2011 MotoGP Sepang 2 Day 2 Roundup - Same Ol' Same Ol'

If the fact that Honda appear to have produced a fairly competitive racing motorcycle in the 2011 RC212V had managed to pass you by, the times from the second day of testing at Sepang will have grabbed you, punched you in the face and screamed "IT'S REALLY, REALLY FAST!" In fact reports from the second MotoGP test at Sepang have become fairly monotonous, with the headlines almost writing themselves: Honda Fastest on Day {insert day here} of Testing.

Wednesday was no exception. Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso took to the track at 10:30 on Wednesday morning, pounded out a few laps at blistering pace, and did not cede the top three spots on the timesheet for the rest of the day. By 6pm, Stoner had posted 42 laps, 5 of which were 2'00 flat, and 21 of which were 2'01s. The bike, in case I haven't mentioned this before, is fast; so fast, in fact, that their biggest problem is now choosing between two really good chassis. Dovizioso, Pedrosa and Stoner have yet to make up their minds which is the better frame, the 2011 version of the bike or the 2010 version, and so little is there to choose in terms of performance that Pedrosa told the press that he was actually starting to find it rather stressful.

If the other three manufacturers were not already worried by the results of the Honda riders - 5 of the top 7 times, with only Toni Elias the black sheep of the HRC flock - the pronouncements of the riders can only add to their concern. Dani Pedrosa, whose natural shyness can make him seem a little dour, is positively chirpy, and the equally retiring Andrea Dovizioso is fulsome in his praise of the progress made.

But at the front of everyone's minds must be the words of Casey Stoner on Wednesday: "I was comparing [my times] to other riders at the same time of day, and we were always able to go a little bit faster because we were never close to our potential." With some work on the chatter which Stoner is - still - suffering on corner entry, the Hondas should be able to pencil their names on the manufacturers and riders trophies shortly after the summer break.

While the riders were expressing their satisfaction with the RC212V, HRC staff were killing off the DCT rumors that had raised their ugly head on day 1 of the test. Dani Pedrosa's crew chief flat-out laughed at the suggestion that Honda would use their - outlawed in MotoGP - Dual Clutch Transmission, while Livio Suppo told GPOne.com in no uncertain terms what he thought of the idea: "It is unimaginable that Honda would do something outside the rules," he said.

Over at Yamaha, the satisfaction with the general shape the bike is in is tempered solely by one desire: more horsepower. The 2011 M1 is exactly like every bike that preceded it, since Valentino Rossi joined up with Masao Furusawa in 2004: Underpowered, but the best all-round package in the paddock. It turns, brakes and accelerates, it's just that the Yamaha lacks the flat-out horsepower of the Ducati and the Honda. If the Ducati might at least be capable of keeping up down the straights, the sign on the Honda Lane is very clear: No Yamahas Allowed.

Unlike Honda, Yamaha does not have a problem with chassis choice, Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies both pretty clear that the new chassis is better than last year's. Lorenzo took out one of the test bikes in the middle of the day to confirm this, testing the 2011 engine in the 2010 chassis. He came back convinced the 2011 chassis is better. Now all they need is more power, but as Lorenzo's manager Wilco Zeelenberg told MotoGP.com's Marieta Borreda, "power is nothing without control." (On a side note, Zeelenberg quoting Pirelli marketing slogans should have the conspiracy theorists working overtime, as rumors - some extremely reliable - persist that Pirelli is to take over as single tire supplier when Bridgestone's contract runs out at the end of 2011.)

Over at Ducati, all was uncharacteristically quiet, as Valentino Rossi was uncharacteristically ill. Rossi's veteran crew chief was surprised, as Rossi has never missed a full day of testing due to illness before, but the Italian was struck down with some kind of mystery virus. Rossi arrived at the track complaining of feeling ill, and was immediately taken to the clinica mobile, where he was put on a drip. He returned to his hotel, intending to ride in the afternoon, hoping sleep would help him recover, but was too ill to come back to the track. Rossi was not the only rider in the MotoGP sick bay, Alvaro Bautista arrived at the track suffering from a severe headache, and also cut his day short, while Cal Crutchlow is still weak from an in-flight bout of food poisoning on his trip to Malaysia.

So work fell still on one side of the Ducati garage, which must be a concern. With just 8 full days of testing between the winter break and the start of the season, illness is just not an option, as is poor weather. The chance of losing testing days to the weather is one of the reasons to go to Sepang, but the punishing heat adds another layer of complexity to the decision. Riding in Sepang means you may not lose much time to the weather, but it's hot, humid and very physically demanding.

What work there is to be done in the Ducati garage is also something of a mystery. While Alessandro Cicognani - one half of Ducati's two-headed team management - had previously said that Ducati had brought the flex package and 42mm forks for Rossi to test at Sepang, Jerry Burgess said that they hadn't touched the flex package (softer subframe and thinner forks), and had focused solely on Rossi's riding position and the setup of the bike. I was under the illusion that Rossi was working on the softer stuff, and wrote as much yesterday. Clearly, I was wrong.

A day lost to illness puts Ducati even further back than they had hoped. The fastest Ducati on Wednesday was Hector Barbera on the satellite Aspar machine, who nipped ahead of Alvaro Bautista and Nicky Hayden at the very end of the day. Hayden continues to struggle with chatter at Sepang, and the team seems no closer to solving the problem. Hayden believes - with good reason - that the chatter may be related to the track rather than the bike, making two tests at a track which presents such a specific problem for the Ducatis rather a waste. If the Desmosedici still has chatter at Qatar, then Ducati will know whether they are in trouble or not.

Testing at Sepang concludes on Thursday, and you can probably write the headlines already. The only real question as to the final result is at exactly what time Casey Stoner or Dani Pedrosa will finally crack the 2'00 mark, and get into the 1'59s. Both Stoner and Pedrosa were well inside Valentino Rossi's pole record of 2'00.518 from 2009 today, and Dovizioso was just hundredths outside. Sub 2'00 cannot be very far away.

If the headlines are obvious, the real stories will be elsewhere: where the Yamaha ends; how much the Ducatis improve; and most especially, whether Valentino Rossi is well enough to test again tomorrow. Losing one day of testing may be considered unfortunate, but losing two - fully one quarter of the total amount of testing time - would be very worrying indeed. There is still a lot to do.

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Comments

I wonder just how much slower than Yamaha's are. As Checa has shown at P.I testing, being 15kmph slower than Biaggi down the Gardner straight isn't necessarily an obstacle to going damn fast.

Yamaha had won championships in the previous seasons with the M1 having low horse power and top speed (compared to other bikes in the grid). But when the Hondas are going this fast, I think Yamaha is in serious trouble this year.Anyway racing is different from testing.

Great feature, David.

It'll be interesting to see how much things change up in Qatar.

To be honest I can see Casey running away with that one too.

Stoner is on fire.

I assumed Ducati would be rearranging their bike to suit Rossi, and that in turn would help the other Ducati riders, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

I appreciate the time you sank into writing this. Fantastic stuff, really.

Was just thinking the same thing, Thank you David!!! The anticipation for 03/20/11 is KILLING ME!!!!

...You may just get it. Way too early to make predictions.However,the 'wish for Valentino on the Ducati' at this stage is without a doubt pear shaped at best.
His 'EVO' incarnation of the D16 is slower by a bunch more than the 2010 edition at the same test last year.
Engine and Yamaha,is in my opinion no big deal.
Should they stay within striking distance of the Honda's in Sepang,they will be at least on par with HRC at the European circuits.
It is so easy for Casey's detractor's to discredit him.
Right now the Honda is going forward at a rate of knots.
Is this co incidentall with Stoner and Suppo's arrival ?
I think so.Dani is formidable,but Casey,is a bit of a Chuck Jaeger. Thanks David.
Valentino has to step up to that plate and spew in his helmet.
Another concern for the other manufacturer's must be the 6 engine reliability Honda 'owned' last year.

When Honda knew that they had built the fastest bike, they went out and bought all the fastest riders they could and Suppo has been instrumental in being able to afford it.

There was a mere 3kmph difference in peak speeds from the fastest Ducati, Honda and Yamaha at the Malaysian race last year - all around 310kmph. I cannot imagine speeds have changed that much since last October. Yeah Honda have improved their engine, as have Yamaha. We haven't seen the best of Lorenzo at this test yet. He is still the man to beat for the 2011 title. The Stoner hype is no more than that right now.

...all the problem with chatter. Did any bikes suffer with it last year? Is Sepang a "chattery" circuit because of mid-corner bumps? If not, then what?

It's looking more and more like the time was right to leave Yamaha.

As I believe I saw in a tweet from Neil Spalding, "worse" tires would be good for the sport. There should be more horsepower than traction...

p.s. Like I said, it looks like Casey is the man to beat...

"Chatter" (haven't you watched "DTK" yet?) is primarily a function of pavement quality, but can also be a function of the frame and suspension being too tight for the weight balance of a particular bike, in particular situations.

Hayden was quoted earlier as saying it was the only circuit causing this problem for their bike last year.  Of the circuits shared with F1, this is the most extreme in terms of heavy braking.  Years of high-downforce abuse have taken their toll, and this becomes a chatter problem for motorcycles.

we will be lucky to have a race...they just cancelled the f1 race in the middle east do to unrest in the region....it does not look good for the motogp circus..though it shouldnt matter cuz nobody even goes to the track to watch

Qatar is a much more stable country than any of the ones going through turmoil right now. I think the odds of cancellation would be higher for rain.

Look up Losail International Circuit and Bahrain International Circuit on Google Maps. You might be dissapointed. They couldn't be closer. Both are located in Doha.

They may only be distant from 100 miles but they are located in different countries.
Bahrain is an small archipelago (the main island is slightly larger than the Isle of Man) populated by 1.2 million people but it is completely independent from Qatar (1.7 million people) which is just a neighbour country.
Though Qatar itself is far from being a democracy (as pretty much all the countries in this area), no sign of unrest has been seen yet.
Losail circuit is located in Doha, Qatar, Bahrain circuit is in Sakhir, Bahrain.

Thanks so much for typing this up too mate. I only stumbled across this site today after tiring off the utter crap in some other 'sponsored' sites' comments.

I have been longing for some good reading that's GP related and I appreciate the effort you put into your work.

Cheers

They may just cancel the whole season and just FedEx the trophy to Casey as a money saving measure until 2012 comes.

There's a pedant hiding behind every rock on the path - but - David, did you really mean Dovi was fulsome (excessive or insincere, esp. in an offensive or distasteful way) in his praise?

I'm just being a complete pedant, I know - and modern usage accepts your definition - but it isn't a cultural thing, it's nit-picking on my part! However, the OED DOES give the definition of fulsome as:

OED definition entry: fulsome, a 6. Offensive to normal tastes or sensibilities; exciting aversion or repugnance; disgusting, repulsive, ...

You'd get away with using it to mean effusive, as long as they don't put you on a talk show with Stephen Fry.. And T.E. Lawrence would most definitely bridle.

Actually it is very much a cultural thing.
If you check Merriam-Webster, an American authority, you'll find that David's usage is preferred.

So my friend, you're not just a pedant. You're a pedant with parochial sensibilities!

Just taking the piss, mate.

An American authority on the English language? - there's an oxymoron if ever there was one. Consignment of piss duly received and accepted! I actually only did it in the first place to tweak David's nose, because his reports often contain some of the most elegant and enjoyable use of language, certainly in sports reporting (after Hunter S. Thompson, natch) and he gives pedants no damn target! Hell, you have to get your fun where you can...

"with only Toni Elias the black sheep of the HRC flock"

I just can't believe they again wasted a bike on this guy. Sometimes Honda seem to let great potential slip thru their hands (haslam, crutchlow, laverty et al) and persist with also rans.

"The only real question as to the final result is at exactly what time Casey Stoner or Dani Pedrosa will finally crack the 2'00 mark, and get into the 1'59s."
David - you've got your answer.
Casey took all of 2 laps to do 1'59.665". Dani 0.138sec behind.
I fear Casey/Honda omnia vincit this year.

Stoner is blitzing it!!! Both he and Pedrosa have gone sub 2 minute as of midday KL time. VR is approx 1.5 secs off the pace at this stage.

I love it how everybody quickly jumps on the Honda bandwagon.
If Casey was still on a Ducati his times would be in the top 3 and if Rossi was at Yamaha he would be top 5 for sure (and helping Lorenzo too). Honda wouldn't have Stoner to embarrass Pedrosa into faster times and Hayden would have made much more progress (as he was doing all through 2010). You know I'm right.
I find it amazing people forget it is the rider in MOTOGP that makes the difference, this is not F1.
Testing isn't racing, but give Casey some credit. The kid is the fastest (albeit not the most charismatic) racer in the world and Honda must be thinking he was a fantastic bargain!

The Yamahas have been too good in recent years for me to believe they will be left in the dust when the time for real racing comes.

And Lorenzo is formidable.

Should be a great season! But then I said that last year too...

The incredible performance of the hondas is squeuing the results. Rossi has gone faster than Casey ever did on the ducati at sepang after only a handful of days on the bike and some way from full strength and this tends to be ignored by some. That is at least as impressive as the hondas going fast though only in isolation. He still has plenty of work to do.
Casey deserves credit no question and so does Dani they've been nothing short of spectacular, but I'm not kidding myself that either Casey or Dani have found 1 - 2 secs over the winter period. Even Simo is under the best ever time at the track., something he was well over a second away from only late last year. Caseys best time was I think 2.1.50ish on the duke. As with the comments about Rossi last year. When Jlo matched his pace Rossi was winning just because he had the best bike... goes both ways..
It's worth remembering that with two long straights this is a great track for hp so will suit the hondas(Dovi staying with Rossi last years race), it's also some way from JLos best track and Spies also seems uber confident and both are racers. I also think Rossi win be racing for wins earlier not later though missing a days testing and being half strength at the next is a set back.. The title is a long way from in the bag as the last few seasons have shown.
That said Honda are having a beefer and both riders are clearly feeding off each other which can only be good for the team and racing..

Casey in the top 3 on the Duke, and Rossi only top 6 on the yam at sepang?? That's a hard one to digest. Maybe flag to flag?? I don't know but not in the dry. The last race at sepang was cast iron proof of that.

Already impatient for qatar to see how the bikes translate especially Casey as he owns the track on a ducati, it should be his but I think he'll have to earn it, the next 4 or 5 places will be very interesting.

Don't know where someone got the idea that Rossi has gone faster than Stoner at Sepang. Stoner did a 2:00:512 on the Ducati in testing in Sepang 12 months ago. That's just on one second faster than Rossi's best time this year.

It's undeniable, whatever the reasons, that Honda has gone faster since Stoner joined them, and Ducati has gone slower since Rossi joined them. Even Hayden is about 8 tenths slower this year than last year at Sepang. So the claims that Rossi and Burgess would transform Ducati are way short of the mark so far. Wasn't it Burgess who said he would fix Ducati's front end problems in 90 seconds? Famous last words! Only time will tell if this pattern persists for the rest of the season, but I suspect it will, and perhaps people will appreciate what a brilliant rider Stoner really is.

@Hugelean
"Rossi has gone faster than Casey ever did on the ducati at sepang"

This is simply not correct!

Stoner Feb 2009 at Sepang test : 2' 1.483"
Stoner Feb 2010 at Sepang test : 2' 0.512"
Rossi Feb 2011 at Sepang test : 2' 1.469"

12 months later, the Duc is 1 second slower - that's progress !

Obviously your memory is bad, do some research next time to support your dodgy arguments.

Stoner is the world's fastest rider. Everyone in the know will tell you this. He has won one championship on a bike that only performs when ridden to the limit. Rossi is a great champion but weather he ever pushes the Ducati to the limit (especially when he is not 100%) in 2011 will be interesting.

Pedrosa last year at the same test did a 2' 1.822"
Stoner this year is well over 2 seconds faster!
What would have Pedrosa done this year without Stoner embarrassing him?

Puig must be apoplectic !

Pedrosa is a nice guy but he is not in the same league as Stoner.

Whilst I don't entirely disagree with your sentiments, you need to remember that Dani was injured during last year's test, if memory serves me correctly, which would account for his slower time to some degree at least.

Pedrosa was fit during 2010 preseason. He had problems getting along with the chassis. Asked for a stiffer one after Qatar fiasco and things started to go pretty well for him again.

Pedrosa must be really embarrassed to lap twice below 2 minutes. One tenth behind Stoner? Yeah, truly embarrassing...

Grasping at straws, perhaps, David, but is there any possibility that Honda will have to turn the wick on their bikes down a little in order to get them to the end of the race? By more, that is, than the other makes. Or is the Honda really that much more efficient and effective than the others? If it is, I fear that people will be watching WSB by the time 900s come back to MotoGP.

It's an well balanced point (there just aren't many entertaining words in the thesaurus to describe sensible things so folks 'round here don't bother.).

I think we won't find out until several races in. Though their reliability success last year suggests that they can strike a balance. Even if they lose bit, they can afford it. The one positive I'm looking forward to is seeing Lorenzo being aggressive when he's down on pace. That was the best part about watching him in the 125 and 250s. It could be that he's matured, but I have a feeling that if he qualifies as the fastest Yamaha but on the slow side of the second row there will be some exciting turn one moves.

almost!
During his race simulation of 16 laps (race is 20 laps), Stoner rode 3 times in 2.00 and 11 times in 2.01 which is 14 times out of 16 under 2.02 and the race lap record.
Compared to Lorenzo race simulation, only 3 laps of Stoner were slower than Lorenzo BEST lap.
Don't know what's happenning at Yamaha, hopefully they'll improve by Qatar, do know what's hapenning at Ducati (never been anywhere without Stoner, a fact I feel Rossi and his crew seriously overlooked) but Stoner is still flying, whether he's Honda or Ducati does not matter (testing wise).
Hopefully with a much more stable front end he won't have any issues folding the front during the race (never believed it was because of the pressure because he handled it so well during 2007, leading and winning a world championship for the first time has to be the biggest pressure).

Alright folks!!! apologies!!! if I could just explain my point. I haven't seen the testing times of last year, was going off practice and racing times for the last four years from motogp.... it was based on the report that Rossi/Ducati have only been testing race setup, he's a couple of 100ths out, and considering the ducati has gone backwards each year since 2007 that seems ok on a bike he'll never be able to ride and injured and ill... not bad.
This takes nothing away from Casey, Dani, Dovi, or Simo or Honda. Who all look very dangerous. Nor the yamaha guys who I think look as dangerous as the hondas, Yam have always struggled for pace and Sepang is a drag strip..

Still say without Rossi and the duke the title is between Dani and Jorge.. (take cover)

Name any other rider to tame the Duc? Nobody !
Rossi has history against him and at this point (albeit early days) he is not showing any promise.
I wouldn't like to bet against Rossi but at what point will Rossi fanboys admit he is not able to tame the Duc? I'd like to know?
Qatar? PI ? Valencia? 2012 ?
Rossi has been great but he has ALWAYS been on good/best machinery until now!
Stoner has had to ride cobbled together pieces of junk his entire career. Hence no 125/250 titles. He crashes often but only when he tries too hard with his dud ride. He didn't crash in 2007 because his ride was good. 2011 will be similar.
If Rossi wins the 2011 championship this year (no chance), I will be naming my first born Valentino ! For sure!

Hayden isn't injured, yet his performance at Sepang is significantly worse than last year. The Ducati has gone backwards since Rossi and Burgess joined the team. I am sure they will improve eventually, but right now Rossi has not been anywhere near Stoner's Ducati test times at Valencia and Sepang.

As far as last year's title is concerned there were two injured riders (Rossi and Pedrosa) vs one (Stoner) whose bike had major handling problems, a bike that would inexplicably lose its front end. That the Ducati is a particularly difficult beast to ride with any consistency is a fact now widely acknowledged because even Rossi has said so.

Of course Stoner has to find consistency, but the question is whether his inconsistency was his fault, or whether it was caused by a difficult handling bike. This year should provide some answers.

Tony, whilst I agree Casey is fastest when he's fastest, he's not when he's not. The last 3 seasons results simply don't back your arguments.. any better than mine did. But I won't hold you to it......:-)

Roll on the next test, although I reckon the qatar test is the most cynical event in world motorsport (only 3 tests due to costs but qatar test only relevant for one irrelevant race?nevermind the ecological aspect) it does make the bikes look shiny. ...

I can't wait for post Qatar racing and we will then see who is fast. Even though I'd like to see Stoner win the championship I still want close racing. Dani and Casey like to take off and we might see shades of Doohan & Creville/Okada at the front this year which will be depressing.
In the spirit of competition let's hope everyone stays upright and we get battles all year long !

Rossi has history against him?? He's won championships on everything he's ridden since he joined gps 125, 250 , 500, honda990,Yam900, 800. ..
Nobody with Rossi's talent or success has been on the duke yet including Casey. I don't doubt that it needs a major overhaul(in no small part due to Casey's input) but he has no more failed than Casey has succeeded..yet..
The history is against Casey who is often the fastest in testing but comes up short in races and is out of contention by halfway, last year by the 3rd race his season was over.
Rossi has work to do no question but there is no one better qualified to do it.. and whilst it's still a if to a certain degree I think there will be no sweeter sight that watching a couple of Dukes up there with the others.. something all fans should want.

Anyone taking bets on when Jorge will start courting Honda???

I'm not sure how accurate "in no small part due to Casey's input" is.

Doesn't it seem like Ducati had been molding their bike to make it easier to ride for all the other riders rather than following Casey's input? Changes in that direction seemed even more fierce after Casey got sick. About the time they started to look for new talent.

You can read into all the press releases you want to, but the 2010 bike certainly did not echo Casey's strong points as a rider.

Rossi is great, no doubt but this year is his biggest challenge.
If he falls short (and he will) what will people like you say?
It's his injury? It's Honda domination? It's ?????

He has always had the best bike (125cc until 2010) and now we will see. Get your excuses ready. You are going to need them.

Stoner (like most riders from small countries) get lower pay, worse bikes and shorter careers (unlike some American/European slow riders) because we don't buy many bikes and we can't appeal to European/American consumers.
Ok, that's our problem, but Australia for example has had riders from Gardener, Doohan, Bayliss, Corser to Stoner and won 7 GP tiles (countless other titles) in the last 25 years from a population two thirds the size of California.

Riders like Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo and Marquez get good rides their entire careers and they SHOULD win championships.
When Stoner went to Ducati in 2007 he was grossly underpaid and made up for it with win bonuses. Who else rides like this?