Sunday Summary at Estoril: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

05/07/2012 @ 12:10 am, by David Emmett17 COMMENTS

Sunday Summary at Estoril: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid 2012 Portuguese GP Estoril Sunday Scott Jones 7

If there’s one lesson we can take from Sunday’s race at Estoril, it’s this: “I’ve always said we know Casey’s the guy that’s the fastest guy in the world. Maybe over the seasons he hasn’t put the championships together, but by far he’s the best guy in the world.” Cal Crutchlow is not known for mincing his words, and his description of Casey Stoner pulls no punches. But given the fact that Stoner only managed to win the Portuguese round of MotoGP by a second and a bit, is that not a little exaggerated?

Here’s what Stoner had to say about it, when I asked him if winning with the chatter he suffered – even on the TV screens the massive vibration front and rear was clearly visible – made him more confident about the level of his performance. “It gives me a lot more confidence. That’s the thing, you know, with arm pump, with the chatter problem, I’ve been feeling like crap all week, and my body’s not as good as I normally am, and we still managed to hang on, we still managed to be clearly faster than the others at the end of the race.”

Arrogance? Maybe, but with a championship lead, back-to-back wins at tracks he never liked and had not won a MotoGP race at, and having now completed the set (a win at every track currently on the calendar, last achieved by Valentino Rossi in 2008, but a record he lost when Silverstone and Aragon were added to the schedule), it is also a realistic assessment. Back in 2007, I wrote that Casey Stoner was the fastest motorcycle racer on the planet, and with each passing season, he has grown to become the most complete. He can pass when he needs to, fight if he has to, though much to the chagrin of the fans, he believes his safest course of action is to put the hammer down and try to gap the field.

Perhaps once he realizes he is so much faster than anyone else, he will ease up and start to toy with the others the way that Valentino Rossi toyed with Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau nearly ten years ago. But where Rossi was like a cat playing with a mouse he had caught, Stoner is more like a shark: attack, take one bike, kill your prey, and move on to the next one. Boring? Certainly, but there is a kind of beauty in that ruthless efficiency. Stoner may never please the crowds, but watching him bend a MotoGP bike to his will is still the most breathtaking sight for anyone who can appreciate the skill it requires to go that fast. Where Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi try to become one with the motorcycle, and coax it into giving its very best, Stoner dominates the machine, beating it into submission.

To my mind, Casey Stoner has just one major fault: he believes Honda pays him to race motorcycles. In reality, it is the fans who watch motorcycle racing, and admire what he does on a bike, and then go out and buy a Honda scooter in Indonesia, or fill their gas tank at a Repsol station in Spain, or buy Gas jeans in a fashion store somewhere around the world. These are the people who pay his wages, and on occasion, it would be good for him to take them into consideration.

But for those who are not fans of the Australian, it’s going to be a long couple of years. Stoner’s lead in the Championship may be just a single, solitary point, but the title race is pretty much a foregone conclusion. If Stoner can win with so much chatter, Jorge Lorenzo has a massive mountain to climb. The Spaniard will need a lot of help from Yamaha, and he must hope that HRC take a long time to fix the problem.

To be honest, Lorenzo is putting in a sterling job of trying to keep Stoner honest. His team have pulled the occasional rabbit out of the hat on Sunday morning when they have needed to, but the Yamaha needs more than just a decent setup to beat Stoner. They have a lot of work ahead of them, and they will be hoping that the new engine they will be testing on Monday will be a step in the right direction.

Honda will be testing one thing, and one thing only: trying to get rid of the chatter. To do that, they need dry track time, but with a few hours to go before the test, it is raining very heavily with no sign of a let up. What if it rains during the test and Honda can’t try to cure the chatter? “We’re f****d”.

At Ducati, they too will be testing a new engine on Monday. Valentino Rossi had his best race of the year, but coming home in 7th is not where he really wants to be. But, as he puts it himself, “this is our potential.” The new engine – probably a minor variation on the current engine, most likely with some head work to make it less peaky, rather than the narrow angle V that is needed to solve the understeer problems – will feature a few new parts to provide a smoother power delivery. Whether those parts include a new crankshaft to take the bike out to 1000cc, rather than the 930cc it currently almost certainly is, given that it has been clocked revving to around 17,500 rpm, remains to be seen.

The other major lesson – perhaps two major lessons – we learned today is the depth of reliance on electronics that modern-day MotoGP bikes have. Nicky Hayden’s miserable race – his words, not mine – were down to the ECU being confused and thinking that the bike was somewhere completely different on the track. Hayden’s lap times kept appearing as he crossed the timing loop on the back straight, rather than on the finish line, and the bike was altering the power map on the fly – as all these bikes do – for each corner where it thought the corners were, rather than where they actually were. Where it needed power, the GP12 had its power cut right back. Where it needed less, such as at the chicane, it had full power, making it difficult to control.

Without confirmation from Ducati – and good luck getting that – it seems that there were two problems with Hayden’s bike. The first is that the ECU was reading the wrong timing loop, and thinking that the one where the second split is measured was the one at the finish line. The second is a more fundamental programming one, of trusting your data. Using just a single parameter – the timing loops which run under the circuit – to measure your position on the track, and extrapolating from there – is efficient, but as Nicky Hayden found out, occasionally prone to error. Better to confirm your assumptions against the data gathered from the bike: Estoril’s front straight and back chicane are such clear markers in terms of gearing, revs, throttle and lean angle, all of which are logged, that it should not be too difficult to recalibrate the position of the bike using that data.

Alternatively, you could just use a GPS, or at least you could if they were not banned. Only the GPS provided by the organization is allowed to be used, and that only to provide information for the TV feed and live timing app. A relatively cheap part and another input requiring little extra programming would have saved Hayden’s race.

If you’re determined to cut electronics, then the way to avoid situations like this is by removing the ride-by-wire from the primary butterfly valves which are operated electronically in each throttle body. Currently, both valves are under electronic control, and that means that the bike provides the the power that it thinks the rider needs, rather than what the rider wants. In some corners, Lorenzo’s crew chief Ramon Forcada explained to me, when you open the throttle, the actual butterfly valves may open just 50%. If those valves were operated by a cable, then the would provide exactly as much throttle as the rider had asked for. These riders are professionals; they can handle that.

Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

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

Comment:

  1. That final paragraph pretty much sums up what the entire world want to see. Dorna are going to great lengths and making enemies in their search for a successful race series/show for “post-Rossi” times. Why not take that last step? It annoys the factories? So what! There’s only 3 left anyway! The cost savings would be a big incentive to small independant teams like we see coming in under the CRT rules. In time the factories would come crawling back imo. And for proof that the electronics are overkill look to the series’ with none. Moto2 being the closest and British Superbikes under 2012 rules. I’m yet to hear someone complain of a boring race in either series. MotoGP riders talk about keeping a safety net and sure, why not? Highsides hurt, but what they have there now is a safety harness, bubblewrap suit filled with cotton wadding and it’s killing the sport. I appreciate the dangers and power of these bikes but come on!!!! Estoril ticket prices ranged between 2 Euro and 20 Euro. Everyone shouted BARGAIN last week. This week it will be RIP OFF as it wasn’t a race worth watching.

  2. ben says:

    A foregone conclusion ? What a load of BS. This is one of the worst pieces of analysis I have read in ages.

  3. froryde says:

    Super – I can write-off MotoGP for a few seasons and save on the cable TV subscriptions!

  4. David says:

    Maybe they should just ban Stoner if everyone wants close racing!

    I for one want to see the best rider in the world kick some ass.

    Is it boring for some people? Yes

    Was it boring for some people when Schumacher and Carmichael dominated their respective racing seris? Yes

    But to hell with those people. What I hate is when the TV producers don’t show the guy out front riding the crap out of his bike. I want to see the best.

    If you guys want close (controlled) racing then become a NASCAR fan.

  5. Don C says:

    Hi, Jensen -

    Shouldn’t you be crediting this write up to David Emmett of http://www.Motomatters.com?

  6. Adam says:

    there was lots of action going on during the GP race but it was all mid pack. Rossi had a good battle going on for several laps, however the majority of the TV coverage was on the front runners. Did anyone see Sykes take a commanding lead in race 2 at Monza? as far as I see WSBK and MotoGP have similar outcomes with guys breaking away. this is racing, and the best will always pull away from the field. But who cares did anyone one eles see the final lap of the Moto2 race? what a finish maybe as fans we should be talking about how good that race was and not complaining about MotoGP.

  7. Westward says:

    Maybe that is why Burgess suggested capping the series at 600cc. Those bikes seem to be as safe as engineering can make them sans electronics. Moto2 and now Moto3, seem to be the best racing I have seen in a long time, and Moto2 has been at it for only three years.

    Even without Stoner, Lorenzo was handedly in front of Pedrosa. The rostrum will have the same player on the stage for the remainder of the season.

    The things that might change, Spies finally getting along with his bike, and the Tech 3 guys getting along better with theirs. Then, that may add a little more excitement to script.

    Also, maybe, just maybe, Ducati will figure it out somehow. Though the rain is not helping anyone out in MotoGP…

    Since this is the first season of the 1000cc’s, maybe Dorna should have allowed unlimited testing just for this season, so everyone could sort out their issues and have zero excuses for next season…

  8. Ed Gray says:

    Jensen,
    Your description of Stoners style reminds me of Gardner. My first live sighting of Gardner was at Laguna. As I walked up to the fence where the bridge used to go over the bottom of the turn below the corkscrew (Rainey?), Gardner came screaming down the hill. There were some pretty bad ripples at the exit of the corner and the Hondas front and rear did not play well together resulting in some really scary looking shaking. Gardners solution? Lift the front while leaned over ~45-50 degrees. Problem solved shaking stopped.

    Maybe it’s an Australian thing.

  9. Thanks Don C., I forgot to select David’s name in the editor’s control panel (defaults to mine). This is of course the work of David Emmett.

  10. Apparently even Colin Edwards didn’t find the racing all that good…

    https://twitter.com/#!/texastornado5/status/199264098876268544

  11. matt says:

    it is the fans who watch motorcycle racing, and admire what he does on a bike, and then go out and buy a Honda scooter in Indonesia, or fill their gas tank at a Repsol station in Spain, or buy Gas jeans in a fashion store somewhere around the world

    absolutely NOBODY thinks that way. Not even the marketing drones believe such idiotic nonsense.

  12. JW says:

    This I find to be an outstanding read, I agree with the author, Stoner is a great GP rider but his likability is just so so and I can see better how the paying sponsers would be concerned. Watching Nicky ride a honda = me wanting to by a Honda. Watching Casey ride a Honda makes me want to stray.

    One thing is for sure we the fans are getting more and more frustrated with the sport. Dorna is like big goverment, out of touch, too much intervention, remember the dumbfounded 800cc idea?

  13. Thamer says:

    This short article really incapsulates the main problems of GP. It’s terrible to watch! I love to watch Stoner ride, but watching moto GP is sad. I would love to see them lose the electrics and maybe then it would look like WSBK, where you have different riders and teams winning every race.

  14. As a COG, I gotta say that the pinnacle of the sport showed itself with sideways bikes, wheelies and backing it into the corners. Nowadays, it seems to be more a battle between the factory electronics than the riders. Watching the Moto2 guys backing into the corners and sliding both the front and rear on exit is fantastic and, to me, seems to showcase rider talent more than the so-called premier class. Just watch a race with KR and Mamola with wheels aloft through every corner at Laguna Seca or see McCoy lighting up the rear wheel everywhere … Comparing those antics to the razor precision of riding modern-day bikes and the show is bound to be different.

  15. Magnificent web site. Plenty of helpful information here. I’m sending it to some buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for your effort!

  16. Kickstand says:

    “Perhaps once he realizes he is so much faster than anyone else, he will ease up and start to toy with the others the way that Valentino Rossi toyed with Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau nearly ten years ago”

    And that was the point when the article lost me.. I mean seriously? what a load of crap!

    Im not sure what I find more offensive… the suggestion that riders finding themselves with a clear advantage should disrespect their rival’s by humiliating them in such a way. Or the suggestion that the majority of MotoGP fans are the type of slack jawed yokels who find such contrived theatrics entertaining.

    Professional Wrestling thataway —>

  17. ben says:

    It was agreed by man that Emmett dropped the ball on much of his analysis here. Calling for Stoner to play fake… saying he should ride to what the fans want. Calling him boring, arrogant. (yes take these terms out of context I will, which is the same licence Emmett uses in this article) Emmett then came out to say he was ‘astonished’ to find so many people reacted badly to that article, which was quite laughable in itself. I think what was astonishing to Emmett, was that he could get it so wrong in some areas, and judge his audience so poorly.

    If you want to read some really good responses + reactions to this Emmett article by an otherwise usually outstanding GP scribe, then head on over to Motomatters.com and read the article and all the responses in full. But get yourself a cuppa, beer, whetever first, cause it is l-o-n-g , but very worth the read. Overall, I found some of the people responding in the comments to have a far deeper and more accurate insight than the writer. Most especially Cletus Purcell, some of the best clarity I have read on anything in MotoGP.