Trackside Tuesday: A Tale of Two Teammates

08/28/2012 @ 11:03 pm, by Scott Jones19 COMMENTS

If you were writing a script for a blockbuster movie based on MotoGP, you would be off to a great start with a premise centered on Tech 3’s current riders: Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso. This current season would be the backstory, perhaps told in flashbacks or in a montage behind the opening titles. Next season is where the drama would unfold in earnest, as each character pursues a World Championship on a different team.

But perhaps there’s too much backstory to fit into the opening credit sequence. In 2012, on nearly identical equipment, they battled for “Best of The Rest” over and over again. Silly season saw each one looking for a chance to move to a factory bike, as each felt a satellite machine was incapable of winning a world title. One rider is courted by Ducati, then abandoned in favor of the other. This leaves one right where he started, but ironically, on a satellite Yamaha that will likely have better results than his rival, who has landed the factory ride both sought.

The story thus becomes a classic “pride cometh before the fall” tale of one who thinks he can slay the dragon that has vanquished others more successful than he. Or else it becomes Rocky, and Dovizioso is the Italian Stallion winning against Hollywood-esque odds on a Ducati. If the former, and Crutchlow continues to claim the occasional podium on his way to another solid season, while Dovi joins the list of rider who are not Casey Stoner.

And as such, both characters might refine their opinions that one needs not any factory bike, but the right factory bike to win a MotoGP Championship. If the latter, and Andrea Dovizioso — the man who won only one race during his three years on a factory Honda — manages to duplicate Stoner’s feat of bringing Ducati a World Championship, then you’ve really got something story-wise.

One must admire this kind of confidence. Marco Melandri (2nd to Rossi in 2005): 0 victories on a Ducati. Nicky Hayden (2006 World Champion): 0 victories on a Ducati. Valentino Rossi (Duh): 0 victories on a Ducati. But to Dovizioso, the GP13 gives him a better chance to be world champ than the Tech 3 Yamaha. And let’s not forget that Crutchlow was ready to take that same gamble.

This belief that one can do better than Melandri, Hayden and Rossi — none of whom has been able to win a title or even a single race — is remarkable, and it offers some true insight into the minds of athletes who compete at this level. Let’s give Dovi credit: he did come from Honda to Yamaha and get an unfamiliar bike sorted in a hurry. Cal is having a fantastic season himself, and a factory Yamaha might make that small difference between a fantastic season and a championship.

But perhaps in the backs of their minds nags the fact that Casey did win races, and did win a title on a Ducati. Can Casey really be that much better than they are? You don’t reach the high country without total confidence in your abilities. And the results of that confidence can make for riveting drama, indeed. Let’s hope that 2013’s drama is not of the tragic variety.

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


    Remember, he’ll be developing a very different Desmo called Audi. Dovi is a very determined guy, I’m glad he joined the family.

  • Great insights, Scott. A well-written article. +100

  • FeelGoodIncNI

    Sad, but I can’t help but think Dovi is doomed to fail with or without Audi. Yes they may speed up development (and I hope they do) but will faster production of parts overcome Ducati’s seeming unwillingness to stray from what they believe works regardless of what anyone else thinks. Unless Audi takes Ducati’s whole operation by the scruff and gives it a bloody good shake, I can’t see much changing soon. I hope I’m wrong.

  • Ben

    Drop the last sentence Scott, It’s not needed. It reads far better without it.

  • anti

    Awesome photo. See, you don’t need the dutch tilt gimmick to make a real photograph. Great work.

  • Dave

    I think this storyline is tired and starting to become a nice fable.–Casey Stoner is the world’s greatest rider because he could win on a Ducati and nobody else could. Wasn’t Stoner’s bike built to accomodate Stoner’s riding style but more importantly, built specifically to the tires and then the tire rules changed? The tire rules changed then things went downhill really fast and Stoner bailed to Honda. That isn’t taking anything away from Casey Stoner. He probably is the best rider on the grid. But Stoner’s Duc wasn’t thaaat bad a bike. Nicky in his first year with Ducati pretty routinely could muster a 4th place. These days Nicky risks life and limb on the absolute ragged edge every single lap for what? 8th.

    …isn’t the real story this: the Ducati stinks so bad now that not even Casey Stoner could win on it.

  • Dave

    My point is–the fact that Rossi can’t win on the Ducati is proof that Stoner couldn’t win on today’s Ducati. …it is not proof that Stoner is a better rider than Rossi. It’s proof of how bad the Ducati is.

    I think anybody would be crazy to think Stoner could do anything with this bike.

  • Mary Spies

    Your view is a nice fantasy, Dave. I enjoyed reading it for a chuckle.

    But you fail to recognise that It’s not about Casey’s talent as a rider, it’s about how he was able to ride the Ducati. How Casey adapted his style to suit the Ducati, that is how he could win. He understood the bike. Rossi’s failure (and everyone else who has rode the Ducati) was, and is, refusing to adapt themselves to the bike. But Casey rode controlling the overpowered engine with brakes. Switched off most of the electronics and rode by raw gut feel which involves huge risk and enormous bravery. Rossi himself admits he cannot ride like that, and no one else can either.

    Stoner could win on anything. It will be a long time before we see such a rider as him again in MotoGP.

  • Dave

    I was careful not to downplay Stoner as a great rider. Not the greatest of all time (that’s Rossi obviously). Stoner is a great, great rider (wrote it twice for emphasis).

    Stoner “turned off” the electronics? sure about that?

    I think you need a dose of this reality-Stoner could not win a single race on this Ducati.

    Among the elites, (I’m talking maybe 5 riders) it’s the tool not the craftsman.

  • L2C

    Blockbusters and fables are the same thing. Fiction. But it’s worth remembering that history is written by those who win. The facts that bear out Stoner’s success on the Ducati are mere footnotes to the fact that he rode the Desmosedici to its very limits in order the capture the 2007 World Championship. It’s the only thing of note that really matters. The perfect storm of perfect conditions that made it possible for Stoner to win -at all- matters much less.

    Crutchlow and Dovisioso are like any other breed of successful people. They want to win. That means taking risks. For Dovisioso, riding the Ducati represents an opportunity to have the chance at winning races and winning a MotoGP World Championship. Crutchlow has said as much himself when stating why he would like a factory ride. (It is clear that the GP7 represented the same thing to Stoner, as well.) When the chance to win presents itself, it doesn’t matter that many of those who have come before have failed. These athletes are not fighting for the odds of winning, they are fighting for the win.

  • L2C

    @Mary Spies

    Stoner hasn’t won championships on just any bike. And he certainly is not a proven champion on all bikes. To perpetuate these lines of thought is just as fanciful as any myth. It’s also illogical to conclude that Stoner’s two GP titles means that any bike, any bike at all, would be sufficient enough for him to win on. I’d love to see Casey adapt to Colin Edwards’ machine and win at any GP circuit on the calendar, never mind the capturing the world title. Do you really think that Casey could place even third place on the Suter? Maybe in the Disney produced movie version of a GP season.

  • Jonathan

    The gap between the properties of the spec tyres and the properties of the Duke MotoGP bikes just got too big to fill imo. Stoner bailed at the right time – he’s smart as well as quick.

    Another good season in Tech3 will do Cal’s prospects no harm at all. He’s achieved an admirable makeover this year both in his riding style and temperament and I expect his good form to continue. That form (and Dovi’s too) is in no small part due to Tech3 being an excellent team – at least half of the Factory Yamaha garage could maybe take a few cues from them ;)

    Duke’s lineup for next season – one American, one Italian – is possibly driven as much by finance as anything (so nothing new there). Both great riders, but Dovi is going to have a ton of expectation on his plate. The possibility of Audi cash is interesting – they know how to race, but they don’t know how to make racebikes. Perhaps they’ll be hiring soon…

  • Westward

    There is no denying Stoners talent, but Stoner has never won a title on a bike he developed. The 2007 Ducati was sorted by Capirossi who could have won the title the year before, if not for a crucial injury causing accident at Catalunya that affected that race and the next at Assen. He was only 25 points away from the title. This from a man that averaged 15 points a race not counting those two races.

    Stoners second title came off of the development skills of Pedrosa. I would contend that Stoner’s unorthodox style of riding is not conducive for engineering a bike around.

    2007 Stoner was like a deer in headlights. Even he on several occasions commented that wherever he pointed the bike, it went. Everyone said it was the power of the Ducati and the tyres that made that season possible. After all, Stoner was only in his second season in the premiere class. So there was no real point of reference for his skills, as the year before he was in the gravel more often than not.

    Rossi that year even commented that the Bridgestones were superior to his Michelins, so much so that he switched to Bridgestones in 2008, a year before the single tyre rule came about. Rossi, on a Yamaha M1 not that much different than 2007, took it to Stoner and demoralized the upstart champion and reclaimed the title.

  • Westward

    Rather unfortunately for both Stoner and Ducati, they (Preziosi) ventured off into a radical direction of the frameless carbon fibre bike in after 2008. The mistake was, – using Stoner as a point of reference.

    Enter Rossi. His job was to bring the Ducati back to a level of ride-ability for every pilot. But unfortunately for him his is also racing time and his legacy in ricing itself. If Rossi gets a tenth title and 123 victories in the two season, I would not rule out a return to Ducati to slay that final dragon. He has said repeatedly that he wants to remain in MotoGP more than just another two years. Looking at Biaggi and Checa’s success in WSBK, Rossi has plenty of time to take that challenge…

    Ducati has made racing bikes for years, they have enough WSBK title to prove there worth. Five years after entering MotoGP in 2003 they won their first title. Ducati now have a decade worth of data and two of the best pilots they have ever had or anyone has had in motogp to draw from.

    Preziosi has humbled himself enough to meet with Furusawa a respected rival and friend, and be lectured on engineering. The only tragedy in that was not doing so two years earlier. But without the experience with Rossi, he may not have come to that conclusion. The point is, he has now. Add to the fact that Audi their new masters, has the resources they previously lacked, I have every confidence in their ability to turn this project around. They may not have Rossi, but they now have the next best thing. A young pilot that has experience on two of the best engineered Japanese bikes, and the talent to pilot them to success.

    The only weak point of design in my book that Ducati suffers from, is not making their own chassis, which I suspect will change in the up coming season.

    Now Ducati has stated they will run four factory spec bikes next season. They already have the factory effort sorted, and recent rumours have them linked to talking with Spies. For international appeal, they should team him up with Redding on a two man Pramac team.

    Let Iannone battle it out with Espargaro for the Moto2 title next year, and sign him up in 2014…

  • SH

    The whole “Stoner is the only rider who could win on Ducati” is such BS …

    You can’t compare any rider’s performance on the Ducati to Stoner’s without first mentioning tires and the fact that Stoner’s Ducati had tires that were specifically designed for it. Bridgestone made tires to work for Ducati. End of story.

    Stoner’s 2007 Ducati had other advantages as well:

  • Jonathan

    @ Westward (yeah, me again!):

    Racing is a cruel mistress – heritage means nothing, a team is only as good as this season’s results. A very pragmatic bystander might notice relative improvement within poor results, but that’s about as charitable as racing gets.

    Regarding the chassis: The CF one (which was little more than a front subframe “didn’t work”, yet the new twin spar ally one seems to behave pretty much identically. That takes some doing! Okay, the difference between being a front runner and scrapping for e.g. 6th is a fraction of a percent in absolute terms, but I feel that there’s something a bit more fundamental in the whole philosophy of the Ducati package that’s holding it back.

    Dovi relies very much on front end feel for his ability to get (and stay) ahead. He’s a very hard braker, but never looks scratchy. I’ll be interested to see how he translates that to the Duke.

  • rt

    the rossi fanboys are trying so hard to downplay stoner’s achievements. you could see that from the length of their comments. lol

  • Jonathan

    …And you can tell Stoner fanbois from the length of their comments – two sentences in and they run out of words.

    I keeeed! Stoner made the bike look good, no doubt about it. He also parked it in the weeds a few times too. Without seeing him flat out on this year’s Duke it’s impossible to make any sort of comparison (which is why the armchair analyst was born) ;)

  • Dave Price

    Hey Casey bashers unite as usual .. who else apart from Casey won on the Red bike Capirex had one or two race wins ,, not a championship!! Melandri , Hayden . Rossi cant even get it to a podium without knocking out the opposition. Come on arm chair racers look at ALL the fact and ALL the riders .
    The Ducati was half developed by the time Casey came on board ,, where was Capirex when Casey won the title ?
    The reason Casey jumped ship from Ducati to Honda was cos Ducati tried to stitch him up by offering Lorenzo a shed load more $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ that they where paying Casey , I think if you could ever get to the truth, then Casey was signed up with Honda at the beginning of his final year with Ducati. Dont blame him ,, tis just a pity that we now see a two horse race in Moto GP .