With so much happening at the front of all three races at Silverstone last Sunday, it is easy to overlook the battles behind. Especially when those battles seem to be falling into a fixed pattern, repeating the results of previous races.

A glance at the results of the MotoGP race Silverstone gives you a sense of déjà vu. While the top three swapped places, positions four to six were identical to their finishes at Brno, places seven to nine differed only in the riders who crashed out, and Aleix Espargaro took tenth spot, as he did in the Czech Republic. A pattern is definitely starting to form here.

The biggest victim of that pattern is probably Valentino Rossi. Finishing fourth for the third race in a row is frustrating. Battling for fourth with Alvaro Bautista for the third race in a row is even more frustrating. Finish over ten seconds off the leaders for the third race in a row is positively depressing. “It’s like arriving at a party and not being invited in,” Rossi joked afterwards.

The problem is the early part of the race. Rossi lost nearly four seconds in the first four laps, and by the halfway mark, the Italian was over seven seconds behind the leaders. Where Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, and Marc Marquez are at full speed right from the start, Rossi struggles to match their pace.

As the race goes on, Rossi’s pace gets closer to that of the front men, but by then, the gap to the front is simply too large. The factory Yamaha man continues to struggle with braking, his problems still not completely solved, and until then, racing at the front is difficult. “We need another step,” Rossi told reporters.

What Yamaha needs is either the new seamless gearbox or an uprated chassis to help with braking stability, and all four Yamaha men need the help in that area. Even Jorge Lorenzo, who held off Marc Marquez in a heroic battle at the front, is starting to plead with Yamaha for help. His team manager Wilco Zeelenberg refused to pick one development over the other.

Asked if he’d prefer help with braking over the seamless gearbox, he replied: “whatever comes first.” There is still no ETA on the seamless gearbox, though if it is to come, it should arrive at the Misano test. Until then, Rossi looks set to extend his string of fourth places, while Lorenzo will continue to struggle to hold off Marquez and Pedrosa.

While Rossi was disappointed with fourth, Alvaro Bautista was happy with fifth place. The Go&Fun Gresini rider has made a step in the second half of the season, and has now consistently found a spot in the second group. Bautista’s work developing the Nissin/Showa combo is starting to come together, and while the gap to the leaders is still large, it is not as big as it has been previously.

While Bautista has gone forward, Stefan Bradl has gone backwards. The German put on a brilliant display at Laguna Seca, following on from a strong race at the Sachsenring, but at Indianapolis, he was once gain nearly 25 seconds behind the leaders.

He still has the speed over a single lap, as witnessed by his fourth spot on the grid at Silverstone, and his frequent strong showings in practice, but over a full race, Bradl is losing out. At Silverstone, the problem was corner speed, as it had been at Brno. A lack of edge grip at full lean left him spinning the rear, rather than driving out of the corner, and a sixth was all that Bradl could manage.

While Rossi, Bautista, Bradl for the second group – Cal Crutchlow oscillates between closing on the leaders and dropping back into that second group, when he hasn’t crashed out of the race – the Ducatis continue to fight a battle of their own, even further behind. The frustration at the lack of progress is showing, with even team manager Vitto Guareschi commenting that the bike is simply too slow.

“We are one second behind,” he said at Silverstone, and that deficit is not getting better fast. Andrea Dovizioso crashed out of eighth place, and was at a loss to explain what happened. He did not feel he had done much wrong, he said. “It is hard to call it a mistake,” Dovizioso said. “I was just right on the limit.” That the limit on the Ducati is harder to feel is obvious, the front still not giving much feedback.

At least the new engine spec is something of an improvement. The new engine is slightly more responsive, offering the riders a little more control. Dovizioso explained that it helped cure the pumping of the rear suspension, by allowing the rear tire to spin up more controllably, and also helping to get the bike turned, albeit only marginally.

There is still an awful lot of work to do, but at least some of that work is happening. Most of the work, however, is invisible, and involves internal changes in working procedures at Ducati Corse.

Now that Warren Willing is getting more and more involved, ideas are being pushed at Ducati, but these will take some time to come through. A genuinely new bike is likely only to appear at the Sepang tests in early February next year.

Aleix Espargaro is continuing to rip up the CRT class, finishing 10th once again and extending his lead in the CRT standings. His success is two-edged sword, however, as ending as best CRT rider will automatically extend his stay at Aspar. While staying with his team for another year would be a good thing, Espargaro is being tempted by the offer of a Yamaha at Forward Racing.

More power and a proven chassis (at least until FTR get their version of the chassis finished) would give him a better chance to match the satellite riders, though the big question mark hangs over the development of the spec-ECU software. While the ECU hardware is outstanding, software updates from Magneti Marelli have been slow in coming.

Aprilia, meanwhile, look set to continue as a non-MSMA entry – or as they will be known next year, a MotoGP entry, without the factory option. The Italian factory will bring a completely new bike for next year, with pneumatic valves, revised engine spec and, so rumor has it, a version of the seamless gearbox.

The engine will be fitted to a new chassis with new aerodynamics, but the restrictively tight limit of 20 liters of fuel is preventing Aprilia from making the switch to a factory option bike, and keeping the use of their own software.

Photo: © 2013 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.

  • Phil

    Rossi should start changing his technicians and Jerry Burgess. “It looks like” his bike isn’t being set up right to be up with other leading 3.

  • David

    Wake up Rossi!

    It’s not the bike.

    Your just too old to be at the front now.

    Doesn’t mean you didn’t have a great career.

    Getting old happens to the best of them……in every sport.

  • L2C

    No, Rossi can still run at the front when his team manages to find the right setting for his bike. We’ve seen this a handful of times this season. But each track presents a different challenge to his team to get the braking and handling right, and this also helps to explains why Vale isn’t consistently running with the top three.

    If he were on one of HRC’s machines, he wouldn’t have a braking problem. I think he’d be breaking lap and qualifying records on a regular basis. OK, well at least a few here and there while still running at the front.

  • FafPak


    Rossi’s age isnt the problem. The fact that when the fuel load goes down he can match the pace of the guys in front shows he still has the speed. His team needs to figure the bike out (and de-Lorenzo-fy it) and Yamaha needs to catch up to Honda.

    Remember, Lorenzo and his crew have two years of “notes” on Rossi and JB, and the bike isnt “new” to them. They know more about the quirks.

  • Rossi biggest problem is himself not the bike. Yamaha likes to be ridden like a 250 with high corner speed and getting on the gas early. Once Lorenzo started beating him Rossi developed a hard braking style (point and shoot) which upsets the Yamahas chassis. Rossi should go to WSBK, win a couple of titles and call it a carrer.

  • Personality wise Rossi is still the coolist guy in the paddock! Super nice dude…

  • Ricky

    the problem isn’t the bike, it’s the rider and Rossi is the problem.

  • SBPilot

    Bunch of Rossi haters it seems. Look a the facts, his lap times match the top 3, but only after the fuel levels dropped. It’s a small bike set up issue that will require his crew to figure out. The small ones are the hardest to find. Full tank he can’t ride it as he wants to. Sure, maybe if he was younger he could adapt to the full tank characteristics better without losing 4 seconds in 4 laps, but I’m sure a good chunk of it also has to do with bike set up. Look at Indy, he was flying in the second half of the race, it isn’t fatigue that’s for sure.

    2 years is a long time and it’s not the same bike he’s use to. 2 years of Jorge development he needs to adapt to. 13 seconds from the front is bad, considering Silverstone is the longest circuit on the calender at 2 minute laps, he is definitely improving each race.

    Indy – He finished 19 seconds back from leader. Lap times there are 1:38 ish. So he was very slow
    Brno – He finished 10 seconds back from leaders. Lap times there are 1:156 ish. He went much much better
    S’stone- He finished 13 seconds back from leaders. Lap times there are 2:01 ish. Again he improved. 5 second a lap longer than Brno, but he only finished 3 seconds more behind overall.

    Set up is the key. When he can brake how he wants with a full tank, hopefully he will be able cut 3 or 4 seconds. Then, hopefully if he learns to qualify better, he will not lose 2 seconds right off the line by starting on the third row all the time. That should put him in the mix.

  • David

    I’m not a Rossi hater.

    The guy is awesome. Unfortunately, he is older now and it shows. I hate to see a guy in any sport start losing his edge. It happens though, sucks big time. It’s life.

    We are talking the GOAT. And the GOATS team. So you think they can’t figure out how to set up a winning bike well enough for Rossi to ride it consistently. Yeah….right.

    And then the rookie, jumps on a MotoGP bike for the first time with a new team and kicks butt.

    Oh….okay….age has nothing to do with it. LOL

  • SBPilot

    @David: You can’t use MM as an example to declare Rossi is past his prime. Just because MM is a rookie and kicking butt, that would deem every single non-rookie that MM has beat as too old and past their prime since they can’t compete with him. If that is the case, Bradl shoulda got the boot long ago. He’s young, on factory machinery, and can’t even come close to MM, hell, he can’t come close to Rossi on most cases. Also, it’s not a new team, he brought his whole crew with him.

    MM is a revelation and his youth is definitely an advantage, but age isn’t the main factor. If it was, Bradl should be fighting for wins every race. Bradley Smith should be as well. To rule out Rossi this quick is a bit jumping the gun, especially using age as a reason. Next year if he can’t improve, I’ll be on the other side of the argument. Again, I’m not saying age doesn’t affect Rossi, but I don’t think it’s the main reason he finishes fourth, the main reason is bike set up.

  • L2C

    Fact is, Rossi is a rookie on that M1 this year. No one is going to actually call him a rookie, because he does have a million titles hanging over his fireplace in Italy, but he’s learning to ride the M1 just like Bradley Smith is.

    And believe it or not, he is not having a bad season this year. Compared to the last 2 years, his season has been absolutely stellar.

  • Xracer264

    Factory tank and full fuel load and soft carcass B’Stones are causing Rossi problems at the beginning of the race. Has anyone notice that suddenly Cal is fighting for 4-7 instead of pushing for a podium? He too received the “factory” tank is now struggling…

  • Westward

    Rossi has matched the pace of the leaders in every race. Like others have mentioned the crew needs to solve the issues of the bike in the beginning of the race.

    Repsol Honda’s are the best bike’s on the grid. Marquez is benefiting from this fact. If he & Pedrosa were on a Yamaha M1 and Lorenzo & Rossi were on Honda’s, then Lorenzo & Rossi would be the front two finishers every race, cause they are technically more proficient riders…

    If all four were on Yamaha’s, Lorenzo would win every race and Rossi would be in second position. If all four were on Honda’s, that would be the closet racing of four pilots ever, with Pedrosa finishing fourth at seasons end…