2016 Sepang MotoGP Test Wednesday Round Up: What We Learned So Far

What did we learn from the first proper MotoGP test of the new era of Michelin tires and spec electronics? More than we hoped, yet less than we think. A quick run down on the state of play after Sepang, with more to come over the following days.

Michelin

The riders approached the Sepang test with some trepidation, fearing that Michelin had not fixed its wayward front that caused so many crashes at Valencia and Jerez. Their fears were unfounded, the new front tires which Michelin brought – a total of five different types, of varying construction and compound – were all a massive step forward. They were not as stable as the Bridgestones they replaced, but they had gained a lot of predictability and feedback. There were very few crashes which the riders said they had not seen coming.

That does not mean that all of the problems have been solved. A couple of people went down at Turn five on Tuesday, in crashes they described as strange. Casey Stoner (more on him later) had a typically concise and thoughtful analysis. "There's a little point after probably 45°, that [the tire profile] goes down just a little bit more, that it doesn't seem to match with the rear with some of the profiles that we've tested," Stoner explained. "That gives everybody a little bit a nervous feeling, and essentially why people are struggling into Turn 5, a big fast open corner, going in, when the bike goes light, it doesn't like that feeling. It makes the bike a little nervous, and I think that's when the front wants to break away."

There were also problems with the rear, with Loris Baz' rear Michelin exploding spectacularly at high speed along the front straight. That came down to a question of underinflation, though the incident caused the softer compound to be withdrawn just in case. Analysis at Michelin's headquarters in Clermont Ferrand in France should help identify whether the compound was up to the task at Sepang, or whether it was just tire pressures. Fixing the pressures is easier, with Michelin keen on making tire pressure sensors compulsory in MotoGP, just as they are in Moto2.

As for durability, the Michelins will last race distance in difficult conditions, as Bradley Smith proved by doing a race simulation at the end of the day, posting 20 full laps of the Sepang circuit. "The first twelve laps were really solid," Smith said. "Then when the tire drops the issues become more apparent. That’s really interesting for us to know. That’s where there is a lot of time to be gained, in that final third of the race." The way the tires behave over race distance is different to the Bridgestones. "I’d say it’s different. They go longer. The Bridgestone gave a good five or six laps before they dropped. Then it was stable."

Coping with that will be a task for the rider, and could make the latter stages of the races very interesting. Fitness will be paramount, as riders struggle with a bike that is becoming ever more difficult to ride. Electronic set ups will also be crucial, the riders needing to carefully use a number of maps to preserve their tires during the race. At the moment, I expect that races will turn exciting toward the end. Being in the front group or leading will not be enough, you will also have to manage your tires. Riders could drop out of podium positions as their tires drop off, while others could come through from sixth and seventh place to claim podiums if they manage their tires carefully.

Electronics

The unified software package is either acceptable or awful, depending on who you talk to. For Honda and Aprilia, who have put a lot of time and effort into their own proprietary software in the past, it is an abomination. For Yamaha, it's usable. For Ducati and Suzuki, it's fine. The system has so far mostly worked well, but there have been issues trying to get it to behave as the factories would want it to. Almost everyone has problems with traction control on corner exit, and especially on engine braking, making it tougher for the rider to control. And the factories with the least problems are the factories with the most usable power delivery.

They are also the factories who put the most into the Open class software last year. Both Ducati and Yamaha gave a lot of help to their Open class teams in 2014 and 2015, and are plucking the fruits of their efforts. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna stated explicitly that their strategy had paid off. "In terms of software, I think we start since the beginning of the ‘Open’ class because the ‘Open’ software is the starting point of this software. We start since the beginning of this class to work with the software and I think that we learn quite a lot with the last two seasons. So we have some benefits compared to the others from that point of view." With eight Ducatis on the grid this year, they are continuing that strategy, using all of their bikes to figure out how to get the best out of the unified software.

Yamaha good, Lorenzo great

Jorge Lorenzo spent all of 2015 telling journalists that he believed he was the fastest rider on the grid, with the most wins, most poles, most fastest laps. His claims were met with some scepticism, as it was Valentino Rossi who lead the championship for nearly all the races (except for the final one, crucially). After the first test of 2016, there can be no doubt who is the quickest man on the grid, at least so far. Not only was Lorenzo the only man to get under the two minute mark, but he led his teammate by nearly a full second. It wasn't just with a single lap, either: fully eight of Lorenzo's laps were faster than Rossi's best time, and four of those were 1'59s.

There are a lot of things working in Lorenzo's favor: his silky smooth style and throttle control upsets the bike least, helping to reduce tire wear and the work the electronics need to do. He can use the rear Michelin to generate corner speed, running on the edge of the tire once again. The rest of the field need to catch up quick.

The Yamaha is also an advantage. The M1 has a user-friendly engine and agile handling, making few demands of the electronics. The bike built for the Michelins tested last year is no longer necessary, the bike with the fuel tank at the rear not seeing much use throughout the test. The hybrid bike, the 2016 machine most like the 2015 M1, is the bike both Rossi and Lorenzo concentrated on, and which both prefer. This is also good news for the Tech 3 team: they will have the factory M1s used by Rossi and Lorenzo last year, which should work well with the Michelins.

Rossi may be a second behind his teammate, but he spent more of the rain-disrupted day testing parts rather than looking for a rhythm. He did not go chasing a fast time in his last outing, though he did put in a couple of fast laps towards the end of the day. Rossi's gap to Lorenzo is not anywhere near a second. But it's a sizable gap nonetheless.

The times of the Tech 3 team are deceptive, though Pol Espargaro appears to be genuinely struggling. Bradley Smith, on the other hand, is taking the same approach which he did last year, working methodically to figure out the best set up rather than worrying about his position on the timesheets. That approach is borne out by the fact that he was the only rider to do a race simulation on the final day, putting himself through the wringer while others chased times. His pace is impressive, and he reckons that fifth or sixth in the championship is possible again. Smith is the poster boy for working smarter, not harder, so we shall see if his approach pays off once again.

Groundhog day for Honda

On the face of it, the Hondas do not seem to be too far off the pace, taking just the headline times into account. Dig deeper, and you see that HRC remain firmly planted in the hole they dug for themselves before the 2015 season. The engine – even the new spec of engine with a supposedly softer power delivery – is too aggressive, and that is confounding attempts to fix it using electronics. Especially with the unified software, aimed at reducing the influence of electronics on racing. Honda's policy of producing a trillion horsepower and then taming it with electronic wizardry is proving to be a busted flush, for the second year in a row.

The Repsol Honda riders are remaining diplomatic on the affair, but Honda debriefs are all about the subtext. Dani Pedrosa: "I think we are losing overall, so I think technically it must be related to a big thing – we have to see. There are so many things different on the bike, not only the engine, but also the tire and electronics." Marc Márquez: "It was a little bit easier to keep the pace but anyway we are struggling and we are far from where we want to be. It's a big question mark even for us because the problem for me is that with the electronics, we are too far from the level."

The problem Honda have is that they will to do more than play around with the electronics to fix the bike. Cal Crutchlow tested the engine Honda had brought to the Valencia test for the Repsol Honda team, and said that it was an improvement, but not a radical one. Crutchlow set the fourth fastest time, just behind Márquez, but to set those times required taking a certain amount of risk. They cannot turn that one-lap pace into consistent race pace. It is looking increasingly unlikely that will get sorted by Qatar.

Ducati – an embarrassment of riches

Ducati may be losing the soft qualifying tire and the ability to develop the engine, after losing their concessions for 2016, but they have shown they are ready to fight on equal terms with Yamaha and Honda. The bike is good, with only detail changes in geometry to suit the Michelin tires being the main difference with the GP15. Ducati's real problem is not the hardware, but the riders brought in to race the bike, a point ably made by test rider Casey Stoner, who was also the fastest Ducati rider on the track.

There is reason for optimism, however. Stoner was not the only Ducati man to beat the factory Andreas, Dovizioso and Iannone. Danilo Petrucci, Scott Redding and Hector Barbera were all quicker than the factory men, but then again, they were riding well sorted machines and could focus their efforts on set up, rather than development. Once Dovizioso and Iannone get the GP16 sorted, they should be closer to the front again, though Dovizioso especially needs to come to terms with the Michelins.

The hiring of Casey Stoner appears to have achieved one thing. A commonly shared theory around the MotoGP paddock is that Ducati will be going after a top line rider, preferably one of the four aliens (though the chances of Valentino Rossi returning to Ducati are very slim indeed). To convince a potential champion to come to Ducati, they have to prove that their bike is capable of being competitive at the front. Having Stoner run at the front on his return to MotoGP, after a year off a MotoGP bike, and eight months off a motorcycle, is proof enough that there is not much wrong with the Ducati. The bike is now a properly tempting prospect.

Suzuki – big steps forward

What can we say about Suzuki? The new engine is everything Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro hoped for, with the power they were missing in last year's bike. The seamless gearbox removes the disadvantage in acceleration they had, and the fully seamless, due to be tested either at Phillip Island or Qatar, will put them nearly on a par with the Hondas and Yamahas.

There is still a lot of work to do, and some worrying signs that it will not be easy. Maverick Viñales spent his day on the 2015 chassis (with 2016 engine), saddling Aleix Espargaro with the donkey work of developing the new bike. The issue Suzuki face is that the feedback from their two riders is so radically different. For Viñales, the 2016 GSX-RR has much better grip in the rear, but doesn't handle. "Honestly," he told us, "if we can make the 2016 bike turn I will go to it because I have more grip." For Espargaro, precisely the opposite is the case. "There are some good things [with the 2016 bike], especially the handling," he said. "But we suffer a lot with the grip."

Solving this conundrum will be key to the success of Suzuki in 2016. Maverick Viñales was ecstatic that he could follow Marc Márquez all the way down the straight, without losing any ground. That means the power is there, and the GSX-RR must still have some of the legendary agility the 2015 bike had. Putting together a package which suits both Espargaro and Viñales may be hard, but Suzuki are not that far off.

Aprilia – treading water

Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista tested last year's bike, working on electronics and tires, while they await the arrival of the brand new prototype being built by Romano Albesiano. They were near the bottom of the timesheets, but that means little, given that the RS-GP machines the pair used are headed for the crusher in a couple of weeks' time. We won't know anything about Aprilia until we see the brand new bike out on track.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2016 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

Total votes: 155
Total votes: 80

Back to top

Comments

Leaves Ducati in 2010 as their fastest rider, comes back 5 years later and is still their fastest rider.

Total votes: 141

Marquez.

Between his young age, natural speed and certainly a budding frustration over Honda's rocket-dudds, he is the one who can risk switching bikes without jeopardizing his entire career.

Lorenzo would be a good candidate as well, but I think he'd rather stay at Yamaha and win more races and titles while showing Rosi the door again, and for good.

---

On another note, I'm glad testing is back. The end of the 2015 left a bitter aftertaste which only more (clean) racing can help me overcome. Testing isn't as good as racing but it's better than nothing at all.

Cheers.

Total votes: 133

Strange as it may seem, this is my 'read' on things:

  1. Pedrosa is almost certain to never be world champ, whilst MM93 is in the same stable
  2. Honda almost cast Dani off a few seasons ago, but he got a last minute reprieve
  3. Dani is coming to the end of his career - a last gasp attempt at the title on a Duc. could be his only realistic chance - he's not going to beat the others in a lot of races on the same or similar machinery
  4. Before the last few races of 2015 year, Dani had raced "too nicely" against the others. Going to Duc. could give him one final opportunity to race hard like the end races of 2015 and provide his best opportunity to win regularly enough to maybe win the title.
  5. He's got nothing to lose!

When he pushed and shoved at the end of last year, you could really see Dani had the speed to win the world title, if only he could keep that going for a full year

I'd like to see him try!!

Total votes: 104

Stoner and Pedrosa are pretty friendly... imagine Stoner working to improve the Ducati in testing, so that Pedrosa can go faster in the races.

Interesting proposition :)

Total votes: 88

Another informative article thanks David. Are the Tech3 guys still using their bikes from last year or have they received the factory 2015 bikes already?

Total votes: 95

I think there are numerous factors speaking for Ducati atm. (experience with the software, ongoing development, grippy Michelin rear) yet I find it diminishes the abilities of Stoner to conclude there's not much wrong with the Ducati based on his performance over the past days. Not to say it isn't becoming a fairly well balanced bike but Stoner's historic performance compared to those on the same machinery would indicate he's not a good overall measure.

Total votes: 103

David,

I have to take exception with your statement:

"Having Stoner run at the front on his return to MotoGP, after a year off a MotoGP bike, and eight months off a motorcycle, is proof enough that there is not much wrong with the Ducati. The bike is now a properly tempting prospect."

As you surely remember this sort of belief is what contributed to the destruction of Marco Melandri's career and 2 years in the wilderness for Rossi. Stoner is not a good benchmark for the ride-ability of the Ducati, it's only a benchmark on how good he is :-)

cheers, and excellent write-up as always!

Total votes: 199

Interesting thought… but in my mind, the difference this time around, is that Casey is not the only guy that can ride a Duc fast now…

Total votes: 117

If they're trying to tempt an alien then Stoner is a good measuring stick - surely Lorenzo, Marquez and Pedrosa are equal on talent to Stoner.

Total votes: 105

According to Casey, they were making back-to-back runs with radically different settings, to ensure they got an immediate indication on what direction was worth investigating. This is what you expect to be able to do with a 'normal' race machine.

The fact that the bike behaved well enough and provided the expected feedback to allow Casey and Ducati to make those decision, and eliminate the wrong ones, perhaps does indicate that it is at least now enough like a normal race machine, to allow others to also be fast.

Total votes: 105

mikhailway,

If the hierarchy, directors, engineers techs in the Ducati team really thought that Stoner was that different, totally unique, unusable or incompetent and useless as a test rider for development purposes, do you think that they would use him?

Honestly, if they thought for a minute when he was their main rider that he was the cause of Ducati's issues or that his development caused the bike to be unrideable for anyone else, Do you think they would have him back?

Comments have been made by the current riders that their feedback is similar to stoners so logic says that his technical feedback is consistent and valuable. If his feedback was that random, that far off what would be the point?

You only had to look in the garage when he came back in that all the techs, engineers and mechanics were listening intently to what he had to say.

Their behaviour indicates that Ducati recognise his previous contribution, his ability, his feedback, insights and knowledge and do not blame him at all for any of the issues that befall Melandri or Rossi. Quite possibly it might indicate the error of their ways having not listened to him in the first place. To coin a phrase: Ignore Stoner at your peril!!!!.....lol

Total votes: 105

Dear Tack & others,

I didn't mean to imply that Stoner's feedback was useless. But we have 2 examples in the 4 stroke era where he came into a team and won the 1st year after the bike had not won a title for several years: Ducati (never), Honda (since Rossi left). I also agree that the Ducati now is a very different beast from 2007-2010. It's also great that the team appear to be listening to him, but what one sees in the garage today is no different from what one saw and heard almost 10 years ago. Great that the management is different -- clearly the bike is better.

Why do I think they want him back? Certainly he will give good feedback -- hopefully. We don't know if he actually will or not, regardless of what people say today, only time will tell. I don't agree with those statements that his feedback was useful back in the winning days of Ducati. However, he has brought a huge amount of positive attention to the Ducati garage. He's the only WC on a modern Ducati, and won on the Honda as well. It could be as David and others have written elsewhere: he 'proves' the Ducati is a possible winner. They may be correct that Ducati will be able to tempt the likes of Lorenzo or Pedrosa because of what they see Stoner do, but I would say the temptation comes from the performance of Iannoni last year more than Stoner today. Stoner may give some confidence that the bike is more rideable than when Rossi rode the beast, but I think it's the factory riders (and of course Petrucci's performance in the wet at Silverstone) that have turned heads the most.

But I state it again: I would absolutely love to see Stoner back on the bike at Phillip Island. Lets hope that the Ducati give him the opportunity that Honda would not and that he takes it, regardless of the factory riders sensibilities late in the season.

--mike

Total votes: 89

Have to agree with mikhailway's opinion,

can anyone really ride the Ducati as fast as Stoner? Anyone who attemps should be aware of the risk of fighting a loosing battle. Having said that, didn't Stoner ride the -15 and Iannone/Dovi the -16 at Sepang? Could it be that the -15 is just as fast or faster than the -16 considering that the -16 is not as developed as the -15?

Total votes: 110

He wasn't dialling in a bike for fast laps, but running back-to-back tests for Ducati.

Ducati made changes they wanted to test, Stoner then rode the wheels off the thing, Ducati read the data, Stoner told them what he thought.

Then they would try another one.

That data then goes back into making a better bike for the 2 Andreas.

The fact that he also was fastest Ducati is even more amazing, given what they were doing.

According to Stoner, the 15 and 16 are close enough that the data gathered on the 15 was valid for use on the 16's development, so there was no need for him to ride the 16.

Once they run out of things to test with the 15, he'll start on the 16, but he reckons they still have lots they can test with the 15.

Total votes: 100

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I like that people are enthusiastic about their sport however some logic and science needs to be exercised otherwise it all becomes just plain stupid.

The bike that stoner rode, I believe, is a GP15 test bike. It has several thousand bits on it that have been put together for the purpose of the test. It has 100's of adjustable parts and interchangeable components that may or may not be similar to any other GP15 or GP16. It was ridden by Casey as part of a test program with it's own set of guidelines and goals. It had michelin tyres and a control adjustable ECU with unknown settings.

This bike is a Ducati but it might as well have been called an Itacud because any resemblance to any other previous Ducati that Stoner may have ridden, or Melandri may have been on or Rossi developed, might come down to be the paint colour and the stickers and that's it.

To say that he might be the only one to be able to rid a Ducati fast is crazy. The current bike and it's millions of different combinations of settings, adjustment and components might happen to be an exact replica of the honda with Ducati fairings for all we know or anybody knows ( except for the people who built it). Therefore, Stoner could have been the fastest rider on a Honda replica with Ducati fairings at Sepang. Or you could say he was the 3rd fastest Honda rider (on hard tyres) behind Crutchlow and Maquez.

It's quite possible that Crutchlow, Rossi, Marquez or Lorenzo could ride this honda disguised Ducati faster than the "5 years off a GP bike" Stoner. It's also possible that the other Ducati riders at the test could not ride this current iteration of a Ducati as fast as Stoner because they would like a Yamaha designed Ducati better. They might be in the process of making the GP16 into a Yamaha.

The point is that it is a machine made by people. It can be altered and changed and finessed into hundreds of different animals depending on design philosophies, ideas, directions, thinking, experience, knowledge, innovation, concepts or goals. It can be anything it wants to be as determined by the people who make it. The people who made this Ducati are different, so the bike is not the same either.

Total votes: 99

David, while reading the article and getting to your comments about Bradley… and I am a fan of his and wish him all the best… but a thought hit me… Is Bradley the "new" Collin Edwards?? And I mean that in the very best way… A very good rider but not quite "alien" enough for a top seat… but really understands and is able to communicate what a bike is or is not doing… and is (seemingly becoming) really excellent at testing, setting up and developing a race bike… Just a thought… I do hope that he can break through with some excellent results this year… but it appears this year could have some of the best fights for podiums that we've seen in a long time… and even though he "improves", racing wise, he could get lost in the crowd, so to speak...

Total votes: 164

Unfortunately for Edwards, he was past his prime when he finally got his shot in MotoGP. He may have done something had Honda given him a factory ride after his WSBK championship for them. Still an amazing technical and highly sensitive rider, which is probably why Yamaha and Michelin employ him. He's the engineer's pilot.

Total votes: 123

js… and that's exactly the angle that my comments on both Bradley and Collin were intended. I meant it as a high compliment to both.

Total votes: 85

Any idea why, on the afternoon of day 2, stoner went out then right back in on the out lap, and acting pissed off?

All I could see on the video was he want a happy camper.

Total votes: 101

Is it not that case that when Petrucci and Barbera topped the time sheets (Day 2) it was when they were using the soft compound Michelins? And were not both of them on the GP14.2 - a machine Cal Crutchlow could not get to grips with?

Crutchlow's decision to terminate his two-year Ducati contract with a year to run, and join Honda, is one he probably rues. Actually, since he left the Tech 3 Yamaha team, his results have gone backwards. That said, perhaps he needed to stick around at Ducati for another year (2015) as Dovizioso and Iannone both started getting reasonable results, while Petrucci turned in some brilliant rides on that old GP14.2. For most of the 2015 season he finished between 10th and 12th but his ride at Silverstone in the wet was very smart, as was his sixth place finish at Misano.

This year, a fully fit Iannone (he carried a shoulder injury at a few races last year) may well break through for a win. But if Dovizioso does not lift his game, Petrucci may get plucked from the Pramac team to race for the factory in 2017.

Certainly Casey Stoner's input will be a help for the Ducati technicians as with very limited time on the bike, he proved what it is capable of. There is little doubt a fully race fit Stoner would be a contender on the Ducati - but as he has said time and again, he does not want to come back to race. That said, how hard would it be for Ducati to persaude him to 'test' in two or three GPs - as Pirro did in 2015 ?

It would be great to see Iannone start the season strongly, with some podiums, and then push on from there. Last year he had three close battles with Marc Marquez, and came out on top in one of those - despite that shoulder injury. If he had played his hand a little better at Phillip Island, he could have won that race. Certainly the Ducati had the best acceleration from the final corner to the finish line. And as Stoner said on more than one occasion at Sepang, "the Ducati has a ton of grunt."

If Honda does not come up with the goods this year, perhaps it will be Marquez who may be tempted by a Ducati ride in 2017? But from Ducati's perspective, it would be better if one of its existing riders made the next step.

Total votes: 102

I agree, but I get mikhailway's point, though :) When Melandri was there, even if Stoner was top three, he'd still be 15th, 20th or whatever. On this bike, several riders have been top 5. It seems evident it is a much more neutral bike to ride and it has usable grunt all through the range. The point also wouldn't be lost on the paddock that Stoner is rusty and he can still be quick on it - would love to see Marquez have a go on it. On that note, if Honda land another largely unusable engine on Marquez and Pedrosa for the year, surely that is where Ducati will target their contract efforts to land a top rider and you'd doubt they'd unload Iannone. I think in the interests of all fans, Dorna must find a way to strong arm Ducati to let Stoner test it at the next PI test in 12 days time :)

Total votes: 101

"A commonly shared theory around the MotoGP paddock is that Ducati will be going after a top line rider, preferably one of the four aliens"

It seems a bit crazy speculating about this, seeing as we haven't even started racing yet. But, seeing as Krop has brought it up...

Who's for the chop? If Ducati are serious about sticking one of the top four on their bike, who's in line? To my mind, there's only two realistic options. I'd be amazed if Lorenzo left Yamaha, but Ducati were openly courting his services some years back. Maybe if they dangle a really big carrot in front of him, he might. Possibly just to prove a point to his current team mate?

Would Márquez jump from Honda if he has another year struggling with the bike?

Total votes: 108

In the interview from Colin Young, he points to his speed, his technical feedback, his use of the rear brake and how he weights the bike on corner exit. On the telemetry side, " When you look at Casey's data there is no way you can confuse it with another rider."
If anyone would like to read:

http://www.amcn.com.au/events/motogp/1602/gigi-dalligna-interview-casey-...

Total votes: 113

When he says it is clear Casey has a margin to go fast?

I'd love to see the sort of times Casey could do with some proper training and race fitness under his belt, and some more familiarity with the bike.

Total votes: 89

I think what Gigi means is that Casey is already so fast from the word go, so fast just at base level that when he really wants to (and is willing to put down risk), he can go so much faster compared to other riders, both testers and racers. Or, that when Casey gives feedback on what needs improvement, once those improvements are made, he can go even faster and hasn't already hit his top speed even though he may know what's wrong with the bike.

Total votes: 97

Hi. I think he believes he could go quicker. I guess, but don't know, that they probably have all kinds of software programs for calculating theoretical lap times etc. for all their riders and no doubt, corner by corner. Ducati would know heaps more than we could imagine from what we see as the public, about what each rider is making the bike do, how consistently etc...

Total votes: 95

No Stoner @ PI or Qatar? Did I read that correctly David? Why? Is that a Casey, Ducati, Dorna rule decision? How many of 'us' would PAY to see Casey @ PI?!!?

Total votes: 110

Ducati may not be able to make use of the 3 day's data collected at Sepang in time to justify Casey testing again at PI, so a Qatar test makes more sense.

Total votes: 95

Ducati must be frustrated. That test rider is the answer to their prayers but he is happy to do other things, and it seems no amount of money will change his mind.
After the events of 2015, would Ducati really want Marquez on their bike?
Jorge and Dani seem to be permanently ensconced. If only Ducati had turned the bike around before Valentino jumped ship.

How about those wildcard races that we dream about? Stoner was quite prepared to put his hand up to be the replacement for Dani for two rounds. Honda blew him off and he responded in kind (thank God for that). So If one of the Andreas is out, who will be the replacement rider? Anyone have a copy of Casey's test contract?

Total votes: 104

Gigi said Ducati would say yes if Stoner asked, so the decision is Stoners if he wants to do wild cards and how many.

Total votes: 92

It might seem to be a strange statement but when all the manufacturers of consequence are racing in MotoGP, Kawasaki's unwillingness to race in MotoGP is a bit shameful. They maybe World Champions in WSBK but look at the competition; Honda are racing a mule and not a horse, Aprilia has given some of their old stuff to Ioda and have clearly said that their focus is now MotoGP, Yamaha put their new R1M in the hands of Paul Denning's hands, Suzuki is AWOL and only Ducati is putting in a just a little effort since their goal is now to get to the top in MotoGP. In such conditions Kawasaki putting the might of the factory behind their WSBK and winning tantamounts to nothing. It is like the big kid who defeats very young riders in a cycle race. I cannot understand why Kawasaki cannot participate in MotoGP. Is it the fear of finishing with the wooden spoon at the end of the year? I think Kawasaki owes it to Marco Melandri and John Hopkins to give them a ride. Kawasaki was most instrumental in finishing John Hopkins' MotoGP career and probably had a part in finishing Melandri's as well in MotoGP.

Total votes: 125

I feel like Stoner proving the Ducati is a race winning machine is just as deceptive now as it was in the late 2000s. I mean isn't thinking that if Casey can win on it then I can mentality what ended or nearly ended so many careers? And I'm a huge Stoner fan! Isn't that the exact mindset that lead to the Rossi fiasco and Melandri to the therapist? Obviously times are different now and the Ducati is much different from the past, but Casey showing the bike is competitive I just don't think means very much considering his style is so different.

Total votes: 96

Ducati having Casey Stoner as a test rider setting such good times after being off so long is impressive and must be on current racers minds when they see this. The man hops on after being off a Motogp bike for a year and sets competitive times. Dovi seems to be going through a lull, (at least I hope it is just a lull), the rest of the riders seem to be doing ok. Money is still on Iannone to be the break out rider for Ducati Factory squad. Petrucci is impressive as well as Barbera.

As far as the future goes, I have been watching races from last year, and Ducati seems real chummy with Lorenzo when in Parc Ferme after the races. They speak and talk to him with a tenderness and affection. I do not know if they can tempt him away from Yamaha, but they physically show interest in the man, (pause). Marquez I think may be an easier target if Honda do not find a solution to their issues, (which is something I see them doing soon.) If they do not, I will be shocked and will feel like it must be the feedback being too scattered to discern where to go with development. Maybe taking in too many opinions. In the past they went with whoever was World Champion and took the path that man wanted to take. That changed a little at some point.

It is still strange to me to watch Honda struggle. In the 80s and 90s, Factory Honda on road or off was the power and standard that all teams strived to be. They were arrogant with it too. They were straight up about it is the bike, not the rider. Rossi, McGrath, and several other World Renown racers bounced from Honda because of their attitude. Now to see them having all sorts of problems is still hard to believe. With their HUGE race department, I have no doubt they will get on top of their issues in short order. If not in the tests, no later than the third race, if not, I can see Marquez being tempted to leave. Pedrosa too, but Marquez is the future. Of course, this is all just in my own humble opinion. ;)

Total votes: 97

Lorenzo, Rossi, Pedrosa are old guard within their respective teams.. Marquez is too good and totally locked in with Repsol and Honda and the Spanish conveyor belt.
Ducati need a young and brilliant rider, young enough to adapt.
I don't know what Maverick Vinales contract with Suzuki involves, but if he is not contracted for 2017 right now and I were Gigi, I would be making overtures.
Stoner clearly has not lost his touch, but is clearly having a blast. Just loves wringing the bike's neck.
Wildcard? Big if.
Should one of the Andrea's be sidelined like Dani was last year, possibly.
Philip Island is a no no. Mugello is a distinct possibility.
Early,yet exciting times

Total votes: 89

What David was saying is that they want a proven alien. Vinales is nowhere even close.
Doesn't mean he can't be one day, but he's got a long way to go.

Total votes: 105

Mat Oxley wrote about Honda's development history and how they go their own way but the current situation would seem to point out that a myopic pursuit of horsepower is not the answer to their problems. Might it not be harder to develop an engine that gives a linear, predictable power deliver than a create a reliable hand-grenade? Their reliance on electronics to tame the beast has been shown to have limits. A new path of development would seem to be in order at HRC.

Total votes: 95