to fill the grid demonstrated all too clearly to the manufacturers that Dorna was willing to run a championship without them. There would be life after the MSMA, if the factories decided to pull out in protest at any proposed rule changes.

As a result, the MSMA may at last find a way of filling the grids, producing affordable racers to be made available to the teams. This has been the desire of Dorna and IRTA (the teams) ever since the financial crisis struck, but all previous requests to produce cheaper versions of their prototype MotoGP machines, either for sale or for lease, have fallen on deaf ears. With Dorna having it made clear that they can find cheap ways to fill the grid if the factories depart, it is starting to appear like the factories may have finally caved in.

The new development is more obvious, and has received pages of press coverage in the past. With Dorna taking over the World Superbike series, the factories' threat to leave the series and do their R&D in the other world championship was effectively neutralized, with Dorna prepared to impose regulations to put a stop to any such suggestion. Ironically, the takeover by Dorna may actually end up saving World Superbikes in a recognizable form. With the threat of factories jumping ship from MotoGP neutralized, there is no need to limit World Superbikes much more than they already are. WSBK is unlikely to gain much technical sophistication in the medium term, but there is less reason to limit it a great deal. If the MSMA do start producing cheaper machines for the private MotoGP teams to use - leased engines, a production racer, etc - then the performance gap between MotoGP and WSBK can be maintained without hobbling WSBK.

The Grand Prix Commission meets on Saturday, and it looks likely that a set of stable rules to be applied through 2016 will be produced here. If not at Valencia, then certainly at the final GPC meeting in December.

This is the key to MotoGP's long-term future. With stable rules, other factories can make realistic projections about the cost of entering the series. Once the 2014 rules have been agreed, discussions for more far-reaching changes can be discussed for 2017. That, though, is far enough in the future to give the factories time to prepare. MotoGP is set to turn a corner. At long, long last.

Total votes: 193
Total votes: 88

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Comments

I thought the arm pump was the cause of severe chatter that the Hondas were experiencing as opposed to any lack of training.

I think it's quite poor form to be taking shots at the 2 title contenders now that "his man" has won the championship.

Total votes: 228

Part of me is really hoping for Stoner to win the race, can't think of anything more fitting for the season that to have Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Stoner all finish with equal wins... Lorenzo in 1st as champion underlying the pure perfection of his racing, Pedrosa second on points with a new willingness to push for wins rather than reducing the risk and running in second or third, and Stoner in third underlying his continual statement of just winning races and not worrying about the championship.

In some ways the season would end up underlying the differing styles of the 3.

Also think this race could actually be the race of the season with nothing to make any of the riders play safe and finish for points... Here's hoping!

Total votes: 170

Lorenzo hasn't won a race since September 16th, 2012. If he doesn't win in Valencia, he will have to wait until March 31st, 2013. I think he is going to be in win-it-or-bin-it-mode. Six months without a victory is enough to make a competitor like Lorenzo lose his mind.

Total votes: 176

What roots? Does he mean how the first ever 1949 world championship had races in exotic locations such as the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy? Sounds all European to me.

I am opposed to Stoner's argument. A world championship is the competition of the best athletes in that respective sport. It has nothing to do with the venue or the nationalities of the participants. Every round could be held in Iceland, and every rider could be South African, and it would still be a world championship as long as those South Africans were the best racers in the world.

All the top riders are Spanish/Italian/British/American? That's just how it turned out. Most rounds are in Europe? Well most of the good racetracks, as well as the fans, are also in Europe. Its no different than the AMA Supercross Championship being an FIM world championship with all rounds bar one in the USA.

Stoner is one of my all time favorite riders to watch, and I don't mind his abrasive attitude at all. Sometimes his arguments are illogical, however. I feel that certain riders are so far embedded in MotoGP that they have a poor understanding of the overall picture and business that is Motorsport. The fiercely negative reaction by some against CRT for example was quite irrational. It isn't their fault, their jobs require them to live and breath motorcycle riding and racing, which doesn't necessarily include the specific details of technical regulations, engineering, business practices, and politics. Some riders like Hayden and Rossi seem have a good grasp of such aspects of MotoGP. Others like Stoner do not.

Total votes: 234

Just because Stoner speaks his mind, doesn't mean he's always right. This I definitely agree with you on. But one point I don't agree with is saying that most of the fans are also in Europe. For sure Spain and Italy and motorcycle racing fanatics, but so are a lot of Asian and South American countries that aren't raced at. India is motorcycle MAD and there's no race there. The series could definitely do well to go into those countries. Obviously, that's easier said than done, with finding sufficiently safe venues, securing lodging, local broadcasting rights, Dorna sanctioning fees, etc. But it would still be nice to see them mix it up with other countries in the near future.

Total votes: 210

He went on a long rant about Dorna and the switch to 800cc before, blaming the latter on the former. He had his facts quite wrong - his employer had far more to do with it than Dorna. So it turns out that while he's spent a lot of time cultivating a world-class riding talent, he doesn't always spend quite as much time checking his facts as he should before he opens his mouth. :)

Total votes: 188

A rider who was always prepared to speak his mind, or a rider who was always 100% factually correct

Total votes: 197

Would you prefer to chose between two options that are not mutually exclusive or not?

:P

Total votes: 179

They are mutually exclusive propositions. Any person who is always prepared to express their opinion when prompted is likely to be factually incorrect occasionally, intentionally or unintentionally. Happens to politicians regularly, let alone MotoGP riders who aren't neccesarily splitting atoms on their days off riding.

Total votes: 178

It is not the physical location of the venue that makes the riders World Champs, it is the nationality of the riders involved.

Each rider in motogp has bested thousands of riders from their home country allowing them the right compete on the world stage.

Total votes: 181

You are technically correct - you can have a WC all in one country, all with one nationality. Technically. But is that a real WC then? If all/most races and all/most competitors are from one country, it doesn't hold the same appeal for fans or sponsors, and it doesn't have the same appeal/funds available for teams/riders who want to join the series. It will then keep perpetuating itself, with the same faces from the same areas competing. A proper World Championship should represent the whole world, not one nation.

Take the World Cup in soccer for example, any nation can qualify for it, and qualification matches take place around the world, the competition itself takes place in a different country every time its held. Or the Euorpean Champions League or Heinekin Cup (Rugby). Both of those have matches/teams/venues from all over Europe. They are true European Championships.

In America, you have The World Series in baseball. Played between Canadian & US teams only, is it a true World Series? Or the AMA Supercross you mentioned. Is the competition truely (or technically) a world championship if all but one race are held in America. I presume most competitors, teams and fans are American? Is there enough prize-money/sponsorship money available to teams from Europe, Asia, Austrailia etc to draw them over to compete?

That was Stoners point I think, that you can't have a true WC if 5/18 races are held in one corner of the globe. You then have most of the big sponsors from that area and most of the riders and most of the fans (that physically attend the races) from that area. It sort of snowballs out of control then. If you look at the F1 calender, that is a much more global WC. They have a good spread of rounds across the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Far East, and 1 in Oz too.

Not saying Stoner is always correct, but hes been racing in the GP paddock since he was 15 I think, so that is 12 years. To suggest he doesn't know what he is talking about or at least have enough experience to have an informed and relevant opinion is a bit far-fetched and unfair on the guy.

Total votes: 203

"A world championship is the competition of the best athletes in that respective sport. It has nothing to do with the venue or the nationalities of the participants. Every round could be held in Iceland, and every rider could be South African, and it would still be a world championship as long as those South Africans were the best racers in the world."

I agree with this. A world championship, to me, is the cream of the crop of drivers/riders. It can happen in one location (e.g., Le Mans, Paris-Dakar, ROC) or it can stretch across the world - both are fine with me.

One thing that should be considered for the long-term is the cost of racing locations. Going to only one location minimizes this issue but then you loss out on the international circuit. Going around the world involves logistics and a lot of money. (I remember when CART went to Surfers Paradise that a special FedEx airplane was chartered and the teams were only allowed so much space and weight. It helped with logistics and also tested the teams because they had to carefully decide what to bring and what to leave at home).

Maybe an investment Dorna can make is to provide transportation for teams to outside-of-Europe locations. This would also apply to factory teams. Alex Briggs would need to buy carpet at the local oriental carpet store (like he did in Phillip Island) instead of shlepping it with the bikes and parts.

Total votes: 194

Superb article David, once again!
Why the title, simply because all the things I wrote as a comment on the articles or in the forum, are not too far from becoming reality. The 1mio dollar bikes, the dream that engines could be leased to CRT's.....
I really think that the give and take going on at the moment will end as a Spec ECU package (limited sensors, .....) but still some programming freedom so every brand still has their own character.
About Stoner I can be brief: one of the greatest riders ever, no doubt about that but I won't miss his moaning one bit. Bye bye Casey, hope everything goes well in your backyard V8 championship.

Total votes: 189

Like this one. MGP is the premier and most global motorcycle road racing championship. It is attempting to diversify into new countries/markets. I'm sure that if Stoner were to bring suitable contracts from suitable tracks in India, Brazil/Argentina or similar, China, Russia, and Canada then he would be called brilliant and making a real contribution to the sport he has prospered so greatly from. As it is, to me he just sounds bitter and as if he is talking out of the wrong orifice.
Personally, I thank heaven that Spain has sufficient motorcycling fans to offer and pay for those races. Dorna has acknowledged that they need to be 'more global'. What does Stoner want? A limit on the number of races a country can hold?

Next thing he will be saying is that it cannot be a 'proper' world championship because there are too many Spanish riders..... well before he does, I hope he reads that Dorna are on to that one too and says nothing.

Total votes: 182

I think his point about a more diverse world championship stems from his eternal status as an outsider in a European-dominated series. The southern European focus of the series leads to a strong 'ol boys club attitude where it should be skill that determines club membership, not nationality. In the years from the 90s on the combination of the reduction of non-southern European races and the domination of Rossi acted to create a very insular series that saw any challenge to the domination of a local boy to be an attack on the series itself. Combine this with Dorna's explicit desire to market Rossi and the series becomes less a world championship and more of a biased competition series. The US baseball World Series and the AMA supercross/FIM world championship are merely examples of America's americentric thinking and not something to be emulated.

Stoner's ax to grind comes from the fact that most Italian and Spanish media did not like the fact that he was beating their superstar and because of the preponderance of those events they dominate the GP press and that's all that usually got out. In the past when there were major rider rivalries the media did not take such a negative view of one of the riders. People enjoyed the competition and the personality clashes but with the Rossi-Stoner rivalry it seems that Stoner was always portrayed by nearly the entire GP press as mentally weak, riding a superior machine (oh how that one has been disproved), or as anything but as an extremely talented rider. We all now know that that is anything but the truth but so far I think Carlo Pernat has been the only one to come out and offer a sincere and unambigous apology to Stoner for their mistaken take on him.

The real shame is that when MotoGP is so weak it is losing one of its superstars due mainly to the biased ramblings of Italian and Spanish journalists who don't realize that they are only biting the hand that feeds them.

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

Total votes: 185