Photos from 250+ Feet up COTA’s Petrolsaurus Rex

Standing 251 feet above Turns 16, 17, & 18, the COTA observation tower provides a bird’s eye view of just about every tun on the circuit, if you can stomach its subtle sway in the wind and clear-glass floor at the precipice. Officially called by COTA as the “Observation Tower” – it really needs a better name for casual conversation. We’ve heard COTA Cobra used a few times with some lovely alliteration, but the structure has always struck us as less snake-like, and more like a big dinosaur — we’re going to use the name “Petrolsaurus Rex” until I hear something better, or COTA sends me a cease and desist order. I climbed to the top of Petrolsaurus Rex (read: took the elevator) during the MotoGP Warm-Up session, and snapped a few photos in the process. Enjoy!

MV Agusta F3 800 Ago Now Officially Debuts

We already announced the bike last November, and brought you a bevy of hi-res images of the special edition machine. Although now that we think of it, MV Agusta never released anything on this Giacomo Agostini tribute motorcycle — better late than never, right? Back at the EICMA show launch, where the MV Agusta F3 800 Ago was first shown to the public (and Agostini himself), the Varese brand promised us two additional motorcycle launches in early 2014. MV Agsuta made good on half that promise with the Dragster 800 model, hopefully this Ago special edition isn’t the other half of that statement, and MV Agusta still has something waiting in the wings. That being said, the Tricolore & Gold paint scheme is gorgeous, and looks even better in person.

Isle of Man TT Gets TV Deal for Australia & USA

Want to watch the Isle of Man TT from the comfort of your non-British TV, but haven’t been able to in the past? A new TV from the Isle of Man’s Department of Economic Development will do just that. Inking a new TV contract with North One TV, the Isle of Man TT will be televised in the American, Australian, and of course British markets, making it easier than ever to watch the iconic road race. With a five-year contract with the Velocity Channel in the US, the American cable channel will show seven one-hour race shows. Each segment will air within 24hrs of each race, and be tailored for the American market.

Castiglioni Denies Fiat Buyout of MV Agusta Is in the Works

After reporting 22% growth in Q1 2014, Giovanni Castiglioni had some closing words about the rumors that Fiat could acquire MV Agusta — a popular rumor that has been swirling around in the press the last two months. Denying outright that MV Agusta had, or was in, talks with the Fiat-Chrysler group about an acquisition (some reports linked even MV Agusta to being bought by Fiat-owned Ferrari), Castiglioni said the Italian company solely was focused on building growth, and building motorcycles. “Moreover, I’d like to take this opportunity to deny rumours circulated by the media over the last few days concerning supposed negotiations vis-à-vis the sale of a share of MV Agusta to the Fiat-Chrysler Group,” said Giovanni Castiglioni, the President and CEO of MV Agusta.

A 2WD Hybrid-Electric Motorcycle for the US Military?

In the coming years, US special forces may be riding a tw0-wheel drive, hybrid-electric, multi-fuel motorcycle co-developed by BRD Motorcycles and Logos Technologies. Helping make this project possible is a Small Business Innovation Research grant from DARPA. The goal is to make a single-track vehicle for US expeditionary and special forces that will be nearly silent in operation, yet also capable of traveling long distances. Details on the proposed machine are light, of course, but it sounds like the 2WD dirt bike will be based off the BRD RedShift MX (shown above), and use an electric drivetrain, as well as a multi-fuel internal combustion engine to achieve its goals.

Colin Edwards Will Retire from Racing after 2014 Season

Announcing his decision during the pre-event press conference for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, Colin Edwards told the assembled press that 2014 would be the Texan’s last season racing a motorcycle. Citing a lack of improvement on his performance in pre-season testing and at the Qatar GP, Edwards decision perhaps answers the lingering question in the paddock of when the American rider would hang-up his spurs after an illustrious career in AMA, WSBK and MotoGP. Talking about his inability to come to terms with the Forward Yamaha, which Aleix Espargaro was able to take to the front of the pack in Qatar, Edwards was at a loss when it came to understanding the Open Class machine and his lack of results.

MSF Updates Its Basic RiderCourse Curriculum

It is no surprise that statistics from the NHTSA show that motorcycle accidents and injuries are on the rise. According to the 2012 Motor Vehicle Crash report published by the NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities for that year rose to 4,957, up seven percent from 2011, while injuries increased 15% to 93,000. While the NHTSA statistics are misleading because the motorcycle category includes mopeds, scooters, three-wheelers, pocket bikes, mini bikes, and off-road vehicles, new riders need every advantage they can afford. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has taken notice of these statistics and has revised the curriculum for its Basic RiderCourse to include a new Basic eCourse, which students will take prior to in-person instruction.

Yamaha Trademarks “R1S” & “R1M” at USPTO – “YZF-R1M” Trademarked Abroad – But Why?

Are new Yamaha YZF-R1 models coming down the pipe? That’s the question being asked after trademark filings in the US and abroad tipped off Yamaha Motor’s intention to use “R1S”, “R1M”, and “YZF-R1M” for motorcycle, scooter, and three-wheeled purposes. The filings are being taken as hints towards a possible multiple trim levels of the Yamaha YZF-R1 superbike, with the “S” and “M” designations being different spec machines than the current base model. The “S” nomenclature is a popular one in the two and four-wheeled world, though “M” would certainly be a novel designation, outside of say…BMW.

Bell & COTA Create Texas-Themed Limited-Edition Helmet

Continuing its theme of making limited-edition helmets for premier-class US rounds, Bell Helmets has teamed up with the Circuit of the Americas and Chris Wood, of Airtrix, to create a Texas-themed Bell Star Carbon helmet, just in time for COTA’s MotoGP race next weekend. Available only until April 13th, the Bell/COTA helmet features a red, white, and blue flag motif on the front, with both the American and State of Texas flags visible, which then wrap around the rear to merge with a hardwood design, reminiscent of the floorboards in a Western saloon. The helmet is also crowned with a Longhorn cattle skull, which adds to the Texan motif. The specially designed helmet also features a horseshoe, the COTA logo, and the 2014 Red Bull MotoGP of The Americas logo.

Aprilia Mounting a Return to MotoGP in 2016

Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012. How different the situation looks today. In a recent interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.

Rossi, Ducati, & Yamaha: And The Winner is…

08/17/2012 @ 7:20 am, by David Emmett23 COMMENTS

Rossi, Ducati, & Yamaha: And The Winner is... Valentino Rossi Ducati Corse MotoGP 635x423

So what are we to make of Valentino Rossi’s not-so-shocking decision to leave Ducati and go back to Yamaha? The initial reaction from fans and media was that the biggest losers from the move are Ducati as a manufacturer, and Rossi’s reputation as miracle worker when it comes to bike development. There is some merit in both those arguments, but perhaps it is not quite so clear cut as that. Rossi’s two years at Ducati have done a lot of damage to both parties – as well as to MotoGP’s popularity and TV income – but in the end, this move could have some very positive long-term repercussions.

Kissing A Frog

Valentino Rossi’s honeymoon period with the Ducati lasted just a few laps. From the very beginning, Rossi realized that this was not the bike he had been expecting. The bike had no front-end feel, an excessively aggressive power delivery and a seating position that would not allow him to shift his weight as he needed. Three days after finishing third in the race at Valencia, Rossi ended the test 1.7 seconds slower than Casey Stoner, the man whose bike he was now riding. Rossi looked stiff and awkward, a shadow of the rider he was a few days earlier on the Yamaha.

After shoulder surgery and development over the winter, Rossi was not much faster. At the final test ahead of the season opener at Qatar, he was 1.4 behind the leader, Casey Stoner. In the 14 months since then, the gap has been roughly halved, but Rossi on the Ducati is still some seven or eight tenths behind the leaders, and looking only marginally less stiff, awkward, and uncomfortable than he did back in November 2010. On a good day, he finishes 6th, telling reporters “this is our potential.”

Rossi on a Ducati has been a failure. Despite a switch of bikes in the middle of last year, the dropping of the carbon fiber in favor of aluminium and the switch from the frameless subchassis design to a full twin spar, Rossi’s results on the Desmosedici remain fundamentally the same: a long way from the podium, battling with the satellite Hondas and hoping to catch the satellite Yamahas. For a factory rider on a factory bike in MotoGP, that is simply not good enough.

An Existential Crisis

Rossi’s reputation of being able to win on inferior equipment did not last his first year at Ducati. After winning his first race on the Yamaha M1 – widely regarded as no match for Honda’s mighty RC211V – in 2004, Rossi’s abilities became the stuff of legend. So why could he not do on the Ducati what he had been so clearly able to do on the Yamaha?

The answer is that not all inferior machinery is the same. The problem of the 2004 Yamaha M1 was mainly a lack of power, the bike being well down on the output of the Honda. But the front end of the bike was fundamentally sound, as Yamaha’s design philosophy always been focused on building motorcycles which handled sweetly. Using his fearsome talent on the brakes, and ability to switch lines through the corners, Rossi was able to overcome the lack of power and exploit the strengths of the Yamaha. Those strengths would bring him four world titles.

The Ducati’s strengths lay elsewhere: high horsepower and slippery aerodynamics had always given the bike a top speed advantage – an advantage it still holds to this day – but the task of manhandling the bike through the corners was very much left up to the rider. Without a strong front end to rely on Rossi was lost, scratching around for ways to compensate. Robbed of his strongest weapon, Rossi was simply losing too much ground on corner entry, then struggling again on the exit as the bike ran wide. Where once he had a grenade he could toss into the mix as he stalked his opponents, now he found himself carrying a knife into a gunfight.

The comparisons with Casey Stoner were inevitable, and justified. Stoner won three of his last six races on the Ducati in 2010. On the bike that was basically only slightly changed from the one that the Australian had left behind, Rossi was over a second off the pace. Where Stoner had found a way to ride the Ducati – based on his blind faith in the front Bridgestone tire, a faith that was sorely tested in his final season with the Bologna factory, crashing frequently in the first half of the year – Rossi could not, and struggled badly. That was the first strike against Rossi’s name.

A Little Bit Of History Repeating

But Rossi is not the only rider to have struggled on the Ducati. A recent article on GPOne.com compared Rossi’s two seasons on the bike to the first two seasons of every other rider to race in the Ducati factory team. With the exception of Stoner, every rider has underperformed, the only time Ducati having had any real success is once the factory switched to Bridgestone tires and had them custom built to their own spec. Those tires helped compensate for the Ducati’s lack of front-end feel, giving their riders a fighting chance of competing. Once the spec tire was introduced, and Bridgestone had to build a tire that met everyone’s requirements, Ducati lost out, and it showed in the results.

After his first devastating championship win in 2007, Stoner won fewer and fewer races each season. In 2008, Bridgestone was building tires for Rossi’s Yamaha as well as Stoner’s Ducati, and the Australian started to suffer the first of what would be an ever-growing list of inexplicable front-end crashes. By 2010, his last season on the bike, and the second season of the spec Bridgestones, it took Stoner and his crew two-thirds of a season to find a setting for the bike that worked. The man who was once deemed invincible on the bike was going backwards, and had decided it was time to go.

His reasons for leaving were basically the same as the ones that Rossi has for leaving now. The bike that Ducati starts the season with is more or less the bike that they finish the season on – the honorable exception being 2011, when they brought two updated chassis through the season. And this brings us to the other big loser in the affair, the iconic Italian brand itself. The press release announcing Rossi’s departure spoke of racing being in Ducati’s DNA; an employee of Yamaha once put it to me that while Yamaha go racing to help sell bikes, Ducati sell bikes so they can afford to go racing. They are famed for taking original and innovative approaches to problem-solving, and building stunningly beautiful high-performance racing machines.

The problem is that without the combination of the idiosyncratic genius of Casey Stoner and a special tire to help, those original and innovative ideas are simply not competitive. The spec tire allows only a single solution to create grip at the front of the bike, and provide usable feedback to the rider. The manufacturers are forced into a design straitjacket, allowing only limited freedom of movement around the central requirements imposed by the spec tire. Ducati’s original and innovative ideas become worthless, and they need to build a new bike from scratch, one that is much more conventional.

Dogma vs. Pragma

The unwillingness to accept the need for change has been Ducati’s biggest obstacle to progress. Though Casey Stoner continually asked for changes – one change in particular, which infuriatingly, the Australian refuses to reveal to this day – Ducati saw he was winning races and was in no rush to give in to his demands. Marco Melandri came and went, and his results were put down to a failure on the part of the Italian to adapt. When Rossi came, a man whose talent was above question, acceptance was slow to come. A quick fix was attempted, shortening the stroke of the bike Ducati originally intended to race in 2012 and handing it to Rossi at Assen in 2011.

More changes came in the shape of a modified chassis, and for 2012, a switch to a twin spar frame. Other modifications have come, but at a glacial pace. Fork bottoms, steering head inserts, triple clamps; all changes, but mostly tinkering in the margins, rather than a fundamental reappraisal of the motorcycle itself. The design philosophy has remained the same: at heart, the Ducati Desmosedici is still an extremely powerful engine with a selection of parts to connect the engine to the wheels.

When it suited his purposes, Valentino Rossi did not shy away from pointing out Ducati’s lack of progress. His outbursts were rare, but carefully timed and even more carefully choreographed, with players inside Rossi’s inner circle testing the waters with the Italian media beforehand. The harsh criticisms were always uttered strategically, and to the audiences which would have the most effect, Rossi attempting to force Ducati’s hand.

When updates were still slow to come, fans were quick to blame Ducati, with good reason. The criticism was harsh, and perhaps not entirely deserved. Ducati was working hard to try to fix the problem, with the staff sacrificing weekends and vacations to design, test, and fabricate new parts. The trouble was, the new parts were built around the old philosophy; they were at best just bandages, when major surgery was required.

Change Is Gonna Come

The irony is that Rossi elected to leave just as such major surgery – or at least, faster updates – may become possible. Audi completed the acquisition of Ducati between the Mugello and Laguna Seca rounds of MotoGP, and the German car giant is expected to provide a major boost to the speed of development. Not so much in terms of design – Audi are resolutely a car company, with no direct experience of motorcycle design – but they do have valuable experience of rapid prototyping and parts production. Audi take their racing very, very seriously, as their victories at the Le Mans 24 hour race have proven. Though no changes will come in the very short term, Audi are sure to want to take a very close look at the Ducati Corse engineering process, and streamline it. This won’t help for the 2012 season, but the pace of progress should start to improve some time next season.

That came too late for Rossi. At 33 years of age, the Italian knows that his time in MotoGP is limited. Two, possibly three more seasons are all that Rossi has at the very highest level before the competition from Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Pol Espargaro, and who knows, maybe even Maverick Viñales starts to get just beyond his reach. Two winless seasons have been too much for the Italian, and facing an uncertain outcome at Ducati – despite assurances from the very top level of Audi management of their commitment to MotoGP – he caved in and took the option to return to Yamaha.

Reactions are mixed to the move. Overwhelmingly, there is a sense of relief from his fans, who believe – with some justification – that he will soon be back battling at the front on the Yamaha, the bike that still suits his strongest points, braking and corner entry. However, there is also a sizable contingent, even among his most hardcore fans, who cannot hide their disappointment. Rossi relishes a challenge, of that there can be no doubt, as the title of his autobiography What If I Had Never Tried It underlines. But for the first time, he is giving up, surrendering, and walking away. The challenge has proved a bridge too far this time, and he no longer has the luxury of time to try to turn this one around.

That, perhaps, will be the most damaging part of Rossi’s return to Yamaha. Dennis Noyes called the decision to abandon the challenge of the Ducati for the guarantee of a winning Yamaha “the racer’s choice,” and that it surely is. Racers, like all professional athletes, do not compete to make up the numbers; their motivation is to compete at the highest level, doing all that they can, sacrificing much more than even the most committed fan can conceive, just to give themselves the best possible chance of winning. But to many, Rossi was more than just a racer; for millions of fans around the world, Rossi was a hero. Leaving Ducati with the job undone is not a hero’s choice, and Rossi’s image around the world – and perhaps his self-image – will be tarnished because of it.

Wiping The Slate

Such doubts will more than likely quickly be dispelled after Valencia. Once Rossi goes from the Ducati to the Yamaha, he should undergo a reverse of the metamorphosis which saw him transmogrify from butterfly to caterpillar two years ago. Jumping off the Ducati, which has seen him kept trapped, stiff as a chrysalis, he will once again hope to find the wings which carried him to four world championships.

His prospects are good; his form in the rain indicates that he has lost little of both the desire and the ability which made him such a fierce competitor. Where in the dry, Rossi looks like an impostor stole his leathers and is trying to fake his way around the track, once the track is wet, the Italian returns in all his glory. It is no coincidence that both of Rossi’s podiums were secured in the wet; his confidence returned and his ability had only been masked by the weak front end of the Ducati.

Rossi’s objective, a return to winning races, looks eminently achievable. The last time he was on a Yamaha, he was winning regularly and challenging for championships, despite injuries and accidents. Rossi on a Yamaha was something very special indeed, his style meshing perfectly with the bike he led the development of for so long. The bike plays to Rossi’s strengths, and the Italian has shown time and time again that he can ruthlessly exploit those strengths to pull out some remarkable victories. On a Yamaha, you could never count Valentino Rossi out, and there is plenty to suggest that will still be true upon his return.

Since Rossi left Yamaha, the bike has got even better, if anything, but another MotoGP title will not be so easy to come by. Jorge Lorenzo is two years’ older and has two years more experience than when Rossi left at the end of 2010. What’s more, he has faced Casey Stoner on a Honda, an experience which raised the Spaniard’s riding to its current stellar levels. So far this season, when he wasn’t being knocked off in the first corner by fellow Spaniard Alvaro Bautista, Lorenzo’s worst finish has been second, with plenty of wins to offset the second-place finishes. Though Casey Stoner will be retired by the time Rossi walks into the Yamaha garage, the Italian will face a more complete rider in Jorge Lorenzo, and the undisputed number one in the team and in the championship. He will have his work cut out for him.

Secondary Benefits

Yamaha, of course, benefits even more from Rossi’s return than the Italian does himself. The house of the tuning forks gets to show its most magnanimous face in welcoming its prodigal Italian son back into the fold. But the balance of power has also shifted much more in Yamaha’s favor since Rossi left, and then decided to return. When Rossi left Yamaha, he took an entourage of some 15 people with him, including crew chief Jeremy Burgess, garage crew, hospitality staff and other helpers. With his return, he will likely be limited to a core group of five or six names, consisting almost solely of his garage crew. His role, too, is clear, as the number two rider behind Lorenzo, though in practice this will only be enforced should the championship come down to the very last race, with a non-Yamaha rider such as Dani Pedrosa still in contention for the title.

More importantly, Rossi will make it much easier for Yamaha to find a title sponsor once again. Though it remains unclear whether Rossi has been asked to bring a sponsor as part of the deal for his return, his very presence in the team makes it much easier to persuade companies to pay out the premium required to be title sponsor in a team which includes Valentino Rossi. After two years of having the factory foot the bill for a large part of the team, Yamaha need the help. Many rumors surround who that sponsor will be – the names of Marlboro, Coca Cola, San Carlo and Monster have been bandied about, though only the latter appears to have much credence – with little concrete information emerging. The chances of Yamaha racing in corporate colors again next season are fairly slim, however.

To The Victor, The Spoils

If need be, Dorna may even move in to help fund Rossi’s transition to Yamaha. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta’s statement at the Valencia Formula One GP that Rossi would be ‘on a competitive bike’ in 2013 immediately set the alarm bells ringing among the conspiracy theorists, and while it seems unlikely that Ezpeleta can persuade both Rossi and Yamaha to accept the deal against their will, it is clear that Rossi’s return to the Iwata factory is a massive boost for Dorna’s prospects. Viewing figures have dropped off as Rossi has struggled, especially in Italy, one of the two key markets for MotoGP. Having Rossi running round at the back of the field was an expensive business for Dorna, especially when it came time to renew TV contracts. With Rossi back on a Yamaha, and expected to be racing at the front once again, TV audiences should receive a big boost.

This dependence on Rossi is a huge risk factor for Dorna, and they know it. Rossi is a genuine superstar, a racer who transcends the sport he competes in, just as Muhammad Ali was in boxing, or Tiger Woods was in golf, or Michael Jordan in basketball. Rossi has captured the imagination of the casual fan, those who love sports, but not necessarily the sport of motorcycle racing. This audience is much, much bigger than the hard core of racing fans who will tune in anyway, and determine the size of TV contracts to be awarded. The casual fan needs to be given a reason to tune in, and having a superstar in your series is one very, very good reason to do so. Superstars, however, will only appeal if they are at the front; it is hard to explain to a new fan just why someone is such a phenomenon when he is struggling in mid-pack.

Without its marketing superstar Rossi, Dorna is in real trouble. They need to have something to maintain the popularity of the sport once Rossi inevitably retires in a few years’ time. Hoping for another rider to take up Rossi’s mantle of popular appeal is a vain and futile exercise: Rossi is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, the previous man to have his appeal outside of the sport probably being Barry Sheene. Superstars cannot be created, at least not in a sport as niche as motorcycle racing. And so Dorna need something else to take its place.

Bread And Circuses

Two factors can help to keep the casual fans from departing the sport, things which every sport tries to generate. The first is a local hero to cheer for – and by local, I mean local to the audience you are pursuing, which in this case means Europe, the USA, and Asia – and the second is a spectacle to keep the fans entertained. Both of these goals are being actively pursued by Dorna, though neither is simple to implement.

The utter dominance of Spanish riders, highlighted so shockingly at Mugello, where the qualifying press conference consisted entirely of Spaniards, with the polesitters in all three classes plus the entire front row of MotoGP racing on a Spanish passport, is very close to its peak. Despite the wealth of Spanish talent coming up through the ranks – Pol Espargaro, Marc Marquez, Maverick Viñales, to name but a few – the combination of the Red Bull Rookies and expanded national programs are starting to pay off.

In the next five years or so, there are riders from Britain, Germany, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Italy, Malaysia, France, Australia, Austria and the Netherlands expected to make their mark at the Grand Prix, with many more to follow. The Italian federation has expanded its program, as has the Netherlands, where racing is very much a niche sport despite former glories. Czech Rider Karel Hanika is tipped by many as being the most talented rider to pass through the Rookies program in years. Given a little time, soon there will be a much, much wider variety of nationalities in any given MotoGP race, enough to suit most markets.

Having a wide spread of nationalities is all well and good, but if the races are decided in the first 5 laps, then there is nothing to keep the audience watching. The excitement has seeped from the races as the rules pushed through by the manufacturers – the switch to 800cc and the fuel restrictions being the main culprits – have placed their stamp on the racing. The end of tire competition and especially the demise of the qualifying tire have made things even worse, cutting costs but at the same time meaning that riders finish the race more or less in the order they qualified. Without a spectacle, Dorna has no product to sell.

Room For Maneuver

And so Dorna have seized back the imperative. The agreement with the manufacturers giving them a monopoly over the technical regulations has been allowed to lapse, and Dorna is pushing through a long-term strategy to give them more control over the technical level of the machines. The switch to 1000cc was the first step in that process, as was the request to Bridgestone for softer tires. The next step is the imposition of a rev limit and a spec ECU, but these cannot simply be imposed directly after one major change in the technical regulations. It cost Honda, Yamaha and Ducati a lot of money to design their new 1000cc bikes, and having a 15,000 RPM rev limit and a spec ECU with restrictions on electronic capabilities would require them to build a completely different bike. A lower rev limit means finding different ways to maximize horsepower, while depending on the options available with a spec ECU, it could require a completely different engine characteristic.

For the past 6 months, Dorna and the MSMA have been locked in negotiations over when to introduce these changes. Dorna wanted the changes in 2014, but Honda, in particular, has issued vague threats over leaving the series if they are pushed through before 2015, claiming they cannot afford to make more changes to their bikes so short after the last switch. With Rossi on a Ducati, Dorna needed the spectacle to return as soon as possible, but with Rossi on a Yamaha for at least the next two years, and challenging for wins, they hope, then Dorna has a little leeway, and can hold off until 2015. Rossi can be relied upon to entertain the crowds in the intervening period, until the performance of the bikes can be balanced sufficiently to make the racing a little closer, and hold the interest of the casual fans once he departs for pastures new.

Dorna and the MSMA should now be able to reach an agreement more quickly, with the extra breathing space affording Dorna room to wait another year. The earlier the agreement, the better it is for all concerned, as both Suzuki and BMW are waiting in the wings for a stable rules package before taking the plunge to enter MotoGP. The spec ECU, in particular, has been a sticking point, and knowing the capabilities of that will be a key factor for the development of their engines. More manufacturers in the series helps in many ways, providing more competitive seats for riders to take, strengthening the series once again. That helps Dorna hugely, dovetailing nicely with the wider range of nationalities. After all, it’s no good having, say, a top South African rider if there’s nowhere competitive for him to race.

Everyone’s A Winner

Overall, the return of Rossi to Yamaha is a positive move for all concerned. Valentino Rossi gets a chance to redeem himself by proving that he can still race competitively, and help to wipe away the memory of two bad years on the Ducati. Yamaha gain a top rider, are likely to secure a title sponsor and are looking the hot favorites for the triple crown of rider, team and manufacturer titles next year. Even Ducati benefits, returning to the role of underdog, of a small company battling against the Japanese giants, and can focus on developing the bike without the million-watt spotlight of public attention that Rossi’s presence in the garage ensured. Rossi’s departure even makes it easier for the man brave enough to take his place at the Bologna factory: if Andrea Dovizioso (as it is almost certain to be) struggles, then he has merely suffered the fate of everyone except Casey Stoner at the factory. If he succeeds, then he will have done better than the legendary Valentino Rossi.

But the biggest winners of all out of this are Dorna, the commercial rights holders to the series. They get their superstar rider back racing at the front, giving them time to formulate a strategy for when he finally leaves the sport for good. Many will claim that they pushed for this result as soon as it became apparent that the marriage Valentino Rossi and Ducati was doomed to failure. Whether they were instrumental in making it happen or not, it is clear this was their desired outcome. Those conspiracy theorists who despise the role they believe Dorna plays behind the scenes in manipulating the outcome will be livid at Rossi’s return. But for most fans, they simply won’t care. All they want to see if Valentino Rossi mixing it up at the front again, and they are prepared to forgive him the act of hubris that saw him jump to Ducati. By the time Qatar rolls around next year, all will be forgiven, if not quite completely forgotten.

Source: Ducati Corse

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

Comment:

  1. TRL says:

    Tail wags the dog.

    GP is where the future is supposed to be born. As long as the spec tire stays, development will be stifled and can only move in one direction. How many opportunities for advancement, as a consequence of trying to solve the Ducs problems, on many fronts, lost, because of the spec tire. Could anyone have been faster with the Duc package and a different tire? We will never know.

    Imagine developing airplanes and telling everyone they can only use one wing design.

    Stupid.

  2. tonestar says:

    i agree with trl. gp is suppossed to be about unlimited development, pure prototypes, can’t buy it on the showroom floor, blah blah blah. one make of tire was bad enough, now they’re considering one type ecu. have to agree with colin edwards here- they should let the teams run whatever the hell they want.

    i don’t blame casey one bit for retiring, or vale one bit for the yamaha redux. it’s like dorna’s trying to make the whole thing as boring as it can possible be. has anyone actually been watching gp lately? whoever gets to the first corner fastest wins! i sure hope they don’t fuck up my beloved wsbks like this…

  3. Dc4go says:

    Ducati should get their money back from Rossi complete waste of time and money..

  4. Jonathan says:

    Excellent and thoughtful write-up – thanks David. TRL and tonestar make very good points too.

    Do spec components actually reduce costs? Not if those specs are at odds with your own design philosophy / skills. So do you:

    a) Toss your design philosophy out of the window and copy the other guys (incurring huge expenses at the same time)?

    Or:

    b) Spend all of your budget (and more) trying to make it work your way?

    And who decides on the spec? And how independent are they? It’s hard to ignore what the big guns want. It’s also easy to blame Ducati for a lack of progress, but perhaps they’re doing it their way because that’s all they know and they’re (maybe financially) unwilling / unable to make a copy of a vanilla Japanese competition bike. As a Brit I salute the maverick underdog (even if I hate the race results)!

  5. Steve says:

    “The spec tire allows only a single solution to create grip at the front of the bike, and provide usable feedback to the rider. The manufacturers are forced into a design straitjacket, allowing only limited freedom of movement around the central requirements imposed by the spec tire. Ducati’s original and innovative ideas become worthless, and they need to build a new bike from scratch, one that is much more conventional.”

    Isn’t this supposed to be a prototype series??

    Now, who has more leverage to influence Bridgestone?!

  6. +1 on the tire restriction. Few things are worse and contradictory than the spec tire in prototype class.

  7. Viceroy_Fizzlebottom says:

    It’s all a matter of resources. Ducati is an absolutely tiny company compared to the likes of Honda and Yamaha. It’s not David vs Goliath. It’s an ant-hill vs Galactus. Honda probably employs more engineers in their lawnmower division than Ducati has total employees. It probably takes Honda and Yamaha days to manufacture new parts where it probably takes Ducati weeks to months to manufacture new parts. Ducati just doesn’t have the manufacturing capabilities that the Japanese do.

    The fact that Ducati was able to win races let alone a World Championship given the resources they have is a MIRACLE. Does anyone else remember Cagiva in the 500cc days? It took them over 20 YEARS to get a single victory (John Koczinski @ Laguna Seca) Hell they even brought in 4x GP Champion Eddie Lawson, who is considered on of the greatest development riders of all time to race for them and the best he could do was 3rd.

    If you’re not on a Yamaha or a Honda (Suzuki manages to get a championship here and there) you can pretty much forget about a World Championship. It’s true now and has been true (for the most part) for the past 30 years of GP racing.

  8. Crsh&Brn says:

    Great write up!

    If the main purpose of the spec tire was to save money, it obviously hasn’t worked very well for Ducati. It probably would have been cheaper for Ducati to pay a “premium” for tires that worked with their bikes. What could Rossi have done on a Ducati with tires similar to what Stoner had in 2007?

  9. Westward says:

    @ Viceroy_Fizzlebottom

    “- Ducati just doesn’t have the manufacturing capabilities that the Japanese do.”

    That is where Audi & Co. come in. Have you not read the article. They don’t need to know anything about motorcycles. All Ducati has to do is give them the designs and Audi’s resources could manufacture them as fast and effective as any Japanese company.

    As for Suzuki, they would not have had the 93′ title if not for Rainey’s accident. In 2001 was probably more of the issue of the pilot than the bike. The only other pilot to not finish less races than KR2 was Laconi who was 152 point down…

  10. MikeD says:

    @DC4GO:

    ROTFLMAO. Careful there, the VR46 Nazi Squad will come at night and drag u away to never heard about you again.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Dorna has made A JOKE and A F-ing DRAMA/SOAP OPERA of the series. From the spec tires to no more than 4 cyl, locked bore x stroke measures, future spec ECU ?, ARTs , CRTs…u mention it…they do it or WILL.
    I hope more manufacturers drop out of the series and get full swing with WSBK.
    Trying to bring cost and bring PARITY to the field ? F-that. If u can’t stand the heat stay OUT of the kitchen…

    Prototypes ? What F-ing Prototypes ? In not time it will be like watching 2-Wheeled NASCAR. F-that.

  11. dc4go says:

    Hey guys I like Rossi and I admire Stoners’ riding ability a lot but I have to say Rossi talked a lot of smack about Stoner and wasn’t able to back it up… Rossi going back to Yamaha is a huge positive for Motogp and Ducati… Really think Ducati went a little backwards these past two years so much so that the GP 12 doesn’t even look like a Duc anymore.. P.s remember I like Rossi just think he didn’t pull it off that’s all….

  12. dc4go says:

    I used to stay up waiting for MotoGp to come on but lately I just record it racing sucks, riders are all too cool for school, dorna rules blow and most importantly miss Superc Sic making passes a 6 footer should be making…. next year 10 prototypes?? :/

  13. Steve Lang says:

    Good job Dave!

    I was wondering about the timeliness of Spies leaving Yamaha and Rossi taking his ride…I get the feeling there may be more to this story……

  14. Joey Wilson says:

    I believe the real shoe waiting to drop on this is Honda’s decision to sell ‘Customer’ RCV’s and Yamaha’s decision to lease ‘Customer’ M1′s, all these for other-than-satellite teams.

    This will end the CRT experiment, which so far has been an even bigger failure than the Rossi/Ducati train-wreck. It will expand the count of prototype bikes, and could postpone the ECU/rev limit implementation.

    If it could build to the point similar to the old days when you could buy/race a 500 Honda, an RG Suzi, etc., this could be a huge development.

  15. Ugo Sugo says:

    I believe that the main asset of Stoner is his ability to trust the electronics. Which in modern motorcycling is a quality in itself. The main reason why no other rider has been able to win on a Ducati in recent years is this inability to make that leap of faith, as testified by Melandri in an interview a few years back. While the acrobatic riding of Stoner is a consequence of that (remember when he was crashing a lot in the early days of electronic development?) either on a Ducati or a Honda.
    Concerning the tyres, I support the one manufacturer solution. Maybe you forgot the year when the winner was decided not by the rider/motorbike duo but by whether you had Michelin or Bridgestone (most of the times) tyres. And as Clarckson said: it is difficult to make tyres sound exciting

  16. Ben says:

    Another David Emmett Love Letter to his Valentine-o.

  17. “I hope more manufacturers drop out of the series and get full swing with WSBK.”

    I sincerely hope not. With WSBK seemingly too uninterested in promoting their own series to even bother with putting the magazine on their site after a race — let alone full practices, qualifying and full races — there’s nothing there for me to watch here in Japan. At least MotoGP offers subscriptions that enable me to watch every race of the last 20 years. That’s huge. Absolutely huge for me.

    As for others complaining about spec tires and spec ECUs, I wonder if anybody would have the temerity to call the 2012 F1 season “boring and not representative of a proper prototype series”. The spec Pirelli tires have proven to be a great part of the show this season, and the spec ECU provides no particular problems for anybody. You want to talk prototype development? McLaren build their entire suspension components in-house. No off-the-shelf Ohlins or Showa forks and shocks and the like. They do it all. And the first 7 races had 7 different winners. Nail-biting stuff!

    Blaming the tires or other series regulations on Ducati’s poor performance woefully misses the point: Ducati built an unruly and mostly unridable bike. Even the gentlemanly Nicky Hayden let loose a slip of the tongue during the Thursday press conference saying that making mistakes on the Duc was amplified 2x compared to Japanese bikes.

  18. Pete says:

    Great article.

    No offense to Ducati if they couldn’t support a rider like Rossi they should have never signed him. They were responsible to give him the bike that would help him win.

    Rossi bit off more than he could chew, serves him right for being jealous of Lorenzo. Understandibly sure, he didn’t think Lorenzo could hold his own with out Rossi’s bike input. but the whole thing has come back to bite him. It all sucks for him and sucks for us as fans. I agree I hate seeing him walk away from this without conquering the bike. But how long can you go knocking your head into a wall, if they can’t / won’t give him what he wants his hands are tied. Would you rather be a winner, or just one of the pack.

    I’m very excited, Rossi on a new bike and lots of young talent hopefully are going to make this ’13 season one to remember. Cause this one is a snoozefest.

  19. paulus says:

    Rossi didnt earn his money. Ducati lost….
    No, Ducati buyers lost. Somebody has to pay for all the cost.

  20. Ryan says:

    @paulus, I don’t think you quite have the economics of Ducati (or anything?) nailed down, but good try. I’ll politely put it as, “I don’t think Ducati would over extend themeselves in MotoGP with hopes of future consumer sales recovering those losses”.

  21. Paul B says:

    Thanks you for pointing out the fact which all Stoner fans neglect or simply dont know about. Stoner won in 2007 on the Ducati because he had custom tyres made for him alone by Bridgestone giving him a massive advantage (so big that Rossi and Pedrosa swapped to Bridgestone also).

    Great article. Thanks

  22. MikeD says:

    @Paul B:

    It’s no ADVANTAGE if the others were able to do it too…(^_^)

  23. Gilberto says:

    Spec tyres, spec ecu, rev limiter… doesn’t sound very prototype at all. Although, I can close an eye on tyres as a cost saving measure and to avoid conflicts of interest from Bridgestone or whomever the tyre manufacturer may be in the future. The tyre game has seemingly improved the “spectacle” of F1 of late, a comparison that perhaps Dorna can make for justification. Presumably, all bikes are powered by a “spec” race fuel and therefore, it is the task of engine designers and ecu programmers to make the most effective combustion from that go juice. Which is why moving to a spec ecu and rev limiter changes the fundamental, motor design elements blah, blah, blah. The tyres, although a fundamental part of the bike themselves, shouldn’t be made specific for each bike/rider just as the fuel shouldn’t be tampered with to get the most out of the engine. I’m actually putting my foot in my mouth here because as such an integral part of the motorcycle, custom tyres do make for better performance. My only fear, and perhaps Dorna’s as well, is that the teams with the most money would gallop to victory alla Ferrari 1999-2005 days, thus further reducing the spectacle that is MotoGP.