The Trouble With The Ducati Desmosedici: An Exhaustive Analysis

Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati was a match made in marketing heaven, the combined selling power of the world's most famous motorcycle racer and the world's most iconic motorcycle brand would surely prove to be a veritable sales steamroller. Casey Stoner had already proven that the bike was capable of winning races - though it clearly had a problem with the front end - and with a seven-time MotoGP champion and the crew that helped him win those titles, success would be quick to come.

If sales of merchandise are anything to go by, then the move was definitely a success, MotoGP circuits coloring red as Rossi fans stocked up on Ducati gear, the red still tinged with Rossi's traditional yellow. But a look at the results sheets tells a different story altogether. Though the Italian is 5th in the championship standings (and just 2 points off 4th), Rossi has consistently crossed the finish line between 25 and 30 seconds after the winner took the checkered flag. So far, Rossi has taken just a single podium - arguably gifted to him, with Dani Pedrosa being taken out by Marco Simoncelli, and then Simoncelli being punished with a ride-through - and has found himself in the battle for 5th or 6th. By any measure, Rossi's move to Ducati must be counted a disaster, the combination a massive disappointment to fans, followers and even fellow riders.

Unsurprisingly, there has been fevered speculation about the cause of the problems, and whether it is down to the rider, the bike, or the combination of the two. Rossi fans point to his record, and the fact that he won a race in October of 2010, even while suffering with a damaged shoulder, only fixed after the end of the season. Yet Ducati fans, along with a contingent of Stoner fans, point out that Stoner was able to win on the previous incarnation of the machine (the GP10 the Australian raced last season was very similar, with one or two exceptions, to the GP11 which Rossi started the season off on), and so there can't have been that much wrong with the machine. Others postulate that it is not so much a single factor, but rather that the combination of Rossi's high-corner-speed style and the Ducati's flaky front end that is to blame, the Italian unable - or unwilling - to adopt Stoner's excessively aggressive corner entry style which allowed him to tame the Desmosedici.

So where does the truth lie? What is really wrong with the Ducati-Rossi combo? Is Rossi over the hill, or did Stoner make the Ducati look good, or is Rossi just not capable of adapting his style to the tricky Desmosedici? And if it is the bike, can Rossi's wily veteran crew chief Jeremy Burgess cure what ails the Ducati? We will go through the possible causes of the problem one factor at a time, but first, it may be helpful to identify exactly where the problem lies.

The Symptoms

Why is that neither Valentino Rossi nor Nicky Hayden have been able to get the Desmosedici to work? It all comes down to one thing: front-end feel. "The problem is in braking and entry," Rossi said at Mugello. "I don't have enough feeling from the front for corner entry like I want." The Ducati simply is not returning enough feedback from the front tire to the rider, nor providing enough grip from the front Bridgestone tire. "We have a lot of problems to put enough temperature into the tires," was Rossi's verdict at Assen, where very cool temperatures prevailed. At both Assen and Silverstone, Rossi had been forced to use the softer compound tire during practice, which helped by coming up to temperature a little more quickly, but as the soft front was only good for a few laps, it was never going to be an option for the race. The hotter temperatures at Mugello helped a bit, giving more feedback from the front, but still Rossi remained eight tenths of a second slower than the leading group.

Summarizing both Rossi's and Hayden's descriptions of the problem over the first half of the season, the front end of the Ducati feels vague and does not provide sufficient feedback, leaving both Marlboro Ducati riders with a lack of confidence in the front end. And the underlying cause of the lack of feel is the difficulty of getting the ultra-stiff Bridgestone tires up to temperature.

Is It The Rider?

The biggest variable which has changed between 2010 and 2011 is the departure of Casey Stoner and the arrival of Valentino Rossi. Though Rossi is now riding a heavily modified machine (the GP11.1, as it has been dubbed, is a destroked version of the 2012 Desmosedici, its capacity reduced to 800cc to make it legal for 2011), the bike he rode until Assen was not much changed from the bike Stoner left behind at Valencia in 2010. The bike had a modified triple clamp, a slightly different swingarm, and a slightly revised front chassis. The biggest changes have been in the field of electronics, Rossi and his crew helping to provide a much more user-friendly engine response package, introduced after Estoril.

So if Stoner made the Ducati work, then surely the problem must be with Rossi, right? Though that might appear to be the logical conclusion, that grossly oversimplifies a complicated situation. Just 9 months ago, with a weakened shoulder that left him struggling, Rossi was still capable of winning races and scoring regular podiums. He was poetry to watch, flowing over the Yamaha M1 and able to put it just about where he wanted. In the 11 races after returning from the leg he broke at Mugello, and still struggling with the shoulder injury he picked up in a training crash in April, Rossi was on the podium 7 times, including 1 win. Riders simply do not lose that kind of speed over the winter break, not unless they suffer a career-threatening injury.

From the moment he swung his leg over the Ducati, Rossi was immediately miles off the pace. He ended the two-day test 1.7 seconds off the pace of the fastest man, Jorge Lorenzo. Three days earlier, in the race, Rossi's fastest lap had been just a few hundredths slower than Lorenzo's. Worse still, Rossi looked nothing like himself on the bike. Several observers commented that it was as if someone had sneaked into Rossi's motorhome, stolen his leathers and helmet, walked in through the back of the pits and onto the Ducati without anyone noticing he was not Rossi. At that first test in Valencia, Rossi looked like a journalist riding the bike, someone far less comfortable or able easing his way around the track.

Rossi was not the only rider to undergo an overnight transformation. Loris Capirossi jumped off the Rizla Suzuki and onto the Pramac Ducati and went nowhere, while Randy de Puniet has been transformed from the man who regularly scored top 6 results on the LCR Honda to a rider who can barely make it into the top 10 on the Pramac Desmosedici. With the Ducati's history of destroying riders' reputations - along with their self-confidence - Rossi is just another casualty in the long list that started with Marco Melandri.

The startling difference between Rossi's times from this year and those from last year is one clue that the problem is not with the rider. At Laguna Seca, where comparable temperatures prevailed between the 2010 and 2011 events, Rossi was 14 seconds slower this year than on the Yamaha. At the 2010 event, Rossi was still using crutches, the US round being only his second race since returning after breaking his leg at Mugello, some 8 weeks' beforehand. But the key piece of evidence that the problem is the bike and not the rider is the times of Nicky Hayden: the American was also 14 seconds slower at Laguna in 2011 than he was in 2010.

The Bike

So it appears we can safely rule out the problem being the rider. And if it isn't the rider, the problem must lie in the bike. Indeed, speculation and conjecture about where the problem lies have been more intense than ever this season, with everyone and their mother-in-law apparently having an opinion. The ideas around the Ducati's shortcomings seem to fall into three schools of thought, two centering around the chassis and another focusing on the engine, with the theories about the chassis being by far the most popular.

The favorite culprit is the use of carbon fiber to build a frame, the properties of the material being blamed for the lack of feel in the front end. The layout of the chassis is the next favorite among the pundits, the short subframe which joins the steering head to the engine being fingered as too small to provide sufficient flex for the front. And the third, but far less favored option is the layout of the engine, the characteristic L-shaped 90° V4 forcing too much weight towards the rear. Let's go through these options one-by-one, and examine how much blame should be attributed to each.

A Brief History Of Motorcycle Chassis Design

Before we look at carbon fiber, a quick word on motorcycle chassis. Once upon a time, a frame was just some tubing that held the engine in place and connected the steering head to the swingarm. As tires improved and engine outputs increased, the forces involved in braking and accelerating started to overwhelm the tubular steel chassis, and frame builders started to make their frames stiffer. In the 1990s, chassis builders started to encounter the opposite problem: as their frames got stiffer and stiffer, the bike started chattering and vibrating, making handling terrible, especially when leaned over, when the suspension of a bike ceases to work, being in the wrong plane. And so the concept of flex was introduced, adding sufficient flexibility to allow the bike to absorb some of the bumps while leaned over, but still stiff enough to keep the chassis stable in a straight line and under braking. Since the late 1990s, and especially since the four-stroke era began, a huge amount of work has gone into engineering in exactly enough flexibility in specific areas, while retaining the stiffness in the planes where it is needed.

As tuneable flexibility has become increasingly important, the attractiveness of alternatives to aluminium has also grown. Traditional aluminium has the benefit of being light and easy to work with, but as MotoGP chassis designers push the limits, they also run into a few limitations. Engineering in flex is a matter of designing chassis elements with a specific thickness and shape, but the underlying properties of aluminium mean that at some point, achieving the precise amount of flexibility required means sacrifices strength. The way to get around this problem is by making elements longer, allowing a mass (usually, the mass of the engine) to use the greater leverage provided by a longer element (such as an engine spar connecting the engine to the main chassis beam) to provide the flexibility without sacrificing rigidity.

When the rest of the world switched from perimeter steel tube frames to aluminium twin spar frames, Ducati took a different but still ingenious approach. Instead of wrapping the engine in aluminium box section, Ducati welded up short sections of light steel tubing to create a trellis frame. The advantages were that the chassis was relatively easy to tune, by changing the diameter and position of the individual tubing sections and redistributing the load and the flexibility, and Ducati persevered with the design for six years until they dropped it in favor of carbon fiber.

The downside to the trellis frame is that the trellis - a series of joined triangles - limited the amount of space available for the airbox. All those short, straight tubes meant the airbox had to be shoehorned in, restricting the airbox in both size and shape. Furthermore, the disadvantage of having the frame constructed from twenty or so short sections of steel tubing is that those twenty tubes require forty welds to join them all. Getting weld strength to a precise tolerance is a very tricky art at best, and the more there are, the more chance of variation. While still at Ducati, Casey Stoner said that even when he had identical setups on his two Desmosedicis, they would never feel exactly the same. Paddock rumor suggests that variation in stiffness between two supposedly identical steel trellis chassis could be large - as much as 15% - due in part to the problems of reproducing so many welds and so many parts to completely identical specifications.

Carbon Fiber - Too Stiff For Racing Motorcycles?

Hence Ducati's decision to go for carbon fiber (CF). The advantages over steel trellis are manifold: as CF is a composite, it can be easily molded to create whatever shape is required; its flexibility and stiffness can be almost infinitely tuned using a combination of fiber direction and thickness; it is incredibly light, with much greater strength than metals; and the stiffness and strength can be tuned to respond differently in different axes and directions, a more difficult trick with metals. Ducati's main reason for choosing CF was the combination of stiffness, low weight and the ability to form the material into the shape required.

Ducati Desmosedici GP9The Desmosedici's forward chassis section functions as a combined airbox and subframe: the subframe is required to be light and strong, while the airbox needs to be large enough to feed the Ducati's bellowing intakes as its 800cc motor spins at 20,000 rpm. By carefully calculating the desired stiffness in the different planes and axes - stiff enough to remain stable under hard braking, supple enough to flex from side to side to provide some suspension over bumps at full lean, all the while resisting torsion, or the urge to twist - the required combination of the number of layers of carbon fiber weave and the direction in which they are laid can be worked out. Once assembled, the subframe can be cured in an autoclave and sent to the team. Data returned from testing can then be integrated into the models used to create the existing subframe design, and a new iteration produced in the same way.

The claims by many that carbon fiber is too stiff to use in a motorcycle chassis can be put down to a common misunderstanding. CF can be made as stiff or as flexible as the designers want it to be, by varying the thickness and direction of the fibers in the weave. Its use is common in fishing rods, and for a demonstration of just how flexible CF can be, check out this video of a CF fishing rod being tested to breaking point.

The problem is not that CF is too stiff, but that the feedback it provides differs so completely from conventional aluminium. The property most often quoted is hysteresis, which in this instance, refers to the rate at which absorbed energy is returned. One of the benefits of CF is the fact that it can be made to damp vibration, its hysteresis meaning that the energy absorbed from an input (such as striking a bump) is released in a much more controlled fashion. Tap an aluminium tube and it rings like a bell; tap a CF tube and it emits a dull thud.

This is a property that Ducati had hoped would help them solve the problem of chatter (or extreme vibration over bumps) but it had an unintended side effect. Just as with the original attempts at using carbon fiber for chassis, starting with the Cagiva back in 1990, the damping also removes some of the feel from the front end. When used to build swingarms - as Aprilia had been doing for their 250cc racers for several years - this damping helps remove unwanted vibration, but at the front of the bike, that vibration also contains valuable information. As Guy Coulon once explained to me on the subject of unconventional front suspension systems, what is required of a racing motorcycle is that the information from the tarmac should pass directly into the rider's brain with as little interference or loss of data as possible. Any system which removes or alters that information means that the rider has to learn to interpret the feedback almost from scratch. All of the experience gained in his many years of racing is of little value in interpreting what he is feeling.

This is what caused the Cagiva to fail back in the early 1990s. The riders, brought up on a generation of steel and aluminium chassis, simply could not understand the feedback they were receiving from the machine. And this seems to be at least one part of the problem with the Ducati Desmosedici: the carbon fiber subframe connecting the front forks to the front of the engine may be damping the vibrations too much, reducing the amount of information traveling from the front tire up into the rider's brain. Alternatively, it may be returning too much information, providing more feedback than most riders are used to receiving. Filtering out this new (and not necessarily useful) information may be what is confusing the riders about the feel.

As we said earlier, the underlying problem of the Ducati is the difficulty the riders have in getting the front tire up to temperature. The stiffness of the CF chassis may not be the problem here, but the feedback from the chassis could make it harder for the riders to push the tire hard enough to start working.

So is the choice of carbon fiber the main cause of Ducati's problems? Looking at the theoretical benefits of the material it is hard to say that it is. There could be an issue where the feel of a CF chassis is sufficiently different to traditional aluminium that it is hard for riders with many years' experience of metal frames to interpret and understand. But with Rossi known more for his adaptability than for his rigid adherence to a single style, this does not seem like an insurmountable candidate. So let us examine the next candidate.

The Mini-Frame - Less Flex Than A Twin Spar

If it's not the material, perhaps it is the amount of material being used. The major difference between the Desmosedici and the Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki is not so much the use of carbon fiber, but rather the use of the engine as a stressed member of the chassis. Where the Japanese machines have long aluminium beams joining the headstock to the swingarm, the Ducati has a short, boxy section bolted on to the cylinder heads of the two banks of cylinders that compose Ducati's 90° V4. The mounting is as direct as possible, with the mounting points placed near to the headstock.

Ducati Desmosedici GP9The advantage of this construction is that it uses the stiffness of the engine casings as an integral part of the chassis, and allows the chassis to be made much lighter. With both the front subframe and rear swingarm attaching directly to the engine, there is little superfluous material around. This makes it possible to keep the bike very narrow (there is no perimeter frame snaking around the engine), as well as using the stiffness of the engine to maintain stability under braking. Again, by integrating the airbox into the subframe, another extraneous part can be discarded and the weight of the bike kept down.

Criticism of the design focuses on the shortness of the parts involved, and the complications that adds in obtaining the desired degree of flexibility. The words of Masao Furusawa, the design genius behind Yamaha's M1, are often cited, about the need for the chassis to bend like a tree. Longer chassis sections create a longer lever, and allow flexibility to be created much more precisely. To illustrate the argument, take a long, thin object - such as a cane, or a wooden ruler - and try to bend by pushing down at both ends. The object should bend like a reed. Now put your hands just a couple of inches apart and try to bend the object again: it's almost impossible, at least not without snapping the object. The long engine mounting spars on Yamaha's M1 are a case in point, their length aimed at absorbing bumps while the bike is leaned over.

The counter-argument to this criticism is that the use of carbon fiber makes using longer chassis elements unnecessary. The very programmable nature of CF - the mixture of layers, direction, resin and curing - means that it should be possible to exactly replicate the effect of a long aluminium chassis spar merely by varying the nature of the carbon fiber used. Long sections may make things easier when building frames in aluminium, but carbon fiber dispenses with all that.

Though CF is undeniably an incredibly versatile material, there may still be some merit in the criticism. Having such a short subframe also means that the engine has to transmit a lot of the load. The engine is significantly stiffer than the chassis - it has, after all, to contain and dissipate 230-odd horsepower and deliver it to the back wheel without shaking itself apart. What this means is that the entire chassis assembly consists of two separate parts of completely different stiffness. The more flexible front subframe - complete with engineered flex to aid in absorbing bumps at extreme lean angles - is connected to a rigid engine with almost no flex at all. The central part of the Desmosedici has no flex, while the front subframe and the rear swingarm do.

On a more traditional twin spar chassis, the loads are carried from the front of the bike to the rear through aluminium beams connecting the headstock to the swingarm. The CF subframe may be engineered to provide the same amount of flex as a traditional twin spar, but the two ally beams on the twin spar flex much closer to the center of the bike. Instead of having a rigid center and a more flexible front, a twin spar chassis has a long section which can flex in the center of the bike. Added to the different forces created by attaching the engine using long front engine mounts, the feel of the Ducati will be completely different to a Japanese machine.

There have been a host of clues recently that Ducati are already working on an aluminium twin spar chassis for the GP11 - or possibly the GP11.1 - after a lot of pressure from Rossi and his crew chief Jeremy Burgess. A twin spar chassis could make its debut as early as Brno (though it is more probable to make its first public appearance at Valencia) with signs coming from several sources that big things are afoot at Ducati.

But the twin spar may not be the panacea that Rossi (and his legion of fans) are hoping for. As team manager and test rider Vito Guareschi pointed out to a gaggle of Italian journalists and myself, building a twin spar frame means fighting the Japanese on their own territory. Both Yamaha and Honda have nearly thirty years of experience of building these frames; Ducati has absolutely none. Though a lot of the knowledge is already available, the devil - and the potential for victory - is in the detail, the final refinements giving the last couple of tenths that make the difference between being competitive and running around in 7th. Ultimately, Ducati - with a lot of pressure from Rossi and from main sponsor Marlboro - may feel they have nothing to lose, and gamble it all on an aluminium twin spar chassis.

Will it help, though? Using a traditional twin spar chassis may provide more feel at the front, and it may make the riders feel a lot more comfortable on the bike. What it won't necessarily do is generate a lot of heat in the front end, which brings us to the next subject: Ducati's sacred L4 configuration.

The L4 - Bad Packaging And Poor Weight Transfer

Ask anyone with even a passing interest in motorcycling what engine a Ducati uses and they will tell you without hesitation that it is a 90° V twin, also called an L twin, because the right angle between the two cylinders makes the configuration look like the letter L. The Bologna factory has been building engines in this configuration for 40 years now, since switching from smaller capacity singles to V twins at the start of the 1970s.

So when Ducati decided to enter MotoGP, they naturally attempted to retain the iconic engine design which has been a key selling point for so many years. Filippo Preziosi was quick to understand that a twin would never be able to produce the horsepower needed to compete in the series, and so concentrated instead on building a four-cylinder engine, built to resemble the 90° L twin as closely as possible. Almost as an act of penance for the extra set of cylinders, the initial plan was for the Desmosedici to use a "twin pulse" or big bang firing order, with the cylinders in each bank of cylinders firing simultaneously, to make the bike sound (and behave) more like a twin. Problems handling the power such a configuration produced meant that Ducati had to switch to a "four pulse" or screamer firing order, each cylinder firing separately, but since then, the factory has oscillated between the two firing orders.

The major benefit of a 90° angle between the cylinders is primary balance, where the motion of each piston in the V is balanced against the other piston. As one piston reaches top dead center, the other is in the middle of its stroke, maintaining its momentum and damping the change in kinetic energy as the first piston switches from upwards to downwards motion. The mechanical balance of the L configuration means that it does not require a large balance shaft to damp the vibrations of the engine, saving power. Balance shafts cost power to drive.

But the biggest problem of the L4 configuration is its size and layout. In the modern era of MotoGP, much of the focus has been on keeping the mass of the bike as centralized as possible. The benefit of centralizing mass is that changing the setup of the bike - its weight distribution, rider position, suspension changes - can be more refined and more predictable. Knowing where all of the mass is makes it easier to calculate how to move it around to achieve the desired effect at a particular track.

The main thrust of mass centralization has been in engine layouts: Suzuki's GSV-R uses a 65° V4 engine, Honda's RC212V uses a 72° V4, and Yamaha's M1 uses an inline 4 to make the engine even more compact, sacrificing a little bit of width for more centralization of mass. Behind the crankshaft, gearboxes are stacked, the rows of gears transferring power from the crankshaft to the rear wheel folded up into a V to shorten the length of the gearbox and keep the mass even closer to the engine's overall center of mass.

The compact engine layouts have a secondary benefit as well: with the engine taking up less space, fuel tanks have migrated to be located underneath the rider's seat, placing that mass (which disappears as the fuel is burned off during the race) close to the center as well. A compact engine gives designers the freedom to place other heavy objects - including the rider - in a range of locations around the bike, to help them achieve whatever goals they may have set themselves.

Nicky Hayden's GP11.1 Ducati Desmosedicis at Laguna SecaAnd here's where Ducati's L4 falls down. The angle between the two cylinder banks makes the engine much longer than its rivals, leaving a large space between the cylinder banks which is filled only with the throttle bodies and airbox/subframe. While the front cylinder bank protrudes through a cutout in the radiators to almost touch the front wheel, the rear cylinder bank slopes back and sits right where Yamaha has its fuel tank.

The 90° angle between the cylinders forces the front cylinders to be angled forward much more than the narrower angle Honda. Visual estimates (the exact data involved is highly sensitive and impossible to obtain) suggest that the front cylinder bank of the Ducati is at 70° from the vertical, while Honda's RC212V is at just 45°. This means that the Honda engine can be moved much further forward and closer to the front wheel than the Ducati, allowing the Honda's chassis designers more freedom in placing the engine. The 18° difference in V angle between the Ducati and the Honda also equates to cylinder banks that are roughly 15% further apart, making the engine correspondingly longer. Move the Desmosedici engine further forward, and you foul the front wheel; move it further back and you drastically shorten the swingarm.

The physical size of the Desmosedici engine - or rather, its rather rangy layout - means that much of the mass of the bike is further back than its rivals, with less freedom for changing weight distribution, especially at the design stage. This difficulty in moving weight distribution is one of the prime candidates for the difficulty the riders have for getting the Desmosedici's front tire up to temperature. While the bike may feel fine and the weight distribution look good on paper, the way the weight transfers under braking and acceleration is different, and this could be what is preventing the riders from getting heat into the tire.

There are several major clues that this is exactly what the problem is with the Desmosedici. Throughout their struggles with the Ducati, Rossi and his vastly experienced - and multiple world championship winning - crew have experimented with some fairly drastic changes to the weight distribution. At Mugello, they raised the center of gravity by 20mm, a vast amount in a world where normally parameters are changed a millimeter at a time. At Laguna Seca, they tried another change, shifting the weight further back and leaving Rossi's bike looking more like a chopper than a racing motorcycle.

Indeed, the main rationale behind the switch from the GP11 originally fielded for the 2011 season and the heavily revised GP11.1 is that they could raise the center of mass much more without making the rear pump, a problem which the original design with the top-brace swingarm suffered from, and familiar to anyone who watched Casey Stoner coming out of corners on the GP9 and GP10 in previous years.

What Works In WSBK Won't Work In MotoGP

But if the L configuration is the problem, how come it works in World Superbikes? Ducati has dominated the WSBK championship over the years, and Carlos Checa is well on his way to wrapping up another title for Ducati aboard the 1198R, fitted with a 90° L-twin engine. So how can a design that is ripping up WSBK suddenly be such a disadvantage in MotoGP?

The answer to that question is to be found in the underlying cause of the MotoGP machine's problems: the tires. The World Superbike series use Pirellis as the spec tire, and the Pirellis are a completely different beast. The construction of the Pirellis is much less stiff, making generating heat in the tires a much simpler task. With a front that sticks and provides feedback, the 1198 responds perfectly, and the L twin engine is much kinder to the rear tire than the four cylinders, allowing Ducati's WSBK machine to be competitive.

The Bridgestones, on the other hand, have an incredibly stiff carcass, built to handle the stresses created by Grand Prix machinery, from the powerful engines, stiff chassis and carbon brakes. Once the tires are up to temperature, they offer astounding levels of grip and feedback, allowing unbelievable performance. Outside of their optimal temperature range, they are much less forgiving, giving little feedback and making the amount of grip available difficult to judge. The L4 being used by Ducati is a prime candidate for the Desmosedici's inability to get the front Bridgestone tires up to temperature.

The irony is that Ducati's early adoption of the Bridgestone tires created a highly-productive collaboration between the two parties. With a lot of input into the development direction, Bridgestone created tires that worked well with the Desmosedici. But as other teams and factories started to switch to the Bridgestones, Ducati's influence became less important, and once the spec tire was introduced, the input from Ducati became just one of the many data sources that Bridgestone used to develop the tires. With data from three Japanese factories using a conventional aluminium chassis and an engine sitting taller and further forward in the frame than the Ducati, the Desmosedici's unconventional design has become less suited to the Bridgestones.

This also underlines exactly how important tires have become since the introduction of the single tire rule. By limiting the design and construction of the available tires to just two compounds (soon to be three compounds, but still), the room to modify the behavior of the bikes using the tires has completely disappeared. Right now, the key to building a competitive MotoGP machine is to understand the characteristics of the spec Bridgestone tires, and designing a motorcycle to suit them, exploiting their strengths and circumventing their weakness. This is a process that Yamaha and Honda appear to have adapted to much more quickly than Ducati has.

What About The GP12?

When Filippo Preziosi suggested to Valentino Rossi that he could modify the GP12 to make it legal under this year's rules, Rossi jumped at the chance. When testing the GP12, Rossi felt the bike responded much better, and he had fewer problems with the front than he had with the 800. However, once the GP11.1 (the GP12 destroked and made legal for 2011) was introduced at Assen, the old problems returned, Rossi still left complaining of a lack of feel in the front end.

How can this be? How can two identical bikes, identical except for the length of the connecting rods, the position of the crank pins and the swept volume of the engines, behave so differently? The answer lies in the different ways in which the 800 and the 1000 (or whatever capacity the GP12 happens to be) need to be ridden. The 800cc MotoGP machines all need to carry as much corner speed as possible, which means the bike is spending a lot of time at or near maximum lean. This is exactly the point where feedback from the front end is crucial, the ability to feel what the front tire is doing. The GP12, both Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden have said, can be ridden using the torque more; corner entry is less crucial, and the available torque gives the rider more options coming out of the corner. The bike is spending less time on its ear, in that critical zone where front end feel is so crucial.

If the good news is that the 1000 will be spending less time in its weakest area, the bad news is that the problem is still there. The GP12 suffers from a lack of front end feel as much as the GP11 or GP11.1, it's just that it will be easier to ride around it. The new chassis, the bigger engine, will not magically cure the Ducati's ills. The GP12 may not suffer as badly as the GP11, but it will still have problems contending with the Honda and the Yamaha.

Fixing The Ducati

While the whole world and their cousin-in-law concentrate on the Ducati's use of carbon fiber and their minimalistic subframe which functions as a chassis, the problem may lie elsewhere. If the rumors are true, an aluminium twin spar frame could soon be on its way to the Ducati garage, possibly as early as Brno. All of Bologna, all of Tavullia, all of the Valentino Rossi - and indeed, Nicky Hayden - fans around the world will be praying that this is the solution, and Rossi can start to compete once again. If it doesn't, then Ducati is in an even bigger hole than they are now.

From all that I have learned in speaking to engineers - or rather, listening, and then shamelessly stealing their ideas, for which they have my eternal gratitude - Ducati's problems are not fundamentally down to their minimalistic chassis design, and probably only partially due to their use of carbon fiber.

The concept of combining the two - a small subframe made of carbon fiber, tuned to provided optimum flex - is basically sound, though it clearly has a few problems. The biggest being the feedback provided by carbon fiber, is fundamentally and confusingly different from that provided by an aluminium twin spar design. If riders can learn to understand the information being returned from the carbon fiber chassis, and the engineers can design the CF to produce the desired feedback, then this avenue could provide options well worth exploring. It may also offer Ducati's best hope of competing, as any move to use a twin spar chassis leaves them short of the twenty-odd years of experience the Japanese manufacturers already have.

The much bigger problem, in my view, is the layout of the engine. It is physically large, the 90° L4 layout making the engine long, and placing the cylinder banks in awkward locations when packaging a racing motorcycle. The size and shape of the engine make compromises on layout inevitable, and precisely these compromises are what are preventing the Ducati from generating the necessary load in the ultra-stiff front Bridgestone tire, and leaving the front end of the bike feeling vague. With no confidence in the front end, neither Valentino Rossi nor Nicky Hayden - nor indeed any of the satellite Ducati riders - can push the bike to the extent needed to be competitive.

Abandoning the L would be the biggest step Ducati could make towards becoming competitive again. It would open up avenues which the current layout makes it impossible to explore. The weight distribution would be much more flexible, giving Rossi, Burgess and co. more options to explore. A more compact V or even an inline 4 layout could turn around Ducati's prospects.

Rossi vs. Ducati

Of course, this means abandoning forty years of history, and a layout which has become part of the Ducati legend. If it were to fail, Ducati would have lost both its reputation as a manufacturer of fast motorcycles, and sacrificed a key part of its iconic brand identity. If it succeeds, the question is whether the Ducatisti will feel that sacrificing their heritage is worth the return in competitiveness.

It all boils down to two simple questions. Is Valentino Rossi's failure on the Ducati more harmful to Rossi or to Ducati? And would changing Ducati's design philosophy - potentially abandoning the iconic L configuration - hurt Ducati's long-term prospects more than allowing Rossi to continue failing, and risk losing him to another manufacturer?

To my mind, there is no debate. Ducati's exclusivity is built to a large extent on sporting success. Failure in MotoGP is simply not an option, the worst of all possible worlds. If Ducati is to exploit the strength of their own brand - and especially the selling power of Valentino Rossi - they need Rossi to be winning, or at least on the podium week in and week out. The MotoGP bikes are seen as so far removed from Ducati's street machines that the engine configuration - or for that matter, the chassis layout - is irrelevant. Using an L twin may be a big deal for Ducati's World Superbike effort, as there they are racing the machines that they are trying to sell. But exactly how many degrees apart the Desmosedici GP11's cylinders are has no bearing on the purchasing decisions of prospective Ducati customers. Having Rossi be successful is. If Rossi fails, Ducati fails, leaving them either to find another rider who can ride around the Desmosedici's problems, or pull out of MotoGP altogether and focus on World Superbikes.

That final scenario is all too realistic. Ducati has survived in MotoGP thanks to the generosity of Marlboro's parent company Phillip Morris. Hiring Valentino Rossi is exactly the kind of high-profile coup that the tobacco giant loves. Having him fail miserably is exactly the kind of thing that Phillip Morris hates. If Marlboro believes the Ducati project is fundamentally flawed and that Ducati Corse is unwilling or unable to fix it, they will be gone, off to find another avenue for the promotion of their brand. With Yamaha without a title sponsor, and a long history with the Marlboro brand, Phillip Morris should have no trouble in finding another partner in MotoGP.

Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati was a match made in marketing heaven, the combined selling power of the world's most famous motorcycle racer and the world's most iconic motorcycle brand would surely prove to be a veritable sales steamroller. Casey Stoner had already proven that the bike was capable of winning races - though it clearly had a problem with the front end - and with a seven-time MotoGP champion and the crew that helped him win those titles, success would be quick to come.If sales of merchandise are anything to go by, then the move was definitely a success, MotoGP circuits coloring red as Rossi fans stocked up on Ducati gear, the red still tinged with Rossi's traditional yellow. But a look at the results sheets tells a different story altogether. Though the Italian is 5th in the championship standings (and just 2 points off 4th), Rossi has consistently crossed the finish line between 25 and 30 seconds after the winner took the checkered flag. So far, Rossi has taken just a single podium - arguably gifted to him, with Dani Pedrosa being taken out by Marco Simoncelli, and then Simoncelli being punished with a ride-through - and has found himself in the battle for 5th or 6th. By any measure, Rossi's move to Ducati must be counted a disaster, the combination a massive disappointment to fans, followers and even fellow riders.

Comments

Great article David thank you

Great article David thank you again. Would love to see Ducati do the diplomatic thing and still keep the carbon but perhaps review other aspects of the bike, it is great that they are different but it's a bit pointless if you are uncompetitive.
If that is ducatis philosophy you have to question whether the marriage with Rossi who will accept nothing less than a bike to fight for the title was well thought out.. As mentioned above I get the feeling that the situation has little to do with engineering at the moment, it is almost unbelievable to think that ducati still don't know what the flaws in the current design are, so it is more a question of what they are prepared to do(balls), certainly Rossi and Marlboro believed the signing was a genuine and focussed attempt by Ducati to become the dominant brand, however the half hearted engineering work this season has to question that.
Most telling was both Yams and Hondas surprise at the little apparent effort Ducati have put in(from the horses mouth so to speak). or huge effort (ie new swing arm means new engine)
for little change.
Would love to see a more conventional carbon frame, as apart from the obvious issues they are having being unable to change anything without having to build new engines in the current format is short sighted in the extreme and probably says more about the ducati engineering division than anything else.. Here's hoping they make real progress soon because they are clearly guessing with the current bike. I suspect Ducati not testing the 1000 at brno is becuase they don't have one as much as anything else and won't have a top 6 rider either if they don't sort it(and that was how Suzuki ended up where they are)..As above a lot of dukes on the grid so this is a situation that needs fixing and damn fast.
It seems obvious that if you have 3 manufacturers with one layout and 1 with another and a spec tyre, the odd one out will always lose out and continue to do so because the data will show the tyre works best when working for the most bikes..
No probs with bridgestone but the fact ducati have to build a clone jap bike to use the 500.00 euro tyre makes a mockery of calling it a prototype series, BS can make tyres for each individual requirement if they and the series promoters wanted too.

Total votes: 32

Half hearted engineering work at Ducati 2011?!

ha ha. That's your best one to date Hugelean.

Total votes: 35

The fact that Stoner has

The fact that Stoner has proven to be consistently fast on the Honda, with only one DNF which was obviously not his fault, shows further that the rider is not the problem with the Ducati. Did Casey suddenly learn how to be consistent once he went to Honda? Of course not. What it does show is that the Ducati cannot be a consistent winner - even in Casey's hands, who is proving this year to be very consistent on the Honda, the Ducati is very much "win it or bin it" or, for riders less exceptional than Casey, "ride it around in 6-10th and avoid injury".

I'm all for technical innovation, but it has to work. The bike doesn't work, at least with the current GP tires. How many riders do we want to seen thrown at this thing until Ducati admits that it doesn't work? Rumor has it that Sic may be on his way to a 3rd Marlboro Ducati for next year. Imagine the crashes! Spectacular!

Total votes: 37

Stoner was also extremely

Stoner was also extremely consistent on the 2007 Ducati, more consistent than Rossi on the Yamaha. From 2007 though to mid 2008 Stoner had more consecutive race finishes than Rossi. So why not go back to the 2007 Ducati? Of course the current control Bridgestone tires are not designed for Ducati like they were in 2007, and Stoner was still the only rider able to win on the bike in normal conditions, but still...they could at least test the 2007 configuration. Nothing to lose at this point.

In fact the 2006 Ducati was competitive: with a bit of luck Capirossi could have won the championship that year. Maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere.

Total votes: 28

One point...

David Emmett - "So it appears we can safely rule out the problem being the rider."

Not sure why you make this statement... we all know that Rossi is a great rider, that's not in dispute, & we know the Duc is a pain to ride... old news... are you trying to exonerate Rossi & his performance this year & blame it all on a bike that you state at the start of the year was not that different to the one Stoner was winning races on last year?* You are basing your assumption on Hayden & Rossi's performance at one race at Laguna Seca**... one race where Hayden stayed behind Rossi all the way... & they were on different bikes... & by your reasoning the Yamaha has gone backwards in development too as JL was 3 secs slower than last year at Laguna Seca (similarly Dovi on what must be a struggling Honda)... only Stoner & Spies were actually faster than last year at Laguna Seca... other than that it is an interesting article... thanks.

* "the bike he rode until Assen was not much changed from the bike Stoner left behind at Valencia in 2010."

** "But the key piece of evidence that the problem is the bike and not the rider is the times of Nicky Hayden: the American was also 14 seconds slower at Laguna in 2011 than he was in 2010."

Total votes: 33

Hedgehog - Half a dozen other posters have already had a crack

at Mr Emmett for this one if you care to wade through all posts.

Total votes: 37

We need to put to bed this

We need to put to bed this idea that the bike was a true winner with Stoner on it - a race winner on occasion, sure, but not a real championship contender, which is of course the true goal of Ducati.

With the CF frame, in 2009 Stoner had 4 wins and missed 3 races, he also had a DNF in Valencia, famously, on the warm-up lap trying to get heat into the tires. In this season he averaged 15 points per race on those he participated in, 13 per race counting all races.

In 2010 Stoner didn't get a win until 12 races into the season. True, he had 3 wins and a 2nd in the last 6 races - he also had 2 DNFs, and 5 DNFs for the season. 6 total DNFs in 2009-2010, 1 less than his total race wins. In 2010 he averaged 12.5 points per race.

In 2011 with the Honda under him? Just over halfway through the season, 5 wins and 1 DNF which truly wasn't his fault. Every other race on the podium. Averaging 19.3 points per race.

Apparently, for Stoner, the RC212V is worth about 6 point a race. What does this mean? I know it's all just voodoo statistics, and you can make them say anything you want.

What it says to me is this:

The Honda gives Casey a boost of 6 points per race on average. Over an 18-race season that is 108 points more that Casey is capable of scoring on the Honda than he was on the Ducati. Now Casey has championship winning potential versus simply race winning potential.

Leave Rossi out of the equation entirely. Stoner on the Duc versus Stoner on the Honda. Stoner is a constant. His riding ability hasn't changed that much over the course of a season to make that change. The difference is the bike.

As David stated at the beginning of his article, the rider is not the difference.

Total votes: 33

finally

somebody made the stoner duc:stoner honda comparison.....

Total votes: 28

i like staying up late

Interesting comparison. It does lack somewhat in that you don't give points/race for Stoner's good 2007 and 2008 years and as the 800cc era progressed there was more top level competition earning wins (entry of lorenzo and revitalized honda and yamaha machinery) so it is natural for his dominanat 2007 season to make his following seasons seem lackluster.

Stoner won several races a year and crashed out of a few at the front. That makes the bike a true winner, maybe not a consistent winner, but having won races makes it a winner. Looking at last year's results you would think that the Honda was not a true title contender, they only won 4 races and were 138 points back. However a closer look at what happened showed that being a title contender has many aspects besides the bike.

I wonder how much better Casey would have done if Ducati had acted on his feedback? So far this year Ducati have had 2 or 3 iterations of a softer chassis and a completely new bike. For all we know if Ducati had made some changes while Stoner was there he may have greatly reduced his DNF count. Honda brought several chassis and swingarms to preseason testing as they always do and are not adverse to having new parts developed though the year. Stoner went through them, picked the stuff he liked best, and is having a great and consistent season. Who's to say that if Ducati has shown up at testing or during the season with more than one version of the bike they would have actually made development progress? Yes, it is just speculation but that's what we do here in our armchairs.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 26

I excluded the 2007 and 2008

I excluded the 2007 and 2008 season because those bikes weren't CF framed, they were trellis. 2007 is also an anomaly as there were no spec tires that year. Not a lot of data points to go on, true, but GP bikes change so frequently that's about as good as it gets.

Total votes: 31

Good comparo, lets look at Rossi vs Rossi same metric

I liked the above metrics ..

>In 2010 Stoner didn't get a win until 12 races into the season. True, he had 3 wins and a 2nd in the last 6 races - he also had 2 DNFs, and 5 DNFs for the season. 6 total DNFs in 2009-2010, 1 less than his total race wins. In 2010 he averaged 12.5 points per race.

>In 2011 with the Honda under him? Just over halfway through the season, 5 wins and 1 DNF which truly wasn't his fault. Every other race on the podium. Averaging 19.3 points per race.

>Apparently, for Stoner, the RC212V is worth about 6 point a race. What does this mean? I know it's all just voodoo statistics, and you can make them say anything you want.

So lets do the same for Rossi !
In 2009, Rossi scored 306 points over 17 Races = avg 18 ppr on Yamaha.
In 2010, Rossi scored 233 points over 14 Races = avg 16.64 ppr on Yamaha.
In 2011, Rossi scored 108 points over 10 Races = avg 10.8 ppr on Ducati.

Hmm, same comment on voodoo stats ..

A. To Rossi, Ducati is negative 6 ppr (2011 vs 2010) to 7 ppr (2011 vs 2009) vs Yamaha.

B. Rossi's Ducati average (10.8 ppr) is lower than Stoner's 2010 avg (12.5) for the season.

C. More apples to apples? Stoner's first 10 races of 2010 vs Rossi's first 10 races of 2011 (assuming setup improvements, etc.):

Stoner (with 2 DNF) 119 points vs Rossi 108, Stoner avg would be higher w/o DNF
more telling: Stoner had 5 podiums (one 2nd, four 3rds) vs Rossi 1 podium (3rd)

D. Ducati, Ducati, Ducati ... sigh, fiery red head, gorgeous with italian curves, breaker of men's hearts

Total votes: 30

Restatement of results

So Ghostdog, you are suggesting that Stoner should have been world champ in 2009 and 2010 on any other bike than the Ducati? That's a big call and one pretty sure the get a few people riled up.

Also, you should check out David's latest article '2011 Brno MotoGP Saturday Round Up - The Three Aliens, A Rejuvenated Rossi, Motegi, And CRT" where he makes some interesting observations about how Stoner's technique enabled him to ride around the Duc front end problem. Rider + bike, not only bike... get it?

Total votes: 34

Get someone else to build the frame

No shortage of frame builders out there as evidenced by Moto2. FTR, Suter come to mind. In the short term I'm sure Ducati could get someone to quickly rattle together a half-decent frame, wrap it around the proven engine and let Rossi's not yet extinguished talent do the rest. Got to give a better result than the carbon fibre brick they're using now.

Total votes: 36

yes, and while they are at it

they can pay off the us debt, balance the budget, and get cats and dogs to live together in harmony!

the latest suter CRT chassis tested was 6 seconds off the pace. this year a lot of moto2 chassis have chatter problems. yamaha want though many chassis in 2006 trying to solve chatter issues. it took honda 4 years to get their 800cc bike to work well enough to be a contender. the 2010 yamaha chassis seems to be better than the 2011 version. why do you think it is so easy to throw together a good motogp bike? and why do you think anything with only a half-decent frame will be able to compete with fully developed factory bikes? rossi had a hard enough time beating lorenzo on the same machinery, much less anything lower spec.

if the last 4 months have shown us anything it is that with anything less than the best equipment there is no hope of winning for any rider regardless of talent. i guess except for stoner.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 27

Not so simple

You have to bolt the frame to the motor somehow. And if you don't change the mounts on the engine, you can't build a beam frame... just an aluminium version of the existing CF one. You'd be adding a new variable, rather than removing one.

Otoh, things could be worse. The current arrangement means that the engine is strong enough to hold the front to the back of the bike via its cylinder heads. Since the heads are only conected to each other and to the swingarm pivot via the crankcase, the cases are presumably easily strong enough to take some mounts without a complete re-design... but still a lot of hours in the cnc machining centre.

And of course it would be a 6th engine...

Total votes: 38

Rossi well past the point of caring about engines

He just wants a bike he can save a bit of face with now.

Total votes: 27

Ducati solutions

Perhaps tele forks are not ideally suited to the Ducati configuration. I've no idea if it would work, but if the current bike doesn't maybe they should throw caution to the winds and try something really different. Like the Vyrus Moto2 HCS bike. Difficult without 50 years of development behind them, but if they are not winning now, why not? It is a prototype class after all. It would be nice to see some radical prototypes being tested rather than incremental prototypes all the time.

Total votes: 37

Latest AMCN: my subsequent email to a mate

Nicky Hayden

"............ the Sachsenring: a good battle with Valentino, but thirty seconds behind the front. Vale was no faster than me, but he’s a racer: he doesn’t make mistakes or give you anything. A couple of times I thought I might be able to go up the inside, but I’m not just going to close my eyes and knock us both down trying for sixth place. People who think he’s not trying are crazy. I saw his right foot come off the peg a couple of times when he almost went down. He's on the limit and we got beat by 30 secs."

Didn't think I ever see the headline:

" BURGESS ADMITS DEFEAT ....... that set-up cannot fix the terminal front end problems of the Duc."

(and "Now Rossi refuses to take risks")

Reminds me of 1 or 2 races back - VR following Simoncelli over a brow, 2-3mtrs behind him, looking straight back at Rossi from Simoncelli's camera The Ducs front end moved somewhat alarmingly, something around 200-300mm. I thought it was really obvious, but not a word from the b.... dead commentators - nothing that would help joe public understand. (What do they watch?)

Total votes: 27

Compliments

First of all my compliments to David for this great article..
I am very curious if you (David) did get any reactions or comment from the Ducati guys on your article..

Basicly I agree that the basic problems is laying in the engine configuration and to create more adjustabillity into the position of the engine would create a lot more options for balancing the bike.

Don't think they must skip the CF it will be a wrong move to try to beat the Japanese on their own territory.

Total votes: 34

this whole 'can't beat the japanese on their own turf' thing

... is wrongheaded. What if the Japanese are building the thing that works best? Then you have no choice but to adopt it. If you think the only way to beat them is building something different you might as well throw an Aprilia Cube triple in the CF frame while you're at it.

Total votes: 31

moved to correct reply spot

.

Total votes: 24

Nice read!

The article is superb and some of the replies here are really interesting to read. *THUMBS UP*
I too am eager to see solutions for the D16 problems but we have to consider the facts as they are:

1)- Ducati already used 4 engines, from the 6 engines allowed by the rules, on each of the factory bikes. I would think that the 2 remaining engines would be put at stake (cases w/ different mounting points, etc) by any significant changes in chassis/frame design. With almost half of the 2011 season still to go, it's unlikely to see any considerable changes untill pre-season tests. ...I would only count with it then.

2) - For the first time in a very, very long time, Ducati is replacing one of their symbols/trademarks (the trellis frame) also for the upcoming production flagship (the 1199, which should race in WSBK).
Like already was said, ditching the current MotoGP chassis frame design could have a tremendous negative impact in the reputation, marketing and sales of Ducati. ...there's simply no other way to see it.

I honestly don't think the semi-monocoque (in CF or alu) chassis/frame design was adopted "just because". Especially in a company so strong in tradition as is Ducati, that decision could not have be taken lightly. The "japanese-alike" frame design was probably avoided for identity reasons but, overall, the CF semi-monocoque must have proven to have more qualities than whatnot, to be worthy, otherwise it's pure suicide to adopt it. It wouldn't make sense then.

In my honest opinion, the problem with the current Ducati D16 is the extremely narrow frame (pun non-intended!) of imediate working solutions in MotoGP, provoked by the current counter-productive rules (same tyre for all, 6 engines for season, limited number of private tests, etc), the established entities and overall conjuncture but, most of all, the technological and engineering tendencies (like the electronics and riding styles dependant of assistances).
At this point, the already widespreaded knowledge and better comprehension of more conservative frame/engine designs -as used by every other rival- make things difficult for what Ducati choosed to use.

If the problem is solely imediate success in the current MotoGP series -and unless a miracle happens- I guess that 1) either the tyre rules must change really fast, to suit particular needs of each GP bike (as in the past was), or 2) perhaps Ducati comes to the sad conclusion that their identity/mentality might become secondary (same as selling their soul?) and adopt the "aluminium Deltabox + narrow v4" copycat aproach.

I applaud Ducati for keeping with their everlasting "do it different" way of things, their famous "David vs Golias" attitude. We need more of that in this sport!
I also believe all these problems with the D16 might be hiding a possible winning solution for the future.
Meanwhile, I fear we may have yet to assist some more embarrassing results for Ducati and their riders...

Total votes: 26

-

...sorry! (double post)

Total votes: 26

CF dampening vibration, feel and weight distribution

Great article.

With regard to the CF frame limiting the feel from the front, is it not possible to have some kind of metal (i.e matrix of metal and carbon fibers) in the carbon fiber around the headstock area to help transmit vibration to rider (via handlebars).

With regard to not being able to move the engine around to get optimim weight distribution since Ducati has presumably saved a lot of weight (dont know how much ) with the CF frame then it should be possible to move ballast around to achieve similar effect.

Total votes: 29

Mercy... nobody is keeping up

Mercy... nobody is keeping up with the state of the art of
spec tire REAR weight bias??? even since Bridgestones which like a
more like 49% front and 51% rear MotoGp engines have been steadily
migrating to the REAR... which is the opposite during the old
Michelins days which liked a static weight distribution of around 51%
front and 49% rear... the engineers will tell you that a 90º V4 has
plenty of room to migrate forward but this forward weight bias means
insufficient weight or load pushing the rubber into the ground the
rear tire can wear quickly and when it does it loses grip and spins
too easily...

Technically speaking the rearward center of mass in Ducati's V4 is a
design feature not an inherent feature... the team has room to move
the engine forward but Rossi is enjoying new found confidence when the
team moved the engine still REARWARD after Sachsenring...

Quote Rossi Sunday

"We did something that we never did before, a big modification, shifting the
weight bias towards the REAR, It gave me more traction, and the bike was
faster on corner entry and on the brakes."

Total votes: 26

Sick and tyred

Surprised only a couple of posts have brought up, what to me is the biggest ill in our sport. And quite possibly the biggest thorn in Ducati's side. Namely the Bridgestone dictatorship.

Now i'll preface my rant by saying I hate spec anything (except possibly ECU but thats another rant for another day). Especially in a prototype racing class. There is no place for spec. None.

Much has been said about how the 800s are processional the racing is boring electronics are killing the fun blah blah blah. From my POV nothing has done more to promote this scenario than the single manufacturer spec tyre rule. I hate it. I've hated it since the get go, and I think the results speak for themselves.

We have a series where the tyres rule the roost, and teams, constructors and riders have to adapt themselves to work with the tyre. Well if that aint the most bassackwards way to determine who and what is the the king o the heap then I'm Davy Jones. Is it any wonder we have a handful of bikes that look and behave the same with little margin between them, because they are all built to work with the one tyre. And the manufacturers who buck that trend, Ducati and to a lesser extent Suzuki, are left to struggle to make their kit work with a tyre that clearly is never going to give them any advantage. I reckon, you take Bridgestone out of this equation and David never has to write this column. Ducati is free to find a tyre that works with its CF chassis and they can continue to push the boundaries of development.

What we have here is a total dictatorship by Bridgestone, and one thing history has taught us is dictatorships inevitably fail. They lead to stagnation and never promote progress. I'd like to see a true Capitalist free market return to the GP rubber ring war. I"d like to see pit lane with a number of tyre manufacturers vying for a teams business. And teams free to choose which tyre, which compound, on a given track on a given weekend they want to go with. None of this "Oh we're listening to you so we made one more tyre available, but we wont be bringing it to Philip Island where you might need it the most.

I know this is a discussion about Ducati and the riders, but I'm convinced the Bridgestones have as large a role to play as any other element, if not larger.

Total votes: 32

TIRED OF COLD TIRES

I remember when Colin Edwards on the Honda SP2 was having problems with handling feedback, He was given permission to remove 1 or 2 engine mounting bolts to allow some flex. From the time he did this the bike did not loose a race.

With respect to not being able to put heat in the front tyre from the explanation of that great article David wrote, I can give them a solution for free.

MOTOGP IS Prototype racing, so why not have a heating element to warm the tire and maintain temperature whilst riding

Total votes: 23

Solutions in crank center location

The problem as declared by the riders is corner entry and the debates seen here focus on riders, frame material, and twin spar aluminum frames. Davids analysis hinted at the engine configuration and I would like to expand on that with the information we have as outsiders (mostly photos and comments). One of the main advantages of the ubiquitous GP twin spar frames is that the engine can be moved within that frame (provided this feature is designed in) to change the handling characteristics. Some think it only changes the weight bias, but there is the effect of the spinning crankshaft and where that crank center is in relation to the steering angle, together with weight bias, that are key to rider feedback.

From my observations (side view of a GP11 engine in bike photo), it seems that the crankshaft center is about 15-30mm too high (hard to tell exactly from a wide angle photo), but clearly higher than other race bikes known to handle well. This is why the recent changes to the CF frame are having little if any effect, and not because the material is CF. When Valentino's bike was recently set up with the front very high and rear low this did help with reduced front tire wear and a little more feel, but the essential problem remained. A lower crank center from the current location is hard to achieve because all the components that bolt to the engine are affected if you try to rotate it down. If the new 1000 engine has the crank center in the same location I expect the same results as now.
Less steep of a rake, with the front axle in the same location, seems like a good direction and it would work well in conjunction with lowering the crank center in this case too.
There have been a few race bikes in the past with a similar characteristic and the telltale sign was loosing the front unexpectedly and no feel before it went.

Anyone know reliably what the weight bias is on some of the current MotoGP bikes, with and without rider on board?

Next years Ducati streetbikes with the CF chassis should be fine if the geometry stays in the same parameters as the current model.

Total votes: 29

Hello from the future

I'm waiting for the follow up article entitled: On Being Right: "Idiot" w/ Keyboard P@WNZ FP.

Total votes: 26

Very informative

I find this writing very informative so much to learn about the author's idea.. More power and God bless.. :)

Total votes: 18

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