2012 Jerez MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Of Excess Horsepower, Long Runs and the Chances of Rain

Though the night race at Qatar is spectacular, the paddock at Jerez feels like a proper paddock. There is a bustle missing from Qatar, and the return of the hospitality units means that it is an altogether more colorful place. The presence of the hospitality units also means seeing more old friends, the men and women who slave all weekend putting the units together and ensuring that everything runs smoothly within them, and that the guests who spend their time there - including, most importantly, the people who foot the bill for this whole MotoGP malarkey - pass it as pleasantly as possible. These are the people who are the backbone of MotoGP, the foundation on which it is built, and it is always a happy moment meeting them again.

The reappearance of the hospitality units also sees the reopening of another, more informal competition. Not content with just facing each other out on the track, the teams also vie for attention in the paddock as well. The rules of the contest are simple and rather childish: the team with the biggest, shiniest, most impressive hospitality unit wins. This year, the contest is already over: Avintia Racing, fielding Maverick Vinales in Moto3, Julian Simon in Moto2, and Yonny Hernandez and Ivan Silva in MotoGP, have erected a structure that can only be described as humungous (see photo below). Where most units are the size of a spacious lounge, the Avintia hospitality unit is about the size of a basketball stadium. The fact that Avintia is a construction company has doubtless influenced their design decisions, and if the racing doesn't work out, they can always turn it into an olympic sized swimming pool...

With no on-track action - other than the usual laps of the track on a scooter, taking care to avoid trucks carrying advertising hoardings and wandering journalists - the riders contented themselves with the usual round of press conferences ahead of the event. The biggest draw - naturally - was Valentino Rossi, interest even greater, if possible, due to his remarks on Italian television expressing his exasperation with the situation. Those remarks had been born of frustration, Rossi admitted, and overall, he was much more hopeful for this weekend.

"I am very happy to be here," he told the assembled media, "because this track is very important for me, I did lot of good results in the past, and I like a lot this track. But especially in the last test before the start of the season, my performance with the Desmosedici was not so bad. I did some good lap times and especially at the end, I finish in 6th position." A month later, and with enough data to make a go of it, Rossi was confident of being substantially closer to the sharp end than the dismal weekend he had at Qatar.

Asked about the rumors concerning an early exit from Ducati, Rossi was emphatic. "No," Rossi answered. "I never thought to leave Ducati, I have zero chance to ride another bike." The Italian knew what he was getting himself into from the start. "You know, when you sign a contract, you have to arrive at the end giving the maximum effort. So this is our target now."

But Rossi stood by his comments on the weakness of the bike. When asked whether the horsepower of the Ducati (or the "lion in the cowling" as Rossi had dubbed it at Qatar) could be tamed using electronics, or whether a new engine was needed, Rossi was very clear. It was the engine that needed modifying, Rossi said, adding "This is one of the most important targets to improve our performance, because I have always some difficulty in acceleration, to open the throttle. More important than managing the power is to have the right link between the throttle and what's happening in the engine," Rossi said. "Our engine is very powerful, and we have to use a lot of electronics for use this power. So I think to improve the acceleration of this bike, we need to work more on the engine, not just the electronics. Also with this we can try to use less electronics."

Would he like to try a bike with a narrower V angle engine, Rossi was asked, and though he acknowledged that many people in the paddock had suggested this, he himself did not know for sure. "Sincerely, I don't know, I don't have the answer. But to modify the angle of our engine needs a lot of time, because you have to do the engine again." But a version of the engine modified to produce less power was already under production, Rossi said. At the Estoril test, he hoped to test "the same engine but with two or three modifications for better delivery," Rossi said. Whether it would be ready on time was uncertain: "Filippo is not here, because he is working on this this week, but I don't know if it will be ready for Portugal test. Fortunately, we have some other tests later, so at this moment, we don't know, but we hope, we hope as soon as possible."

In the press conference, Nicky Hayden concurred that the biggest problem with the Ducati was the amount of power the bike had, and trying to get it on the ground. "We've struggled with traction all year," Hayden told the press conference, "we need a smoother engine."

Valentino Rossi's comments to Italian TV were not the only subject to have been carried over from Qatar to Jerez. The other big story from the season opener was of Rossi's arch rival Casey Stoner, and the arm pump that had mysteriously appeared and robbed him of the lead in Qatar. This, too, had been the subject of much speculation, with a lot of people pitching with their comments and advice. How Stoner had gone about trying to fix it, the Australian refused to say, though the sparse information we could glean from him suggested that it mainly concerned diet and stretching, but he was also adamant that this was a highly sporadic problem. Arm pump occurs occasionally, and this was only the second time in his career where it had been a problem. He ruled surgery out, as that was only a temporary fix, and meant that it would merely recur again a few months later. The scars on the forearms of Nicky Hayden bear witness to this, Hayden also having suffered with the problem.

The one thing that it wasn't caused by was the lack of long runs, Stoner said. He was quite adamant that the length of time he spent on track meant nothing, and that the way he worked - many short runs, rather than a few long ones - had no effect on the condition. "I haven't done it [only doing short runs - Ed.] my whole career, and I've never had arm pump," Stoner said. He was unconvinced of the merits of long runs: "Everybody's finding the excuse of why a long run is going to be beneficial, and I still haven't found it yet," Stoner explained, "Except when there was tire competition. Then, we were using tires that could just do race distance and we had to make sure they would finish the race." That was no longer a factor. "Now, we're on the same tires, and these tires can do stupid amounts of laps. We know the tire wear's very good, we spend a lot of time watching the tire wear. Then we have fuel consumption, if we're struggling with fuel consumption, then maybe a long run can give us a more clear idea, but at the same time, you calculate it for a certain amount of laps and you know what the fuel consumption is going to be." Not doing long runs had not hurt him in the past, Stoner pointed out. "I've been using this same technique for a long time, we've won more races than anybody else in the last 5 years or so, so it works."

Part of the problem had been that he'd been forced to use new gloves, and that as protection improved in the gloves, so they got stiffer. Breaking the gloves in was a problem: "The only way to break gloves in is by riding these bikes," Stoner said, adding that he had tried all sorts of other ways of doing. Even wearing them while he raced karts, or wearing them around the house did not stretch the gloves correctly, and could even make the situation worse. Using the gloves for anything other than racing bikes meant you were stretching the gloves in the wrong places, and that could create folds in the material, which in turn would cause blisters. So modern gloves are like Bridgestone tires? I asked Stoner. "That's a pretty good description," he replied.

While all of the attention was being focused on Rossi and Stoner, a Spaniard is leading the championship, and is coming to two of his strongest tracks of the season. I asked Jorge Lorenzo's manager Wilco Zeelenberg if Lorenzo minded that all of the media were talking about Rossi, and not about him, but Zeelenberg said that Lorenzo understood the situation. Rossi has always been at the center of the media storm, and everyone understands this. And frankly, Zeelenberg added, there was quite a tale to tell.

The weather could add a few dramatic twists to the plot this weekend, with the rain set to move in from tomorrow morning. One Italian journalist who had driven down from Lisbon - a question of return flights and hire cars - had said that he had driven all the way in the rain, until he arrived at Seville, some 100 km north of Jerez. The weather forecast has gotten worse - rain is now expected to start on Friday, and continue through Sunday, only letting up once the race is over. Though Lorenzo and Stoner were confident in the rain, the wet favors Ducati rather more. Rossi acknowledged that the Ducati was pretty good in the wet, and that a wet race was probably his best chance of a good result. The problem was that what Ducati needed was more time in the dry, to gather more data and try to find a solution to their problems. But if Rossi did end on the podium because it was wet, it is unlikely he'll do much complaining about it.

Right, a normal sized hospitality unit. On the left, the towering structure that is Avintia.

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We keep hearing the mantra that the Ducs proverbially like wet weather, but that certainly did not play out at Silverstone last year. Is it perhaps the case that with everybody running soft engine settings the disadvantages of the Ducs are somewhat minimised and the performance gap is diminished to the point where rider skill and racecraft can be employed? - the latter in particular an area where Rossi has pretty undeniable great strengths.

While the wet should close up the field, it certainly doesn't introduce a handicap for Stoner or Lorenzo that should cause any upsets at the top. Pedrosa is a bit more on-or-off in the wet, and in a wet race I think I'd look to Dovi against Crutchlow (though that may be unfair, I haven't really seen enough of Crutchlow in the wet to know his potential). And on Silverstone '11 evidence, good 'ol boy Edwards has a real chance of holding off de Puniet again.

>>a version of the engine modified to produce less power was already under production

Luigi, bring me the angle grinder! Where are those scored cylinders?

I remember at the end of 2010 still with the 800s Pedrosa was saying the Honda was still a bit rough with power delivery and after the Valencia test Casey was very happy with how smooth the Honda's power delivery was. I hope the base issue that led Ducati to abandon an innovative chassis style was not just abrupt throttle response.

It also speaks even more to how amazing Stoner's throttle control must be


I don't get it .... If Ducati has a problem with a power delivery which electronics cannot solve, why would they be more competitive in a wet race?

I can see how VR can outride some other riders in wet conditions, but surely the bike with a rough power delivery must be worse from traction point of view in wet conditions.

What am I missing?

So the Ducati never gets to the point where its problems become an issue. For any given tire load: acceleration, braking, and cornering, the traction limit in the wet is far below the machine's dry capability. If I recycle yet my again 100 sec/100% comparison technique the duc riders are having problems getting from 99% to 100%. Wet times are roughly 90% of the dry performance. Since Rossi and the other Duc riders can easily get to 96-97% of the fast dry times (3-4 sec off pole) then you can see how the even slower wet times are not taxing the capabilities of the machine.

Since the machine is not being ridden to its limits what wet riding rewards is determining what the available traction level is and riding as close as possible to this limit. In other words it rewards rider feel and skill, which Rossi has in ample supply.

I was a bit of a rainmeister in my 125 racing days and its amazing how much traction there is when you are smooth and trusting. In the rain on my bone stock 125 I easily gapped the dry frontrunners with their much more trick bikes. I found it easy because the pace was slow. I always had trouble running fast in the dry because processing the inputs at dry speeds was too difficult but in the sort of slo-motion of rain racing it all could click. Since performance was capped by reduced traction the extra few Hp or better suspension of the top bikes was neutralized.


Ditto ... Thanks.

I kind of realized that the loads are not even close to what would they be in dry conditions, I just couldn't wrap my head around the rough power delivery.

Any idea how much power do they dial their machines down to for a wet race?

>>Any idea how much power do they dial their machines down to for a wet race?

I know nothing specific but its got to be substantial. If they are only at full throttle 10-20% in the dry I think that would shrink to 0-5% in full wet situations. I wonder what the 'wet' settings on production street superbikes trim power to.


"What am I missing?"

Wet weather electrickery settings eliminate the power delivery issue.

Ducati in theory should be better off in the wet as a result of diminished load on the overall package and by the same token, the Honda's chatter issues should be a non issue for the same reason.
So I guess the hand in the glove will be the deciding factor all round this weekend given the weather forecast. Funny old thing, a wet race weekend.
As much as its expected to throw a cat amongst the pigeons, it seldom changes the pecking order at the close of play on race day.
The trick as ever is to stay on board for the duration of the race.
Ben Spies will be mindfull of what could and should have been last year for him.

I thought surgery was supposed to be a permanent fix..or at least offer the chance?
Why bother having your arm sliced open if not?
Has Hayden suffered a re-occurrence since his operation?

And why doesn't Stoner have a couple of spare pairs of gloves as a back-up that he's worn in during practice..in case he falls and writes them off?

So if Casey maintains that the only thing that breaks his gloves in properly is riding the bike, surely there is the benefit of one or two long runs, at least at the start of the season?

I think Casey stated that the gloves were a new construction from Alpinestars, and that they were of thicker material. I would assume he was using them all weekend. I agree with you DC short runs would not cause arm pump. he didn't get it until late in the race. for set up short runs work for him but he would have had no idea that the new gloves would have caused such a problem with out doing a long run.

I don't agree with Casey's comment about long runs wouldn't be beneficial. if he did a race simulation with the new thicker gloves he would have experienced arm pump and would have worn them in before the race to prevent it. his 3rd place in Qatar was a direct result of not doing a race simulation, he was on pace to win by the way, but hine sight is 20/20. With all of the pre season testing time even just one simulated race should have been done and even pushed by his team. he will defiantly learn from that race and come back stronger. after FP2 dani quickest with Rossi 0.6 in second come on rain! lol