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Changing the rules for Rossi?

Has there ever been a motor sport World Championship more reliant upon one star than MotoGP is reliant upon Valentino Rossi?

Some people argue – with some justification – that the nine-time World Champion is better known to the mainstream than the sport in which he competes. And you only need look at a MotoGP trackside crowd to witness the sea of yellow caps and T-shirts – Rossi’s signature colour – that proves just how much he means to the sport.

motogp  Changing the rules for Rossi?

Thus you can imagine the consternation among MotoGP’s owners when Rossi spends an entire season struggling to get even close to the front. Rossi running midfield, sometimes struggling to get into the top 10, is not good for business.

Rossi’s travails on Ducati’s tricky Desmosedici have been well documented. Despite several chassis redesigns during 2011 he was never able to make the bike do what he wants it to do. Halfway through the season he quite reasonably blamed his lack of progress on MotoGP’s draconian testing restrictions, introduced following the initial global economic shock in 2008.

Since then riders have been limited to just a dozen days testing, including only three one-day tests during the racing season. No wonder Rossi struggled to develop each of the new chassis he received.

So there were a few raised eyebrows when the sport’s governors recently announced a lifting of the testing restrictions, allowing factories to more than double the amount of testing time for their lead riders, if they so wish.

motogp  Changing the rules for Rossi?

Cynics were quick to suggest that the rules are being rewritten in an effort to get Rossi closer to the sharp end and thus keep his legions of fans turning on their televisions on race weekends.

Obviously the rule makers reject such an accusation, while at the same time admitting that their aim is to have all the factories running close to the front, which in this case means getting Ducati up there, and thus by association, Rossi. It’s hard to argue with their thinking, even if it means bending the rules by rewriting them.

The reason it’s important to allow the actual racers to test their MotoGP machines is that most test riders aren’t a lot of use. None of the factories currently has a test rider who can lap within 2.5 seconds of the winning pace, simply because anyone much faster than that will get a job racing, not just testing. Also, the integration of each rider to his machine is much more critical than it is in cars (something confirmed to me recently by John Barnard), so test riders have a limited use in that sense too.

motogp  Changing the rules for Rossi?

Next year MotoGP teams will attend the usual 12 days of official group tests, but in addition each factory will be allowed 240 tyres to be used in private tests. That should equate to something like 25 to 30 extra ‘man days’ of testing. Ducati would exhaust Rossi if he did that much testing, but they’ll want him to do considerably more than he was allowed in 2011.

The Italian is so desperate to create a competitive Desmosedici that he is delighted by the new rules and will be happier than usual to do all that extra riding. “We are behind and we cannot catch up if there is no testing,” he says.

Of course, not everyone is happy at the prospect of a dramatically increased workload, and it should be no surprise that the man most displeased is the one who dominated the 2011 season: Casey Stoner, who reckons that “being on the bike all year will destroy us”.

Add your comments

8 comments on Changing the rules for Rossi?

  1. Michael S, 8 December 2011 13:56

    If it was only Rossi who could test then yes. However, this allows Stoner, and others to test more as well so it will still come down to the best bike/rider combo.

  2. Iberian M.P.H., 8 December 2011 16:24

    Well, Rossi is a bit like Loeb for the WRC boys. At least with Ogier we’ll have more to look forward to. Could Stoner be the next Rossi? Nah, Stoner will remain Stoner.

    Back to testing, it’s inevitable. Nothing compares to real life testing on a real racing circuit. All these simulators are for kids, shame motorsport is heading this way because, as Damon Hill recently pointed out, simulators are just as expensive as normal testing. The new rules weren’t written for exclusively for Rossi, they were written because they were needed.

    Also, kudos to Bridgestone motorsport, had a lovely visit to their temporary camp at Estoril back in October 2010, unforgettable experience, hard work, good fun.

  3. Ray T, 8 December 2011 18:09

    Simulation doesn’t work in motorcycle racing, the sport still has a major speed component in the rider skills, unlike F1. Those are impossible to simulate.
    All this will do is make MotoGP more competitive, at a formula that is now more relevant to the street bikes. This is without resorting to cheap gimmicks. I wish F1 had this type of management.

  4. Tony Geran, 9 December 2011 00:14

    The rule was changed to allow Rossi to develop the Ducati. That Stoner was able to win races on that bike proves how good he is. Jeremy Burgess even suggested at Phillip Is that Rossi needed to look at his own testing performances. I know Stoner not popular with the Brits and vice versa for some reason but he has to be the star performer of Moto GP now with Lorenzo a close second.

  5. Derek, 15 December 2011 07:43

    To pick up on Tony’s comments re: Jeremy Burgess and Stoner winning races on bike that on a good day is a tough old bitch to say the least. In the Autumn edition of MCN SPORT, they interviewed one J. Burgess, I quote the following as printed…having examined Stoner’s data with his own eyes, does Burgess see him in a different light? “to a degree, yes. I can see how he rode the bike in a different way to how Valentino rides it. Casey had that great flexibility to be able to do that, but it didn’t produce a bike that was good for all. In Honda there’s a bike that’s good for all. we turned the Yamaha into a bike that Valentino, Jorge, Colin and Ben could ride to the level of their ability. For Ducati to have one rider like Casey winning perhaps masked some of the difficulties that were there with the bike”. Yes Stoner is a great rider of that I have no doubt, but…… he fell more than he won on a Ducati(fact) and the Honda is the best piece of kit out there (fact). Ask yourself this what has Lorenzo done on a Yamaha this year without Rossi being involved in the development and what would have happened if Rossi had the same bike as Stoner? Fast yes, but he is not the complete racer yet. To be frank he would have got his ass kicked more often than not. I think people need to wake up, Stoner is a 2 time World champion,and Rossi at my last count holds 9 across the board 125, 250, 500 and two 800cc titles.Burgess has proved himself to have no equal, mulitple championships with Doonan, Gardner et al.(Fact)
    Let’s not be to quick to judge, life can be tough….roll on 2012

  6. Tony Geran, 28 December 2011 22:36

    Derek, I agree with you on your facts but how many times did Rossi fall from the Ducati this year, and how many versions of the bike were raced, and for how many race wins? If memory serves, in his first championship year Stoner falling was a rarity and even the old Rossi, Loris Capirossi, won at Motegi on the Ducati. Stoner went to Honda because he was sick of Ducati never developing their bike through the year. They certainly have changed their ways now….

  7. Colin Lynn, 29 December 2011 14:31

    For someone to suggest that Stoner could be the next Rossi is ridiculous. Stoner is far better than that. Just because Rossi has won more titles than Stoner does not necessarily make him a better rider. Exactly the same way you can’t say a host of F1 title winners were better than Stirling Moss who didn’t win any F1 world titles (fact). Stoner has only ever been on a TOP factory bike one year (2011) and he was unbeatable (fact). And he also won a title on the bike Rossi was struggling to get onto the podium with (fact). Rossi only ever won titles when he was on good factory bikes (fact). And we’ve just seen how he goes on a bike thats not up to scratch. Wasn’t Stoner winning races on that bike? (fact). Rossi has been on a top factory bike and NOT won a title whereas the same can’t be said for Stoner. (2011 has proved the Ducati is NOT a top factory bike). People have got to open their eyes and see past the hype. The sooner Stoner gives the bikes the flick and moves onto V8 supercars the better.

  8. Geoff Dawes, 3 January 2012 08:57

    It is interesting that to note that finally some journalists are starting to question Dorna’s motives with their regulation changes. Did anybody question the reasoning behind Dorna helping Rossi get out of a Michelin tyre contract to run Bridgestones in 2008 after Stoner won so convincingly on the Japanese brand in 2007 when they were able to compete on level playing field against Michelin?

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