2016 Austin MotoGP Preview Notes: On Rider Resentment, and the Importance of Tires

It was a particularly tetchy press conference at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin on Thursday. That may have come from the travel – team staff trickled in throughout the day, as the final stage of their epic journey from Termas de Rio Hondo to Austin came to an end – but more likely it was the questions about the future of Jorge Lorenzo, in particular, which generated a sense of real irritation. Little was said directly by Lorenzo, by Rossi, or by Márquez, but it was clear that the mutual antipathy between the Italian and the Spaniards is reaching new heights. There is a storm coming, and it will break some time this year. When it does, things are going to get very ugly indeed.

First, though, about that journey. Reconstructing the tales of those who arrived in good time after an uneventful voyage, and those who were only just traipsing in towards the end of Thursday afternoon, it was clear that the weather had been the deciding factor. Those who had left on Sunday night and Monday morning had made it to Austin without incident. In the afternoon, though, the clouds rolled down the mountains and into Tucuman, where charters were flying in and out of the regional airport.

Flights were canceled, and teams were sent off, first towards Cordoba, then back to Tucuman, then off to Buenos Aires, then finally to Cordoba once again. From there, they flew to Buenos Aires, then dispersed over half the globe. Sometimes almost literally – one Dorna staff member flew all the way back to Barcelona, then back across the Atlantic to Houston. The MotoGP paddock is much richer in air miles after Argentina, but much poorer in sleep.

Simmering fueds

So that may perhaps explain the levels of irritation on display in the press conference. But it would explain them only partially. More likely is the mutual hatred which simmers below the surface between Valentino Rossi and the two men he still blames for robbing him of the 2015 MotoGP championship.

Spanish and Italian journalists did all they could to coax a confession out of Jorge Lorenzo that he was jumping ship to Ducati. Lorenzo remained stony faced, saying he did not want to talk about it. The press turned their attention to Valentino Rossi, asking him about his switch to Ducati at the end of 2010. Rossi was similarly evasive, sidestepping questions about his own remarks at Qatar, and his experience when moving to Ducati.

Above all, the irritation in the press conference was obvious from the body language of the three protagonists from last year. Valentino Rossi studiously avoided looking at Marc Márquez even a single time, spending most of his time chatting to Eugene Laverty, who was sat to his right. Márquez tried to act naturally, and almost pulled it off. Jorge Lorenzo was less conciliatory, barely concealing his own contempt for Rossi.

Rossi and Lorenzo were a little more forthcoming to their national media. Rossi wished Lorenzo and Ducati good luck together, adding that it was a courageous decision. "Jorge is a rider who is fast and rides well, he will do so at Ducati as well." But Rossi was also quick to point out the differences between the point in time he went to Ducati, and now, when Lorenzo is set to make the move. "Dall'Igna, who uses his head, has made the bike much better. You saw it is a much more competitive bike in the last two races."

Waiting for a sign

Lorenzo, meanwhile, keeps refusing to confirm his impending move to Ducati. When asked about Rossi's comments on his move, Lorenzo remained his mildly sarcastic self. "I don't know what Valentino said," the reigning world champion quipped. "Perhaps he has more information about this than I do."

There is no doubt that Lorenzo will switch to Ducati, the only doubt in the paddock being whether the contract is already signed, or still has one or two minor details to iron out. If you want to understand why Lorenzo is making the move to Ducati, you can do no better than read Julian Ryder's excellent observations on the matter. Rossi alluded to something like this himself, to the Italian media. He went to Ducati "After spending so many years with Yamaha, and I needed to find new motivation," Rossi said. "In a certain sense, Lorenzo is in a similar situation to me at that time."

Fortunately for Lorenzo, this is the last weekend which he will waste refusing to talk about his future. With the cat very much out of the bag, Ducati will most likely announce they have signed Lorenzo at the next round, in Jerez. There, they will have most of Europe's press present, and especially national and regional TV. To achieve maximum exposure, Europe makes much more sense for such an announcement than Austin, despite the massive market in the US.

Who will take Lorenzo's place at Yamaha? The smart money is on Maverick Viñales. The Suzuki rider's race in Argentina proved he could be competitive, and battle for the podium. That is proof enough for Yamaha, and they will expect he will immediately challenge for wins and the championship. But unlike Lorenzo, this does not appear to be a done deal. It may take a little while to nail this deal down.

Outside of the press conference room, much of the talk was of tires. I had a long informal conversation with one rider, most of which we spent talking about tires, and how it is the Ducatis who are struggling. He had done way more than race distance on the tires in Argentina, but the tires had been withdrawn, to ensure they did not pose a danger. The only people they posed a danger to were the Ducatis, and the reason they were a problem for the Ducatis was evident to anyone who watched on TV: all of the Ducatis circulating were laying massive darkies through the corners, the rear spinning up and smoking. That will generate heat.

Right to work

To cope with the expected conditions at Austin, Michelin had produced a brand new run of tires especially for MotoGP. Production had taken place on Monday, with the tires being flown in just in time for the weekend. There may be one or two issues with the MotoGP tires, but Michelin are taking their responsibility very seriously. The new tires were of a softer compound but stiffer construction. With Michelin having missed most of the private test the French tire manufacturer had planned at the circuit due to rain, bringing a radically new tire may have been the only certain solution. It will surely shake things up a little.

I spent the best part of an hour on Thursday talking to Peter Bom, crew chief to Danny Kent. Bom talked about the effect tires could have on results, but most especially, how the tires had changed in the last few races. Dunlop was modifying its tires to keep costs under control. This meant that the Leopard team had been experimenting with set up, and taken things in a different direction to normal.

"Tires are everything," Bom told me. "They dictate what you can do with the rest of the bike." With Dunlop continuously testing new compounds, finding the perfect tire for both performance and durability was hard.

How the tires cope we will see on Friday. At a track with no set up data on the 2016 Michelins or common software, the track could yet throw them a curveball.


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Comments

Very exciting if Jorge does make the move. Ducati, Jorge, Stoner and Dall-Igna, backed by Marlboro $. Hard to imagine that wouldn't be a potent combination. 

I believe that Baz was on a GP14.2 and that Redding was on a GP15

Both had no problems with Bridgestones in 2015.

Have Ducati made changes to their older bikes to turn them into tyre-munching monsters in 2016 ?

Old bikes got new tyres... And new tyres aren't good as old tyres...

Does anyone have any idea what David means when he says "Dunlop was modifying its tires to keep costs under control". I wonder what modifications they are making???

This Rossi-Lorenzo, Rossi-Marquez feud. I feel everybody is blaming Rossi for it.

Here is my point of view.

But as I remember it. Everything was fine when Rossi was beaten:

-          When Marquez beat Rossi they had fun in Parc Ferme. But then when Rossi won it was not so fun anymore. Marquez making “threats” statements, “we see next race”, “you always have something to learn from Rossi” “I know what I had to learn from this”

-          Again, last year when Lorenzo won 3-4 races in a row, You would always see pictures of both teams together celebrating, Rossi smiling, everybody happy. But when it was the other way around Lorenzo always dismissed Rossi’s victories/when he finished in front. “I was unlucky, I was faster, I would have one”, “I was sick”, “I had visor problems”, “I had fogging problems”. To the point where Rossi felt disrespected and said it is disrespectful towards him. And that played with his mind, maybe he wanted some acknowledgement

To conclude this first point. VR was friendly and respectful towards MM and JL and was not looking for feuds. While they weren’t happy at all getting beaten by an old man and were obviously frustrated whenever VR beat them. In my opinion Rossi was the victim of mind games. So good for JL.

 

Also about the Philip Island (PI) race.

Rossi had planned to finish the deal at PI, and if he would have finished in front of JL at PI he would have won the championship. And in normal circumstances he would have as he was clearly faster than Lorenzo, as was Iannone.

As I watched the race I felt Marquez behavior was suspicious.

It was JL in front and a second group behind with VR MM and AI.

Everytime, in the second group, when MM was not in front, the group would real in Lorenzo.

Then almost routinely MM would easily get in front of the group and slow it down. But not more than 1-1.5 seconds, which I think it was key. This happened 2-3 times.

So in this scenario it would mean MM was overheating while he was following and then he quickly got in front of the group and go slower to cool down. I find 2 flaws with this.

1. I don’t think the tires were OH when he was following.

2. It would make more sense if he was OH when he was in front trying to catch JL.

The strategy just does not make sense.

When you have tire problems, shouldn’t you just stay at the back of the group and let the other do the work. And would you not want the group to take you to the leading rider?

Also the tires overheat in the really fast corners (last corner left hander, Stoner corner). So to keep your tires from overheating you would slow down in those corners. Ianone said about MM he would go very slow in the slow corners, which contradicts the above theory.

Were the tires really overheating? Only MM knows. Let’s say that is true. Would that be a logical strategy to keep them cool? I don’t believe so.

Rossi had planned to finish the deal at PI, and if he would have finished in front of JL at PI he would have won the championship. And in normal circumstances he would have as he was clearly faster than Lorenzo, as was Iannone.

To conclude the point about PI, I understand why Rossi would not get over this easily and not want to act like everything is normal.

 

I may not be the best writer but I hope you understand my point of view.

Whether Jorge stays or goes, hopefully Yamaha will give him full support for this season.  I would be happy to see him move to Ducati, and think it would be good for MotoGP, but only if both Yamaha and Jorge give it a full professional effort this year.

No difference to me when his decision is announced.  It would be nice if Rossi stopped sticking his foot in his mouth, but it's probably too late for that to change now.

 

IIRC, when Garry McCoy was smoking them up every corner, his tyres were not delaminating and the explanation for that was, that spinning up actually reduced the heat generation in the carcass because it reduced the actual load being generated through adhesion.  It seemed a very reasonable explanation at the time - and McCoy was a serious contender for the WC for a little while, ahead of Rossi at the time.

Have the laws of physics changed??

Is there any actual substantial evidence that the deal has been done, besides what Agostini has said? No, but that doesn't stop the journos writing about it. Not saying it's not going to happen but there's a dangerous possibility nobody will take this site seriously anymore if Lorenzo decides to stay with Yamaha.

This is something I am extremely aware of. That's why I made sure before publishing the story before Argentina. I had two good sources then, since then I have had it confirmed by four other sources. 

"Is there any actual substantial evidence that the deal has been done, besides what Agostini has said?"

This isn't The Enquirer.  Krop always clarifies whether something is a rumour or a fact. If it's written here, it's done.

But Rossi was also quick to point out the differences between the point in time he went to Ducati, and now, when Lorenzo is set to make the move. "Dall'Igna, who uses his head, has made the bike much better. You saw it is a much more competitive bike in the last two races."

Is this the same Rossi who said Stoner was not trying on the Ducati at the time? And who could not ride the exact same bike to within 1.3 seconds a lap, the day after Stoner got off it at Valencia, 2010? And who never won a race in two years on a Ducati, when Stoner won 23 races in four years on them?

I do believe it is.

Flogging a dead horse I know, but it's amusing to think that prior to Rossi moving there they had 24 wins in the last 4 years, including 3 late in 2010.  Assuming Lorenzo moves he will go there with them on a grand total of ZERO wins in the last 5+ years (as of right now at least).  Clearly this an enormous advantage.  :D

I know that things are very different now than 2010, but remember how last year's early promise faded so dramatically?  Mechanical problems, lack of pace and crashes.  And as someone else pointed out, how many mechanicals have Ducati suffered even just this year?  With Lorenzo's brittle temper, imagine how he will react if a race win is snatched away with the bike randomly conking out on him?  He'll be apopleptic!

It's going to be interesting alright.

Not really, Redding was on a Honda RC213V and Baz on a Open Yamaha M1 in 2015.

However you're right in saying the GP14.2 wasalready on the field and notably it was Hernandez and Petrucci's bike at Pramac and Petrucci's also a heavy rider although (1) he has a way smoother riding style than Redding and (2) I don't know if they has the GP14.2 in Argentina (maybe they were still on the GP14.1 then).

I'm not even mentioning track conditions of course which were really different last year.

Very interesting infos on tires David. But I was quite thrown back by Julian Ryder article....it's as if JL felt he is the poor relative in the family and so he needs to go somewhere else. That article got almost to Dickensian level....JL traveling on the terminal bus and VR swept away in a limo.... one flying first and the other coach......really?! What is he implying ? That Yamaha will deny a proper travel arrangement to Lorenzo? If it were a metaphor we might understand it but that recount is factual.....so it would be interesting to know why this is happening. I don't believe for a second that this is Yamaha doing.
Yes JL is probably going to Ducati and yes he might want a new challenge. My guess is that he wants to be anywhere else but in the same space with VR. From my point of view this is all his own doing: when VR returned to Yamaha JL was confident that he posed no threat. The last two seasons proved the contrary.

I think what Lorenzo can see is that it's more or less impossible to go up against Rossi on equal terms.  Not in terms of the racing but everything else.  When Rossi finally retires it will be just the beginning, his time at Ducati is just an unfortunate sideline, and he is very much back "in the Yamaha family".  His amazing performance since returning has well and truly cemented him, when he returned most thought he would dawdle around for two years and retire, with a second unfortunate footnote on his career.  Instead it's the reverse, improbably still regularly beating riders of 2 and 3 generations younger.  When Rossi retires it will be just the beginning of his influence at Yamaha.  Viewed like that, a move is entirely logical.

The only thing is, maybe Rossi will go on not just to control Yamaha racing, but MotoGP itself.  He already commands the cardigan wearing CEO into his motorhome on his demand.  I'd be surprised if Rossi does not end up running the whole box and dice.  Should make for interesting times for Lorenzo and especially Marquez!  :D

the solution to the tire issue is easy. bring tires with a wider performance spread. let ducati run a stone at the rear, they will soon modify their bike to run the softer rears that everyone else is using.

 

... Rossi was also quick to point out the differences between the point in time he went to Ducati, and now, when Lorenzo is set to make the move"You saw it [the Ducati] is a much more competitive bike in the last two races."

1st race of 2016, 3 of the 5 ritirees were Ducatis... 2nd race 4 of the 8. That's 9 DNFs in 2 races (& doesn't include Dovi last race). When Rossi got on a Ducati it had won 3 of the previous 6 races with only 6 Ducati DNFs over those 6 races!... that's 1 per race!

* ok, there were only 6 Ducatis counted in 2010 to the 8 there are now, but that's still a big difference.

" all of the Ducatis circulating were laying massive darkies through the corners, the rear spinning up and smoking. That will generate heat."

Gazza proved things are not always as they seem: spinning/smoking only heated the surface of the tyre, not the carcass. Unlike big power and perfect grip which causes maximum deflection of the carcass and heats the whole tyre.

 

 

 

 

It will be quite interesting to hear what exactly happened with Redding's tire. Some say it's the carcass, Redding says it's the moulding..... it's all pretty confusing. Can someone please explain (or point out) an artlcle that explains a motogp tire?

As for my man Lorenzo, it seems he's already signed, judging by the mood of reporting. Seems the deal overall is quite good and the Ducati seems to be a good package to challenge for race wins and podiums. I expected him to move on at the end of next year but it seems to be happening sooner. The (simmering?) tension in that garage isn't healthy for both sides and since Rossi isn't going anywhere (in fact, he's influence will grow thanks to the deals with Yamaha), it's best for both to be in places where they can get some semblance of a piece of mind.

It will be interesting to see the team dynamics; Will Yamaha stop giving him updates ? Will they switch their entire 2016 focus on Rossi or will they give them both enough resources to challenge the title. Will see.....

Roll on Austin! 

Back in 2010 when Rossi was leaving, Yamaha shifted their focus by Brno I think and Rossi got no more parts or upgrades.

When the ever-entertaining Garry McCoy was smoking tyres in GPs I seem to remember that it was found that spinning up the rear tyre through a corner resulted in lower temperatures than a more conventional approach. I think this was something to do with the spinnig tyre generating heat at the surface due to friction between tyre and tarmac whereas a "wheels in line" approach resulted in more flexing of the tyre carcass which generated heat throughout the tyre.

I'm not a tyre expert by any stretch of the imagination. All I do know is that they are deceptively complex pieces of equipment. They remind me of the words of my thermodynamics lecturer at college who described the three stages of studying his subject thus: at first you don't understand thermodynamics; then you think you understand thermodynamics; finally, you know you don't understand thermodynamics but it doesn't bother you any more and you get on with using what you know!

Tyres: just part of the complex web of motorcycle technology that keeps us fascinated year after year. Which reminds me: do Yamaha still hold an end of season lecture on the development of the M1 through the preceding season? I remember reports of it making compulsive readong in years gone by. Did I miss the post-2015 season report? Cheers.

XCOM- IMO, the difference is not in the bike per se, but the fact that the Michelin hooks up on the rear, but the Bridgestone would spin. Ducati riders could not use all of the hp of the motor with the Bridgestone. Now with the rear Michelin much stickier, they can use the hp and they are most likely running a different map. I always knew that red bike had a monster of a motor; they just had to dial it back with the Bridgestones.

You had excellent questions in the pre-event presser yesterday David! Your questions were very well-informed and were purposeful. A lot of the other "journalists" we're clearly just trying to stir the pot and goad the top riders into talking bad about one another. It was refreshing to hear your questions that actually had to do with racing. Just thought it was worth letting you know that was appreciated. Keep up the great work...and hope you're enjoying the States.

I was also very happy with the way David turned the presser around. As you said other journo's all asking the same sought of questions mainly relating to Lorenzo future & what VR thinks about it &  token question to Marc every now & then. One question asked of Lorenzo & Rossi was "how is the mood" in the Yamahaha garage- how the hell are they supposed to answer that??

 

Then David you got more than 1 question, i think the riders really appreciated your more race orientated tech questions. They appeared to liven up a bit, so as above- well done.

 

One more thing, the tension in that room must have been high. I am in Australia & watched it live on motogp.com, i could feel the tension here just watching.

Did anyone else hear Davide Brivio in fp3 at around the 23minute?????

He was being asked about Maverick Vinales future & said- Brivio's words not mine "now we know Lorenzo is going to Ducati" and he then goes on to talk about Maverick again.

 

It's on the gp website, fp3 23rd minute. I've watched it 5 times now & this is what he said.