2012 Sepang 1 MotoGP Test Day 2 Round Up: Work Starts In Earnest, And Ezpeleta Talks 2013

With the excitement of MotoGP bikes being back on track subsiding to more manageable levels, the riders and teams were back hard at work again on Wednesday. The track had improved sufficiently to see times start to drop to where they might reasonably be expected to be. At Mugello in July of last year, Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi had told the press that the simulations Ducati had run comparing their 1000cc bike - now radically changed since then - to the 800 showed that the 1000s should be about half a second faster round Mugello than the 800s, and that prediction proved to be just about spot on at Sepang.

The name of the rider at the top of the timesheet should surprise no one, Casey Stoner returning from a back problem - though still clearly stiff and not back to full strength - to post a scorching lap time, clear of the two Yamahas of Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner did only a relatively few laps on the RC213V, concentrating on getting the parts tested he had on his work list, rather than working on a setup for the 2012 season. He compared the two chassis he had been given - and asked for the best parts of both chassis again, unsurprisingly - and concentrated on the big stuff.

The one thing that Stoner needs to work on - along with Repsol teammate Dani Pedrosa - is chatter, the new rear Bridgestones causing the bike to chatter on corner entry. That problem emerged at Valencia last year, and continues at Sepang for both Honda men. Stoner's focus on Thursday will be working with the clutch to try to solve the issue, but as Pedrosa pointed out, it is not an easy problem to fix.

New tires, heavier bikes and more powerful engines are not just causing problems for bike setup, generating chatter where there was none before, they are also causing problems for the riders. With the minimum weight now up by 7kg from last year and power up by as much as 30 horsepower, the bikes are now a real, physical handful. Almost every rider who was asked complained of feeling tired, and rediscovering muscles that they had forgotten they ever had. All the cycling, running and gym work that the riders have done over the winter break cannot compensate completely for two months of not riding a MotoGP bike, and the riders are finding that out the hard way.

While Stoner was fastest, poking in single fast laps here and there, Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo were not far behind. The Yamaha is greatly improved over the 800, the extra capacity allowing Yamaha to find the acceleration that the old bike was missing, giving Lorenzo much more confidence on the bike. Last year, the Spaniard had complained that he was frankly incapable of matching the pace of the Hondas, and was getting slaughtered out of the corners. This year, the bike is much better, leaving Lorenzo better positioned for an assault on the title taken from him by Casey Stoner.

Though the acceleration of the Yamaha may be better, it is still not where the Honda is, however. Andrea Dovizioso, with experience of both the Yamaha and the Honda, said that he still felt the Yamaha could improve on corner exit, what was traditionally the strong point of the Honda. Corner entry was always where the Yamaha excelled, and if they can find a little more on corner exit, the M1 could be a genuinely killer package.

The times of satellite Tech 3 riders Cal Crutchlow and - despite the gap - Dovizioso also show the potential of the Yamaha. Crutchlow was strong again on Wednesday, setting the 5th fastest time, and while Dovizioso was down in 9th, he felt that once his collarbone is back up to strength again, he will be competitive. There were three right handers around the Sepang circuit where he was losing six tenths of a second in total; take that injury penalty off his current time, and that puts him right up there with Crutchlow.

At Ducati, the euphoria had dissipated, but the warm glow remained. Valentino Rossi was a little more realistic about his situation after his second day on the bike, saying that the new bike had solved half of the four or five major problems that the old machine had. He reiterated once again that the biggest problem was solved, however, the front end feel was vastly improved, the situation incomparable to the false dawns he had seen in 2011 with the various chassis changes. To illustrate his point, Rossi posted two photos on his Twitter feed, one from 2011 and one from 2012, taken at the same point, Turn 3. The 2012 photo shows him leaned over further, with the back stepped out further, and no longer perched stiffly atop the bike like a learner.

There is still plenty of work to do, affirmed both Rossi and his teammate Nicky Hayden. Not all could be solved with setup, and some would need more parts to be made. But Rossi laughed away a suggestion that another new frame might be needed, saying it was just a few small parts to help the bike. Rossi's objective had been to put in a lap of 2'01, and he had managed a total of three. The gap is still large to Stoner and the factory Yamahas, but at least he felt he had the situation under control.

While testing offers a glimpse of the near future in MotoGP, we were also given a vision of the series for the longer term. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta met with the factories at Sepang, first with each one individually, later with all three together, combined in the MSMA. Speaking to MotoGP.com, he said that a number of proposals had been discussed, including a limit on the cost of a satellite bikes, a limit on the number of bikes each factory could field, and even a proposal to allow just one bike for each rider, as is the case in Moto2, Moto3, and this year, in World Superbikes.

Ezpeleta's main proposal was to bring the cost of leasing a satellite bike down to 1 million euros per season. To limit the costs to the factory, each factory would be allowed to field a two-rider factory team, and supply a further two riders with satellite bikes, leased at a cost of 1 million per year. That is the same amount that the current CRT bikes are costing the teams, and the price point that Ezpeleta has consistently pushed for the factories to provide. Such a proposal would leave the MotoGP grid looking much like the situation we have in 2012, where each of the three factories have two factory bikes and two satellite bikes on the grid. The difference, though, is that instead of costing an average of 3 million euros each, those satellite bikes would cost just 1 million.

The rest of the field would continue to be made up of CRT bikes, according to Dorna's proposals, with Ezpeleta insisting that he would take whatever measures necessary to balance performance between the CRT machines and the factory prototypes. That does not mean that a CRT bike is likely to beat a factory bike any time soon - as long as Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, and - who knows? - Ben Spies are on the factory bikes, only the most freakish of circumstances will see anyone else on the top step of the podium. But a balance where a CRT machine would be competitive with a satellite bike is what Dorna is aiming at, and Ezpeleta had put forward a number of proposals aimed at achieving that.

The rev limit and spec ECU proposals have been gone over before, and Ezpeleta revealed - to the surprise of absolutely nobody - that the factories oppose such a restriction. Ezpeleta did reveal that the factories show more interest in having open electronics systems with limits on development. If a spec ECU is beyond the pale, a limit on the number of inputs, or the available parameters may be one option for controlling the spiraling cost of electronic development, while still allowing the factories to continue to do the research and development on throttle opening and power delivery that will help them persuade their boards to let them go racing.

Ezpeleta himself said that Dorna was entirely agnostic on the issue of a spec ECU: the only thing that matters to Dorna - and to the teams and the FIM - was to reduce the costs, keeping the series affordable and keeping bikes on the grid. A new meeting is scheduled for the Jerez tests in March, and in the meantime, the MSMA and Dorna will be examining each others proposals, and coming up with counter-proposals of their own.

If support were needed for Dorna's argument for the importance of cost-cutting, Suzuki's withdrawal at the end of 2011 provides evidence enough. When the factory announced their withdrawal, they stated their firm intention to make a return within two years. That statement was taken by those inside the paddock - and plenty of people on the outside, too - with a dose of salt sufficiently large to push normal blood pressure into four figures. But Suzuki test rider Nobu Aoki, currently at Sepang following the test, assured the press there that Suzuki was hard at work on their 1000cc MotoGP bike, and were working towards a return in 2014. With two years to go, that is still easy to say, but another factory on the grid - well, apart from Aprilia's black ops ART package - would be more than welcome.

With the excitement of MotoGP bikes being back on track subsiding to more manageable levels, the riders and teams were back hard at work again on Wednesday. The track had improved sufficiently to see times start to drop to where they might reasonably be expected to be. At Mugello in July of last year, Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi had told the press that the simulations Ducati had run comparing their 1000cc bike - now radically changed since then - to the 800 showed that the 1000s should be about half a second faster round Mugello than the 800s, and that prediction proved to be just about spot on at Sepang.The name of the rider at the top of the timesheet should surprise no one, Casey Stoner returning from a back problem - though still clearly stiff and not back to full strength - to post a scorching lap time, clear of the two Yamahas of Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner did only a relatively few laps on the RC213V, concentrating on getting the parts tested he had on his work list, rather than working on a setup for the 2012 season. He compared the two chassis he had been given - and asked for the best parts of both chassis again, unsurprisingly - and concentrated on the big stuff.

Comments

what long term future? (ok, i'm being dramatic)

>>To limit the costs to the factory, each factory would be allowed to field a two-rider factory team, and supply a further two riders with satellite bikes, leased at a cost of 1 million per year.

So, next year the factories get to do the same thing they are doing this year but are only able to recoup 2M from the satellite teams instead of 6-8M. How is this a cost savings to the factories? As our gracious host here at MM said in September: 'a full CRT MotoGP bike will cost at least 600,000, and more likely, well over a million euros a year, with no guarantees of being competitive.' Now the factories have to produce a higher performance bike than CRT for less money. Did Ezpeleta even breach the topic of having them build 'CRTs' around production engines? David, is this something you could ask in a press conference?

>>Ezpeleta did reveal that the factories show more interest in having open electronics systems with limits on development. If a spec ECU is beyond the pale, a limit on the number of inputs, or the available parameters may be one option for controlling the spiraling cost of electronic development.

Sweet. More rules that can easily be overcome by money and programming. Multiplexing inputs, pre-mapping less crucial parameters, and having even more sophisticated real-time predictive simulations are 3 ways I can see off the top of my head to overcome limited inputs or variables. That is a design task task encountered by any EE trying to choose the lowest cost microprocessor with the smallest bus width and there are a myriad of ways to work around it. No wonder the factories don't have a problem with that rule.

I guess I wouldn't have a problem with this cost cutting drive if there was an even slightly visible effort to increase the sport's visibility and sponsorship level. If he is so up on leveling the playing field how about designing a sponsorship system where all of the money is in a big pool that is distributed by weighed rider results/popularity/sponsor contribution or something like that? That would take funds from the pockets of the big name riders who's teams have plenty and let some of the small name riders at least be able to stay in the paddock. How about Dorna paying riders start money like they used to do? It doesn't have to be enough to fund the team but if it could fund the rider's salary then it would at least start a shift back to directly rewarding rider performance with less regard to their nationality or sponsor-friendliness.

>>If support were needed for Dorna's argument for the importance of cost-cutting, Suzuki's withdrawal at the end of 2011 provides evidence enough. When the factory announced their withdrawal, they stated their firm intention to make a return within two years.

Sorry David, I have to call bullshit on you for this one. Looking to Suzuki's possible return in 2 years time as support for these policies is the epitome of rose-tinted glasses. Suzuki's press release said: "This suspension is to cope with tough circumstances mainly caused by the prolonged recession in developed countries, a historical appreciation of Japanese Yen and repeated natural disasters.' No mention of spiraling bike costs. And 'With an eye on returning to MotoGP in 2014.' does not sound like a firm intention. Suzuki won't come back until the world's economic situation improves and they start selling a lot of GSXRs again. The CRT rules prohibiting a factory production engined bike will act to keep them out if anything. If they want to build a factory prototype to compete with Honda and Yamaha the costs will be the same as they are now. And more as they will definitely have to play catch-up. If they were able to build a production based bike and enter as a factory (ala Aprilia) they could get a lot of bang for the buck in the 2nd race.

Riders on the track? Where?

Chris
moto2-usa.blogspot.com

Total votes: 196

socialist sponsorship is an

socialist sponsorship is an oxymoron.

Total votes: 176

not socialist

That's where everyone is equal. I'm thinking more like a weighted pool. Maybe a system where 50% of a rider's personal sponsorship is put into a common pool and they get to keep the other 50%. Then at the end of the year the pool is distributed to riders according to a clear formula depending on results, contributions to the pool, and rider visibility?

The sponsors get their logos on the riders they want and there is some money even for the slowest and least popular rider to help them stay in the sport. The situation of some riders having astronomically high sponsorship fees would actually be beneficial to all the riders by having a bigger pool instead of serving to decrease the sponsorship dollars available for everyone else. After all, nobody would pay to see Stoner, Rossi, Lorenzo, etc riding around the track alone, part of the attraction is that they are beating other riders. If even the backmarkers are necessary to put on a good show shouldn't they be directly compensated somehow?

Do championship points have a cash value at the end of the year? That would be another way to induce teams to concentrate on rider quality instead of nationality. I know Dorna subsidizes a lot of teams but IMO that is like welfare and a system that helps keep those teams dependent on it. If you want quality riders then the system needs to be set up to give financial rewards to those teams looking for and developing talent. Now it seems that the teams' only source of income is sponsorship and no wonder we are turning into an entertainment show instead of competition.

Chris
moto2-usa.blogspot.com

Total votes: 136

I really think it would be

I really think it would be hard to get the sponsors on board with that. You'd have to sell them on the idea of sponsoring MotoGP as a whole rather than a team or rider.

Also, who would do their endorsements? How do you distribute the logos across the teams? Would Monster give the same amount of money if it might be Karel Abraham wearing their hat rather than Rossi?

Total votes: 162

There would be no difference to the sponsors

The sponsors are still sponsoring a particular rider and working with logo size/placement and cost with that rider. Its just that instead of depositing the entire check in the bank the rider gives 1/2 or so to Dorna for the rider pool which is then paid out as per a formula at the end of the year.

The sponsors get their decals on the guy they want and in the process help along the entire paddock instead of only one rider. The end of season payouts are performance biased so team managers need to balance rider nationality for sponsor dollars and rider skill for end of year payout. Its one step better than just worrying about sponsorship ability.

If Dorna is going to shift MotoGP from competition focus to entertainment focus like all other sports he should look at how they do it. All major leagues in the US have player unions that negotiate overall revenue distribution between owners and players. Teams get a certain chunk depending on how big their media market is and then have to pay the players' salary from that chunk and whatever other revenue they can generate (merchandising, sponsorship, etc.) The revenue sharing agreements are contractually bound and usually years long making longer term financial planning by the teams easier where with GP it seems that Dorna gives money or not at their whim.

I think one of the reasons the sports leagues do it this way is that they realize if teams are constantly coming and going the fans cannot develop an emotional attachment which generates media and merchandising sales. They need stable teams to develop a reliable fan base to generate increased media revenue. Sounds like a problem we GP fans know all too much about.

The one (huge) problem is that nearly every aspect of GP rule making and finances are completely opaque. Dorna would need to let every team know their finances, rider sponsorship deals would need to be disclosed and in general the old boy network would be largely dismantled. So we are asking the people in control to cede control and open the books to more people, never an easy task.

Chris
moto2-usa.blogspot.com

Total votes: 162

Too egalitarian Cosman

We're talking about a pack of slathering hungry dogs here, with in some cases ego's to match.

Total votes: 151

Stoner...

Just did a 1.59'607.....................six tenths quicker than anyone else @ 10am day 3.

https://twitter.com/#!/YamahaMotoGP/status/164910399907573760/photo/1/large

Total votes: 150

Salt doesn't clog arteries...

Salt doesn't clog arteries...

Total votes: 152

Salt & Blood Pressure

Updated to reflect medical accuracy. Rushed metaphors, the bane of the sports writer.

Total votes: 165

Spec E.C.U.s`

The factories say they don`t want to play that game because of lack of justifaction for development purpose`s. I think F1 run standardised ecu`s without T/C and you don`t hear of sooking there, it will be interesting to see how BSB go`s this season. Will it be highside city and smoking tyre`s or will the team`s/rider`s adapt and the better rider`s be even further ahead? I believe the non alien`s gain more from the advanced electronics and without them would be further behind.
It`s good to hear of the bike`s on track again after the off season, all full of optimism for the start of a new season of racing. So far it seem`s to be business as usual with the Ducati team at least smiling cos the bike respond`s to change`s, but still a fair way behind i think. I suppose we`ll find out the real pecking order after the first few race`s are run and won. Very early day`s yet. Roll on Quatar, they need to start the season in early to mid March, it can`t cost any more to do a race rather than another test can it??

Total votes: 137

Aprilia

I think that Aprilia has the right idea, and Dorna should be trying to take the series in this direction. If every manufacturer built a 'customer' prototype that was available to anyone for the correct wedge, the series would be a more affordable place to race.

Add a limit on maximum purchase price to the equation, and manufacturers can decide if they want to build a prototype chassis AND a prototype engine, or simply develop a production bike-based solution to save some R&D cash (as Aprilia are doing).

Having said that, racing is a good place to do the R&D that the manufacturers insist will later filter down to road bikes, so why shouldn't they carry on with the full prototype option, albeit with a lower development budget to reflect the decrease in potential revenue. And the big teams can still have a 'factory support package' option to satisfy the capitalists ;o)

The only real fly in the ointment is the control tyres, as building a chassis that suits the current Bridgestones doesn't lead to a bike suitable for anything else!

Total votes: 151

I think you got the order wrong here David

Valentino Rossi, and - who knows? - Ben Spies...More realistically should read... Ben Spies, and - who knows? Valentino Rossi.

Nicely stated expression of thoughts Chris.

Total votes: 153

thanks

Chris
moto2-usa.blogspot.com

Total votes: 150

Yamahas lack of acceleration

The Yamaha is greatly improved over the 800, the extra capacity allowing Yamaha to find the acceleration that the old bike was missing, giving Lorenzo much more confidence on the bike. Last year, the Spaniard had complained that he was frankly incapable of matching the pace of the Hondas, and was getting slaughtered out of the corners.

David, could you try to get some Yamaha folks to talk about that topic because I have greate doubts that the engine (you hinted the engine by mentioning the capacity) was the reason why the 800cc M1's lacked the drive out of the corners compared to the Hondas.
HRC Vice President Nakamoto said last year that not much will change with the 1000's because the 800's already had too much punch out of the corners so they have to be shut down by anti wheeling software.

As I already mentioned, I suspect that the lack of acceleration of the Yamaha's was due to shorter wheelbase and/or higher center of gravity. There was also a Ben Spies interview last year (I think from Indianapolis Motor Speedway) where he cautiously hinted that the engine might not be the reason.

Total votes: 153

Agreed

I think there's a lot to this arguement. The Honda is always cited as being a rocketship and the Yamaha great on corner entry. There is an article (or even a book) worth of conflicting factors in bike design to be balanced and it appears that Honda and Yamaha have slightly different priorities.

I'd almost be tempted to say that the Honda is a better "qualifying" bike (out on its own) and the Yamaha better for "hand-to-hand combat". Rossi's strategy in the famous Laguna battle for example; but his general "style" anyway.

There is a school of thought, stated on this site by others better qualified to say so, that says you won't beat Honda (with their immense resources) by building a better Honda. Or maybe it was Honda that built such a bike to take on the dominant Yam of a year or two ago?

Total votes: 166

Last year, the Spaniard had

Last year, the Spaniard had complained that he was frankly incapable of matching the pace of the Hondas, and was getting slaughtered out of the corners. This year, the bike is much better, leaving Lorenzo better positioned for an assault on the title taken from him by Casey Stoner.

And yet he's still behind by over half a second.

Frankly, there was only one Honda Lorenzo couldn't match last year. Don't you think Lorenzo might have cause to be a little biased in his comments David?

Total votes: 149

test day 3

Glad to see the CRT bikes so competitive. Long Live The Prototype GP Bikes!

Total votes: 170

Size does count ?

Enjoyed your thoughts thecosman.
M1 vs RC. Does rider size and consequent development of machinery around the top athlete within the team have someting to do with the current product ?
To be fair the HRC bike has for years been built towards little Dani,whilst over even more years the M1 has been built around lanky Valentino.
Conveniently,Casey and Jorge sit somewhere between the pair.
The transverse 4 wheelie issue would have something to contribute by virtue of its higher centre of gravity.The V4 should centralize the mass better. Front end rear end,swings and roundabouts. I don't believe its a power issue,more a rider adaptation issue,much like Rossi's issues with the L4. The rearward rotation,Panigalle style has helped his cause,but transverse 4 it will never be.
Ben ? He's looking in great shape. I reckon he's right on target to close the final 2/10's he needs to get his 'alien' patch.
Casey. mmm. Great to have a test rider that can blitz a lap record within 15 minutes,then spend the rest of the day wine tasting to make selections as to which is smoothest and wooded best.

Total votes: 165

Is Carmelo Sober? A 3 Tiered Championship!

Carmelo must have put something in his coffee to think the factories would agree to lease the satellite machines for money equal to CRT costs! The only way it may work is if the championship becomes a 3-in-1 series. Now we have the factory prototypes (including satellites) and the CRTs... another platform would be required for the cost-cutting goal: Factory CRTs! (Which may not save money at first anyway) Scrap the satellite bike platform all together. The Factory CRT machines will not simply be a shadow of the prototypes but a new bike (engines, chassis) built for MotoGP only. That would keep the distinctions true between WSB and MotoGP. Then Aprilia can make their involvement (more) official, making more money in the process! Other Factories would come back then, Norton and Suzuki for example. The specs/rules can be decide afterwards: fuel, Spec-ECUs, etc and etc. Bringing in more coverage and awareness to the sport should be a 'Given' regardless of what kind of bikes are on the grid.

Total votes: 157

Invertebrate

Once an invertebrate, always an invertebrate. Ezpeleta reckoned his biggest mistake was voting for the 800s b/c he was afraid to challenge the rest of the GPC. Everything was over-simplified into a discussion of safety, and he claimed it would have been impossible to take on the entire GPC regarding a contentious issue.

Ezpeleta is, again, content to leave the MSMA to their own devices. The MotoGP safety imperative has been replaced with an over-simplified cost imperative, yet Dorna are none the wiser. The MSMA continue to stall their way back into power as Ezpeleta loses his focus, and he bargains for the only thing he wanted in the first place--the certainty of lower costs. Conveniently, lower costs also allow Ezpeleta to sit on his duff (relatively speaking), rather than creating a new business model, and pounding the ground for new business partners. Ezpeleta's new tack makes him look weak and lazy. Ezpeleta's last 3 years appear to be a paranoia attack, not a vision.

Total votes: 166

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