There’s a lot to talk about after the 2012 MotoGP season opener, but one thing that struck me in particular was the situation Casey Stoner found himself in for Qualifying Practice. Given the combination of a new 1000cc-based formula and a new tire from Bridgestone, several riders complained of the old nemesis: chatter, which we heard quite a lot about when the 800s arrived, and was for the most part ironed out as development progressed on the former MotoGP spec.
A sudden appearance of chatter ruined Ben Spies’ race, Dani Pedrosa qualified poorly because of it, and after QP (where he was bettered by rival Jorge Lorenzo) Casey Stoner had this to say to the BBC: “I’m more than upset about it to be honest. Not about pole position but for race pace tomorrow. It’s difficult because the huge issues we had on Thursday have just gone full circle and come back to them now. I don’t think my team are really taking enough importance on how big the situation is. They’re just kinda like, oh well, you’re fast, you can do it anyway. But I can’t. It’s not feeling nice when there’s that much chatter. And if we don’t fix it before tomorrow it’s going to make things very very tough. So we’ve got some work to do, and to try and get rid of it before the race is going to be a lot of hard work.”
Since he has come to Honda from Ducati, where his comments on needed improvement were largely ignored, Casey has been a smiling guy for the most part. But at Losail he seemed suddenly to be having deja vu: he was telling his team about problems with the bike and the team were dismissing his concerns, and were content to ask him to ride around whatever problems he was finding with the machine.
After finishing third in the race he said that the chatter wasn’t great and wouldn’t have been an issue, since he was by far the fastest before severe arm pump set in and prevented him from keep that pace until the end. But as I went through the weekend’s images, I was struck by this one, which shows Casey giving a glare reminiscent of his Ducati days to one of his now-Honda team members upon arriving back at the box, unhappy with the bike’s performance.
If Honda’s 2011 800cc machine was nearly perfect when he climbed aboard, and 2012’s 1000cc machine is chattering away at the beginning of its development, is Honda going to treat Casey’s concerns better than Ducati did? Or will Honda show the same arrogance about their machine that drove Valentino Rossi to Yamaha? Time will tell, but the past has shown that they would be well advised to listen when Casey speaks about problems that need attention.
Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blog, Twitter, & Facebook.
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Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved