Dovizioso: "I Expected A More Competitive Package"

If you were in the happy position to be able to pick any factory ride you wanted in MotoGP, conventional wisdom says you go with Repsol Honda factory team. Over the years, the factory Honda has historically been the bike to have if you want to become a world champion.

Or at least, that used to be the case until the series switched to the new 800 cc format. When the formula changed in 2007, Honda completely misjudged what was needed to build a championship-winning bike, and the once mighty giant has struggled to be competitive ever since. 2007 was a straightforward disaster, with only Yamaha's misfortune allowing Dani Pedrosa to take second place in the championship, while the rest of the Honda riders struggled mid-pack. 2008 was a little better, but Honda's improvement was mostly undone by Yamaha's progression, with Pedrosa slipping to third in the championship, but Dovizioso and battling further up the order.

If one bad season could be dismissed as misfortune, two poor seasons were bordering on a disaster, and after the big shakeup at the start of '08, it was generally assumed that HRC would not allow this to happen again. Honda's pride would not permit another season of failure.

But the omens are not very good so far this preseason. In testing, the Hondas have been significantly off the pace, with Dani Pedrosa once again the only rider capable of getting close to the top of the timesheets. The rest of the Hondas have not just the factory Yamahas and the Ducati of Casey Stoner ahead of them, but also the satellite Yamahas, and even the Suzukis. This is not as HRC had pictured it.

After landing the plum factory Repsol Honda ride after an outstanding season on the satellite Team Scot bike, Andrea Dovizioso is starting to get worried. In an interview with the Italian sports daily Gazzetto dello Sport, Dovizioso expressed his concerns about the state of the Honda. "I had expected a more competitive package," he told the paper. "But I don't know whether that's down to Pedrosa or down to Honda. From what I understand, he doesn't want too many changes."

According to the Italian, the problems are mostly in the braking zone. The bike has problems with stability under braking, which caused the bike to slide around too much in the cold and damp evening conditions at the Qatar night tests. The 2009 RC212V needs work on the clutch and on the engine power delivery, if it is to be competitive.

Although Honda is still developing the bike, Dovizioso is worried about the pace of progress. "I'm happy about the improvements, but it is all too slow. We are having to wait to see small improvements. We need to be more responsive," he told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

Dovizioso also had a few words to say about his working relationship with his putative team mate Dani Pedrosa. The atmosphere in the garage is a little uncomfortable, according to Dovi. And though they don't exchange information, at least Dovizioso has access to all of the data. As for Pedrosa's manager, Alberto Puig, Dovizioso did not expect to be troubled by the Spaniard for too much longer. "Everyone knows that Puig is trying to exert as much power as he can. I think that when the new president of HRC arrives in June, things will be better."

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Comments

MotoGP at present is a three horse race, and its protagonists have shared the end of season spoils from the last two seasons pretty evenly.
A second and a third at this level is hardly abject failure.
If Pedrosa had done a bolter, as Stoner did in 2007, and all the other Honda's had still finished mid-field, how would you judge the Honda then?
Better maybe, but for who?
Maybe the Yamaha's earlier fragility stemmed from its advantage - the bike was built and run closer to whatever limits existed, conferring an advantage to Rossi those times it didn't break. And when it broke it was Pedrosa's just reward. Or just maybe Honda's fear of public mechanical failure is at least as strong as its fear of losing.
There again, if Hayden can't make the Ducati work to his advantage this year, we may have to accept it's more about the rider (and crew), and less about the bike.

Total votes: 100

By Kawasaki's standards, the last two years have been outstanding for Honda. By Honda's standards, they have been a disaster. Honda expects to win the championship every year, as they have an unshakable belief in their technology. And frankly, looking back at their history, they have every reason to hold this belief. Even a satellite Honda used to be an almost cast iron guarantee of battling for the podium.

But in the past two years, Honda has been eclipsed. The bikes simply haven't been good enough to dominate in the way that HRC expects to. The only point of light in this dark period has been Dani Pedrosa, whose exceptional talent has kept him close to the front. Unfortunately, Pedrosa is up against two of the best riders to have raced a bike, both of whom are on superior machinery. There is little that Pedrosa can do about that, and he is doomed to finish third in the championship once again, unless Honda can live up to their heritage, and start producing a bike which will allow Pedrosa to compete on equal terms.

This is not about our expectations, as fans and followers of MotoGP. This is about Honda's expectations. And Honda expects to dominate MotoGP.

Total votes: 107

another theory is this can all be put to the obsession honda had about pedrosa himself. certainly it would explain how the bike didn't even physically fit larger riders like checa and hayden in 2007 and why no one except dani can make the thing competitive.

i don't really believe in pedrosa as a motorcycle racer, never have. he's superb at getting fast times on motorcycle custom made for him. he rarely shows actual race craft, however.

and now what, he's hurting already, probably not going to be 100% at the opening round and the championship will start slipping away right from the get go.

honda would be wise to work on a more generic machine for their 5 other riders...

Total votes: 91

Yes, it's always more about the rider and less about the bike, one of the true beauties of motorcycle racing compared to cars. It's been proven countless times in the past, and since HRC dared to forget they were reminded with Rossi's switch to Yamaha. And if you need more recent proof how about the little Aussie piloting the 'unrideable' Ducati?
If the laptime is slow the rider will rarely admit that he may be the problem, so he talks about technical problems with the bike. The teams are staffed by technicians so of course they go about solving "technical" problems and devoting a vast budget to improving the machine (which they no doubt achieve). However a good (and happy!) rider makes the technicians look good, and a bad (or unhappy) rider makes the very same team and bike look bad. Yes a generalisation, but in my experience one that's more often true than not. Way more often.

Total votes: 83

indeed, rossi reminded the entire world in 2004 that it was indeed more about the rider, but to me, honda did learn this lesson, and then decided to put all their eggs in one rider's basket- pedrosa. excuse me if i am underselling dani, but thus far, he hasn't delivered the goods and now honda might be thinking "maybe we were right the first time, and it is more about the bike".

Total votes: 103

Nicky Hayden has two personality characteristics that I admire: 1) he is the hardest working man in the show - regardless of how competitive his ride is, and 2) he is polite and does not air dirty laundry. He stands head and shoulders above his peers in these two respects.

My memory is not perfect, but I do not recall Andrea Dovizioso making any disparging comments about Team Scot or the Honda last year (if anyone remembers otherwise, please let me know). I hope he does slide down the slipepry slope that has been greased by Alberto Puig.

Total votes: 99

Dovi whined and bitched all last year about not having a factory bike. Now he's whining about his factory ride. My heart bleeds.

Total votes: 98

i think dovi thrives on less than top notch machinery. it allows him to scapegoat his ride and accept huge laurels for overcoming adversity. everyone was so impressed with him in the 250s battling jorge's obviously harder, better, faster, stronger ride. everyone was so impressed with his superb motogp rookie season on an underpowered satellite honda.

i really like the guy, he has oodles of talent, but this is just his way of bringing down the expectations because i don't think he's ever learned to deal with the pressure of a factory team at this level of the game.

Total votes: 87

Dovi obviously doesn't have a clue if he believes this is the method to motivate HRC. He doesn't understand that disparaging them publicly will short track him directly to Siberia.

Puig couldn't have dreamt a better scenario. Dovi's demise will be simply be dismissed as a personal failure..at Honda, there is NEVER a machine inadequacy..just a rider's.

Total votes: 93

...the rumour mill is rife with talk of the ousting of puig in 2010. and there's a new sheriff coming to town. maybe dovi knows more than we do. maybe dani really *is* on the hook to lose his career ride if he doesn't win the championship in 2009. i read what dovi has said as a veiled comment on how the bike was built for one man only and it's time to actually make it competitive for all the riders.

on the other other hand, dovi has been known to whine in the past :)

Total votes: 93

The bike counts for a lot. I am watching the 2005 season and Rossi is invariably surrounded by an army of Hondas. In fact, in 2004, Honda lost the championship because they put too many good bikes on the grid and ended up splitting points between them. Both of those scenarios seem almost alien at this point.

At the same time, whining about your equipment has never endeared a rider to HRC.

Total votes: 98

good then maybe he'll end up on a yamaha, after hrc, but whatever he says now to gain any leverage, before the season is just that. like rossi hurting a finger just before testing and talking up the injury so much, it gives him a reason for stoner to be faster than him. so what.

Total votes: 87

Dear Krop, can we discuss your opinion of Honda a little more?
If Rossi and Burgess were given a Honda for this season, I have little doubt it would be competitive by the year's end. If they had been using the same manufacturer's hardware these last two seasons, I'd wager they would be pretty much where they are now, at the top of the heap.
Whether this hypothetical situation came about because Honda showered Rossi and co with more parts, updates and developments, because of his status, or whether - and this is my point - Rossi and co could better interpret for Honda what parts were needed, is the crunch issue.
MotoGp is a relentlessly technological struggle, and some riders, and teams, will be better at its interpretation.
So whatever Honda's mindset, there is this other very important factor, that needs consideration. Pedrosa's brilliance has kept the Honda to the fore? Surely this very same argument can be applied to Stoner and Ducati, Rossi and Yamaha? Where were the other Ducatis, and Yamahas, for that matter?
Pedrosa ran Michelins for most of 2008 as well, then made a brand change mid season - a disadvantage?
I'm not an apologist for Honda, my guess is they are trying pretty hard. Maybe they need a helping hand.

Total votes: 91

Honda are the backbone of MotoGP. They are its foundation, if they were to withdraw, it's game over. And since the late 80s, they have utterly dominated the sport, through a combination of engineering genius and rider talent. But over the past couple of years, their grip has started to slip. Alberto Cani of GPOne had a great summary of results by Honda satellite bikes the other day, which I've reproduced here:

2006
Turkey (1 Melandri, Honda Gresini)
Turkey (2nd Stoner, LCR Honda)
France (1 Melandri, Honda Gresini)
Catalonia (3rd Roberts Jr., KR-Honda)
Great Britain (3rd Melandri, Honda Gresini)
Germany (2nd Melandri, Honda Gresini)
USA (3rd Melandri, Honda Gresini)
Australia (1 Melandri, Honda Gresini)
Japan (3rd Melandri, Honda Gresini)
Portugal (1 Elias, Honda Gresini)
Portugal (3rd Roberts Jr., KR-Honda)

2007 2007
France (2nd Melandri, Honda Gresini)
USA (3rd Melandri, Honda Gresini)
Malaysia (2 ° Melandri, Honda Gresini)

2008 2008
Malaysia (3 ° Dovizioso, JiR Scot Honda)

So they are clearly slipping. Of course, as you rightly point out, if they had Burgess and Rossi working for them, they'd be doing a whole bunch better, as those two know how to develop a bike. And using Pedrosa as the development lead may be a dead end for Honda, as Pedrosa is very small and light, and providing him with a bike to suit him won't produce a bike which is good for everyone.

Contrast that with Yamaha: Last year, three of the four Yamahas on the grid got on the podium, and Tech 3 beat Suzuki in the team championship. The Yamaha is clearly the best bike on the grid, with the proviso that it is a little bit down on power, and a bit down on drive out of corners.

As for Ducati, it's a pretty awful bike. It's brilliant when ridden one way, and one way only. Stoner - who I rate very highly indeed - has mastered the bike, and is blindingly quick on it. But everyone else is nowhere on it. Nicky Hayden is complaining of rear wheel pump, but watch videos of Casey Stoner coming out of corners and he has exactly the same problem. The difference is, he ignores it and doesn't worry about it. So Ducati are down a dead end as well, and if Stoner decided to retire, would be right at the back of the grid again.

Summarizing, sort of, I guess I agree with a lot of what you say. Honda need help developing the bike, because they've gone in the wrong direction. But this is partly Honda's weakness - they are an engineering company, and sometimes, engineers build the best theoretical solution, rather than the bike which is fastest on the race track with an actual human being aboard. Honda have a track record of occasionally making this mistake, and right now, Ducati is in the same place, only Casey Stoner is superhuman, and can handle the bike just as the engineer had conceived it in his mind. I have no doubt Honda will return to dominating MotoGP. But while they are up against Valentino Rossi - arguably the greatest motorcycle racer to have lived - teamed with Jerry Burgess - an unquestionable racing genius, and Casey Stoner - who I personally rank as better than Mick Doohan, though I'll freely admit it's a little early to draw that conclusion - teamed with Filippo Preziosi - another engineering genius - Honda will have a very tough time winning another championship.

Total votes: 91

Before I read these lastest comments, I posted this over on the forums:

HRC needs someone to tell them what to do. They can engineer themselves into a corner and they will if left to it. They need a forceful and perceptive personality to get themselves out of that corner. Puig is forceful but he doesn't actually know anything. Pedrosa is a great rider but nothing so far has convinced me that he understands that no factory and no army of engineers will ever give him the best bike - he has to build it himself.

Yamaha brought in Furusawa who did magical things with the M1 before Rossi even laid a hand on it but it is my belief that he knew he couldn't make it competitive until he had a rider capable of understanding how that magic could be applied in the real world. Yamaha seems to have embraced the leadership role of a strong rider while Honda has bristled against it, only giving in when forced.

Total votes: 91

RatsMC, I agree with you. The only thing I don't fully agree with is the the Magic in the Yamaha. It is a great handling bike but it requires a level of talent above and beyond what most of the grid is capable of to get the speed out of it.

If you look at it, Rossi and Lorenzo, (who in my opinion is very underrated), get results from it. Everyone else is no where in sight.

When Rossi raced for Honda, he and Honda had that bike so good, he would actually wait until the last 5 laps of the race to make his move to win. Knowing he could with no problems. The bike was at his level of being better than everything else. Like the time he got hit with a 10 Second penalty and went on to win the race by at least that amount of time.

Now at Yamaha, you see him have to race with every little bit of talent and determination to get ahead. He no longer waits until the end of the race. If he can get ahead, he gets ahead, even if it is lap 1. Then he pushes as hard as he can until the end.

Dovi, may just be saying what he is seeing at Honda. Honda, being the idiots that refused to give Rossi his credit and put him in a situation where he refused to be punked, moved on to Yamaha. Won the first year out, and Honda has not won since. As a matter of fact, seem to have lost their way, looking like they might have..........forgotten how to win.....

Maybe Dovi will be able to give them guidance they need. 'cause Puig will drive them in a hole. Can't wait for the first race!

Total votes: 103

I have to correct a couple of points.Honda did win a title after Rossi left. More important, the Yamaha did an exceptional job last year. Not dominating like the RC211V did in 2002/2003 is not a complete failure, the bike was still the best all-around package. Putting a rookie into 4th despite missing races is pretty impressive and certainly better than the 2nd rider on any other team was capable of.

But really, none of my points were about the 2008 bikes, they were about the leadership of a good rider and how differently the factories respond to that leadership.

Total votes: 105

is just repeating the same mistakes they have done after a champion leaves. Remember when Lawson was saddled with the upside-down abomination..which he won a championship with, & the dry periods after Doohan & Gardner?

It takes a demanding rider who delivers wins/championships to gain the final say OVER the engineers..who when not TOLD what to give a rider...revert back to praying to the god of horsepower; rideability be damned. Either DP doesn't have the "gravitas" at corporate, or doesn't know what to ask for; or more likely, just isn't as good as Rossi/Stoner.

I don't agree with RatsMC that the Yamaha isn't the best all-round package (in 2008). Rossi is racing harder simply because for the first time has an adversary he has respect for & knows he can't pass at will. Edwards did what Edwards has done since the beginning of his MotoGP career..yeoman work. Toseland isn't ready for primetime & probably owes his ride to Dorna's need for English TV ratings. No matter what anyone says...MotoGP IS tougher than WSBK. Come on...Haga, Biaggi, Corser, Checa, Xaus & (strike me dead) Bayliss...couldn't cut it in the "Bigs" & are heroes in the "AAA" league. Toesland was a big fish in a little pond.

Total votes: 95

Biaggi has 13 wins in MotoGP, more than any current rider except Rossi and Stoner. I think he cut just fine.

And regarding the rest, I suppose that by your logic that 2/3rds of the current MotoGP riders are also not cutting it. That's leaves us with a 4-5 rider field.

MotoGP is as much about politics, nationality, sponsorship, and getting the best equipment/team, as it is about riding skill. Good on Casey for breaking through hegemony.

Total votes: 89

I need some clarification. You say you disagree but then you continue with "I don't agree with RatsMC that the Yamaha isn't the best all-round package (in 2008)."

It appears that you don't believe the Yamaha was the best all around bike out there but your statement is the opposite.

I am not quite sure how all of the points I made came down to one issue that Krop actually stated and I only gave vague support for initially.

Let me clarify: A rider with a strong personality and great ability is needed to guide development of a bike. Furusawa understood this back in 2003 when he joined Yamaha.

I never said anything about the 2008 Yamaha until whoorida confused my statement.

Can we get back on topic?

Total votes: 100

Sorry Rats...I meant Whorida...

Note to self...get prescription(s) (glasses/meds) refiled tomorrow

Total votes: 93

Thanks for your comment and analysis (and partial agreement!), Krop. Appreciated.
I also appreciate your faith in engineers. Because sometimes, alas, they are just as capable of building the worst theoretical solution.
And sometimes they are daring - and get it wrong (in itself, not necessarily a negative step).

Total votes: 101