2012 Jerez MotoGP Preview: On a Spanish Promise

After the opening of hostilities in the black of the desert night in Qatar, the 2012 MotoGP season gets underway for real - or at least, what feels like for real - this weekend in Jerez. The paddock finally full, not of Nissen huts, but of sleek and shiny hospitality units and race trucks; the stands full of fans, and spread all around the track, not huddled together at one end of Qatar's single grandstand; the bikes displaying their natural glory in daylight, not the fluorescent glare of Qatar's admittedly spectacular floodlit goldfish bowl.

The track is familiar to all. We were here just a month ago, for the final IRTA test ahead of the season, and everyone has had a chance to find a decent setup for the track. Fastest man during the test was also the fastest man at Qatar, though arm pump prevented Casey Stoner from capitalizing on that speed, his title rival Jorge Lorenzo taking advantage to secure a well-deserved victory.

Stoner vs Lorenzo looks set to the story of the season, and Jerez is shaping up to be a classic confrontation. Casey Stoner has been working on his arm pump - secretive as ever, he has been using what appears to be a mixture of diet and preparation to prevent a recurrence, with gloves now well and truly worn in - and given his earlier speed at the track, should theoretically be the strong favorite for the win. The only real problem the Honda has so far this year is chatter, and the lower grip levels at Jerez failed to provoke such chatter during the test. But Jerez is also Stoner's bogey track, one of only two circuits he has never won at: last year, Stoner started the race from pole, after dominating much of practice, yet he still failed to finish the race, victim of yet another Ducati front-end washout, though this time, the Ducati was in the hands of Valentino Rossi rather than Stoner himself.

It would be a brave gambler to lay money against Jorge Lorenzo taking victory: the factory Yamaha man has won here the last two years in a row. Lorenzo is happier and more comfortable than he was last year, the Yamaha being a much stronger package than it was in 2011. The added torque from the 1000cc Yamaha M1 engine has cured the major weakness the bike had in its 800cc guise, and Lorenzo now feels he is at least adequately armed. Lorenzo loves Jerez, and with Estoril coming up next week, another track he is outstanding at, will start the weekend in buoyant mood. Some of this weekend's interest will come in the battle of mental strength, in seeing how heavily the Jerez monkey weighs on Stoner's back, and how much pressure an ebullient Lorenzo can add.

Stoner's Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa will also be in the mix, the diminutive Spaniard putting in an uncharacteristically but heart-warmingly feisty showing at Qatar, looking positively combative in tangling with Lorenzo and Stoner. Pedrosa has a bone to pick with Lorenzo at Jerez, having lost the 2010 race to his fellow countryman after his Honda developed a software glitch that saw him lose power on the final laps. If that does not happen again - and you can say many things about Honda, but not that they are willing to countenance making the same error twice - then expect Pedrosa to take it to his two main rivals.

Pedrosa is not the only rider with a debt outstanding at Jerez. Ben Spies has a lot to make up for - through no fault of his own - after a dismal showing at Qatar, riding a bike plagued by massive and monstrous chatters. Spies' first ride on the Yamaha at Jerez was also pretty dismal, pulling in with a mystery front tire issue. 2011 was better, at least until he pushed too hard and crashed with three laps to go. Spies' job is on the line in 2012, and his audition starts in earnest on Sunday.

The enigma of 2012 is surely Valentino Rossi - though to award him that title just 1 race is to be getting ahead of ourselves a little. After Rossi's premeditated and laser-guided attack on Ducati on Italian TV after the race at Qatar, there are signs that the Italian is trying to turn a corner mentally. The most pregnant sign of an impending change is an interview staged by Italian TV, where Rossi interviewed his father Graziano about the son, Valentino. Graziano's words spoke of courage, grit and determination, and the need for Rossi to dig in and make the relationship with Ducati work. Though likely unscripted, Valentino must have known the answers Graziano would give before he even asked the question. And perhaps even offered a few prompts.

But Graziano is right: it is time for Rossi to dig in his heels and start to show his class. The Italian has resembled a little too closely the caricature that so many Rossi fans have of his arch rival Casey Stoner, of a man who only ever complains of what is wrong, and never points the finger at himself. Stoner's caricature was unjust: the Australian is more than happy to hold his hand up over his own mistakes, much as he did over the arm pump he suffered at Qatar. Rossi would do well to emulate Stoner in this respect, as well as trying to copy the Australian's performance on the bike.

Jerez will also see some intriguing battles further back. The Spanish track will also play host to round 2 of what is shaping up to be the battle of the year, between Monster Tech 3 teammates Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow. The pair are beautifully matched: close in speed, with Crutchlow returning to his old bruiser form on the bigger liter capacity Yamaha M1. Dovizioso, on the other hand, retains is beautifully clinical style, but is still adapting the things he learned in a lifetime on a Honda to suit the rather different needs of a Yamaha.

The Honda satellite match up is equally promising: Stefan Bradl has been hugely impressive on the LCR Honda, the young German using his intelligence to match his raw talent and speed. He learns fast, but more importantly, he learns thoroughly, and seems to take another step forward every time he gets on the bike. He is already pushing Gresini's Alvaro Bautista, especially after so much had been expected of the Spaniard. But like Dovizioso, Bautista must relearn the skills he gained on the Suzuki, and figure out the fastest way to ride the Honda.

The CRT bikes offer another mouthwatering match up. After a strong preseason, everyone expected Randy de Puniet to wipe the floor on the Aspar Aprilia ART machine, but at Qatar, it was Colin Edwards who put his NGM Mobile Suter BMW on top the CRT pile, outperforming the Frenchman with relative comfort. Edwards has earned his wages several times over for both Forward Racing and for Suter, cramming a year's development into just a few months. Since the Texan joined the team, he has had three new chassis and a mass of electronics upgrades, but he has cut the deficit from nearly 6 seconds down to just a couple. De Puniet was fast from the outset; Edwards has been growing faster every time he gets on the bike; and at Jerez, they have their first chance of troubling the satellite machines. Karel Abraham on the Cardion AB Ducati is the first man with a target on his back, and he will have to ride hard to stay ahead of De Puniet and Edwards.

Elsewhere among the CRTs, much focus will be on the progress being made in the still infant class. Honorable mention so far goes to three surprising rookies: Michele Pirro has performed exceptionally well on an FTR Honda that has little more than a couple of hundred kilometers under its belt. Yonny Hernandez has comprehensively outperformed his teammate Ivan Silva, putting the FTR Kawasaki way above where it belongs. But most impressive of all has been Danilo Petrucci, the Italian giving away a massive power advantage to the other bikes, both CRT and prototype, which expressed itself in a 40 km/h top speed deficit at the end of Qatar's monster straight. At a tighter track like Jerez, Petrucci is in with a shout, and should embarrass a few riders on much more developed machines.

Most intriguing of all is the prospect that, like last year, the rain might intervene on race day to shake the field up a little. The best forecast so far appears to promise dry weather throughout practice, with a serious amount of rain just in time for Sunday's race. In the wet, many of the bets you might ordinarily make on MotoGP are no longer valid, and random chance will start to play a role. Logic dictates that we will see two Hondas and a Yamaha on the podium on Sunday, but rain places little stock in logic. Any number of things could happen if rains on Sunday, the only certainty is that we will be more than surprised at the results.

2012
Total votes: 75
Total votes: 201

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Comments

i was excited about the weekend before reading it ... now i just can't wait ... and completely agree with rain stirring up the bets ...

Total votes: 121

Spies crashed last year in his first year on the factory Yamaha, pulled in with the tire issue on the Tech 3 bike.

Total votes: 105

I was confused, but in my defence wrote this at the end of a very, very long day.

Total votes: 99

So..tight new gloves, like the tight underwear at Silverstone in 2010, and debilitating arm pump is holding your hand up and admitting your own mistakes?

In reality I don't expect Stoner to admit that a lackadaisical attitude, 3 to 4 lap runs and the lowest mileage of all in winter testing may have had more to do with his Qatar issues.
He's hardly going to say, "I was distracted by becoming a Dad, didn't work hard enough to understand our problems and it's costing me now"..is he?

He had a pop at his crew on Saturday in Losail too..
How the hell are they supposed to help him sort the issues if he's content with short runs to save engines, a non an issue during the winter and yet another daft excuse.

Both Stoner and Gabbarini have mentioned the need to work harder lately, it could well be a little late for that.
If Dani keeps on being the meat in a Jorge/Casey sandwich to the flag taking points and the chatter won't go away..Stoners bullying style may add to their woes by destroying the softer constuction tyres before full distance in an attempt to ride around the bikes short-comings and stay at the front.

It could be a long old season for the Australian.

Total votes: 138

"He's hardly going to say, "I was distracted by becoming a Dad, didn't work hard enough to understand our problems and it's costing me now"..is he?"
Funny. Personally, I feel Stoner is one of the few guys who actually would if that was the case, maybe together with Edwards. The only thing - that obviously makes a huge difference to a lot op people - is that CE usually grins when he shoots his mouth of.
I think it was as far back as 2010 that I posted a compilation of quotes where Stoner put the blame on himself. But if he feels it was down to the bike or the team, he will also say it. The guy just comes across as being pretty honest.

Total votes: 122

I really do not find your comments constructive or insightful

Total votes: 109

How many laps does it take to see if the bike has chatter problems? Or how many corners? Why flog around lap after lap when the bike clearly isn't right? Better to come in and get the mechanics to make and test as many changes as possible. And in any case, Honda is bringing out a new frame shortly, so they obviously couldn't fix the chatter problem with setup. You should know by now, as Rossi has explained several times recently, that some problems can only be fixed by engineers.

Total votes: 100

... there is nothing wrong with hist few-lap bursts for finding setup ... i think he prooved that last year.

Total votes: 102

I used to like reading the comments after your balanced articles David.

Total votes: 118

I have deleted the worst of them. I shall try to keep the standard of comments at a reasonable level.

Total votes: 122

"In reality I don't expect Stoner to admit that a lackadaisical attitude, 3 to 4 lap runs and the lowest mileage of all in winter testing may have had more to do with his Qatar issues."

From 101 starts he's taken 34 poles, 33 wins, 28 fastest laps - usually towards the end of a race - won two titles, set a new record for most victories in a season and equalled the record for most poles in a season... all this time doing short runs in testing, practise and qualifying. And the first time (yes, the first time) he misses a win due to arm pump, you state the above... are you sure about that : )

Total votes: 110

..but Stoner doesn't hold the record for wins in a season.

Believe it or not, I'm not questioning Caseys record..more the editors comments regards his hapiness to admit fault and how Rossi would do well to take a leaf out of his book.

Saying this I agree that Rossi needs to put the "premeditated and laser-guided attack on Ducati" behind him, which IMO was designed to put pressure on his employers in a bid to buck them up, and knuckle down with what he's got for the moment. I think Qatar was the first time he's publicly vented his spleen in such a manner.

A big part of Valentinos allure are the qualities mentioned above.."courage, grit and determination". Jerez is the place to start showing us all why he's won all those titles. Coming off the back of such a disastrous year it would arguably mean more than earlier, less challenging achievements?

I think whatever your persuasion, most real fans would love to see Rossi battling with the new guard and doing himself justice.

Total votes: 117

Thanks David, a good interview with Rossi and Graziano and too clever by half, very genuine and very smart..
Yes there are similariites between Stoner and Rossi but it's worth pointing out that Caseys mentality didn't change till he left Ducati and got on the Honda, a machine that it is much easier to be magnanimus on.. Rossi will not afford himself the same luxury and needs to put pressure on the factory to do a much better job..

Total votes: 91

is the 'net equivalent of the small child screaming 'look at me', inflating its own importance while disrespecting the quiet enjoyment of others. Unfortunately, motomatters has of late become a target of this sub-species of netizen. Response by reasoned argument / facts etc. is pointless, a waste of electrons and reading space, and ultimately serves little other purpose than to reinforce in their minds that their attempts to be noticed are being effective.

While it is annoying, the best response is to treat the comment with the contempt it deserves - ignore it. The object individual of the trollish comment - be it Stoner, Rossi, whoever - is less affected by this sort of thing than they would be by a piece of navel lint. Much good commentary will be lost if these pages become troll-wars, so rather than inflicting battle-fatigue on those who can contribute useful stuff, I believe it is far better to merely sigh, consign the objectionable poster to the 'waste of oxygen' heap, and move on.

Total votes: 137

David (or anyone that knows)... can you explain why Stoner and co can't dial out the chatter they have with the RCV? Is it the tires? Is it the chassis? Either one is too hard and the other too soft? Why can't they balance it out? How is chatter fixed?

Total votes: 91

+1 on the above!

Perhaps the Cosman et. al. could chime in on what characteristics of frame / tire / weight distribution could be at the core of these issues.... Fascinating stuff if you ask me... I can spend a weekend at the track dialing compression / damping / rebound up down and sideways in order to get that "feel" that I'm looking for, but there is SO much more to this story....

Total votes: 111

He said it well. The comments on the site now seem to be attracting the same dropkicks who poisoned the well over at MCN. Theyre probably fed up with the level of discussion there now and have jumped ship. Are these guys motorcycle racing fans?
If you have favourite rider, do you have to hate that riders competitors and try to rubbish them at every turn? I just dont get it.
To me they're all legends, I love to see them parade their skills and walk away at the end after having performed what is way beyond my talent... and appreciated all the more for that.
Oscars description of their motivation is the closest I can get to understanding the breed.
Anywho... looking forward to a great race on the weekend. Agree that Hor hey will be tough for anyone to beat... but he will be at most places.

Total votes: 104

The article did a good job of describing the battles "within the battle". You've got the obvious 3 guys at the front, then the breath-taking battle between the Monster Yamaha boys, Cal most certainly wanting to cement himself as the top sattelite rider. Further down the order are the new CRT's with the "real bike developer" CEII turning the Suter/BMW Franken-bike into the bike to beat at the bottom. There's also drama to be had at Ducati (again) with Hayden looking to be the top Duck and Rossi still trying to find his arse with both hands (I'm a Rossi fan).

Mix all this up with the new 1000cc motors, and some hungry youngsters in a new class....who would NOT be excited about this particular season of racing! Go 2012!

Total votes: 102

I'm a racing fan first, then have favorites I hope to see do well/win. I've never seen Casey as a whiner, other then his comments after 'Seca when Rossi beat him. If, as stated above, his comments were said w/a smile on his face, it would be taken totally differently, e.g. Ce II. His comments, towards his team, after FP/race 1, concerned me. He was complaining that his team was not taking his comments/complaints of his input (chatter) seriously, almost as if they were saying, 'Casey, it can't be as bad as you say . . . your still #1 on the time sheets. The bike's fine.' Heh, team....your NOT the rider. If he's saying there's chatter, look at the #1 on the front of the bike and fix it! Kind'a like he was back at Ducati.....complaining about the bike, but no one really taking him seriously as he was winning. Again, as stated above, he decimated the competition last year doing short stints, so what's the issue there?

David, any comments on this, or did you see race 1/Casey's comments towards his team as something different then I'm 'hearing'. Again, GREAT WRITE UP!

Total votes: 95

Perhaps it is because he is never totally happy with the bike so they dismissed his comments? Either way they need to fix the problem.

I do find it strange that both Stoner and Rossi complained during/after Qatar yet Rossi is the rider getting all the flak. Both men got beat by their team mates that race so forgiving one and bashing the other seems a bit hypocritical.

Total votes: 107

Why strange? For years now it has been exactly the opposite. When Stoner complained he was branded a whinger, but when Rossi complained very few dared to criticize. The reality probably is that the gloss has gone of the Rossi aura, and people are much more willing to criticize him, and that includes the Italian press. Besides, Stoner mostly criticized the late weight increase, which he says has caused the problems for Honda. He has never attacked Honda (or Ducati for that matter) in the way Rossi attacked Ducati. And Stoner also said that his bike was fine during the Qatar race.

Total votes: 121

3rd versus 10th and 3 seconds versus 33 seconds. Race long arm pump versus no known physical issues, and dealing with his machines weakness versus... well you know the rest.

Total votes: 102

So you can throw your team under the bus publicly if you're competing for podium positions but calling out the factory in such a manner if you're further down the order is out of order? Let's all be consistent here.

Total votes: 105

Stoners words to Preziosi are not quite the same as the public slating Rossi gave Ducati and then decided to backtrack from with his Rossi on Rossi TV charm offensive.

Total votes: 117

I can't wait to see what Jerez brings. Everybody has test data there, and it should give the CRT rides a real chance to see where they stack up at a track where outright horsepower isn't the top priority.

I'm excited at the prospect of what could happen when a CRT with half a season's development, and Colin Edwards on board, goes to Laguna Seca later this year...

Total votes: 108

... hope it rains, when "ambition outweighs talent" it could mix up the championship nicely.

But on the other hand, it would also be nice to see the boys with the hammer down from start to finish under normal conditions (dry daylight)

I'm sure it'll be a cracker either way!

EDIT:
By the way, does anyone know if this years Honda can be push started? Better yet, can CS & DP pick them up?

Total votes: 110

Did anyone else read the link to the Rossi jr/sr interview? there is a comment in there about a switch to WSBK in 3-4 years. I would love to see this happen, Valentino hinted at the Vrooom event this year that 2014 will be his last year in Motogp. so if he dose go to WSBK is it logical to think that he would stay with Ducati? it seems as though the 1098 is still a competitive package to have, will the 1199 be as competitive? the thought of having him over there is cool, I don't want to see him racing cars...

As for Casey vs. Lorenzo, I still think Casey is the one to beat he is still the fastest and would have won in Qatar if not for the arm pump thing... the champion ship is Casey's to loose, Lorenzo is going to have to dig deep and put in the same performance he put in at Qatar to be able to clean up Casey's mistakes.

Great job by Bradle, I think he is under rated as a rider and will only get faster as the season goes on. I will say the same for Dovizioso sorry Cal but you wont be beating him that often this year.

weekend predictions, Stoner/Jorge/Dani in that order. the other Yamahas will figure out the next spots with possibly Hayden there. Rossi will be 7-10th again and Colin will finish ahead of 1 or 2 GP bikes hopefully.

I have to mirror some of the statements above, please dont turn this into the MCN forum. it is tabloid over there and MM and A&R are the only god forums left. please dont ruin it!!!

Total votes: 108

Thoroughly enjoyable article David. The prototype battle to watch this weekend is a race within a race and the most intrigueing in my opinion. We all expect an HRC vs Yamaha battle and the weather may yet again and probably will play a hand,thus bringing the Ducati's into play.
The clash,I'm hugely interested is the one between the two Spaniards and not the usual ones. Bautista on the HRC bike and Barbera on the D16.
If the pair of them and their teams can put together a really good weekend and complete weekend of results,it will tell me a whole lot about exactly how good or bad the Ducati really is. A pair of hugely experienced Spaniards at home on prototype alloy beam V and L 4 prototypes. Alvaro has gone from V to V and Hector must by now be pretty intimate with the 15 or so degree wider angle.
Stay on board, good luck and all the best this weekend to Bautista and Barbera.
Of course the same sentiment is extended to all at Jerez as of the morning 27 April 2012.
Oh yes. Oscar, ten out of ten for your comment.

Total votes: 108

A brilliant article David (I'll for give you the little faux pas with Ben Spies record at Jerez) as ever.

I'm interested to see how the Hondas go this weekend. I have to say, after Qatar, I did think to myself "is this arm pump for Casey, he's not really complained before, is the extra torque of the 1000's and his style of riding shagging the tyres"? Clearly there are A LOT keener engineering minds at work in the paddock, but this is simply my opinion...will be very interested to see how this weekend pans out.

VR, I'm so over that argument it's not real. I want to see him win desperately, but until the GP12 starts to even show a sniff of going in the right direction, I'm not even going to bother. I hope both he and Nicky get what they want, the power smoothed out, and front end feel.

Cal showing the pure class he did in Qatar again please, LOVE seeing him up there.

CRT's RdP and CE to really scare some satellite bikes, I know it's coming, and Jerez or the Sachsenring is the place it's going to happen.

As for the win, Jorge. Wet or dry I think. But, and I would love for him to do it, Dani, because I think if he wins at home, it'll push him on, and then I think he's probably in the best shape for the world title I think he sorely deserves.

Moto GP is back in Europe. Properly cannot wait for tomorrow now :D :D :D

Total votes: 106

C'mon David, No mention of Nicky Hayden in the whole article? Hayden will be the top Ducati this weekend.

Total votes: 115