Photo of the Week: Déjà Vu All Over Again

04/10/2012 @ 5:46 pm, by Scott Jones24 COMMENTS

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 blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

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

  • JW

    Or is his ambition outweighing his talent..

  • He’s not called “Stoner the moaner” without reason.

  • Bryan

    From all his seasons, he has been a pretty bloody good judge of how things are going. If things are not great, he rides around them (known as 5 years with Ducati). But it’s his attribute to go out for a lap, come in, get a change, go out and set a blinding lap, come in, adjust a bit, go out, set a blinding lap. Time and time again he’ll do a sighting lap, do half a flying lap and then back off and come in ‘cos he knows its not spot on. He has instinctual feel for what is there, and what is needed, no mucking around. I would be trusting him.
    Those who ride know what it’s like to have a fricken annoying ‘rattle’ that just won’t go away, and you can’t get it out of your head, bike works great but just can’t ignore it. Try this at ridiculous speeds, at ridiculous lean angles, massive chatter, and with a perfectionist like Stoner, bike works great but real unpleasant. I’d want it sorted.

  • Shawn

    Don’t forget the cultural divide between Japan (Honda) and everyone else. Honda is particularly notorious about wanting to save face, so it is very unusual to get the Honda brass to even acknowledge that a problem exists, especially is the rider is acceptably fast in spite of the problem.

    Stoner is in a very precarious spot. If he continues to be a front-runner, then Honda executives – keen to never be “disonored” by bad reports – will ignore the problem because the ego cost is too high. If he sandbags on purpose to illustrate a point, then he will face the wrath of those same execs for “making them (Honda) look bad”.

    “Team” means different things in Japan than it does in other countries. In European and American teams, it means that everyone has valuable input to offer, and the riders’ opinions are taken very seriously because they’re the ones actually riding the bike. In Japanese culture, “team” means something more analogous to “following the script”, where everyone has a role to play in something like a Broadway production, and is expected to not deviate from the script.

    I suspect that Stoner will end up leaving in another season or two. Honda (as a corporate culture) is supremely arrogant in their beliefs of superiority, and the only riders who can do well at Honda in the long-term are ones who change their style to the bike and keep their mouth shut.

  • “Stoner the Moaner?” Nah, more like a racer who can’t be bothered to play politics and constantly talk about how awesome his team is when he’s frustrated as hell with them. He’s not a back marker claiming he’d podium if it weren’t for the problems with the bike. He’s leading the qualifiers. He’s well within his rights to be upset that his team is telling him he’s fine when he knows he’s putting himself in danger. Sure, it doesn’t give the public a warm hug from a pile of kittens, but he’s a racer not a PR rep. I think it’s time Stoner started getting some credit from the public for not just his skill, but what is becoming more and more apparent as his honesty throughout his career.

  • john

    “I think it’s time Stoner started getting some credit from the public for not just his skill, but what is becoming more and more apparent as his honesty throughout his career.”

    and honestly… i believe that lorenzo is going to be ahead of casey in points at the end of the season. chatter or no chatter.

  • Dr. Gellar

    I’d rather have Stoner on my team any day over the egotistical clown that is Valentino Rossi.

    JW…Stoner’s line you’re so cutely referencing regarding Rossi’s desperation that fateful day was not only appropriate, but is probably the best quote in recent MotoGP history. Right there with Stoner isn’t riding the bike hard enough and ooooooh, we’ll fix the Ducati in 80 seconds….

  • Bryan

    The Rossi fans STILL bringing that comment up? Failing to recognise just how astronomically right it turned out to be. Rossi’s talent failed his ambition, and now his ambition seems to be bad mouthing a great motorcycling factory. Shame his tact has failed him as well.
    Stoner on my team any day. Rossi is the only modern day champion (Rainey, Schwantz, Doohan, Criville, Roberts, Stoner, Lorenzo) who gives a ‘real’ hoot about fame and popularity. All of which are quickly fleeting. He lifted Motorcycle racing in his day, now he is weighing it down.

  • MikeD

    OK, WTF is this CHATTER thing people keep just babbling about EVERYWHERE ? Anyone ?
    Sorry, im no racer…don’t have a friggin clue the hell everyone is talking about.

    And FWIW, i would take Stoner any day over any of the other racers.
    I have loads of respect for anyone who can ride an “illed” bike when none of the other could or can…and win on it from time to time to add insult to injury. LOL.

  • Bryan

    By the way…Brilliant Photo Scott.

  • 76

    “In Japanese culture, “team” means something more analogous to “following the script”, where everyone has a role to play in something like a Broadway production, and is expected to not deviate from the script.”

    Sounds like Shawn has worked for Honda maybe, not following the script internally, a big no no, in public, unforgivable

  • jamesy

    Not to disparage his incredible talent “at all” but much of Rossi’s success can be traced to the pragmatic engineering genius of one Mr. J. Burgess. Yamaha sucked up his advice like a hot gravy sandwich, Ducati maybe not so much???

  • jamesy

    @ Mike D
    I’d describe chatter as the mechanical oscillation in a lateral plane (across the wheels rollin axis). Everything bends, even rock. The rate at which it bends determines the frequency of the oscillation when acted upon by the various forces affecting a racing machine. These are much more noticeable and pronounced on a moto due to only having 2 tires to contact the pavement.
    Imagine the frame as being in effect a big spring. It must allow for flex because when the bike is layed over at acute angles to the pavement the up and down movements of the suspension components arent in line with the forces acting on the bike; ergo a bit of twist becomes your new suspension. With the incredible amount of grip given by today’s tires and the huge speeds and forces generated by 250hp engines, something has to give and it takes the form of chassis lateral oscillation… or chatter.
    I’m sure someone might give a better explanation but it’ll be around those mechanical factors

  • jamesy

    Oh, and if anyone would like to see a very graphic depiction of chatter and frame oscillation, get ahold of some Kevin Schwantz footage riding that old “Gamma” framed Zook RG. Now THOSE were some oscillations. That thing waved like a flag coming off the corners and ole Kev just hung on and kept it pinned…. no traction control whatsoever.
    And now we add traction control which also has ITS OWN set of frequencies that are also pushing/ pulling at the frame and you can see what a bitches brew they have to deal with trying to plan for all of those various and variable forces at once.
    It might be what has Nicky ahead of Vale right now.\; he goes home and rides dirt tracks, he grew up with the rear wheel trying to pass him in the corners… just sayin, could be a factor

  • Dawg

    I always thought chatter was a problem with the front brakes and vibration through the bars. I know stoner was also complaining of arm pump after the race.

    A good way to get something fixed… complain your bike has a problem on worldwide TV!

  • Pooch

    So many people so quick to jump to so many conclusions, we’ve had one race at one track. Perhaps some of you should let a few races come and go before casting your ‘expert’ opinions.

  • Ax1464

    “Chatter” is when the front and/or rear suspension vibrates/oscillates and prevents it from moving smoothly, basically “locking up” the suspension and causing the wheel(s) to skip or “chatter” across the pavement under braking.

  • Adam

    @ Mike D.

    Check out the movie:

    The doctor, the tornado and the Kentucky kid.

    there is a segment in there where Nickey hayden talks about chatter and they show a slow motion shot of a bike experiencing it, I think Colin Edwards also talks about it. they also go on to say that it is a mysterious thing…

    but like others have said it is a vibration felt by the rider during periods of excessive force on the bike.

  • Westward

    I would favour Rossi over any other racer today and twice on Sunday, as long as he was not on top of a Ducati… Fast as Stoner may be, and as smooth as Lorenzo seems, Rossi on either of their bikes would humble them down, like kids in the back seat under threat of no ice cream…

  • jamesy

    AX14 etc has just described what chatter looks/acts like. Its a lot like fingernails on a blackboard or tires squealing. traction is perfect until it isnt then something bends and scoots a bit, (the tire, your nail) producing stick/slip/stick/slip at a frequency determined by its mech properties which you then hear as squealing. The ‘chatter’ is hard to pinpoint because every part of the machine in motion is connected to each other and then the pavement and it all has some mechanical frequency excited by bending forces.

    What is known for sure is that where the traction is far less, so is the chatter. Nobody talks about chatter after the tires have gone off because they are no longer capable of generating enough grip to create the same bending forces to the frame and suspension bits. Hence the factories and tire guys working together to solve it. Go back to crappy old tires and it’ll likely disappear- along with modern lap times.
    And i agree with Westward. Even if Rossi has lost a fraction he’s still the best there ever was- but the young lions are on the prowl, they’ve seen the master hunt and they are emulating!

  • SBPilot

    Chatter is VERY well displayed here @ 22 seconds.
    That’s rear end chatter and almost shook Spies off his bike. Which also is why he did so poorly in the race.

  • MikeD

    Thanks SBPilot, a video(HD non the less) is WORTH A GAZILLION WORDS.
    So… this Shatter, is it only felt under power or does hard braking has similar effects on the front wheels ?
    I more less had an idea with all the verbal descriptions i got on the other replies but that video sure drove a point, LOL.

  • Under power on the rear, on the brakes for the front.

  • As Jensen says, but can also be seen in the front or rear whenever the suspension binds up instead of traveling smoothly throughout its range. As such, you can experience chatter on older bikes, for example, when fork flex binds the forks up and leaves the tire carcass flexing and skittering over surface irregularities. This was most commonly experienced under braking, but high lateral loads could also bring this into play. And for the guys who don’t service their old steeds at appropriate intervals, worn swingarm bushings can cause enough slop to bind the rear suspension in similar fashion.

    Yes, I know we’re discussing racing, but it never hurts to offer a street-oriented analogue.