2015 Valencia Post-Race Day 2 Round Up: New Electronics, New Systems, And A Pleasant Distraction

The final day of testing at Valencia was a repeat of the first day: a lot of crashes on the Michelin tires, the factory Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis working on the brand new spec electronics, the satellite bikes and the Suzukis working on their own 2015 electronics. For the Suzukis, that was not such a problem. The new electronics were likely to be an improvement on their own electronics, both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro said, so missing out now was not such a problem. Suzuki have another test planned at Sepang at the end November, at which they plan to switch the 2016 unified software. With two days of Michelin testing under the belt, testing the spec software should be easier.

Choosing to wait until Sepang could be a smart strategy. There, with more time and test riders to help, Suzuki will have the resources to make quicker progress with the spec software. Honda, but especially Yamaha, showed that progress was possible, both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi saying that their second day on the spec electronics had been much better than the first day. "Yesterday, the thing was it was just a check out of the system to understand how they work in which corner, but the power was not done to have the best performance," Jorge Lorenzo said. "We work on that for the next morning and I felt it was much better and I improved during all the day quite a bit." Valentino Rossi agreed. "From yesterday to today already the situation improved a lot. It is still not at the same level for sure, but it looks like we can improve I think quite quickly."

There was still room for improvement, however. "Especially the anti-wheelie is quite inconsistent sometimes," Lorenzo said. "I would like to have more anti-wheelie. And it doesn't give you the same support as the old version, it's quite free, it slides more, it's more inconsistent, the bike is moving more. In these three areas I would like to improve."

It is unlikely that Lorenzo's requests will be fulfilled completely, as there are no plans at the moment to radically expand functionality of the spec electronics. That does not mean there can be no improvements: Dorna head of technology Corrado Cecchinelli estimated that the teams are only using around 10% of the potential of the current system, with much more available as teams figured out the software and optimized all of the functions available. With time and work, he expected to see major steps forward.

"That is easier for Yamaha than for Honda," Dani Pedrosa said. "It’s the first time Honda has another manufacturer making electronics on our bike. It’s the first time for our technicians and riders." Both Honda riders complained that the system was very inconsistent for them, with the power delivery being a little unpredictable. The system was so radically different to the in-house software used by Honda throughout their history, that it was taking their engineers a while to figure it out. Yamaha and Ducati, on the other hand, have always had their electronics supplied by Magneti Marelli, so even though they wrote their own ECU software, the systems were very familiar.

Honda may have been struggling with the electronics, but that did not stop them from being the fastest men on the day. Dani Pedrosa led for a lot of the session, deposed later in the afternoon by Marc Márquez, both men down in the low 1'31s, Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales both crashing as they pushed to go even faster, trying to crack the 1'30 barrier. Despite the speed, the Hondas were still trying to figure out the new electronics, as well as testing a 2016 spec engine. HRC had told us earlier in the day that they had tried to improve the power delivery, but neither Marc Márquez nor Dani Pedrosa were particularly convinced. Testing with the new software made it hard to assess the engine properly, they said, though Márquez hinted that it was still a little too aggressive.

Honda head to Jerez at the end of the month, for three more days of testing. They will give the new engine another try there, with that test possibly holding the key to Honda's performance in 2016. If both Pedrosa and Márquez sign off on an engine which turns out to be too powerful when it comes to the first race in Qatar, they will be stuck with it for a whole year again, with few chances to improve the bike. That is a serious concern for HRC, but whether Honda can resist the temptation to chase horsepower remains to be seen.

Honda held a press conference again Wednesday, and once again, they refused to produce the data which they had promised in the press release issued after Sepang. They did not want to "pour fuel on the fire" of the Márquez/Rossi situation, they said, and had been asked by Dorna and the FIM not to do anything to make the situation worse. Releasing the data from Márquez' Sepang crash would have done exactly that, reigniting the controversy which has raged for the past two weeks.

The root cause of the problem was the press release issued in the aftermath of the Sepang race. HRC had wanted to stick to the facts of the incident, paddock rumor suggests, and only point out that racing should be done fairly, and that Márquez should have been treated with greater respect in the press conference. Unfortunately, it was not only HRC who had a hand in the press conference, the gossips say. Márquez' entourage, and especially the group around Emilio Alzamora, had insisted that the press release contained a reference to a kick by Valentino Rossi. Including that allegation necessitated backing it up with data, hence the offer. It was not a position HRC were particularly pleased with, the gossips say.

To an extent, HRC were saved by the revelation that Casey Stoner is to join Ducati as a test rider for 2016. Normally, the loss of their superstar test rider would be a PR body blow for Honda, but now, with the media spotlight still on Valentino Rossi's allegations that Marc Márquez had helped Jorge Lorenzo, and neither Honda nor Yamaha happy about the situation, they were happy with the distraction. The media spotlight is easy to entice towards pastures new, and Casey Stoner coming back to Ducati is exactly the kind of story the media love. Even Ducati helped play their part, Ducati Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti coming to the media center to issue such a vague and non-specific denial that he might just as well have admitted it. In their press conference, Honda also spoke about it as if it had already happened, but without officially confirming it. After weeks of three names hogging the limelight, it was nice to talk about something else for a change.


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Comments

Emilio Alzamora and his entourage seem to really have a bad influence on MM - Phillip Island 2013, anyone? - and with this new info about the press release, it seems obvious that when talking about "pouring fuel on the fire", he's holding the jerrycan.

I'm wondering to what else his "advisory" words have led in the past few weeks...

Hopefully Casey's secured some rock-solid guarantees from Ducati about 1) having first dibs on replacing injured riders and 2) getting in some wildcard rides.

I'm not convinced he would actually enjoy the racing these days. Since Marquez joined the pack the level of hand-to-hand combat, paint-swapping and physicality has gone up quite dramatically in my opinion. Stoner's always put an emphasis on clean passes and fair moves.

Now a man's not a mind reader but I'm not sure Stoner would be best pleased to find himself on the receiving end of some of Rossi, Marquez or Lorenzo's overtakes of the past few seasons.

The team relationship dynamics are interesting. Guess we didn't know as much about Casey's relationship with Ducati, and his parting, as we thought. Feel like his return to the family puts a certain amount of pressure on Dovi too.

IMHO Casey will find it very hard to race against real racers like Rossi and Marguez. He is more a Lorenzo type and enjoys winning by 10 seconds rather then have to fight with other riders.

But I hope he will come back soon. The more the merrier :-)

We are all so sick of the distasteful end to what was such a brilliant year of racing. I Look forward to seeing Casey on the red bike again, even if it is only testing. And where do we sign the petition for Stoner wildcard at Phillip Island?

You know that the world has turned upside down when people talk about Casey Stoner as a change.

Remember a time when Alberto Puig's constant scowl made for uncomfortable viewing into the Repsol garage? Seems like Alzamora is way more trouble.

It surprises me that HRC would really give in to any member of a riders entourage. Do they feel like having a level of separation helps with management or does it create a divide that allows Honda to drop whoever does something they don't like?

I had a great time watching hours of testing. A part of me hopes they don't put too much effort into improving the front tyre as long as it isn't dangerous. It's about time we had something that required new thinking and forced some change and adaptation.

Edwards said it in Fastest
"I bet when you ask anyone in the paddock to choose to get more horse power or more feeling, they will say more feeling."

More feeling = more confidence = faster lap times.

When the feeling is right, riders are going to complain about horsepower again :D

The backwards part....I still think we should go back to 500cc 2 strokes with no traction control. I'm an IT person but I find all this talk about electronics on motorbikes boring. The only electronics involved should be the signals in the riders brain which make the various parts of his body move.
Forwards.....eventually...I know you'd probably like to bury this one David, but here's my last word on Rossi / Marquez. For what its worth, after reviewing the evidence, both video and spoken from yourself and other journalists, I think Marquez did interfere with the championship and try to block Rossi. However, Rossi made a huge mistake both in the Sepang press conference and his race reaction to the provocation. He should have dealt with it with humour, as he usually does. He could have put the idea out there without provoking Marquez. As for Marquez, since Assen I haven't believed a word he says about track behaviour or race incidents, he does a very good line in fantasy and self delusion, I think he really believes that he does no wrong. I hope the Rossi / Lorenzo relationship of mutual respect will recover, as for Marquez I'm not so sure, he may have some poisonous people around him, he needs to shed a few hangers on.
That's it, no more on that subject, I'm looking forward to a clean season next year.

I'd prefer to see him on a Yamaha, but I guess while Rossi is there that's not likely haha. A wildcard ride would be amazing however. Imagine 5 legit aliens racing one another! Rossi vs Stoner, MM vs Stoner, as well as the extra rivalries already created in the last three races would be absolutely scintillating.

It looks like that super grippy Michelin rear is the perfect tonic for the Honda's lack of rear grip and the Suzuki's great handling seems to be overcoming the lack of front grip also...

Interesting times in MotoGP world

"Especially the anti-wheelie is quite inconsistent sometimes," Lorenzo said. "I would like to have more anti-wheelie. And it doesn't give you the same support as the old version, it's quite free, it slides more, it's more inconsistent, the bike is moving more. In these three areas I would like to improve."

Sounds like somebody needs to work on their throttle control.

Jorge Lorenzo, the smoothest and fastest rider this year needs to learn throttle control?

I imagine it would be more accurate to say that he needs to re-learn how to control his throttle in the absence of more sophisticated electronic safeguards, and that revised statement is probably true. I've never ridden a street bike with electronic rider aides, but the descriptions I've read of the electronic protections on GP bikes makes it sound like it requires a totally different rider skill set.

If these descriptions are accurate, there are many situations that would demand careful throttle modulation on a primitive motorcycle that, on a GP bike, are best handled by snapping the throttle wide open and letting the electronics sort out how much power the tires can manage at that moment. Get used to that approach over a few thousand laps, and it might take a while to retrain your right wrist when the response from the bike changes drastically.

Interestingly, for as often as fans long for the pre-electronics days, it seems clear that the riders are broadly pro-electronics. I thought Valentino's response was most telling. A guy who has been around long enough to have ridden the last of the 500ccs complaining that the 2016 spec electronics feel 7 or 8 years out of date. The electronics of 7 or 8 years ago had already seen several generations of development, so presumably an even more primitive bike would have only irritated him further.

I've just decided that--like them or hate them--electronics are obviously here to stay. You can't really have a prototype series that bans them when the production world includes the likes of the new R1 and ZX-10R.

They'll be pro-electronics because that's what they know now. Just like they'll be pro-Bridgestone because they're used to what that front tire does. They'll need to re-learn their skills to match the new conditions. Who will do that faster? That's what will be interesting.

If you mean that less invasive electronics might hand some responsibility back to the rider, then yes that's a good thing.

In British Superbike vs WSBK, the former took TC away, we still have great racing and the fast and most skillful guys are still at the front Like Shane Byrne, Josh Brooks).

We have to remember though that the manufacturer's want to use MotoGP for development too, they wouldn't be there otherwise. I guess that's why Honda so resisted spec. They want to develop cutting edge stuff as well as win races.

However, I don't think Lorenzo was awesomely fast because the had the best electronics package, he has the same as Rossi. Lorenzo was faster (I guess) for his excellent corner speed and perfect lines when he gets away. Presumably why Rossi always wanted to get close to mix it and mess that up.

Anyway, more great racing next year I hope, this has been the best for years.

I think though yet again, the four fastest guys will be on the four best bikes.

Why are electronics necessary in a prototype series just because they are on road bikes?

ABS is almost mandatory on high spec road bikes, yet we ban that. I can buy a scooter or touring bike with a dual clutch gearbox but dual clutches are banned in MotoGP, and that same touring bike may well have variable valve timing, also banned in MotoGP. Etc etc.

So the argument that just because we see it on the street it must be allowed in MotoGP doesn't hold up.

You also cannot say that riders are pro-electronics. Rossi, Stoner and several others have opined in the past about preferring less electronics. The comments we are reading from the riders at the moment are not related to a preference for or against electronics, they are simply referencing the completely new to them spec system versus the custom system they were intimately familiar with.

Lorenzo made a point regarding the lack of consistency of the new system. He has in no way forgotten how to ride, he doesn't need to relearn throttle control, he and his team need to learn what is causing the inconsistency, what conditions are being met to either trigger or not trigger a certain response.

Contrary to your belief I think if they announced there was a complete ban on rider aids most of the riders would be genuinely excited at the prospect. Some of the lesser lights in smaller teams would be positively salivating in anticipation at the thought of a huge technical advantage for their rivals being removed.

"Necessary" is probably too strong of a word. My point was more that there is clearly a trend to incorporate multi-axis sensors and ECUs dependent on motion sensor data into high end street bikes, so there would be a lot of resistance to eliminating that technology from the prototypes.

As far as rider opinion is concerned, there really appears to be no consensus: http://www.cycleworld.com/2015/08/14/the-motogp-question-traction-control/

Is the peak of 4 wheel sport, and they have no electronics despite virtually every car on sale having ESC and TC as standard.

I'd like to see electronics reduced to mapping and passive control only. Riders will ride to the limit of whatever they have available until they've worked out precisely where the razors edge is, be that with electronics or without. GP might be marginally slower without electronics but not by as much as people might think at least over a single lap, and manufacturers would just have to respond by building super smooth 4 stroke engines and investing their R&D into other areas. The spectacle of watching the riders have to control the bikes would be brilliant.

Master of the electronics age. He doesn't like the bike to moving around. I hope he has a more difficult time on a level playing field next year. I know thats not a very PC things to say, but watching riders escape into the distance gets old.

Master of the electronics age. He doesn't like the bike to moving around. I hope he has a more difficult time on a level playing field next year. I know thats not a very PC things to say, but watching riders escape into the distance gets old.

Duped by mistake please delete

I just hope the new electronic level the playing field some.
To see Rossi carve up all those guys and end up in forth, on a track which is called "real hard to pass on" just makes me wonder.... do you need a certain factory bike to make you an alien?

Question David please.. Does the new electronics still have corner by corner adjustment of the engine mapping?

I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds races that are decided by the first corner dull.

Reading reports that Rossi's merchandising company have cut the distribution deal with Marquez's merchandise effective immediately- the chances of a happy and harmonious paddock for 2016 look increasingly less likely by the day...

Apparently all the 2016 products for MM have been already produced, as production period goes form April to October, according to Nico Cereghini (moto.it). He also claims that the contract is still on and it ends next year...and, yes, I don't think there will be a renewal!

Please, let me join the 'people bored by one corner races' club :-)

Can we not ask the question, why do racing motorcycles have to have electronic rider aids? Sports cars have more sophisticated electronics than F1 cars. Does that mean that F1 cars are antiquated? The response that I here most is "Oh well we can't do anything. Electronics are here to stay". To hell with that. We are the fans of motorcycle racing and our opinions matter. The odds are against us and it is likely that our protests will be all in vain, but that is not a reason to accept it in silence.

Lorenzo stated "I would like to have more anti-wheelie". Does that not cheapen his achievements. Is not throttle control one of the most, if not the most, important skills that a racer has? "I would like to have more anti-wheelie because I need to get off the start line first. Without my anti-wheelie setting on maximum, my starts would just be the same as the guys behind me".

The first argument will be that the manufacturers need electronics in MotoGP so that they can develop the technology. How then do all the sports car manufacturers develop their electronic driver aids? Sorry, I'm not buying it at all. Second excuse, the power delivery of these engines is so violent that without electronics there would be more crashes. Yes, it would be easier to crash if you retain the violent power curves that have been used with electronics to control them. But if electronics were banned the factories would respond by creating engines with a more linear power delivery. That technology would be welcome for road going motorcycles. They would develop advanced lateral suspension systems to give more feedback to the rider and make motorcycle riding a more visceral experience. See Ducati's patent regarding this
http://www.google.com/patents/US7490843 that is the way we should go.
Electronics work in the opposite direction they blunt the feedback to the rider. The argument that we need electronics to reduce crashes leads to only one end. Yamaha have already developed a riderless motorcycle. That is the path that we are on. That is the death of motorcycle racing.

Let's see how long it takes for the first "Electronics are here to stay" response to appear.

Why do the likes of HRC tolerate them around most of the time, why do they have such power, and what do they actually do?

Presumably over the course of a race weekend the rider spends their time either working with engineers, riding the bike, or doing PR stuff organised by the team and sponsors (I may have answered part of my own question here!). Outside of contract time, are they needed? During the rest of the season, the riders are presumably travelling or training. Judging by Cal Crutchlow's twitter, it's cycling or flying!

I do find the idea that Alzamora dictates what goes in a Honda press release odd.

"Please, let me join the 'people bored by one corner races' club :-)"

Me too.

Dear David,

Apparently the Valencia test was broadcasted on Eurosport. I discovered this late and only saw the last two hours on wednesday. The dutch commentators where pointing out that JL99 was riding the new 2016 bike throughout the whole two days, whereas VR46 only tried it the first day and found it "unrideable". Every time he came out on Wednesday it was effectively on the 2015 bike, except for the last run of the day (maybe 5 laps?) with the 2016.

Wilco was interviewed too, asked about it he mentioned that JL99 saw the potential of the 2016 bike from the moment he came out of the box and that the VR46-camp was “having a lot more difficulties”. He said there were some crucial decisions to be made for Yamaha in the next couple of weeks/months, referring to
a) keeping the 2016 concept (the fuel tank at the back etc)
b) completely throwing the concept around (=maybe more input from VR46 than JL99?)
c) a pitbox with two different bikes next year like Honda did the second part of this year

Nobody at Yamaha is mentioning anything about this. VR46 saying the 2nd day was a big improvement compared to the 1st but forgetting to mention he all did it on the 2015 bike..

I’m dying to hear what your thoughts are David.

Ps: Enjoy a well deserved holiday!