Photo of the Week: Unmet Expectations

09/19/2011 @ 12:22 pm, by Scott Jones14 COMMENTS

At the MotoGP test in Qatar, the week before the 2011 season opener, all eyes were on Rossi and the GP11. Naively we wondered if he would be able to recreate his magic at Welkom in 2004, and comparisons to Rossi’s move to Yamaha were inevitable. Some in the paddock thought he was in better shape going to Ducati than he had been when he left Honda, after all Casey Stoner had managed to win several times at the end of 2010 on the bike Rossi was taking over, while the pre-Rossi Yamaha was widely considered a mess on two wheels. Burgess’ remarks that he and Rossi would sort the Ducati straight away gave us the impression that the dream team could see what was wrong, and knew at least in theory what to do when they took over Stoner’s ride.

In spite of the problems that had been apparent since the first GP11 test in Valencia the previous November, our faith in the Rossi, Burgess, & Co.’s expertise still had many of us prepared for a strong finish at Losail — expecting Rossi to do at least as well on the GP11 as Stoner had managed on the GP10. “He’ll at least win a few races once he gets the Ducati sorted,” was a common attitude in Qatar.

But we had no idea things would turn out so differently from our early expectations by the time MotoGP arrived at Aragon for the 14th round of 2011. Not only has Rossi failed to win a race, he became the first rider to start from the pit lane after an engine use penalty, the direct result of Ducati’s frantic chase for a bike upon which Rossi could compete. The Greatest of All Time has had the worst season of his career on a bike that began as one Stoner could ride to victory, but which has morphed into something the Australian might not even recognize, now sporting, of all things, aluminum frame parts made by FTR.

Talk from Bologna is that 2011 is a write off, now a long series of tests for 2012’s return to liter engines. If the first 2012-season test at Valencia leaves Rossi and the GP12 still a half second or more behind the Hondas, many of us will have to scratch our heads as how we could’ve been so wrong about the Rossi/Burgess magic back earlier this year at Qatar. We just might wonder if anyone has ever given Casey Stoner the credit he deserves for what he accomplished on the Ducati.

Scott Jones is a professional photographer known for his great action shots and poignant candids when covering MotoGP and WSBK racing events. You may have already seen his work on MotoMatters (they still have more calendars available that feature Scott’s work by the way). Not only do we like Scott’s shots, but he fits right in with our all Nikon-totting office. 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: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • I think Casey said it best in GPone “I am not Rossi but I win”!!!

  • DucatiGuy

    With the benefit of hindsight we can see that when Casey raced the Ducati no other Ducati rider (including former world champions) could come anywhere near him.

    In comparison Valentino has nearly always had other Ducatis ahead of him on the track this season, although his consistency usually wears them down by the end of the race.

    It seems that Stoner has shattered the Rossi aura of invincibility, and also forced the other Honda riders to lift their game. This unassuming young man does not yet get full credit for his amazing achievements.

  • Agreed, seeing what he has done this year really puts last year in perspective. I have a feeling that Rossi might soon see his GOAT threatened by another.

  • idrive23

    We certainly all have been led to believe for years that the JB and team + Rossi have a particular talent for development , however, the Ducati must be vastly different mechanically speaking, to the Japanese machinery for them to have gone virtually backwards all year.
    Looking at the stats for the past 5 years, its clear that JB and co collectively are either not able to communicate effectively with the factory, or the factory are unable to find a way to give the race team, what they seem to want.
    For all of the words written about this subject this year, the one thing that many continue to argue about is a Rossi vs Stoner on a Ducati and, whether or not Rossi is as good as some say.
    For me, a very long time racing fan and sometime racer going back to the 70s, there is no doubt in my mind that Rossi is as good as we have seen him until he came to Ducati and as some commentator said in the last few days, the guy has won 9 world titles, 7 of those in the premiere class and they do not give these out with breakfast cereal.
    In terms of has he lost it or whatever, I have no doubts that despite Stoner and Lorenzo and even Marquez when he arrives in the premiere class, in 2012 or 2013, Rossi, can still win a race any day, any track, wet or dry however, the machinery he has now shows us all, that he cannot ride this bike the way he rode the Aprilia, the Honda or the Yamaha.
    Unless they are all collectively able to figure it out fully, and well, before FP1 Qatar 2012 , I fear that Rossi will end his outrageously amazing , colourful and prolific career the way Melandri and so many other good riders did when they came face to face with Ducati. Perhaps Stoner will go down in history as the only racer ever to master the Ducati and for Ducati, this could be a quick end to their popularity in the racing community anyway.
    JB should probably have kept his mouth shut a bit longer, however, I feel that team is every bit as good as their record indicates and despite the pain now, they may live to have the last laugh – hope they do.

  • zipidachimp

    ducati in moto gp reminds me of Jaguar in F1. Jaguar was always a sports car company and had a wonderful record racing sports cars. Their record in F1 was abysmal. Why did they do it?
    Ducati builds and sells SUPERBIKES and has a terrific record in superbike racing. Why bother with Moto GP?
    nothing more than ego! they got above their raising, hubris, out of their depth.
    Honda was always a top level racebike company, even when building step-throughs. they still are !
    Ducati should close-out their moto gp effort and concentrate on dominating WSB !
    my 2 cents.
    ps: no, I don’t buy that there is something to learn from moto gp engineering. the same can be learned from WSB.

  • Jim

    Saw the headline and I thought the post would be about BMW’s WSBK effort.

  • Other Sean

    My buddy Matt typed the following, I can’t take credit, I only agree:

    I’m sick of the Ducati/Rossi/Hayden/Satellite’s crappy results. I think we all feel this. I want Rossi, Hayden and Ducati to start challenging for the victory. Sean you’re on with Hayden and Ducati, and Pete you’re in the same boat. If feels like they’re in “patch-mode” where they’re changing 5 small things at once, but there isn’t a consolidated all encompassing change. This piece meal (sp?) approach is clearly not working.

    I understand their dilemma and their rush, but it looks like a new approach is needed. This just isn’t shining well on anyone. They have two world champs on the factory team, and some amazing talent on the satellite teams, yet can’t produce anything.

    And don’t get me started on Stoner. As much as that guy is an incredible rider, all the Stoner-philes seem to forget that the two times he’s won (or is about to) he clearly had superior hardware (bike and tires). I’m sick of this banter that he’s the best. He might be but that certainly hasn’t been proven yet, and won’t be proven for quite some time. The notion that he’s schooling Rossi because he won on the Ducati doesn’t hold water. When Stoner won on the Ducati it was WAY faster than the other bikes and he was on the newly awesome Bridgestones. After that the Ducati went into decline Stoner lost out. Now that Stoner is on the best bike (by a large margin) he’s winning again. Lorenzo was just as dominant (maybe more) last year.

  • Other Sean

    I will only add that this is at least a case of bad press being better than no press. I mean, people care about what’s happening at Ducati. Does anyone give a flying flip what’s going on with the Rizla Suzuki Team?

  • fast

    ,GOAT status won’t be threatened, unfortunately Stoner had a (comparatively) late start to tally up championships.
    But it’s also a shame that the GOAT is fading away like this. A very few of us knew from ink-on-contract that joining Red was a huge mistake, and we were ripped for for it. Those same num-heads were certain that when the mystery shoulder healed, he’d be winning again. There were/are too many factors against VR to win another championship on the Duc. Five years ago Rossi could have adapted his style to the “different” Ducati, instead of fighting his own clock and making Ducati re-invent the wheel. And back then, all the blind supporters completely forgot about the competition. Three other riders were closing the gap at very race, while one was truly faster (regardless of injury) on the same bike. I still believe that Rossi would, today, be close to the top of the points race if he stayed on Team Blue (gutless engine and all) and continued the dynasty . You can’t feel the least bit bad for him though because his inflated ego made the choice to leave for him. Of the few things certain in racing, Rossi regretting leaving Yamaha is one of them. The other is that Ducati has ultimately made a huge mistake by abandoned all other racing to pay the this (so far) disastrous pile of experiments.
    I do feel sorry for all the satellite teams and riders who fork over good money for a bike that is slower (on some tracks) than a Superbike. Primac gets screwed every year with that POS. Great riders lose there job because of lack of performance? That’s a pathetic joke. If you’re a rider with real goals of winning, you avoid a Sat Duc ride regardless of pay. Your reputation may never recover. You can’t disprove that a rider like Randy DePunet wouldn’t be fighting for 4th with Simocelli, Spies, and Dovi if you gave him a factory Honda.

  • Westward

    Rossi is still the best… Lorenzo and Stoner are defined by their comparison to Rossi… Many think Lorenzo wrestled the title from Rossi last year, but Rossi was injured after taking the first victory at Qatar… Would Lorenzo be so dominant if Rossi were not hampered by injury ? I don’t think so…

    Stoner on the other hand, would have already been a two time champion had Rossi not identified the Bridgestone superiority of 2007, and then switched in 2008… When the single tyre rule was implemented, Burgess commented that Rossi would win again, and by the end of the season, did just that…

    Lorenzo is putting up a valiant effort against the HRC this season, but with his three victories and Spies’s single win, is there a doubt Rossi would have had at least as many, if still on a Yamaha?

    Stoner is an incredible talent indeed, but is measured by what he accomplished at Ducati, that Rossi has not…
    The iteration of the Ducati today is vastly different than the bike of 2007. In post race interviews that year, Stoner repeatedly said with a smile, “The bike and tyres were perfect again.” Also stating, “I can point the bike where I want it, and it just goes effortlessly.”

    Towards the end of the 2007 season, Stoner first started to hint at the front end issues. The Ducati was so dominant, Stoner began easing off a little, and as the others began catching up, he was forced to push the bike harder, and that is when the front end started to show its flaws…

    The Ducati as a production bike, or for WSBK use may be an engineering marvel, but for MotoGP, maybe a conventional style frame is what is needed… Or give Rossi a trellis frame. It might not be consistent, but it has proven to be better than what is being used now…

  • Westward

    idrive23 says:
    “Perhaps Stoner will go down in history as the only racer ever to master the Ducati and for Ducati, this could be a quick end to their popularity in the racing community anyway.”

    I doubt that Ducati will diminish in racing popularity.

    As a Motogp contender, maybe, but they are ruling WSBK even now, after officially withdrawing their factory team… The bikes the general public can get their hands on will continue to have its lustre…

    There might be an infinitesimal fraction of the racing population that can push the Ducati to the edge as Stoner or even Rossi can, for them to even know the bikes true flaws… Hayden, Barbera, DePuniet, and Abrahams input I would find suspect. I would like to know what someone like Edwards thinks, and just for kicks and giggles, see what Spies, Simoncelli, and Hopkins can do on the Ducati as well…

  • DucatiGuy

    The idea that Stoner won the title on 2007 because he had the best bike just doesn’t hold water. Every other Ducati rider was at the other end of the field.

  • Westward

    I seem to recall both Capirossi and Stoner standing on the rostrum together at Istanbul, and finishing first and second at Philip Island. At Motegi, Capirossi won, and Stoner finished sixth. Also, Barros on the Pramac satellite Ducati took the last rostrum position just ahead of Stoner at Mugello…

    Aside from all the factory efforts, only Melandri on a Gresini Honda placed better than Barros. No other manufacturer had a better one-two punch in terms of rostrum finishes, and and as far as victories and podiums go, only Rossi and Pedrosa did better than Capirossi, not counting Stoner of course…

    Not to mention, Elias putting his satellite Ducati on the podium twice the following year, hardly classifies the bike as an undesirable animal…

  • Beary

    @Other Sean said “And don’t get me started on Stoner. As much as that guy is an incredible rider, all the Stoner-philes seem to forget that the two times he’s won (or is about to) he clearly had superior hardware (bike and tires).”

    Ha ha ha! I almost snorted my beverage reading this rubbish. Erm, hang on, what about Stoner winning races on the unwinnable Ducati in 2010 ? Was this superior hardware ? Um no, it wasn’t. It’s the same hardware Rossi started the year on, and despite everything that has happened, hasn’t even got close to winning. His only Podium came when loads of people in front fell off.

    Why did Stoner win on the Ducati where Rossi can’t ? Stoner has bigger balls than Rossi. Sorry, but he does. If you follow MotoGP (which I’m gathering you’re only a casual observer of, as is ‘your buddy Matt’) you’d know that the only way Stoner won on the Ducati in 2010 was by putting absolutely everything on the line manhandling it into and through, and out of corners. It was the only way to make the Ducati fast enough to be competitive.

    Honda’s bikes are strong this year, their gearbox is better than other brands allowing riders to shift faster losing less time, but that is not all. Hmmm, what about Dani and Dovi on the same bike as Stoner ? If the Honda is the only reason that Stoner is so strong then Jlo should not even be in the equation at any time of the season.

    Stoner is the ballsiest rider that MotoGP has seen for many years. You only had to see his 300khm outside pass of JLo at Laguna Seca to understand the kind of rider you are now going to see win the championship. And he totally deserves it.