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Ducati Officially Switches to Open Class as Sepang Test Closes With Rossi On Top

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Three days of MotoGP testing at Sepang ended earlier today with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) posting the fastest lap, together with Dani Pedrosa (Honda) – yes they were tied for fastest lap down to 1/1000th of a second. The bigger news was the announcement by Ducati that it would not run factory specification bikes beneath riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow in the upcoming championship, instead opting to run Open class bikes, which , as we explained in an earlier article, have significant advantages in terms of permitted fuel load and engine development throughout the season. Indeed, it is the development potential that seems to have persuaded Ducati to go in this direction.

Perhaps, as confirmation, Andrea Dovizioso posted the third quickest time, something quite uncharacteristic for Ducati in the past several years. It is unknown whether Dovizioso did his fast lap on an Open class machine, or the factory machine that he was testing concurrently throughout the three days. In any event, as proven by Aleix Espargaro on his Open class Yamaha (fourth quickest during this test), the Open class bikes are seemingly more than competitive with the pure factory machines this year. Ducati, in particular, may be in the best position to work through the one “disadvantage”, ie, use of the Dorna spec software inside the Magneti-Marelli ECU , because Ducati has worked with the Magnetti-Marelli ECU for years at the Moto GP level

With Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) having difficulty adapting to the new Bridgestone tires (he could manage only seventh quickest in this test) and Marc Marquez (Honda), who missed this test altogether, starting the year while recovering from a broken leg, 2014 could be quite interesting.

40 Comments

  1. Norm G. says:

    i keep trying to tell you. check the news fellas. dorna’s done gone and brewed up YET another clusterf#%k…!

    (ps: no it’s not april 1st)

  2. mickey says:

    25 more days fellas and we will see where the riders and bikes stack up, won’t we?

  3. Jeremy in TX says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone is running Open Class next year. I just can’t imagine that there is enough moxy in the proprietary ECUs to overcome the advantages afforded to the open class bikes. This may be a very competitive season.

  4. Brinskee says:

    Well for all the questions in the comments section, it’s actually going to be a very interesting year for Cal and Dovi. Don’t forget all the advantages of moving to the Open class now affords them:

    -12 engines per season rather than 5
    This is simply huge. They can beat on their engines much harder than the factory squads. Sure they have to last for the weekend, but they don’t have to last two weekends. Lower weight internals, higher revs, there’s a lot more to work with here.

    -Full season engine development
    They will not be forced to lock down and seal up their engines at the beginning of the season as the factory teams must do. They can continue to change anything they like about their engine performance all season. Need more low end torque for one track? No problem. More revs for another? Change-o presto and it’s done.

    -Four more liters of fuel per race
    That’s right. Another gallon of fuel. Not to mention the factory teams have ONE LESS liter for each race thus season. These implications are tremendous. In making every attempt to maximize fuel economy, the Honda and Yamaha bikes are running very rough, and in danger of losing grip when cranked over (this is a combination of both the new bridge stones and mapping necessities from having less fuel to work with). The Ducati team has no such worry and can run less efficient and smoother maps.

    -Softer tire allocations
    The Ducati team can run much softer compounds than any of the factory teams. Yamaha and Honda are not even allowed to try these tires on their factory machines – sure, over the race distance a very soft tire might not be the best choice, but it’s another gun in the armoury and Ducati can certainly use these for qualifying like the old days of qualifying spec tires. Getting some poles just adds to a potential advantage.

    -Open ECU isn’t really open.
    There are strong rumors of Ducati simply being allowed to port their software over to the Magnetti Marelli ECU since they are using these ECUs already. I’m a little unclear how thus will pan out, but at the very least they are familiar with the system.

    Individually these are nice advantages, but combined they seem to provide a great advantage to Ducati. Let’s see if the team can take technical advantage of them and Cal and Andrea can keep the bikes up and ride them to the limit.

    And the question from the article: Dovi posted the fast lap time on a factory spec bike. So we’ll see later what advantage this will spell out but Crutchlow said he was getting very similar times with the Open bike vs the Factory.

    Thus combined with Rossi’s hot performance, Jorge’s struggles with the tires and Marc getting injured preseason… Let’s hope we get some great entertainment this season!

    Finally it is very sad what has happened with Hayden. He’s not going to be competitive at all this season, I’m afraid.

    • VLJ says:

      It has to kill Nicky, seeing Dovi run so close to the frontrunners throughout this test. Nicky and Dovi were essentially interchangeable last year in terms of test times, qualifying times, and race positions, so it’s safe to say that Nicky probably would be there this year too if he was still on the Ducati. What that will mean on race day remains to be seen, but it’s been a long time since he’s been on a bike that could come within a single tenth of the fast time during any test, as Dovi’s did at Sepang II.

      All those advantages for the Open bikes you mentioned? I’m guessing Nicky was promised those same advantages by Honda, only with the factory-spec bike (minus the factory ECU) as the starting point. Instead, they’ve given him a severely dumbed-down ride that can’t even come close to a Ducati, never mind Espargaro’s Open-class Yamaha.

      It’s just embarrassing. Honda needs to step up and give the Aspar bikes the the same pneumatic-valves motor, seamless transmission, Brembo brakes, prototype chassis and Ohlins suspension they’re using on the Repsol machinery. That’s what Yamaha and Ducati are doing with their Open bikes, and even at this late date there is no reason that Honda couldn’t do the same. If Ducati and Yamaha can somehow afford to do it, so can Honda.

      • Dave says:

        Re. ” Honda needs to step up and give the Aspar bikes the the same pneumatic-valves motor, seamless transmission, Brembo brakes, prototype chassis and Ohlins suspension they’re using on the Repsol machinery. That’s what Yamaha and Ducati are doing with their Open bikes, ”

        Do they? Seems like the honda lacks the valve train but I am not convinced the seamless gearbox is a big advantage. Lorenzo continued winning without it. Suspension and brakes is on the team, not Honda. The big H will certainly take some knocks for this but who knows? Maybe their open bike will get better or protos will go extinct in the next cycle and Honda will again be in a leading position.

        Besides, we know 1or 2 Yamaha’s open bikes have that tech but certainly not all. Ducati technically hasn’t changed anything except for their ECU. Given the way they’ll be “allowed” to blow through engines, they may wind up spending a great deal more.

      • raivkka says:

        @VLJ

        The specs for the Honda Open engine were made public a long time ago and anyone with half a brain knew that engine would NEVER compete with the factory engine. It wasn’t intended to.

        So, everyone stop crying about the current Honda Open engine and how bad it is.
        It is exactly what it was intended to be and Nicky knew exactly what he was signing up for.

        Perhaps Dirck and go bad back and post the link to the original article about the engine for the un-informed.

        • VLJ says:

          Yamaha and Ducati are running factory-spec machines with DORNA ECUs and larger gas tanks for their Open-class bikes. If they can do it, why can’t Honda? And please don’t trot out any silliness about DORNA belatedly changing the rules in a way that somehow only affected Honda. Big Red has the means to do what Yamaha and Ducati are doing, and if they don’t choose to do so it has nothing to do with DORNA screwing with them. Rather, it has everything to do with Honda cheaping out, which is inexcusable considering their status as the largest manufacturer by far in the series.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “It is exactly what it was intended to be”

          yes.

          re: “Nicky knew exactly what he was signing up for.”

          no.

      • GKS says:

        I agree with Dave and Raikka, that Aspar and the other teams that purchased Honda “open class” bikes knew what they were getting beforehand. I don’t know what the contract between HRC and Aspar contains, but the open class rules allow devlopement during the season, so perhaps Aspar should do their own work for more power. Besides making Nicky more competitive overall, they would then have an advantage over the other HRC customer bikes.

        I just don’t see how anyone could expect Honda/HRC to be responsible for making the “customer” bikes equal to those of their factory team.

        • VLJ says:

          Why shouldn’t we expect that? Except for the ECUs and larger gas tanks the Ducati and Yamaha Open bikes are the same spec as the factory bikes. Since Yamaha is doing it, why shouldn’t we expect the same of Honda?

          • mickey says:

            VLJ are you saying that except for Dornas ECU and larger gas tank that those are the EXACT same bikes that Lorenzo and Rossi are running? I doubt that very much. What would be the purpose of having a factory effort and paying 2 stars twenty or 30 million dollars apiece?

            Why not disband the factory team, sell a few more open bikes for 1 1/2 million each and offer up Rossi and Lorenzo on the open market to private teams? I mean where else are they going to go? They are not going to go to Honda which would be the only factory team left.

          • VLJ says:

            mickey, yes, the reports are saying that the Ducati and Yamaha Open bikes only differ from their factory counterparts in terms of the ECU’s and gas tanks.

      • Brinskee says:

        It’s so absolutely awful to see these changes the year Nicky leaves Ducati. He was such a trooper, always staying positive, always pushing at his max. Then they let him go and all these rules change. It’s a tragedy. He was running right there with Dovi and with Rossi before that. Sure his riding style is different from some of the other guys, but he’s got clear talent. It’s a real bummer, especially considering the lame duck Honda he’s been supplied with. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move to SBK next year.

  5. TexinOhio says:

    I’d like to hear what Dovi and Crutch have to say about this? Mostly Crutchlow.

  6. VLJ says:

    I would say the biggest news isn’t Ducati’s switch to the Open class classification, since we all know they still aren’t going to be any serious threat for race wins, much less title contention. No, the biggest takeaway from Sepang II is that Rossi is now two for two, in terms of besting Lorenzo in preseason testing. This simply never happened before. Over the past four seasons Jorge has always tested and qualified faster than Valentino, and of course he also has been the faster racer over that same period. Moreover, Lorenzo has always been the one guy who could be counted on to fight on even terms with the Repsol Hondas and/or Casey Stoner, and does anyone really doubt that he will do so again in 2014?

    I sure don’t. I fully expect 2014 to be another Lorenzo-Marquez battle, with Pedroza grabbing the odd win here and there, per usual. But now it’s beginning to look like Rossi might be on equal terms with Jorge, which puts him on relatively equal terms with the Hondas.

    If Rossi does this again at the Phillip Island test, yep, we may just have ourselves a real four-horse race this year.

    Then there’s poor Nicky, mushing along on his Iditarod sled of a CBR1000RR gussied up in beautiful silver and green MotoGP livery, getting his doors blown off by Yamaha and Ducati Open class machinery that barely differ from the full-factory prototypes.

    • mickey says:

      Think you are right VLJ but I want to see how the first 2 or 3 races go. Anyone can do a flying fast lap, but as you know in MotoGP the start is so important and Rossi has not of late been a good starter. Usually back around 6th to the first turn. He needs to be one of the first 3 into that first corner if he hopes to win. If not Honda will win it all again because Marquez will probably win about 7 races, Lorenzo about 7 races and Pedrosa 3 or 4 races, but more importantly to the championship is how many points Pedrosa can keep Lorenzo and Rossi from getting. I don’t think Pedrosa can win the championship any more (I used to) but now I think he can be the deciding factor as to who does(and has his entire career).

      • VLJ says:

        So you’re saying Pedroza could decide the championship by submarining one of the main protagonists, circa 2006 at Estoril? Our little Dani? Never!

        :-)

        All kidding aside, if Rossi can continue to stay on level terms like this with Jorge and the Hondas, I think you’ll need to adjust those projected race win totals just a bit.

        • mickey says:

          Lol I think I figured it up one time and with Pedrosa’s 83 podiums that was so many hundreds of points that yamaha riders didn’t get and could have used to win the Championship. Taking points away from the other team is just about as important as earning points for your team. I think Honda has been pleased with how many points Pedrosa has kept yamaha riders from getting. It has allowed Stoner and Marquez to win championships for Honda.

          Pedrosa didn’t submarine Hayden on purpose and anyone with eyes and a brain can watch the video and see that. It is available on youtube. He was already on the ground when his bike hit Haydens. It was a rookie mistake, like a lot of rookies make and are forgiven for (Marquez and Simoncelli come to mind). Besides he took himself out as well and he had just as many wins that season as Hayden did.

      • bikerrandy says:

        Pedrosa so far has been a non-title winner like Randy Mamola was. Win some races but never the GP Title.

  7. Bob says:

    Good question – time to drop the Rossi is God thing.

    • Butch says:

      God? Relax Bob. It is normal convention that in case of a tie in lap times the rider who achieved the lap time first gets the nod. Had Pedrosa cracked the 2 minute mark first, he would have been awarded first place.

      • Bob says:

        In normal conversation? No, its simply misleading.

        Something like “Rossi/Pedrosa share top time” would be accurate AND informative.

        • Butch says:

          Conversation? Wow. Word usage lesson time for Bob. It is normal CONVENTION as I typed. Convention definition: “a standard practice, the way something is usually done, esp. within a particular activity or or area. ”

          So again, no one was misleading, because it is standard practice for racing organizations to award the higher placement rank to the rider who achieved the lap time earlier in the session.

          Next time check a dictionary before trying to correct someone’s spelling.

  8. Tim says:

    Because Pedrosa took out Nicky in 06 –he loses a10th just for that

  9. Ken says:

    So why is Rossi on top if he and Pedrobot did the same time?

    • bikerrandy says:

      Because Pedrobot has never won a title in that series and Rossi has many titles in that class. Pedrobot is still a wannabe after 8 years trying in the top class.

      • Dave says:

        Re: “Pedrobot is still a wannabe after 8 years trying in the top class”

        Really? How many other active riders have numerous wins in MotoGP? His lack of a championship does not render him invalid. He is one of the top-10 (5?) riders in the world.

        • mickey says:

          Some wins? How about 25 MotoGP wins, and 84 podiums in 133 starts! I don ‘t care if you don’t like him personally, but give credit where credit is due. He is a great motorcycle racer.

          • bikerrandy says:

            When I say wannabe that’s only in reference to being a World Champion in the top class.

          • mickey says:

            Randy, I’d say he wantstobe real bad lol. I’m sure all of them wannabe but at the end of the season and points are added up, there is only ONE. So far he has not been the one, and I doubt at this point he ever will.

        • silver says:

          Compared to Rossi’s history he is invalid.

          • mickey says:

            Sour grapes talking

            In 250 class he had same winning % as Rossi and better on podium %

            In MotoGp Rossi has better win % but Pedrosa has better on podium %

            That hardly makes his record invalid compared to Rossi’s

            You can celebrate the fact that he has not won any MotoGP World Championships ( other than his rookie year I don’t believe he has finished worse than third while Rossi has) but to dismiss his talent as a racer is pure bs

          • mickey says:

            Its fun to throw in lorenzos stats as well

            In 250 class Lorenzo had a worse record in both stats than either Rossi or Pedrosa by quite a bit

            But in MotoGP Lorenzo has a slightly less winning percentage than Rossi but better than Pedrosa and a better on podium percentage than both of them, by a bunch.

    • VLJ says:

      Rossi is on top because he posted the fastest lap time. As mentioned in the article, however, he is not alone on top. But he is on top.