Preview of Qatar: Looking Ahead to the Most Intriguing MotoGP Season in Years

03/19/2014 @ 7:58 pm, by David Emmett29 COMMENTS

Preview of Qatar: Looking Ahead to the Most Intriguing MotoGP Season in Years losail international circuit aerial 635x423

It has been a long and confusing wait for the 2014 MotoGP season to begin. An awful lot has happened since the MotoGP bikes were rolled into their packing crates after the Valencia test and shipped back to the factories and workshops from whence they came. There have been shock announcements, shock testing results, and shock training crashes.

There have been last-minute rule changes, made in an attempt to keep all of the different factions in the paddock from rebelling. The final rules for the premier class were only announced on Monday, and even then, they still contain sufficient ambiguity to confuse.

But this confusion and chaos cannot disguise the fact that 2014 looks set to be the most intriguing championship in years. Gone are the reviled CRT machines – unjustly reviled; though slow, they were still jewels of engineering prowess – and in their place is a new class of machinery, the Open entries.

A simpler demarcation has been made, between factories running their own software on the spec Magneti Marelli ECU, and the Open teams using the championship software supplied and controlled by Dorna.

The latest rule change adds a twist, allowing underperforming Ducati all the benefits of the Open class – 24 liters of fuel instead of 20, 12 engines per season instead of 5, unlimited testing and a softer tire – until they start winning races. But the 2014 grid looks much more like a single coherent class than the pack of racing motorcycles that lined up last year.

There are many questions which will be answered during the 2014 season, but the first, and most important, is whether Marc Marquez can retain his title. The Repsol Honda rider had a record-breaking rookie season, which ended with him taking the title at the first attempt, and becoming the youngest ever premier class champion.

At the first test of 2014 in Sepang, he was a cut above the rest, leaving the other riders gasping for breath. A training crash saw him break his fibula, and he arrives in Qatar just five days after he started putting weight on the leg again, and having missed the last two preseason tests.

He may start the season with the disadvantage of not having ridden, but that is unlikely to have any long-term consequences. A podium at Qatar would be a solid start to the season, but despite Marquez playing down his chances, it would be no real surprise if he were to kick off his defense with a win. The talent of the young Spaniard is beyond question, but 2014 sees Honda start with a couple of major advantages.

First and foremost, there is the fuel. The Factory Option (for that is what we must now call what we called prototypes last year) machines have lost a liter, cut from 21 to 20. The Honda RC213V has always been very good with fuel, and during testing, the bike was performing without a hitch.

For the Yamaha M1, a liter less fuel is a tough call. Jorge Lorenzo has struggled during preseason testing with throttle response, and Valentino Rossi, though having posted fast single lap times, is in even worse condition being heavier and taller.

When asked about the fuel reduction at the press conference, Lorenzo joked that he liked the Yamaha just fine with 21 liters. Sadly, he doesn’t have that much fuel at his disposal.

Then there is the tires. Bridgestone have brought a new construction rear tire for 2014, stiffer to cope with greater temperature loads. That has killed the edge grip for the Yamaha M1, which the bike needs to exploit its advantage in corner speed.

At the same time, it has offered more support to the point-and-shoot style of the Honda, which needs to be picked up as quickly as possible and then hammered out of the corner. A new tire is expected later in the year, but for now, Yamaha have to make do with what they have.

At a fuel heavy track, with a tire that suits his bike, even a Marquez back from injury will be hard to beat. With a good start at the first race, and heading to two more tracks that suit the Honda – Austin and Argentina – Marquez should get his season off to a strong start.

If he builds up too much of a gap early in the season, it will get harder and harder to catch him. Seen from Qatar, it is hard to see the season going down to Valencia like it did last year.

Marquez’s worst enemy is the Spaniard himself. The fact that he starts the season recovering from a broken leg is symptomatic of his inability to contain his ambition. Every time he climbs on a bike, he is searching for the limits, and that includes when he is training.

Marquez had a number of big crashes last year, but walked away relatively unscathed after each one. Breaking his leg during training was a warning, one which he escapes with no real harm done to his title defense. If he does the same during the season, it could have much more serious consequences for the rest of the year.

There must be some small part of Jorge Lorenzo’s mind where he is hoping that this might happen. No competitor ever wishes injury on his rivals, and Lorenzo is absolutely no exception, preferring a deserved victory over a win taken by default. But an injury to Marquez is his only hope at the moment. Lorenzo has had a very bad preseason so far, struggling with less fuel and the new Bridgestones.

Both changes have affected his style, the lack of edge grip combining with a rougher throttle response to make the Yamaha a much more difficult bike to ride. The Japanese factory will have to throw everything at fixing the problem, first of edge grip, then of fuel consumption, if they are to give Lorenzo the tools he needs to get the job done.

Lorenzo has the tools. Ability, speed, determination, he has all of these in abundance. But the Yamaha needs to be ridden in a particular way to get the best out of it, and the current Yamaha – with 20 liters of fuel and a hard rear tire – is not yet up to the task.

The Open class has a clear appeal, so much so that Lorenzo asked Yamaha to be able to test the M1 under Open regulations. Yamaha refused his request, pointing out that there would be no point, as they are unable to switch for this season anyway.

With the contracts of nearly all the factory and satellite riders ending in 2014, if Lorenzo is still not able to be competitive by the halfway mark, Lorenzo may up the pressure on Yamaha for 2015. If not, there is a lucrative contract waiting at Honda for the Spaniard.

While all the focus is on Marquez and Lorenzo, the third member of the Iberian triumvirate, which dominated last year, is being overlooked by many. Dani Pedrosa has had a very subdued preseason, seldom fastest, but his race pace has always been in the right ballpark to be competing for wins.

Pedrosa enters his eighth season with the Repsol Honda team, and though many believed that 2013 was his best hope of winning the MotoGP title which has so far eluded him, 2014 could offer him just as much chance.

Pedrosa is happy with the Honda, happy with the fuel allowance, and happy with the new tire. He grows more relaxed each season, taking the media circus, which he despises almost as much as his former teammate Casey Stoner did, less and less seriously each year.

The growing weight of the MotoGP bikes – 160kg for the past two years – is a disadvantage, the tiny Spaniard finding it tough to apply his weight to get the best out of the Honda.

That penalty can be doubly harsh at Qatar, where the track surface becomes slippery with the dust thrown up by the desert and the massive construction sites which flank the circuit. But if the track is still clean from the test held here a week ago, Pedrosa could get his season off to a flying start.

If there are long faces on Jorge Lorenzo’s side of the Yamaha garage, the atmosphere is very different for Valentino Rossi. Some major changes over the winter are starting to pay dividends for the Italian veteran. The gamble to drop long-time crew chief Jeremy Burgess is paying off, however unhappily handled that situation may have been.

Communication between Rossi and new crew chief Silvano Galbusera is better, and the much greater role played by electronics engineer Matteo Flamigni is also a key factor. The very fact that Rossi was prepared to make such a ruthless change speaks of his motivation. Despite the fact that he is now 35, he starts his nineteenth MotoGP season as motivated as ever.

Whether he can match the pace of the three Spaniards remains to be seen. Rossi has changed his style over the winter, and that too has brought him closer to the front. In terms of raw speed over a single lap, Rossi is right there with Lorenzo and Pedrosa.

The question marks hang over whether he can maintain that speed over race distance. So far, his race simulations have been a little off the pace of the Spanish trio, but much closer than last year. He is no longer the automatic champion that he was ten years ago. But the fight and the ability is still there.

If the favorites to run at the front are predictable, what happens behind them is not. There are a host of reasons for this: big steps forward by both Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl on the satellite Hondas; a stunning debut by Pol Espargaro, and a big improvement by Bradley Smith at Tech 3 Yamaha; major progress at Ducati, and the relaxation of the rules for the Italian factory for Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow.

Most of all, it has been the breathtaking speed of the Forward Yamaha in the hands of Aleix Espargaro which has put the cat among the pigeons, the Spaniard scaring the living daylights out of both HRC and factory Yamaha.

The M1 with 24 liters of fuel, softer tires and the less sophisticated championship software (the simpler, 2013 version, that is) turn out to be a perfect platform to go fast. Very fast indeed. With its main weakness eliminated – its poor fuel consumption – the Yamaha turns out to be a fantastic machine.

Aleix’s style (for with two Espargaros on the grid, we must perforce refer to them by their first names, rather than their last) suits the Open class M1 down to a tee. He can exploit the extra fuel, stand the bike up and take advantage of the different compounds available to the Open teams.

With the super soft tire being basically a qualifying tire, Espargaro is likely to surprise as much during qualifying as he does during the race, where the harder of the Open class tires looks strong enough to last a race without degrading too much.

Last year, Espargaro was in Parc Ferme a lot as best CRT machine. That distinction has now been abolished – there will only be three bikes in Parc Ferme in 2014, for both qualifying and the race – but there is every reason to believe that Aleix will still make plenty of appearances in Parc Ferme anyway.

That Aleix’s speed is as much about his talent as his bike is made plain by the results of veteran teammate Colin Edwards. The 40-year-old Texan is languishing a long way off the pace, down with the vastly underpowered Honda RCV1000Rs of Nicky Hayden and Scott Redding.

Edwards complains that the M1 chassis does not suit his style, and has placed all his hopes on the FTR chassis which is supposed to be coming.

Given the ongoing financial difficulties between Forward and FTR, it looks unlikely that the frames rumored to be sat in the chassis builder’s Buckingham workshop will ever find their way to a racetrack. The fact that the team’s entry was changed from FTR Yamaha to Forward Yamaha suggests that Edwards’ hope will be forlorn.

Then there is Ducati. The horse trading which went on until just a few days before the season was due to start has ended up giving Ducati everything they wanted. No longer will they compete in the Open category, which they had chosen to do to avoid the engine development freeze, and gain the freedom to test.

Instead, performance-balancing concessions have been offered to factories which have not won a race in the dry in 2013. This leaves them with all of the advantages of the Open class, plus the freedom to run their own software.

At the same time, it frees the rest of the Open class teams from the burden of having to run the 2014 version of the championship software, which was too complex for most of them to manage. The surprising thing is that this proposal came from the MSMA itself, suggesting that neither Honda nor Yamaha fear the performance of Ducati.

They may come to regret that. The Ducati has already made major steps forward, now being much stronger on corner entry and corner exit. The understeer remains, but with the freedom to change the engine – and just as important, the freedom to test with Crutchlow and Dovizioso, rather than test riders – means that Gigi Dall’Igna is in with a fighting chance to actually solve the problem.

The extra fuel granted to Ducati is a benefit, but not as much as you might expect. The Ducati is already struggling to get the power it develops down on the track, and having fuel to burn will only make this problem worse. However, it does mean that Ducati will not have to worry about fuel at tracks where consumption is a problem. Qatar is just one such track.

With a softer tire and an improved bike, Andrea Dovizioso could throw up a few surprises in qualifying. The Italian is now in his second season with Ducati, and has adapted reasonably well to the machine, especially the uprated 2014 version.

He is able to lay down a proper scorching lap, and will force a few people further down the grid than they had been hoping. Front row appearances are a definite possibility, though with the Desmosedici in its current state, it cannot maintain that pace for the full duration of a race.

Still coming to terms with the bike, Cal Crutchlow has yet to figure out how to throw down a fast lap on the Ducati. That will come with time, but a front row is not on the cards in the first few races.

Qualifying is one thing, but the race is another, and what will happen as the season progresses is the more intriguing prospect. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna has said he needs more data before he starts making serious changes to the bike. Minor updates are likely at the Jerez test, with bigger changes to come at Barcelona, and then Brno.

Ducati will not be measured on what they achieve in the first half of the season, but rather on what they do later on. Those with a penchant for gambling may wish to wager a little cash on a podium or two by the end of the year. Right now, they’d get pretty good odds. I’d wager those odds will shorten considerably as the season goes on.

The advantages granted to Ducati and the Open Yamaha of Aleix Espargaro are a real thorn in the side of the satellite riders. Stefan Bradl has targeted podiums for this season, the LCR Honda rider now having two seasons under his belt. The German has made solid progress, especially since the switch from Nissin brakes to Brembo.

In his third year, he expects to get on the podium regularly, now that his learning process is complete. And it is not just Bradl himself who expects this. Team manager Lucio Cecchinello, Bradl’s sponsors including Red Bull, and HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto share those expectations.

If he is thwarted in his ambitions by Open Yamahas and Ducatis with concessions with technical advantages, Bradl may lose out despite his results.

Alvaro Bautista finds himself in a similar situation. Bautista knows that he will lose his seat on the RC213V to Scott Redding at the end of the season, and is riding for a new job in 2015.

Fortunately for the Spaniard, Showa have made major progress with the suspension, especially at the rear, bringing him much closer to the front. Podiums are probably a little too much of a stretch for Bautista, but he will expect to be within sight of the podium at most races this year.

At Tech 3, a most entertaining battle is promised. Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro have been rivals all their careers, and there is no love lost between the two. Smith had a tough first year in the Tech 3 team, riding round on a wildly outdated Yamaha M1, while his teammate Cal Crutchlow had a machine very close to factory spec.

For 2014, Smith has the same spec machinery as Pol, their bikes very close indeed to the factory M1s of Lorenzo and Rossi. They have the seamless gearbox, but only the 2013 version without the clutchless downshifts. It is still a significant step forward from 2013, however.

So who will come out on top? On paper, Bradley Smith should win every encounter, given Pol Espargaro’s rookie status. But the younger of the Espargaro brothers has made an impressive debut, picking up the pace much more quickly that many expected.

The pace of this brother Aleix suggests that there is no lack of talent in the family, but Pol still has plenty to learn. Starting the season with a newly plated collarbone is far from ideal, but the emphasis for him lies not at Qatar, but later on, in the latter half of the year.

And what of the other Open bikes? Nicky Hayden was far from sad to leave Ducati behind, after spending five years on the ailing Desmosedici. But when he discovered exactly how underpowered the RCV1000R is, his joy soon turned to dismay.

Honda’s bike for the Open class is literally what Dorna asked for: an affordable production racer (though with a price tag of €1 million a year, it is affordable only in comparison with the outrageous price of a satellite bike).

That means it is built down to a price, and that shows in horsepower and acceleration. Hayden has made significant progress in braking, but without the ponies to push him out of the corner, he takes on the factory bikes with one hand tied behind his back.

Over at Gresini, Scott Redding struggles with a similar problem. Added to the lack of power, however, he also has to cope with the Nissin brakes and Showa suspension. The Showa has so far not been too much of a problem, but an issue with braking had seen Redding pushing for an early test of Brembos.

That issue has been partially resolved, and Redding will continue along the path set out at the start of the season. The benefit of an Open bike is that he has the opportunity to learn and develop in the shade of the Open class, while his former Moto2 rival must work in the media spotlight of a satellite team.

While MotoGP looks set to be a mostly Spanish affair, Moto2 and Moto3 are looking a lot more international. A Spaniard is clear favorite in the Moto2 class, Tito Rabat having nailed his colors to the mast during testing.

His weakness, like that of Marc Marquez, is that he likes to push hard whenever he gets on the bike, and he gets on a bike a lot. If he can learn not to risk injury every time he goes out, Rabat has a very good shot at the title.

First, though, he will have to face his teammate and a host of other non-Spaniards. Tom Luthi is the strongest challenger on the Interwetten Suter, while Takaaki Nakagami looks set to finally get the win he has been chasing for a very long time.

Sandro Cortese had been strong in his second year in the series, and 2013 World Supersport champion Sam Lowes has made a very impressive debut in the class. Lowes could turn out to be a real dark horse, and surprise more than a few people.

Moto3 looks to be even more international in nature. Preseason testing has been dominated by the Jack Miller, the Australian now on a competitive bike, but benefiting from the experience of competing on inferior equipment. He faces challenges from all quarters.

His teammate Karel Hanika has made a devastating impression as a rookie, showing speed he has no right to possess. Red Bull Rookies Cup boss Peter Clifford has labeled Hanika the most talented rider to come out of the feeder series, and judging by Hanika’s performance so far, Clifford appears to be right.

Miller also faces Danny Kent on the Husqvarna. A rebadged KTM, Kent has risked dropping down a category to chase a title. It is a wise decision, and Kent clearly has the talent. Then there are the Italians, with Romano Fenati, Pecco Bagnaia, and Niccolo Antonelli all having made an impression.

There are Spaniards too, with Isaac Viñales having pressured Miller throughout testing, and Efren Vazquez showing very strong form.

But the real threat comes form the Estrella Galicia Honda team, with the Alexes Rins and Marquez set to challenge for the title. The Honda NSF250RW has undergone major changes, and those changes have put Rins and Marquez on the back foot.

At the last test in Jerez, they confirmed that the latest updates had made them competitive. They lack set up data, but that will come quickly once the racing gets underway.

And that is only hours away now. The preseason has been dominated by arguments over rules, over the spirit of the rules versus their literal interpretation. Over whether there would be two or three categories in MotoGP. Over whether Ducati were gaining an unfair advantage, or just interpreting the rules in their favor.

All that talk ends in a few hours, once the bikes hit the track. Speculation ends, and guesses will be refuted or confirmed by the facts on the ground. Let’s go racing and find out the naked truth.

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

Comment:

  1. Slangbuster says:

    Nice read. I can’t wait and I’ve got my Moto G.P.Video Pass.

  2. smiler says:

    A very well written articel but to call it an intriguing season with three manufactuers and no changes at the top is really overstating it. Merguez is clear favourite. Pedro will not win it because he never does, Rossi is no longer good enough to take another championship but will (as usual) provide some charism and if better, some upsets. Lorenzo will come second or third.

    There are no less than 5 different classes of bike racing this year. All very distinct and in different power bands. The RCV Prodn raceer a clear indication of the intent of the manufactuers hierarchical approach to the series. Hayden wants more HP, so he can go faster and beat the Honda satelite teasm, no chance.

    Ducati might provide the odd upset but they will be penalised for being successful and Audi clearly staed they would not be winning until 2015, so development rather than results are the priority.

    Yamahahaha are at a disadvantage again against Honda, this time imposed by Dorna.

    Yet more Spanish riders with no character or charisma, based by Dorna and more Spanish sponsors as well as the terrible TV deals means it will be another yawnathon. 2015 might prove better though.

    Dorna need to be replaced, simple as that.
    Have to disagree with the premise that it will be an intriguing season.

    WSBK however, 8 manufactuers, no dominent nationality of rider or manufaturer, better rules, new talent and previous champions, rounds all over the world, better circuits and new circuits. A series that Dorna have not yet ruined. What is not to like.

  3. Andres says:

    +1 on WSBK, but I do love MotoGP! I’m hoping Aleix gets some podiums.

  4. Norm G. says:

    re: “Gone are the reviled CRT machines”

    no, they’re there. we’ve simply erased the name from the lexicon. only laymen will be duped, which is to say the MAJORITY will be duped so mission accomplished.

  5. David says:

    Crutchlow said it best at the press conference.

    “I think Dorna are doing a good job to help us. Thanks.”

    LOL

  6. Norm G. says:

    re: “However, it does mean that Ducati will not have to worry about fuel at tracks where consumption is a problem. Qatar is just one such track.”

    Cutter, Austin, Argentina, Mugello, Catalunya, Taragon (the spicy grandprix), Phil’s Isle, and Sepang. that’s 8 tracks (count ‘em 8). the season is 19…

    that’s almost HALF.

  7. Norm G. says:

    re: “Honda’s bike for the Open class is literally what Dorna asked for: an affordable production racer”

    and there it is.

  8. Mark says:

    Funny how Honda did exactly what Dorna asked for when they built the RCV1000, yet they still get a bunch of hate for it.

    Can’t please everybody.

  9. teanau says:

    Would someone care to explain the motivations behind a spec ecu?
    Surely innovative ecu software and sensor combinations would be an inexpensive means for the non factory teams to remain competitive?
    They have already invested the money in the hardware, now its just a matter of dedicating people to innovative algorithms (genetic algorithms/ computer learning, etc… ) sure it’s rocket science, but there are a whole lot of unemployed rocket scientists out there, id rather see them unlocking every last drop of performance out of an internal combustion engine than wasting time writing the next great high frequency trading algorithm for wall st.
    As an added benefit the advances would rapidly find their way into production machines.

  10. Mark says:

    Paying people to develop software is expensive, so the spec ECU is supposed to save money because teams won’t need to pay software developers.

  11. L2C says:

    “The RCV Prodn raceer a clear indication of the intent of the manufactuers hierarchical approach to the series. Hayden wants more HP, so he can go faster and beat the Honda satelite teasm, no chance.”

    Except Honda began designing the production racer at the very beginning of the CRT program. The Open category wasn’t even mentioned then, perhaps it had yet to even be birthed as a concept. And Nicky Hayden certainly held out to last possible moment – until the very end of the 2013 season – to sign with what is now Drive M7 Aspar.

    Sorry, no points for your little Honda conspiracy, smiler.

  12. L2C says:

    @smiler

    And remember, the Claiming Rule Team program began at the start of the 2012 season.

  13. L2C says:

    “Ducati might provide the odd upset but they will be penalised for being successful…”

    LOL!! Please explain smiler, just how Ducati will be penalized for being successful over the next two seasons?

    The concessions that Ducati are now enjoying are due precisely to the fact that the team has NOT been successful. Reducing their advantage should they become successful during the remaining two seasons before 2016 would be the very definition of performance balancing with regards to the other two, and current, Factory Option teams.

    As it stands now, Dorna has cast Ducati the lifeline of all possible lifelines. It’s a gesture that will most likely never be repeated again throughout the remaining history of motorsports.

  14. Mike says:

    “The concessions that Ducati are now enjoying are due precisely to the fact that the team has NOT been successful.”

    Of course, Yamaha and Honda could have enjoyed the same “concessions” by giving their software requests to Magneti Marelli whn they were asked and by choosing to race in the Open class, but chose to work on their own software in private for as long as they can. But, of course, why should facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

  15. L2C says:

    “Of course, Yamaha and Honda could have enjoyed the same “concessions” by giving their software requests to Magneti Marelli whn they were asked and by choosing to race in the Open class, but chose to work on their own software in private for as long as they can. But, of course, why should facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.”

    Of course, this statement is entirely irrelevant. As I said to you on the other article, Ducati are STILL considered a Factory Option team.

    And since we’re on the topic of facts, it is a verifiable fact that Ducati was not ever approved to participate in the Open Class category. Fact. Not hearsay. Fact. So while the team did apply, it was never approved. Instead the Factory 2 option was proposed to appease primarily the privateers in the Open Class, secondarily Honda and Yamaha. Because that proposal was a failure, the situation came to be what it is now today. That is, Ducati as a Factory Option team now receives special concessions because it failed to compete successfully under the original Factory Option rules that it had previously agreed to with Honda and Yamaha in the MSMA.

    Another fun fact that you might have overlooked is that under Filippo Preziosi’s leadership, Ducati was just as much against a standard ECU hardware and software combination as Honda and Yamaha. Gigi Dall’Igna is the difference today.

    Your insistence on what could have been, is just that: Insistence on what could have been. Try dealing with what has actually happened.

  16. Mike says:

    “And since we’re on the topic of facts, it is a verifiable fact that Ducati was not ever approved to participate in the Open Class category.”

    So, what you’re saying is that Ducati should have been rejected for Open class even though Dorna was completely clear that it wanted the manufacturers to race in the Open class. You’d rather penalize Ducati for following the rules than allow Honda and Yamaha to looks like chumps. There is nothing in the original rules that said that a manufacturer wasn’t allowed to race as Open, if fact the rules were meant to entice the manufacturers to Open as soon as possible. Ducati did exactly what was allowed and requested by Dorna. Why would the rules not apply to Ducati, they did nothing wrong and indeed did exactly what teh governing body wanted. The whole debacle that resulted first in Factory 2 and then forcing Ducati to call themselves a Factory Option team is purely based on silly tantrums put off by people who clearly didn’t read the rule book well enough.

    And what does Preziosi’s opinion have to do with it. The whole point of bringing in Dall’Igna was to get new insights and opinions. Relying on the old boss’s opinion is what got Ducati in such a terrible spot as it is.

    The fact is there was no reason to deny Ducati an entry as an Open team since they followed all the rules, and indeed did exactly what Dorna wanted to do with the Open rules. The Factory Option was always supposed to be short term.

    Truth be told, I’m a Yamaha fan. I want to see Ducati at the front to see better racing, not cause I’m that big of a Ducati fan. That being said, if Yamaha whined half as much as the Japanese apologists playing at armchair Team Principal do then I couldn’t be a fan of them. I’m actually happy that it appears the Japanese manufacturers aren’t the ones doing the lion’s share of complaining, it shows they have a fair amount of common sense and reading comprehension.

    There is not one shred of evidence that Ducati did anything untoward or not written in the rules. Why should they be punished so that Yamaha and Honda can harvest more commercially viable data from their MotoGP ECU department. Why should they be punished because the privateers don’t like what is clearly written into the rules. The Ducati “concessions” aren’t concessions at all, they’re punishment (though a just about useless punishment) for thinking at least a step ahead of the privateers and maybe a half step ahead of the other two manufacturers. If the rules were properly applied, as written, then Ducati would get all the Open class advantages all season, since that is exactly what the rules were written to do. It’s a shame that the privateer and forum whiners have made such a mess of the season by demanding Ducati be punished for following the rules. Hell, no one has turned a wheel in anger yet and there are already tantrums breaking out all over the world.

  17. L2C says:

    “So, what you’re saying is that Ducati should have been rejected for Open class even though Dorna was completely clear that it wanted the manufacturers to race in the Open class.”

    No. I said that it is a verifiable fact that Ducati was not ever approved to participate in the Open Class category. Period.

    “You’d rather penalize Ducati for following the rules than allow Honda and Yamaha to looks like chumps.”

    Don’t make it about me, stick to the fact that this is about Ducati not performing to the level of Honda and Yamaha after Casey Stoner left Ducati. If Ducati were a successful manufacturer in MotoGP, Dorna wouldn’t have had to make those absurd rules in the first place. And you can bet your donkey that Ducati would still be against a standard championship ECU software combination. Filippo Preziosi would still be in charge of Ducati’s MotoGP program, Gigi Dall’Igna would still be with Aprilia.

    This is not even about Honda and Yamaha and the privateers voicing objections and criticisms of Ducati’s application to participate in the Open category. It is about Ducati performing so badly that a way had to be made for them to continue to participate in the series because the team had no reasonable way to improve under the rules which it originally agreed to.

    “There is nothing in the original rules that said…”

    You keep going back to this and it is meaningless in the context of how things now stand.

    “The whole debacle that resulted first in Factory 2 and then forcing Ducati to call themselves a Factory Option team is purely based on silly tantrums put off by people who clearly didn’t read the rule book well enough.”

    Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha are all manufacturers. Constructors. The prototype class. Factory/Factory Option. Ducati is not being forced to be called anything other than what it actually is.

    And do you really think that Ducati is the same class of team as that of IODA Racing? Please, Ducati are rightfully being recognized as a manufacturer, that’s all there is to it.

    Ducati is backed by Audi who is turn backed by the VW Group. What else don’t you see?

    “And what does Preziosi’s opinion have to do with it.”

    The point of bringing up Filippo Preziosi was to provide historical context for Ducati’s current predicament. To contrast what he and Ducati stood for against what Gigi Dall’Igna and Ducati stand for today — and to show that Preziosi’s way was not the best way forward, of which there are many factors in addition to being hamstrung by the Factory Option rules which applied to Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha at the time Preziosi was still around.

    “Relying on the old boss’s opinion is what got Ducati in such a terrible spot as it is.”

    I disagree that Preziosi’s opinion was what brought Ducati’s MotoGP program to its knees. As an organization, each department was on a different page with systemic failures of communication and operation at nearly every turn. Preziosi’s opinion, and that of the riders, mattered a whole lot less than you might want to believe.

    “The fact is there was no reason to deny Ducati an entry as an Open team since they followed all the rules, and indeed did exactly what Dorna wanted to do with the Open rules.”

    That’s what you say. Dorna and the GPC thought different once they heard the objections and criticisms from the other teams, that’s what matters.

    “Truth be told, I’m a Yamaha fan. I want to see Ducati at the front to see better racing, not cause I’m that big of a Ducati fan. That being said, if Yamaha whined half as much as the Japanese apologists…”

    Yamaha gamed the Open rules by providing Forward Racing with 2013′s factory spec M1 — with some measure of factory support. They haven’t said too much for a good reason. Coming to blows with Honda is not what the team wants. Yamaha knows very well that it was asked to provide a production racer just as Honda was, yet instead Yamaha stalled and stalled and stalled some more until it realized it could just lease an entire factory spec machine to what was then FTR Forward Racing.

    Also, do you really think this is about nationalism? “Japanese apologists…”??? That’s too rich. Too funny.

    “There is not one shred of evidence that Ducati did anything untoward or not written in the rules. Why should they be punished…”

    If you think that Ducati are being punished by being allowed all of the concessions of the Open Class teams while still being able to maintain and take advantage of everything that comes with being a manufacturer who is a member of a multinational corporation that is made up of multinational corporations, then for sure facts and figures don’t matter much to you.

    Believe what you want.

  18. Frank says:

    et more Spanish riders with no character or charisma, based by Dorna and more Spanish sponsors as well as the terrible TV deals means it will be another yawnathon. 2015 might prove better though.

    @ smiler No Character?! No charisma?! So it was a Spanish media/corporate illusion that tricked me into believing that the most exciting motorcycle rider I’ve ever seen arrived on the scene in GP last year and reinvigorated the series with a golden boy smile that deceptively hid his rabid tenacity to race anyone and anything that got in his way?! And was it also part of the illusion that we now have a rivalry the likes of which we haven’t seen perhaps since Rossi/Biaggi. Was it my imagination that Jorge Lorenzo finally unleashed his most wicked and brilliant race craft and tactical genius to nearly claw back the championship when all seemed lost? Ok, I’ll give it to you – Dani Pedrosa is not the most charismatic guy in the paddock, but what exactly are you looking for in your ideal MotoGP ‘character’? No really, I’d love to know what smiler looks for in his champion.

    And yes, I also am a long time fan of Valentino Rossi. Because he is awesome and he makes me laugh. And we also have ‘characters’ like Cal and Colin and a kid with a little boy voice named Bradley and two brothers who race with as much passion as they have for their family, wearing that passion on their sleeves. Not all of them are Spanish but I think we have a good cast of ‘characters’ and A LOT to look forward to this season. If you don’t agree, then please – enjoy WSBK. I also enjoy that series. But I for damn sure wake up in the morning thinking about MotoGP. World SBK is what I watch when I’m not surfing MotoGP.com making sure that I didn’t miss a rider interview or a video of ‘After the Flag.’ Because MotoGP is the PINNACLE of Motorcycle racing.

  19. Frank says:

    @ Mike… L2C owned you. Sorry – I find his argument and his rebuttals far more convincing than yours. We all understand the rules, and that Ducati didn’t ‘cheat’ the rules. But it’s not even about that. Look at how the mess started and then step back and look at what we have now. Think about what each factory team is working with (Ducati, Honda and Yamaha being the factory teams) and tell me that the situation doesn’t seem the least bit slanted in favor of Ducati… PLEASE try and explain that. David Emmett mentioned it on his site the other day in the context of this very discussion – he talked about the value of Ducati’s presence in GP, the value of their results in order to retain one of GP’s biggest sponsors -Marlboro and how indispensable Ducati is to the series and therefore to Dorna. Dorna NEEDS Ducati to be competitive, and let’s be real – they aren’t. They haven’t been. If Ducati were to languish at the back again this year and lose Marlboro then they would no longer be able to race in MotoGP (at least in the short term) and that would leave Dorna without 1 of 3 remaining factory/constructors. Not much of a series then, huh?

    This is all about Ducati’s LACK of production. That is why they have a few more aces in their deck this year.

  20. Mike says:

    Again, all you said is irrelevant. Dorna wants Ducati to be classed the same as IODA, and in 2016 they will be. It doesn’t matter that Audi own Ducati, which I do know. They whole idea is that Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati all compete against IODA and every other team with one set of rules. The new set of rules were brought in so that Yamaha and Honda (and Ducati if they had ever gotten their act together) could be brought down a peg, not to elevate Ducati. The whole mess with the three tier system is because of whiners. Ducati followed all the rules and should be allowed to compete under how those rules were written.

    “It is about Ducati performing so badly that a way had to be made for them to continue to participate in the series because the team had no reasonable way to improve under the rules which it originally agreed to.”

    This makes no sense, since both Honda and Yamaha could have chosen to race under the same rules, they declined. It cannot be targeted at Ducati due to it’s past performance when everyone was given the same opportunity. It’s you that can’t see past your obvious anti-Ducati Corse bias. Ducati followed all the rules. Honda and Yamaha were free to follow the same Open rules. Dorna wanted Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha to follow those rules. But when Ducati did exactly what was requested of them, and what was reported months in advance, then the privateer/internet whiners start making up silly stories about Ducati getting “concessions” that were also offered to all the other teams, including Honda and Yamaha. The fact that they were first punished with the Factory 2 rules was the first sign that Ducati was being unfairly attacked for taking advantage of the rules as written. The new situation is even sillier, but still comes down to the fact that Ducati followed the letter and spirit of the rules and should get the full 24L, soft tires, testing advantages, et al. Why would they not get that? They did everything they were supposed to. The problem is that the “tin hat” crowd would rather attack Ducati for reading the rule book correctly than allow them the advantage that mostly they saw and everyone else dismissed due to bias or assumptions.

    The Open rules are not a “concession” when they had the right to be a Open team, Dorna wanted them and the other manufacturers to be Open teams, and all the other teams could have had the same “concession”. If I choose to exercise my right to vote and you don’t that doesn’t mean I was giving a voting “concession” it means I exercised my rights. Ducati has a right to the whole Open package since that’s what the rules said, what happened after with first Factory 2 and the latest rules are penalization of Ducati for exercising their right as a MotoGP entry. Thy fact that you keep arguing that Ducati is getting “concessions” (even their own software now isn’t a concession since their Open class rights were denied) for exercising their rights indicates how little of a sportsman you are. The name of the game in motorsports is better engineering and taking every advantage of the rule book. In motorsports this happens all the time. Brawn F1 won the F1 championship by realizing the rules allowed a double diffuser in 2009). When Mercedes realized that the rules didn’t preclude a double DRS system more recently they were taking advantage of the rule book. Those who whine when others are cleverer than themselves or their team are just showing their pettiness.

  21. L2C says:

    @Mike

    “Again, all you said is…just showing their pettiness.”

    1.) Ducati along with both Honda and Yamaha drafted and approved the rules that Ducati was unable to compete successfully under. That is a historical fact.

    2.) If Ducati had been as successful today as it was in 2007 when Casey Stoner won Ducati the championship, Ducati would be no more tempted or eager to embrace the Open category than Honda and Yamaha are. Why? Because they wouldn’t have had any incentive for doing so. Which, incidentally is the same reason why Honda and Yamaha have refused to voluntarily move to the Open category.

    3.) Why wouldn’t a factory team want to move to the Open category? Previous investment of a successful racing team and successful racing machinery. Right now, Ducati’s costs have skyrocketed because it is starting all over from square one. A blank sheet of paper stares the entire squad in face on a daily basis. Eventually they are going to start spending even more money designing, developing, experimenting, testing and building what goes on that sheet of paper. Both Honda and Yamaha have been there already. They have been successful and are reaping the benefits of their success. Have you noticed that Honda won both the individual and constructors championship last year? Have you noticed that Yamaha has to now turn away potential sponsors at the door because there is no more room left on their leathers and their bikes? Honda and Yamaha’s costs are now stable and relatively low because they are in the refinement stages, rather than the initial phases of investment and pre-production which is were Ducati is now.

    4.) And you still keep going on and on about IF Ducati were an Open Class team. They are NOT. They are a factory team operating under the Factory Option rules. Just accept it. It’s not going to go away.

    5.) You should be grateful that Ducati have lost so badly. If not, perhaps 2016 would be nothing more than a pipe dream instead of certainty.

    6.) I’ve made my points clearly and several times, and have made them more clear with each response. I have nothing more to say, except that you should accept what has actually happened rather than what you would have liked to have had happen, which is that which did not happen.

    6.) Have fun at the races.

  22. L2C says:

    Grammar Nazis, back off. I’m aware.

  23. paulus says:

    Much like the Oscars… it is only the spectacle that most people/consumers see. Whether it is a true completion or not is a moot point. The majority are unaware of the circumstances, catagories or politics
    … and even fewer care.

    I for one am looking forward to the results of this years world greatest motorcycle technology trickling down and improving my gas mileage ;)

  24. paulus says:

    damn autocheck….
    Whether it is a true competition or not is a moot point.

  25. crshnbrn says:

    re: “Pedrosa enters his eighth season with the Repsol Honda team”

    Not to nit pick, but 2014 will be Pedrosa’a ninth season with Repsol Honda. When I learn to count to ten, I may be eligible for an all-expense-paid trip to Phillip Island as an honorary member of Marquez’s pit crew.

  26. Frank says:

    “It is about Ducati performing so badly that a way had to be made for them to continue to participate in the series because the team had no reasonable way to improve under the rules which it originally agreed to.”

    This makes no sense, since both Honda and Yamaha could have chosen to race under the same rules, they declined. It cannot be targeted at Ducati due to it’s past performance when everyone was given the same opportunity.

    @ Mike – HRC and YAM ‘could have chosen to race under the same rules.’… REALLY?! This I feel is where you think the strength of your argument lies. MSMA entires were not required to use spec software until 2017 per the deal Dorna had with the manufacturers [as of the beginning of the 2014 pre season testing]. Why would Honda and Yamaha, having won World Championships the previous two seasons respectively go Open? Why? Why? What is the intial benefit for them to eliminate the major advantage that they have in developing sophisticated software to adapt to their bikes that makes them the true pinnacle of moto machinery when they are allowed to per the rules? RULES. You keep bringing up the RULES. Under the rules, they can operate as factories. They win- therefore they continue as factory entries within the rules. Ducati was operating under those rules (and still are as of the latest rule change) but were so far behind they needed space to develop their engines. They got it that space for this season. End of story. Honda and Yamaha don’t need it. Ducati does. That is not ‘anti-Ducati bias.’ Those are the facts.

    But when Ducati did exactly what was requested of them, and what was reported months in advance, then the privateer/internet whiners start making up silly stories about Ducati getting “concessions” that were also offered to all the other teams, including Honda and Yamaha.

    -Get your facts straight. Ducati flirted openly with the idea to go Open once they brought Gigi on. ‘What was reported months in advance’… No, this decision was reported that they would go open AFTER the Sepang tests, at the 11th hour to declare their plan for the 2014 season. Their announcement coincided with their release of their software via Magneti Marelli to the open teams. The Open teams took one look at the software, agreed it was more sophisticated than the standard spec MM software, and also conceded that there was NO WAY that the software would benefit their packages. none of the open teams have the man-power and money, nor the years of collected data and time to even begin to utilize Ducati’s software. Many of the teams came out and openly said it would make them slower. You call these teams, whose sole purpose in showing up against massively poor odds of success, is to race and compete as best they can ‘WHINERS?!’ Self righteous much?! 2016 will have this all sorted, but as of 2014 it is a mess. NO ONE IS ARGUING WITH YOU THAT DUCATI FOLLOWED THE RULES. They worked within the rules. Yes. But the fact that they are the only factory operating within Open Class regulations (and they are a FACTORY for the flipping 20th time) means that they have been given BIG concessions via Dorna and the mess of rules that we have for 2014. To say that this situation is not a major crutch for the ailing Ducati is to fail to see the bigger picture. You’ve argued yourself into a hole with the “Ducati did what Dorna asked” argument. Honda also did- with their production racer you could also argue. If you step out of the hole that you’ve confined yourself to, then you’d be able to see the bigger picture and the mass of gray area that is GP 2014.

    You’re trying to make a complicated situation seem very simple. And it just isn’t.

  27. L2C says:

    @ Frank

    “This makes no sense, since both Honda and Yamaha could have chosen to race under the same rules, they declined. It cannot be targeted at Ducati due to it’s past performance when everyone was given the same opportunity. “

    Sure it doesn’t, if you want to be like Mike and regress to the original Open Class rules which have since been discarded. It makes perfect sense if you consider the revised regulations as they now stand.

    LOL, I can’t believe I’m still having this conversation!

  28. Westward says:

    Actually I don’t see the problem with what Dorna proposed. The real issue is there are only four competitive bikes in MotoGP. Out of twenty something entries, only those four will likely win a race and stand on the rostrum. With the new rules, now it looks like three Ducati’s and Forward with Aleix Espargaro might actually make it onto the rostrum too. Maybe even towards the end of the season Ducati or Forward may pull off a victory.

    It’s a plus for the sport and the fans, a win for everybody almost literally. Better than a dominance by two manufacturer’s and the same three or four pilots every year.

    I am actually excited more so than ever in recent times. Something unexpectedly good might happen instead of the usual monotony…