2013 Jerez MotoGP Test, Friday Round Up - A New Bike Launched, But Weather Turns Nasty

So the final test of the year is upon us, and at last we know what the bike Valentino Rossi - oh, and by the way, reigning MotoGP World Champion and arguably the best motorcycle racer in the world (now that Casey Stoner has retired, and before Marc Marquez gets up to speed) Jorge Lorenzo - will be riding. That it was a big deal was obvious to anyone on Twitter, with a lot of buzz surrounding when the unveiling was, and what the bike would look like.

The crowd of photographers and journalists stood outside in the rain outside the Yamaha garage merely underlined the excitement. The media invitation to the Yamaha 2013 MotoGP launch promised snacks and an aperitif in their large and pleasant hospitality unit ahead of the bike unveiling in the garages. The hospitality unit was almost deserted, the media preferring the rain, and standing waiting to see a bike which everyone who had watched the Yamaha garages being built up the day before had a rough idea of what it would look like. Ducati may have the most prestigious and upmarket launch, but Yamaha certainly know how to generate excitement.

The reception after the unveiling was, well, rather mixed. The bike looks good, certainly, but a few paddock wits were suggesting that Yamaha had merely taken Rossi's 2005 Gauloises Yamaha leathers and unstitched the tobacco sponsors for the new rider gear. Among the fans there was mild disappointment, but heavily tempered by the fact that they would soon be seeing Rossi back closer to the front, a location he has been absent from for the past two disastrous years at Ducati.

The huddled masses yearning to be admitted to the Yamaha garage were not the only activity in pit lane. At one end, a garage was in use as a temporary photo studio, as this year's bikes and riders were being snapped for the MotoGP.com website. Further along, Dani Pedrosa was being filmed by Spanish TV for their preseason special, Repsol and Mediaset minders ushering away anyone who strayed too near. Once the Yamaha garage was opened, Spanish TV was left to work in peace, with MotoGP photographers vying to get the MotoGP money shot. Having achieved their goal - which seemed to take longer than you might expect, and involved an awful lot of flash photography - they departed, and the media pack descended on Yamaha's hospitality for the presentation.

Yamaha were well prepared. The big question was addressed: the last time Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo shared a garage, there was fireworks, and Yamaha staff were willing to admit that this was a possibility now. Things had changed now, however. Jorge Lorenzo is two years older, and more mature, and more confident, having secured his second world title. Valentino Rossi returns from a misadventure, delighted to be back at his spiritual home - the Italian was continuously at pains to express his pleasure at being back with Yamaha - and understanding that he returns to a team where his teammate is world champion. The last time they were together, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis explained, it was like they were at a crossroads, and crossroads are places where accidents happen. Now, they are both on the same road, and traveling in the same direction.

Does that mean it will be all sweetness and light? Not necessarily on track, but Rossi was at pains to point out that in the garage, the goal was to work together to improve the bike. Any nonsense about data sharing, access to parts or anything else will simply not happen in 2013. "Our target is to fight on the track," Rossi said, whilst acknowledging that to beat their rivals, he and Lorenzo had to work together to hold off the Honda Hordes.

That does not mean that the two men have suddenly become best friends, however. "I will not say our relationship is fantastic," Lorenzo said. "We can talk about the bike, but we can talk about other things...." the Spaniard added, to which Rossi interjected off microphone a suggestion that such subjects might also include, shall we say, an appreciation of the female form.

There is plenty to talk about on the bike. Though the 2013 Yamaha is a strong bike - Rossi praised the electronics strategies in particular, and both men said the acceleration was much better - it still lags behind the Honda in one crucial aspect: the seamless gearbox. Or rather, the lack thereof. Yamaha's MotoGP group leader Kouichi Tsuji - the former leader, Masahiko Nakajima, has been moved aside as he has reached the age of 55, a common practice in Japanese companies - confirmed that Yamaha were working on such a gearbox, but that there was still no date for its introduction.

Team manager Wilco Zeelenberg later explained that building such a gearbox was a major challenge, and did not come without associated risk. "Honda spent two-and-a-half years getting their gearbox right," Zeelenberg commented, "we haven't spent that long on it yet." There was much at stake if Yamaha got it wrong. A seamless gearbox consists of a lot of complicated technology crammed into a very small space. It needs to be completely reliable before it can be raced, as otherwise, the gains offered could be lost in what would otherwise be a simple mechanical failure. Gaining a couple of tenths a lap would be positive, but throwing away a championship through gearbox failure was simply not something Yamaha is prepared to do. The seamless gearbox will come. We just don't yet know exactly when.

It is, of course, mildly ridiculous that all three major manufacturers have spent so much money developing a technology that will never find any application on the road, when there is a much simpler fix available. The ban on double clutches - once an expensive technology, now commonplace on production motorcycles - forced engineers to become creative, and their creativity ended up costing Honda - and especially, Honda's satellite teams - very large sums of money. The 650,000 euro seamless gearbox could have been avoided if Dorna, IRTA or the FIM had simply suggested that they allow the use of double clutches, at a cost of a few percent of the price of a seamless box. Sometimes, it feels like the Grand Prix Commission's focus on cost-cutting is merely reducing spending on the black and white areas of the rulebook, and opening it up in the many, many grey areas which come with a thick rulebook.

One thing is for sure: Yamaha's riders are going to have their hands full holding off the Hondas. Valentino Rossi tipped Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa for the title, but the big surprise had been the performance of Marc Marquez. Having watched him in Moto2, neither Yamaha rider was surprised at the Spaniard's performance at the first MotoGP test at Sepang. Marquez had started to change his style to make it better suited to MotoGP last year, while he was still fighting for the Moto2 title. What neither Rossi nor Lorenzo had expected was for Marquez to be fastest at the private Austin test. That was both impressive and rather worrying, both men admitted. Lorenzo had followed Marquez at Austin and been impressed. Marquez was not riding at 100%, Lorenzo said, but he was easily fastest through some of the tightest and most technical sections. Marquez is a true prodigy, achieving above and beyond what might be expected of mere mortals.

Whether we get to see at Jerez just what Marquez is made if is yet to be seen. Rain is set to fall very heavily on Saturday - so heavily, that it is doubtful that anyone will even turn a wheel in Spain - and conditions for Sunday and Monday are only marginally better. That will leave a lot of riders frustrated, especially among the CRT category. The CRT teams using the spec Magneti Marelli need as much set up time as they can get, given that they still need to define the basic parameters of their maps. To be able to do that accurately, you need access to the sort of (expensive) engine dyno which most teams simply do not possess. Magneti Marelli had offered to map engines for free, but while they were ready to work on engine mapping for the CRT teams, the CRT teams did not have engines ready to test. As a result, the racetrack has become the testbed, and dry weather would be much more important in trying to find the right set up. That, however, does not look to be on the cards. Rain continues to dog MotoGP, and given the outstanding weather of just two days ago, there is no real explanation for the rain which keeps blighting premier class racing. God, it would appear, has still not forgiven the MSMA for dropping the two-stroke engine, perhaps....

Back to top

Comments

A great write up... amazing that Ducati was able to roll the gearbox technology out before Yamaha, but I guess performance was such that they could afford the risk? i cannot wait to see how MM handles the pressure of his first premiere class race and if he can keep up with the human metronome that is #99 and the guy that makes C-P30 seem like a stand up comic.

As an aside, i can understand a journalist's frustration in having to cover all things Rossi 24/7, especially someone that doesn't report/regurgitate the news, but who puts a tremendous amount of thought in their Work. For a deep thinking writer like David that obviously cares about the sport given the pages dedicated to out of the box thinking, Rossimania must be a bore pursued out of obligagtion. That said, VR46 is not exactly Kim Kardashian or Lindsy Lohan and should be treated with a bit more respect than he has been here. His resume doesn't need recounting among this group so that is why i affirmatively state taht the first paragraph is needlessly dismissive and disrespectful. Some of the parenthetical statements could have been omitted.

Let the beating and one-star-ratings begin! since I opened my mouth I can take it...

Is it anyone's fault that not many were interested in the Yamaha livery the previous 2 seasons?

Nor is it anyon'e fault that Jorge (and long-gone Casey) can generate a fraction of the excitement of the Italian.

Last I checked, Lorenzo and Stoner's combined championships barely exceed half of Rossi's........ So like him or hate him, respect should be exercised.

JL and CS have accumulated 2 WC each (the same as VR) as well as more points in total over the years they have been racing against Valentino, this includes Caseys 1st year on the LCR Honda.

So like them or hate them, respect should be exercised
to all riders, and not just the one who has the most fans.

It's intended for people like Michael Scott and the other fawning Rossiboppers among the media who have, to one degree or another, consistently overlooked 'That Other Guy' in their build up to the season. I fear that it won't be long until Lorenzo starts getting painted with the well used 'villain' brush...

The media just cater for the fan base. Rossi is the most popular rider, regardless of his performance, you just have to suck it up and accept it.

It's unprecedented how many people support Rossi, how many people watch the sport for Rossi and how many people know the name Valentino Rossi that don't even watch MotoGP.

He is a different ball game to all other riders and unlike certain people we see piping up on here time after time, the media recognise what Rossi is and they go with it.

I thought David's writing here sounded more bitter than ironic, but that is the joy of the written word over the spoken I guess...

If I remember correctly, Ducati did have problems with their seamless clutch when it was introduced in 2011. Rossi had problems at Indianapolis and maybe another race when it unexpectedly ended up in neutral. When they were rolled out by Honda they had techs tearing them down and rebuilding them daily at first.

The patience shown by Yamaha here isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially as it's not clear that Yamaha can't win without it yet.

As an example; Rule 2.4 of FIM Superbikes EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT AUTHORISED AND PRESCRIBED IN THIS RULE IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN

Hence, no dual clutches, no seamless gearbox.

I would suggest; "One gear only shall be selected by manual control only at a time".

Dorna/IRTA/FIM cost controls are bogus. A 5x engine limit for year, the money previously poured into 18x2=36x engines is poured instead into just 5x engines.

The factories will spend the money regardless.

Agree with the first comment.

The first paragraph is quite clumsy.

JL doesn't have to wait till CS's retirement to be proclaimed the world's best rider. He beat CS to the 2012 world championship. Worse, the point barely belongs to the first para - or anywhere - in this article.

Not good journalism.
Anyway, whatever rocks your boat mate :)

I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy watching a few journalist predictions get stuffed right down where they came from...a bit like in 2012. Only this time it's going to be even better.

yes, the first paragraph is sarcastically disrespectful to lorenzo. not just with the casey's retirement statement, but "(possibly) before marquez gets up to speed". that is just so so insulting to jorge. so much surety every marquez diehards have about his future. i remember the same fandom and speculation when pedrosa entered motogp in 2006, turns out it took 6 years for him to really get up to speed and consistency. i wonder if the same happens with marquez what his special fans would do.

The fact that I mention four names in connection with the title of best motorcycle racer in the world was meant to tip people off that I was being ironic, but clearly, I failed in my attempt at irony. Racing a motorcycle is something so complex that arguments can be made for all of them to be regarded as the best. That title is really only decided on a Sunday, once the checkered flag has dropped, and is only valid until the next time they race.

Standing around in the rain for 30 minutes looking at a pair of cold umbrella girls, waiting for garage doors to open, to get a glimpse of a motorbike which is only slightly changed from last year tickled my sense of irony. I was one of the idiots foolish enough to spend all that time in the rain. And props to Yamaha, as I wrote, for generating that excitement.

I think this was a great article as usual. Somehow I managed to get the irony David was trying to get across..... seemed obvious enough. I am also a grown up who realizes that no matter what is written or who writes it there are biases in EVERYTHING.....ya I said it! I personally think that motomatters is one of, if not the best site for informative news that is as close to unbiased as possible without being spreadsheets. I'm not sucking up, just my 2 cents.

Thank you David, I appreciate this site very much and can't wait for the season to start!

Lorenzo decided that he had all the skills of the 'other' top riders and was the sum total of them all, so added up their numbers, 26 + 27 + 46 = 99
He should therefore be running 165 on his bike this year, otherwise he might be in trouble.... :O)

as, like most of David's writing it is comprehensive. Perhaps much of the racing world/fan base has been waiting for the VR46 moment (and I'm looking forward quite eagerly to what I hope is a successful season for him, at least) but David has reminded the reader that there are other important riders out there too.
Given the pre-season test performance it seems entirely reasonable that MM will quickly become a front-runner as per HRC expectations.
When guys like Hayden call him a game-changer it needs to be taken seriously and I would bet that Pedrosa and Lorenzo (and Rossi) are intensely focused on being 100% fit physically and mentally for what is, hopefully, going to be a season-long battle.
The description of the setting is great and the overall article is way better than most re-gurgitation of the standard press-releases.
Hopefully, no-one will dislike his reference to God.

This is the best site on the net for racing in general and motogp in particular. I think back about the "How To Save motogp" series from a few years ago and the many topics created since, and it is proof you won't find someone that is as much a fan of the sport as he is a writer. The sport needs and will get new heroes, but it just seemed DE was looking past those currently at the top or those that at one time reigned supreme. Hats off to DE for giving us his perspective; we're not owed this but it has become a huge selling point for me and takes full advantage of technology allowing reader and writer to interact. Not a day goes by where I don't read the site before getting out of bed, quick check over lunch and before bed (Yes, admittedly I need to find real or virtual help).

I do disagree that it is a Repsol site; DE has been mostly deferential of #99; gave fair play to Cal; called it like it needed to be called on Ben; and I seem to remember times when Pedrosa won a race and was he barely mentioned and was later called out by a reader and later apologized for it. I would also encourage that the site image be checked again - I think you'll find all manufacturers represented!

Yeah I have to admit I was a bit turned off, but maybe there is a more level headed way of looking at it. Just that our heads aren't level all hours of a day...so apologies to David. I guess 'getting judged' is the price to pay for being a non-template journalist.

Interestingly, I have had more than one person - one of them actually part of the paddock - ask me whether motomatters is a repsol sponsored site or one aspiring to be.

I cannot blame any of them since the site color resembles repsol while the pics associated with the site name are all repsol hondas. Add to this a constant push on Casey, MM, and Pedrosa, and I really really can't blame them :)

Conspiracy theories...you can't live with them you can't live without them.

If I was sponsored by Repsol, I would be staying in much better hotels than I am now...

However, it is not something I aspire to, other than welcoming them as an advertiser were they to wish to do so. I try to maintain very strict editorial independence, and publish what I believe to be true, and give my opinion as I see it. My opinion may not be correct, but I try to at least back it up with arguments. The trouble with opinions is that they can offend people if you happen not to share them. Given that I have had people from most manufacturers and teams come to me to complain about what I have written, and been called a Rossi fan, a Stoner fan, a Lorenzo fan and a Pedrosa fan, sometimes in the comments under the same story, I believe I have the balance about right.

but it's David I'm really grateful too as this is easily the best site I have found.

Nothing wrong with a bit of passion either - it keeps the site interesting too. It's also nice to avoid the vitriol that emerges on so many other sites. Good clean racing is what we want; good clean arguments are what makes it enjoyable.