2012 Qatar MotoGP Sunday Post-Race Round Up: Of Exhaustion, Arm Pump and Failed Marriages

The night schedule at Qatar means that writers and journalists end the weekend in a state of utter exhaustion. To bed at dawn for a few hours fitful sleep, up around noon, off the to the track for a full day's - or night's - work, then do the same thing over again. Race day is worse, the schedule is tougher, the adrenaline rush greater, the comedown even bigger. And there's usually about twice as much work to do as well. It is still the greatest job in the world, of course, but it makes you long for sleep a couple of times a year. Qatar race-night round ups tend to be terse, and given my usual verbosity, this is no bad thing.

The races. The Moto3 race looked a lot like a 125cc race with a different soundtrack. The great thing about Moto3 is that with a level playing field, we get a slighly different cast of characters, but the best riders remain at the top. The winner's name had been pencilled in since the preseason, Maverick Vinales clearly the cream of the crop in the most junior Grand Prix class. Third man Sandro Cortese was another podium regular, but sandwiched in between was Romano Fenati, a rookie to the class and a name few people who had not been following the preseason testing or the European 125cc championship will have heard of. Fenati is the real deal, giving a sterling account of himself and only wilting under the relentless pressure from Vinales at the very end.

Moto3 also taught an interesting lesson also seen in MotoGP: The fastest bikes were the KTMs, with 5 KTMs topping the maximum speed charts, followed by 4 Kalex KTMs. Yet the race-winning FTR Honda of Vinales was some 10 km/h down on the KTMs, and still managed to win. Sandro Cortese - Red Bull KTM rider on a factory KTM - explained that though KTM had done a great job of building the Moto3 bike, it did not have the handling of the FTR Honda. The FTR had better corner entry, and more traction on corner exit, making the KTM's top speed irrelevant. 

In Moto2, we saw a thriller, the kind of race that has motorcycle racing fans all over the planet salivating at the thought. The battle went down to the wire, and only a controversial pass saw the race settled, Marc Marquez passing Thom Luthi and then pulling across and onto Luthi's line. The move went unpunished, not, as the conspiracists would have you believe, because of the flag on his passport, but because the pass was within the limits of the rules. Marquez was past, or had reason to believe he was, and so pulled across to take the correct line for Turn 1. Luthi had pushed to hold on once Marquez came past, and was not quite completely behind the Spaniard after Marquez had come by. He found Marquez encroaching on his line, and instead of sitting up just enough to slow himself down and then dive up the inside of Marquez, he stayed where he was and got pushed wide. Afterwards, Marquez apologized, though he mitigated his behavior by saying that he himself had just been victim of a whole pile of just those kind of aggressive passes before he made his move on Luthi.

But Marquez' victory should worry Thom Luthi deeply. Luthi has show much more maturity and aggression so far this season, and is clearly a title favorite. But if Marquez is already beating him after just 5 days on the bike following a very long layoff after surgery to fix the eye he injured in Sepang, then we can start to pencil Marquez' name in for the championship already. Marquez is Moto2's alien, and he should move up to MotoGP as quickly as he possibly can.

The racing in MotoGP was greatly improved, but not by the tires going off, as I had at first believed. An attack of arm pump had slowed Casey Stoner up, causing him to change his riding style, rolling through the corners rather than driving through them aggressively, in an attempt to last as long as possible. It worked for a while, but in the end, Stoner had to surrender to the pain, allowing Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa past. Lorenzo worked hard for the victory, and it was well-earned, but perhaps the most heartening sight was that of Dani Pedrosa badgering away at Lorenzo like a terrier, looking as aggressive as he has been since his 250 days.

With Stoner out with arm pump, was this a Pyrrhic victory for Lorenzo? Not really, as although Stoner might have had the pace to win if he hadn't had arm pump, his margin of victory would not have been that significant, at a track where Stoner has dominated in the past few years. The Yamaha M1 is competitive on race day as well as testing, and Lorenzo is in the form of his life. With a revitalized Pedrosa joining in the fray, this could be a good year.

Stoner explained afterwards that a combination of lack of attention to preparation, new gloves and Qatar's layout - lots of right hand turns followed by lefts, meaning that you have to brake, push, flick the bike upwards to get it turned and then brake again, several times a lap - had caused the onset of arm pump. He had been forced to abandon his previous gloves, as they were worn out after 7 months of intensive use. New gloves are always that little bit stiff, and really need breaking in beforehand - Ben Spies has his crew chief Tom Houseworth walk around in his new gloves, to stretch them out a little. Any extra effort on top of racing a MotoGP bike can be enough to start arm pump, so precautions need to be taken to avoid such effort.

Stoner was not too concerned about the arm pump, as he said it was an issue he had successfully addressed back in 2010, at Silverstone. He was typically coy on exactly how he did it, hinting only that it was something to do with nutrition. More training was definitely not the way, however, as adding muscle will actually increase the chances of it occurring, Stoner said.

Behind the front runners - a long way behind the front runners - came what looks like turning into the battle of the season. Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso are teammates at the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, but both intend to progress beyond their current station. As the first person you have to beat is your teammate, and as Dovizioso and Crutchlow are surprisingly evenly matched, on the evidence of Qatar, this could turn into a humdinger. Herve Poncharal told a small group of journalists afterwards that he had watched the battle in terror, exhilarated to see his riders do so well, but terrified that one would take the other out and both would score nothing.

Down in 10th, there was a colorless, uninspired Valentino Rossi, and the tension of running around a very, very long way off the podium is starting to tell. According to reports in the Italian media - the best being over on the ever-reliable GPOne.com - after the race, Rossi had a go at Ducati, saying that this bike had the same problems and that they were not listening to his requests. He had had the pace for 5th, Rossi claimed, but frankly, that was not what he was in MotoGP for. He wanted podiums and more, and Ducati were not providing him with the tools he needs to do the job.

Meanwhile, five seconds ahead of him, Nicky Hayden is getting on and doing his job. The Ducati has improved enough for Hayden to start to ride it, and the Kentucky Kid has never been called out for a lack of effort. Hayden has what he has, and is trying to get the best out of it, regardless of whether it is ideal or not. Rossi's crew has been reduced to copying Hayden's settings, to see if that will help the Italian. The last time that happened was at Yamaha, when Jorge Lorenzo and Ramon Forcada were beating the combination of Rossi and Jerry Burgess. And Rossi and Burgess have so far been unable to replicate what Casey Stoner and Cristian Gabbarini have done, even on the carbon fiber chassis which Ducati - under the advice of Rossi - have since written off as a failed experiment.

The Rossi / Ducati marriage is starting to turn sour. Rossi massively underestimated just how good Casey Stoner was on the bike, as indeed did Ducati, it appears. Ducati have worked and are working overtime to bring new updates to the bike, but whether those changes will help remains to be seen. With Rossi looking and sounding totally unmotivated, even if they brought a great bike for him, you would have to wonder whether he would have the hunger still in him to ride it.

Valentino Rossi is a man of great character, great charm and great wit. He has faced his vale of tears at Ducati with massive dignity, undertaking his PR duties without complaint - for the most part. But increasingly, when speaking to the press, he looks like a man playing a part, playing the part of a witty, charming rake. He appears to have lost heart in this project, and perhaps even in motorcycle racing. And that is very, very sad indeed.

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I think Valentino has endured a difficult time at Ducati, but he was seriously expecting a leap with the new specs, and that didn't happen, specially compared to Honda and Yamaha. I'm not a Rossi fan, but every MotoGP fan should recognize he is a true living legend. His problem perhaps is that he is victim of his extraordinary success rate, therefore he is not someone used to face adversity, and in my opinion, he had many years where the rivals were not the kind who pushed him to the maximum. His early 2000s rivals were Kenny Roberts Jr. (who beat him his first 500 cc year) Biaggi, Capirossi, Barros, Gibernau, Ukawa, etc... I mean this were all good riders but certainly none of them was remotely an Alien, and none of them pushed Valentino to his limits. Then Nicky snatched the 2006 title with less wins and came the 800 cc era. It's a touchy subject in this forums and for sure it was not a bad time for Valentino, but during this era that just ended, Valentino was not the most successful, that title goes to Stoner. But most important, this era saw the arising of riders that did push Valentino to his limits, specially Pedrosa, Stoner and Lorenzo.

I'm not sure how far is Rossi from his prime in terms of riding and skills, but I suspect not much. Last year has been his only season without a win and that must have a toll on his motivation and psyque. But I'm also confident he has a huge mental strength and he is still an alien rider. He must not allow his frustration to last too much, otherwise this could become the very reason for his failure.

Gibernau pushed Rossi to the limit in 2004, and he (Gib) was an alien at the time ... destroyed by psychological pression from the beast Vale was at this time

"But most important, this era saw the arising of riders that did push Valentino to his limits, specially Pedrosa, Stoner and Lorenzo."

I've never seen Pedrosa push Rossi to the limit ... he finished twice in front of him in the championship but he has always been beaten in the field.

And you can see today that Pedrosa is still as fast as he used to be ...

Rossi's talent is not gone, his riding style is just not adapted to a very difficult and less performant Ducati ... just as Gibernau, Capirex (destroyed by Stoner in 2007), Melandri and even Hayden

I really hope he will find another bike until the end of his carreer, a satellite M1 would be great, not to be champion again of course, but just to fight for podium, just to see again his ability to fight and brake harder.

Anyway, we at least have the hope to see a great fight between the 3 this year, it would be great for the sport to have new heroes who FIGHT on the track, not only boring processions of incredible fast lap riders


Gibernau in 2004 was the biggest challenge for Valentino not because Gib was an alien, but because the Honda was the best bike at that moment, and Vale wanted to prove his worth as the best rider winning with Yamaha. it was a good challenge, but wouldn't say he pushed Vale to his limits, c'mon he was toying with him, he was under control. Perhaps not as easy as it looked, but my point is that he has never faced adversity in the way he is doing it at the moment. I see your point about Pedrosa, perhaps not in the same way as Lorenzo or Stoner, but definitely an alien. Cheers.

Rossi back on Suzuki, the only factory option left and a factory without a sponsor. Paul Denning sorting it now? the engine might not be great, but it was getting there, Suzuki has a great front end that will match the Yams and give him the feel he needs, the engine well, it was getting there last year (if they can keeps the valves in the guides and not in the top of the pistons). Nobu will be riding the wheels off the new bike every day. John is not the answer for Suzuki and if they think about it a big sponsor will get them back in the sport and Vale can leave a legacy for a youger rider. If there is a big sponsor behind Vale it COULD happen. The grid needs Suzuki back , not in its last iteration, it needs to wind it back to the Schwantz era and have a racer like Itoh-san in charge . He understood the riders, after him they didn't.

Will never happen. I can't imagine he is in for another risky adventure. This one has drained him enough already.

As ever David, a brilliant write up.

Marquez was out of order, he's already caused a serious crash at PI last year, and this was nearly another one. Before anyone says it, yes, I know it's motorcycle racing, not flower arranging, but he needs to watch himself. Luthi shouldn't have lashed out, but I understand his reasons.

The whole Rossi / Ducati fiasco is just that, a fiasco. They clearly are NOT listening to what VR wants. Or they cannot deliver it, one or the other. Either way, it's going to only last another year. And I for one am very VERY sad to see Valentino so utterly dejected.

Things HAVE to change, and VERY VERY FAST.

is that Rossi on the Ducati is slow. What the cause is exactly, we will probably never know, but my guess is that none of the parties involved is functioning at its best.

>They clearly are NOT listening to what VR wants.

Because if they did, clearly, CLEARLY, Rossi would be up there at the front.

Maybe they should just buy a Yamaha and paint it red.

...that Audi is about to buy Ducati!
I´m wondering how that will influence the Ducati MotoGP effort...
As a German and an engineer myself, I would be hoping that some good ol` german engineering would find its way into Vale´s bike and make them competitive again....

@ eah. Not to throw gas on the Stoner VS Rossi debate... How different may things be now for Vale if Ducati made the changes Stoner suggested starting in 2008? Their engineers (and management teams) didn't want to change from tradition for their riders to be more competitive with the other Factories. Stoner's raw talent and riding style got Ducati those wins, podiums, and the Championship. Vale is not capable of changing his style after all these years to ride the Ducati on the edge like Stoner or Checa in WSB. Look at Lorenzo? Jorge brags about his 2 riding styles a lot but he can back them up obviously even on the 1000cc M1 now. Hayden is able to do what he does because he's able to get the rear tire's help in making the front-end turn. Rossi must feel like crap when Hayden is leaving him in the dust! But Barbera too? That's just sad for a 9-Time World Champion...


Have a good look at Rossi on the first pic. It looks like a fake, as if it was Stoner with Rossi's helmet.

He's definitely trying everything to make it work. But... :

"At turn-entry, because of something we don't know, the front doesn't allow you to tighten the turn. This understeering is the biggest problem.

"The incredible thing is that this characteristic is similar to all the Ducatis I've ridden since 2010: whether it's the version with no chassis, or the one with the carbon-fibre front, of the one with the aluminium front, or the one with the full chassis... it doesn't ever change, that's incredible."


Don't laugh!
I think the problem could be mental and the task of performing when it actually matters, is really doing this bloke in. He's possibly realised he's had a very 'soft' career with the best of the best and unfortunately for him, the realisation has come nearly 2 years too late. He's far from too old, but admittedly, he has a lot of years of 'habits' under his belt, especially now with the undeniable talent of a certain few he and the rest of 'em have to deal with.
I've come to this conclusion after reading over the last 18 months, so many positive comments after each and every test (including releases from Ducati themselves!), only to see his race weekend performance falter. I can't believe they would intentionally set themselves up to fall foul of the viewing public or sponsors by 'faking' testing results, so at this moment, it's all I've got.
Almost a victim of DORNA's evil plan? Well not really, it was extremely fruitful for both parties while it lasted and for that, it's hard to knock the bloke!
Now, back at the pointy end...

I have never ridden a 90 degree V4. However, I have ridden and raced 90 degree twins. You cannot ride them like an inline 4. The engine has perfect balance and keeps pushing forward when you are off the throttle, which results in understeer. I used to get off the gas and on the throttle as quickly as possible and let the rear wheel slide. I could never ride deep into the corner like Rossi does, even if I were capable, because the ducati will just push you wide. Inline 4s feel neutral to me when you are off the throttle. This characteristic of the engine has led to the view that only certain riders can ride a ducati successfully. Does this characteristic apply to the Ducati GP bike? Looks like it to me and the problem is exacerbated by the 'Big Bang' firing order. I cannot see Rossi ever having any success on the Ducati while he keeps riding the same way. Nothing they do to the chassis will stop the engine from pushing the bike forward as hard as it does.
Just my take.

Painless >> "The engine has perfect balance and keeps pushing forward when you are off the throttle."

Is anybody able to explain that more fully - what is it about a perfectly balanced engine that pushes the machine forward/wide?

The Trouble With the Ducati Desmosedici: An Exhaustive Analysis


"The Bike

So it appears we can safely rule out the problem being the rider. And if it isn't the rider, the problem must lie in the bike. Indeed, speculation and conjecture about where the problem lies have been more intense than ever this season, with everyone and their mother-in-law apparently having an opinion. The ideas around the Ducati's shortcomings seem to fall into three schools of thought, two centering around the chassis and another focusing on the engine, with the theories about the chassis being by far the most popular."

"The 90° angle between the cylinders forces the front cylinders to be angled forward much more than the narrower angle Honda. Visual estimates (the exact data involved is highly sensitive and impossible to obtain) suggest that the front cylinder bank of the Ducati is at 70° from the vertical, while Honda's RC212V is at just 45°. This means that the Honda engine can be moved much further forward and closer to the front wheel than the Ducati, allowing the Honda's chassis designers more freedom in placing the engine. The 18° difference in V angle between the Ducati and the Honda also equates to cylinder banks that are roughly 15% further apart, making the engine correspondingly longer. Move the Desmosedici engine further forward, and you foul the front wheel; move it further back and you drastically shorten the swingarm.

The physical size of the Desmosedici engine - or rather, its rather rangy layout - means that much of the mass of the bike is further back than its rivals, with less freedom for changing weight distribution, especially at the design stage. This difficulty in moving weight distribution is one of the prime candidates for the difficulty the riders have for getting the Desmosedici's front tire up to temperature. While the bike may feel fine and the weight distribution look good on paper, the way the weight transfers under braking and acceleration is different, and this could be what is preventing the riders from getting heat into the tire.

There are several major clues that this is exactly what the problem is with the Desmosedici. Throughout their struggles with the Ducati, Rossi and his vastly experienced - and multiple world championship winning - crew have experimented with some fairly drastic changes to the weight distribution. At Mugello, they raised the center of gravity by 20mm, a vast amount in a world where normally parameters are changed a millimeter at a time. At Laguna Seca, they tried another change, shifting the weight further back and leaving Rossi's bike looking more like a chopper than a racing motorcycle."

Hey Dave, there are a lot of saying goes for Rossi and co. nowadays. I would have loved to read your thoughts in separate dedicated analysis and discuss further on the light of it.

Interesting comments are coming from the inside as well..

Mr. Burgess says; "Rossi Not at Stoner's Level."

Mr. Rossi says; "By racing this way, you lose the joy of riding"

I'm dying to see how everything comes to the point...

Preziosi has discounted this and has remarked that they have not moved the engine forward to its maximum position. He might be wrong but I would take his word for it.

My point about the 90 degree V engine is basically conjecture based on my own experience. As I said I have not ridden a V4. It would be interesting to hear what those who have ridden an RC30, which is a 90 degree V4, have to say. That would kill off my argument pretty quickly :)
A perfectly balanced engine will continue to spin where an unbalanced one will lose energy a lot quicker.

I was unable to find any responses to my comment, then I'd realised, my comment was no longer here? My point is valid and deserves some investigation and I will try to ask it as straight forward as I can possibly manage. Some observations first.
Post practice reports from Rossi and Ducati are RARELY (in fact, I don't remember any, but I could be mistaken!) anything but full of praise and declarations that major issues with the bike are solved or at least dramatically improved.
Come race weekend, a completely different picture is painted.
This has been going on for 18months and the question needs to be asked...
Is it performance anxiety, or is it something that sponsors should be very very concerned about? Because, I believe it would be a very unprofessional move for future prospects of both the rider AND the factory, if the team is misrepresenting themselves by falsifying their much anticipated elevation to 'competitive' status with such claims!
If this turns out to be the case, then the trouble for the team has barely started.

I don't even understand why you bother to ask those questions... there's nothing "hard" about them. Do you really expect Ducati's press releases after tests & practice to say, "Oh no, we still suck!" Everything anyone needs to know is answered after each race on the results sheet.

Performance anxiety from a 9 time champion? I know one's not supposed to answer a question with a question, but, are you for real?

Are Ducati making progress? Not nearly enough.

Are Ducati/VR happy? I hope not.

Will they win a dry race? I bet no a while back.

Is VR poisoning the well with his comments to the Italian press, or is he just trying to apply pressure to get the changes he wants quicker? Both, double edged swords work that way.

Will VR be there next year? I shook my Magic 8 Ball and it said, STFU and enjoy this year.

I mean I get it to a certain point, we're all enthusiasts here, we readily gobble up any information/intrigue we can, hence the reason this site and others exist. But get over it. I read some of these comments (not just you) and I'm like, really? I mean, REALLY?! This is a point of debate?

You wanna get all up-in-arms about something, worry about the future rule book. Or if someone should be penalized for a hard pass or other on track incidents? THAT stuff matters and is worth debating. This, not so much.

It has been said before by others and myself but Hayden deserves more credit for his years in MotoGP with Honda and now Ducati. Ducati needs to ask Hayden more about the development of the GP12 than Rossi if they want to save face this season for ALL they have done especially since signing Rossi. Hayden has his Honda (inline-4, V4) experience too and he's been on more variations of the Ducati GP bikes than Rossi. Hayden already said that it's the best (ducati) bike he's ridden so far. For Rossi to downgrade Hayden the way he did only shows that he's ready to leave Ducati. Hayden is the hardest working rider in MotoGP!

Maybe Ducati just need to put their resources in recruting the very best Aussie & American talent out there, and keep/make their bike a very specific dirttrack heroes bike.

One thought has occurred to me, if the purcahse of Ducati by Audi completes, then Ducati will have access to the VR engine technology of VW. This would allow them to make an engine which is more compact than either Honda or Yamaha. A more compact engine would allow them to get the mass closer to the front tire. A VR4 engine with desmodromic valve control would be an interesting engineering project.

The effective exchange of engine tech between cars and bikes is few and far in between. Especially in packaging issues. Completely different worlds. A narrow V engine needs counterbalancers that take up space and Hp. The narrow V angle helps in a transverse front engine car package as you have adequate room for a driver's legs, something not too important in motorcycles. It would also make an extremely restrictive intake manifold package or a very tall engine. Suzuki couldn't get enough power with 60 and went to 65, then 72 I think.

The other thing is that this (and nearly any other) engine tech is easily understandable by nearly any engine designer. There's nothing special about it. If Ducati wanted to make a narrow engine angle they would not want or need to talk to Audi or VW. Also, desmo throws a wrench into adapting car tech as an inherently unbalanced engine may make it more difficult to have a camdrive system with no shock absorbing members, as Ducati's desmo geartrain is reputed to be.