From Jerez To Qatar: The First Steps On Ducati's Long Road To Redemption

"This is the reality," factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso told the media after finishing 7th at Qatar, some 24 seconds off the pace of the winner, Jorge Lorenzo. Hopes had been raised on Saturday night, after the Italian had qualified in fourth, posting a flying lap within half a second of polesitter Lorenzo. While Dovizioso's qualifying performance had been strong, he had at the time warned against too much optimism. The Desmosedici is good on new tires, but as they begin to wear, the chronic understeer which has plagued the Ducati since, well, probably since the beginning of the 800cc era, and maybe even well before that, rears its ugly head and makes posting competitively fast laps nigh on impossible.

The problem appears to be twofold. Firstly, a chassis issue, which is a mixture of weight distribution, gearbox output shaft layout, frame geometry and, to a lesser extent, chassis flexibility. And secondly, a problem with engine response, an issue which is down in part to electronics, and in part to Ducati still using just a single injector per throttle body. The weight distribution problem causes the bike to want to run wide at corners, making it hard to keep it on line; the throttle response issue just makes this worse, with the throttle either very harsh and aggressive, and difficult to control, or, when the revised electronics package is used to soften power delivery, makes the throttle response feel remote, and removes the connection between throttle and drive from the rear wheel.

The combination of the two means that while the bike is relatively competitive in qualifying and practice, lap times take a nosedive as the race progresses. With fresh tires, it is possible to use the power to help the bike to turn, and the extra grip new tires offer also helps mitigate the tendency to understeer. As grip levels drop off, the front starts pushing wide, and the harshness of the throttle makes it hard to control sliding at the rear, one way of helping the bike to turn.

The problem is clear from the lap times posted by the factory Ducati riders in the race. Both Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden started well, Dovizioso getting away with the leaders when the lights went out. The two men have a decent pace for the first 8 laps, running mid to high 1'56s, before suddenly slowing, losing four tenths or more a lap, as the tires start to pass their prime. Where the lap times of the Hondas and Yamahas tend to show a slow and steady decline, the Ducati times appear to suddenly fall off a cliff.

So Ducati is still in trouble, despite the work they have done. And yet the early part of this season has given more cause for hope than has been present for the past few years. With Valentino Rossi now back at Yamaha, and Audi's organizational shake up starting to have some impact on Ducati's internal organization - something made even more obvious by the apparently imminent departure of Ducati CEO Gabriele Del Torchio - Ducati Corse has been getting on quietly with the redesign of the Desmosedici which they hope will cure the bike's biggest problems, free of the media spotlights which put so much pressure on the Italian factory.

At the Jerez test, while most of the media were milling around the factory garages of Yamaha, Honda and Ducati - in order of media interest - one garage along from the Factory Ducati box, Michele Pirro worked with the Ducati test team on the Bologna factory's new direction. The three bikes in that garage were among the most intriguing machines at Jerez. Pirro had one of the 2013 bikes which would be raced by Hayden and Dovizioso at Qatar, which included the latest weight distribution updates, moving the electronics package to the front of the tank, and the fuel further under the seat, changes which have already improved the balance of the bike. But Pirro also had a new version of the Desmosedici, with a radically different exhaust layout and a revised chassis, hinting at much bigger changes to come.

This bike is not likely to be raced by the factory riders, but it is the basis of Ducati's future direction, Ducati staff continually referring to the machine as their "lab bike". The ideas being tested in that machine will make their way into the next iteration of the bike, which according to sources close to Ducati suggest could be tested by the factory riders at the official test after the Barcelona round of MotoGP in June. If those changes win the approval of Hayden and Dovizioso, they could then filter through in the second half of 2013.

The first change is expected to be the introduction of two injectors per throttle body, to help improve throttle response, especially for the first touch of the throttle. Adding a secondary injector for low RPM allows the fuel to be more finely vaporized, something which is more critical at lower revs and therefore lower air intake speeds. Both Honda and Yamaha have been using two injectors for some time now, and this should allow better throttle control.

The next change will be a major chassis revamp, centralizing mass even more and reorganizing the basic packaging of engine, gearbox, fuel and frame. Whether this change will also include an altered gearbox layout for a better output shaft position, and to help shorten the engine, is unknown, but what is certain is that the Ducati will retain the 90° angle between its cylinder banks. The revelation that Honda's RC213V is a 90°V may have steeled Ducati in their conviction that there is nothing wrong with the choice of engine layout, and that the solution needs to be found in other directions. Redesigning the engine to use a different angle would have been a massive operation - at least two years, maybe more - but repackaging the current basic bottom end and cylinder layout is a much less costly exercise.

How quickly will this program begin to pay off? Without a working crystal ball (and all of the ones I acquire appear to be defective) it is hard to say. Audi will be expecting to see solid signs of progress by the end of the year, as will Phillip Morris, who continue to spend many millions of dollars on Ducati's MotoGP program without the return of visible promotion for their tobacco brands. A victory for Ducati in MotoGP seems improbable in 2013. But the iconic Bologna factory will need to look like a regular podium contender by the end of the year. Seen from the sidelines, they just might be on the right path again.

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I'll admit, I definitely had high hopes after Dovi's qualifying effort, and his start. This, despite the fact that we know the bike hasn't changed much since last year. But its good to hear what's going on behind the scenes with the Pirro test effort. I'm sure it helps to have a solid rider like that manning the helm on that front. Thanks again David for these great in-depth views. Can't really get 'em anywhere else!

PS keep working on getting that crystal ball!

Stoner said it first, a long list of other riders followed, the biggest advantage Ducati had when Stoner won was the massive power, but even then he complained of that problem, still no answer...

That is the most detailed article I have read yet on Ducati's analysis of the problems and way of moving forward. I have heard everything from the footpegs are throwing Melandri off to the Frame Materials are not right.

This is the first time I have heard of Ducati giving DISCIPLINED analysis with a SCIENTIFIC plan to move forward with a resolution to those problems. This is a very clear cut analysis and plan. Love it. Though a little upset it took Audi coming along doing a shakeup to get this type of forward movement.

Been a BIG fan of Ducati for years. They make far too many beautiful street superbikes for me to not believe they cannot fix the issue. (I am admittedly biased about the little factory that could. Not ashamed of it either!)


Certainly this is a great article and probably very close to the truth but no one outside Ducati knows for sure what their plans are. If you want more in-depth analysis of the Ducati situation, I suggest you check Giorgio Manziana's blog (I'm not sure that's his actual name), some of the articles have been translated to English (from Italian) and there's lots and lots of very well informed and explained info on Ducati there. Here's the address:

You are right. This article is good and no one knows exactly what is going on but Ducati. Even though they seem to have been as lost as anyone else for the last few years about their own equipment. Checked out the link and just wanted to say thanks for posting it. Found some good stuff there.

Greatly enjoyed this article, but how about some photos of the Pirro bike/s? We probably only have a year or two of technically interesting "development" (more like regression to the mean) with Ducati until they've got it all sorted. Following that path closely would be of great interest to many on here.

And he was (some would find perhaps remarkably) somewhat diplomatic about it - but he laid the lack of progress rather squarely at the feet of Ducati management rather than the Ducati Corse engineering team.

It's necessary to connect rather a lot of dots here. The change from the trellis frame (which was not only unable to handle the loads imposed by the 800's-era cornering forces but also highly variable in response from frame to frame due to the vagaries of hand production of a welded-tube structure) to the 'two boxes tied to the engine' - of whatever material - was a production-based concept embraced by Ducati for commercial reasons. Preziosi has been, I believe, unfairly vilified for utilising that form of design; hopefully, at some future time, we will be made privy to the actual decisions that lead to its use for the GP machines. The actual use of carbon fibre vs. aluminium makes sense as a development material as it is easier to modify stiffness etc. by adjusting lay-up patterns than chemically etch alloy thickness, vary weld locations and heat treatment etc. The "transition" alloy box iteration did nothing to alleviate the problems.

Del Torchio may well have understood the commercial imperatives facing Ducati and reacted accordingly. However, by trying to use the racing programme to 'validate' the commercial directions he was embracing, he failed to realise the essential differences between a machine optimised in every possible respect for ultimate performance and a machine designed to provide a commercial advantage for a manufacturer of Ducati's size.

Ducati had, in Stoner, a rider of demonstrated capability to win a WC. Had they taken the path of developing a motoGp machine that allowed him to continue reliably winning races, rather than fighting the bike for occasional success, they could have continued to be a very, very serious competitor. By the time Rossi joined Ducati, the machine was constrained in a box of management-defined design parameters that even he could not transcend. The difference was that they could not ignore Rossi's capability and believe the problem was the rider, especially when that rider went on to claim another WC with the same sort of dominance that he had exhibited on the '07 Ducati, but on a competitor's bike.

Del Torchio allowed Phillip Morris to throw Stoner under a bus when his lactose intolerance made him unable to function - then was amazed when he quit Ducati. Rossi's timely availability gave Del Torchio an apparent lifeline for the racing programme - but the management intractability to move from the commercial reasons for its motoGp design parameters effectively ensured that Rossi was on a hiding to nothing to improve the bike.

This has nothing to do with the urban mythology of either Stoner's development capability or of Rossi's; both were massively hindered by the senior Ducati management imperatives to follow specific design parameters. The only real difference is that Rossi commands the public persona of not being easily put in a box of 'failure to perform', whereas Stoner conveniently was - until he left Ducati. Nothing - absolutely nothing - is proven by the comparative performances of either rider, save that Stoner could manage the increasingly uncompetitive machine better than anybody else - Rossi included. That is another story, however.

Audi appears to have realised that a motoGp machine is fundamentally different to a commercial machine. With the departure of Del Torchio, one can hope that Ducati can once again become competitive.

I agree. I'd also not forget the Bridgestone factor, just for the sake of completeness. This doesn't take away any blame from Ducati management but I believe it is worth remembering.

Having said that, Preziosi is gone, Del Torchio allegedely on his way (best of luck to them) I really hope they can turn tables. I'd love to see the red bikes contending wins!

I think it is pretty clear from the issue the Duc has with worn tires, which has been well reported, that while CS was undoubtedly extremely talented and the rider who could make best use of the Ducs strengths while mitigating its weaknesses perhaps the key to CS's race successes with the Duc were the tires. Reading the article and the description of how new tires help to reduce the under steer by allowing the rider to use rear wheel slide to turn has CS's name all over it. But prior to 2011 the tires gave virtually the same grip levels for an entire race before Dorna asked Bridgestone to create tires that go off over the duration of the race to try and improve the racing for the fans. So the worn tire issue is something that CS never really had to deal with.

Just to clarify, Dorna never asked Bridgestone to create tires that go off over the duration of the race to try improve the spectacle. This is MotoGP not F1 and we don't have the benefit of pit stops to create artificial overtaking. The safety implications of getting the tires to degrade too much would probably stop that happening.

The decrease in tire life is a symptom of going softer with the compounds to make the tires warm up better which was requested by the riders. As David points out, Honda and particularly Yamaha have found a way to eke out competitive pace on the worn tyres, Ducati haven't.

The recent revelations regarding Honda's 90deg V4 show that weight distribution is probably the lesser evil in Ducati's basket of woe regarding tire life. It looks like it's the relative lack of complexity in their electronics and engine package which is compromising them over race distance.

Then there's their front end problem which I think will be a lot harder for them to work out!

You are right! I must be imagining things as I was sure I remember reading it was a deliberate move to tyres that gradually lost grip.... but no....

Thank you, one of the most clear, logical and succinct accounts I've heard... although I'm not sure we'll know any time soon who imposed what decision.
It was fascinating to read Alain Chevalier's recent account of his time with Cagiva and the management "contributions" to the development of the bike. One hopes Ducati are currently a little less eccentric than the Castiglioni family, but still...

In no way can we attribute blame at the feet of the riders at Ducati. The facts are that year on year, Stoner's results got worse, Rossi arrived and he got the pig of a bike nowhere whatsoever - I think it's quite safe to say that Stoner wouldn't have left Ducati for no reason!
Rossi's performance between 2000-2010 say that he should not of been lurking around 7th (compounded by the apparent form shown "so far" this season). Stoner's performance on the Repsol for 2011-2012 say that he should not have been scuttling around in 4th/5th.

Rossi brought the spotlight to Ducati and it finally exposed their flaws. Fortunately, the Audi takeover is forcing a change in attitude and with that, the necessary changes in direction to once again produce a competitive bike.

I think it's a good time to highlight Rossi's 30+ minute interview with MCN (you can see this on the MCN site or on Youtube) where he states that Ducati took offence when he said things were wrong with the bike, rather than striving to create a better package.
He also highlighted that the guys worked hard (which I take to be along the same lines as Stoner in regards to the Engineering Team), but if a change in attitude never materialised they would never be competitive, however, a change in attitude could see them competitive again in 2 years (of course, in light of this it's also understandable that Rossi wasn't willing to wait at this stage in his career for something that may never have happened!).
For Rossi to bluntly say that he would have quit MotoGP at the end of 2012 rather than stay at Ducati if his move to Yamaha never happened is quite a powerful message in my opinion.

I know this comment sounds negative towards Ducati, but I have no dislike for Ducati... I think they make beautiful bikes and I most certainly supported Foggy on the SBK effort - so I would really like to see them make the step forward they need.

You are dead right, Oscar, this is more or less my take too. I asked Stoner repeatedly what his take on the problem was, and he always refused to tell me. Maybe I'll ask one of the other Ducati staff instead.

Hindsight is always so much easier than foresight! One additional factor I ought to have commented upon, however, is that possibly Del Torchio himself may have been somewhat driven to insist on a discernible connection between the racing programme and the commercial development, in terms of needing to justify the existence of the racing programme as a value-added adjunct to the product development initiatives. In crude terms - connecting the old 'race on Sunday, sell on Monday' adage.

Despite the mantra of 'racing being in Ducati's DNA', Ducati (if one is aware of its ownership history) has passed through rather a large number of ownership changes. It has been in the hands of institutional investors who examine the accounting bottom line with very cold-blooded scrutiny for many years now. As much as I have no particular like for Del Torchio - because of the Stoner/lactose intolerance incident - I feel it necessary to give him some latitude.

Of all the motorcycle manufacturers who have an ingrained propensity that is favourable to racing as part of its raison d'etre, it is Honda that shines: Soichiro Honda believed that racing was an essential part of company skill development and the best of Honda engineers still spend time in the racing department (AFAIK) perfecting their knowledge of design and development. I don't believe that any other motorcycle manufacturer has ever responded to producing a flawed motorcycle (the VF750) with a loss-making successor (the VFR 750 - of which the first edition is my personal bike, and if one has never owned or ridden one, they have a je ne sais quoi that is unique and wonderfully satisfying to ride) just to redeem its reputation. Love or loathe Honda, the RC30 in particular was a statement that pure racing success - stripped of any commercial intention for its development - was a company goal. I'm not at all sure that Ducati have been allowed that 'luxury' for its racing programme.

As far as getting to the bottom of the Ducati motoGp bike development saga since 2007: if you could get Stoner, Preziosi when he is no longer a Ducati employee, Suppo and Gabbarini in a room together, you might just get a story for the ages. It would be mega-interesting.

Like the other bike brands involved, Ducati goes racing for commercial reasons but does a great job of masking this naked truth by marketing the activity as being driven by passion, or some other emotive element to tap into our core impulses.

When you look at their racing history, however, it is not nearly as rich or committed as any of its competitors', even that of "Johnny-come-lately" Aprilia. Apart from MotoGP prototypes, Ducati has only built one bike purely for racing, and that was by default.

Just curious: Where did you get all that inside information from? Was there an interview somewhere?

I wonder If you would let your GP bike willingly suffer from a design direction you have in mind for your street models. When the race bike fails, that design will only decrease the attractivity of the street model. Apart from the bad image your brand gets in racing. Which has definately happened with Ducati's GP effort.
Are they really that stupid..? (I'm not saying it's impossible...)

I did say it was connecting the dots - but a hell of a lot of that deduction came from the 'Ducati' thread right here on motomatters. That thread has over 2,700 - yes, that's two thousand and seven hundred - posts - (is this a record for ANY forum?), and THAT'S with the occasional Rossi vs Stoner internecine fanwar firefights removed!

So much great information, analysis and interpretation contributed by keen, articulate, intelligent and sometimes quite expert observers of the sport - what makes mtm such an invaluable contribution to the sport (and Dorna should be ashamed of its own 'news' articles, designed for consumption by mildly interested but ADD 10-year-olds). No mystical intuition on my part - just slowly drawing all that disparate information into a coherent picture. To requote the old Conan Doyle Sr. maxim: “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Perhaps 'must' is a bit too definite, but 'highly likely' at the very least emerges.

The fact that Ducati has been running a single injector this entire time is, frankly, mind-blowing. How in the hell did that obvious mechanical improvement not-happen during Rossi's time there?! I've heard (like many of us) that Ducati has carried an arrogance and willful ignorance around with them, most prevalent in the face of outright criticism from their own riders, but something like this is just moronic. If it didn't happen because of budgetary reasons, I'd understand, but there's no way a modification to the fuel injection is beyond the Marlboro Ducati team's reach, even mid-season. Just sad.

Apparently (maybe someone can confirm this) Rossi tested the dual injector setup and didn't like it

Was nice to see the Ducks within a second of pole at Qatar. Hope they can keep progressing and be challenging the podium sooner rather than later

Great analysis David. Great comment Oscar. Nothing much further to add aside of what most wish for. That being Ducati's factory bikes capable of mixing it up for the win week in and week out. That in itself may turn the argument full circle. Should Dovi or Nick win a dry race anytime soon with no glaring disaster embracing the Yamaha factory and Repsol boys in a contest where all 6 finish, the expectation and pressure will be back on the Ducati duo to deliver same. With all due respect to Dovi and Nick, their respective pedigrees are 3 to 5/10th's a lap off those of Lorenzo/Rossi/Pedrosa and probably Marquez on any given Sunday right now over race distance on the same bike.
Thats not a bad thing in itself. The engineering staff are no longer under the cosh.
They are however painfully aware that they have to close that gap into the second half of the season. Substantially.

To read an article like this is brilliant! Now-a-days top level racing is so secretive that fans can't really get much info about the fabulous machines the riders race. Whether all the info is straight from the race team or not it is refreshing to read a technical discussion about the challenges faced by the designers and engineers in MotoGP. and its impact on the racing action we all enjoy.
From the level of the comments I would say there is a huge need for more articles like this, thanks!

Thank you David for an outstanding article and Oscar for a rich comment.

I was bewildered at the apparent hope of damn near everyone going into the race at Qatar for the Desmo seeing how well Dovi qualified. It seemed that everyone believed some sort of magic had occurred between the VROOM event where they stated the GP13 was almost identical to the GP12 and the opening race. All of a sudden a podium became hopeful? Are we forgetting that 4 out of the 4 aliens are on factory Yamaha and Honda's?

I'm glad Audi is there to keep progress in check. If not there might have been too much celebrating saturday night, and pointed fingers come sunday.

Yes, the persistent twisting of that Burgess comment shows why people have reason to be leery of having their words quoted for media stories.

Here is what Burgess actually said, with some context:

"I can watch some of these lesser riders on the Ducatis and you can see that the bikes are, in my opinion, unsuitably set for what they want to try and do with them. I’m not saying anybody’s doing a bad job. I see these things wobbling around. When I think, clearly, if we had that issue with Valentino it’d be fixed in 80 seconds, but some riders don’t like the hardness of the bike, because they don’t get the feel. But then when they’re riding around and it’s too soft they’re not going forward either. So you’ve got to be able to create the feel with the hardness to avoid all that sloppiness."

The source was an interview carried at (and possibly other places), here:

So: Burgess was talking specifically about the way some satellite Ducs appeared to be wobbling on the track, which he attributed to how the riders had their suspension set. That is all.

Of course, if he tried to point that out now, people would claim he was attempting to rewrite history ...

Thanks for the interesting article and insightful comments. The link between the production bike plans and the MotoGP bike design is well drawn. Ironic too that sales of the monocoque Panigale superbike have been, I believe, very good, notwithstanding Ducati's having abandoned that concept at MotoGP level.

A little more context, and I don't see where Burgess was talking about satellite bikes at all. Here's the question prior to the comment, and the question and answer prior to that question:

What does Valentino like in a bike?

“He likes a bike that has grip and that would be front and rear. But you have to maximize the package, but I can see that Casey and Nicky run quite different settings on the bike, just from observations of the geometry on the bike.”

Which would Valentino be closer to?

“Difficult to say, without knowing where the weight is on the bike and how it behaves. But, without question, I don’t anticipate any major dramas. I can watch some of these lesser riders on the Ducatis and you can see that the bikes are, in my opinion, unsuitably set for what they want to try and do with them. I’m not saying anybody’s doing a bad job. I see these things wobbling around. When I think, clearly, if we had that issue with Valentino it’d be fixed in 80 seconds, but some riders don’t like the hardness of the bike, because they don’t get the feel. But then when they’re riding around and it’s too soft they’re not going forward either. So you’ve got to be able to create the feel with the hardness to avoid all that sloppiness. I don’t think there are any issues in the bike that are a big worry to me. I think the bike is just a tool to do your job. You sharpen the tool at the race track, you don’t build it. you should be able to adjust it to what Valentino wants. And until we’ve got a race or two under belts, we won’t really know how close we are or how much better we’ve made it. but if we can make it, as it stands here today, good for Valentino, then it’s probably not a bad bike. Then we just have to wait and see what happens.”

No reference to satellite bikes - matter of fact, just prior to the comment in question Burgess is referring to the two factory Ducati riders at the time. And the rest of JB's comments here make it clear that he grossly underestimated how bad the Ducati was and overestimated his ability to whip it into shape.

I mean, really, how else do you interpret: "I don’t think there are any issues in the bike that are a big worry to me."

Or: "Without question, I don’t anticipate any major dramas."

Or: "It’s probably not a bad bike."

JB's a smart guy, and probably the best tuner in history, but the dude was flat wrong on this one. And as a high-ranking police administrator once told me, "You can't polish a turd."

...removes the connection between throttle and drive from the rear wheel.

I think they use to call that the "clutch."

This subject has been long-debated and people seem to either have sympathy with Burgess or use it to amplify Stoner's ability.
I tend towards the former because, as Oscar said, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and no one has yet been able to solve the problem. Even people inside the team don't appear to know what's needed. Otherwise, they would do it wouldn't they? If not, then the problem isn't technical, it's ability/money . The core issue appears to be that Burgess was surprised to find that what he considered some pretty basic design errors in the layout (in comparison to the honed Japanese products) prevented the base set up and then the fine tuning ability that he expected. When you expect to be able to fine tune to the part-mm and yet you are not even within 10mm of what you need then catching the best in the world may as well be like comparing American missile systems to Korean ones - you and me probably think both are really fast, complex, and dangerous, and the people who built them were seriously clever, whilst the real experts think their 'competitors' product is a pile of the proverbial.

Well the comment I had replied to with my Burgess quote above seems to have been deleted, leaving it looking a bit gratuitous. Which I suppose it is anyway, for this thread.

Yes, it is clear the Duc was worse than Burgess had suspected.

Nevertheless, and contrary to urban myth, Burgess was not such an idiot as to claim publicly before getting to grips with the Duc that he could resolve its every issue in 80 seconds.

That, surely, is beyond dispute.

Some observations I find amusing: possible reasons for the under-performance of the desmosedici are:
-single injector
-position of gearbox output shaft
-front-rear rotation of engine for weight distribution.

They all seem like reasonable issues to me, but...
in fact the D16 shares those features with the 1098R, which was a sufficiently well-handling motorcycle for Checa to win a WSBK title despite a large deficit of hp and top speed.
In contrast, the 1199R has:
-two injectors / cylinder
-gearbox re-arranged to put the input shaft below the output, which allows
-engine to be rotated rearwards for less overall length and a more frontward weigh bias.

And Checa can't get it to turn...

...Aprilia managed to convert their RSV4 from a winner on Pirellis into the best CRT on Bridgestones with no apparent difficulty.

Perplexing to me of Nicky's loyalty (outside a paycheck of course) to Ducati. He's likely out after this year after all the time and effort in trying to improve the package. Could he have closed things out better with Tech 3 or Gresini? Seems like he'll be watching from afar next year as others enjoy the fruit of his labor. Appreciate any perspectives.

After all,it is the rubber that generally rules. Bring back the tyre wars. I believe open warfare in this area is what the spectacle and competitiveness needs looking ahead at 2014. Circuit by circuit, manufacturer by manufacturer. Ducati were doing exceptionally well until the GPC bent everything in favour of Bridgestone. Most want rules regarding engine capacities,electronics and sundry BS cast in stone to level the playing field. Clearly it is not working as of Qatar 2013. Only 4 bikes capable of winning. The F1 Pirelli model is not what MGP should be based on.
Freedom of choice should be fundamental. Afterall,it is about competition and a bike consists of more than an L4 or transverse 4 loaded with a stet load of fuel.
Suspension is another issue along with brakes.
Case in point,Alvaro Bautista working Showa and Nissin. I don't believe any team have the right to spit out their dummy's and demand equal kit should said competitor have a clear advantage by virtue of opposition developement. Propel the sport and the technology.
Back to rubber side down.
I see no reason why Pirelli,Michelin and Dunlop should not be engaged at the top level. It will be power to all, exposure for better or worse, concentrated and perhaps bike/track/weather specific.
The kicker is of course a kaleidoscope of results per any season.
Maybe that is exactly what the sport and Ducati need to sort out the predictable results.
A tyre manufacturer focused on their, (Ducati's) idiosynchronous bike as was the case until 2008 is something to ponder.They,Bridgestone,jumped ship to favour Ducati's opposition. Ducati's D16 heyday results by and large brought Bridgestone to prominence in GP. They are now absolutely complacent. Shake up needed.
Open it up and lock the rubber options down for 4years per manufacturer/factory team. No exclusions.

isn't it when Michelin seemingly lost the plot that the riders cried out for a spec tire? And didn't Bridgestone build the tires to a rider consensus? So I don't feel as if they jumped ship to favor Ducati's opposition, they just made a tire that most of the riders could agree on?
After all, if you're just a few tenths down per lap, over a 20 lap race distance that would equate to 6 seconds of separation at the flag, given perfect laps by the pilots involved. That translates to "boring, processional racing", which fans hate. And this at a time when DORNA is trying to "improve the show".
I agree that if someone built tires to specifically suit the Ducati and it's idiosyncracies, their plight wouldn't be quite so bad. Or at least we like to think that.
Bridgestone builds a pretty darned good tire. Congratulations to them for staying the course. It wasn't so long ago that they were getting their butts handed to them by Michelin on a regular basis.

Thanks so much David, Oscar and friends. So many astute and noteworthy points here I don't wish to say what has been said. Just to add, there is something to be appreciated about Ducati that has to do perhaps with their scale and 'special incalculable' something. An antithesis to Honda, and a welcome one for me. Troy Bayliss are you reading Motomatters? Please chime in! The way in which David enters into Goliath's 4 stroke arena at the pointy end was not possible until it was done. Suzuki could not, Kawi could not, Yamaha had not. That engine was so strong! With radically different design. One of the peak moments of my life was the first time lapping at Seattle Int'l raceway on a 998R and immediately exploring lines and lap times previously unknown with calm flourish. My current track bike is a newish CBR which is wonderfully rider friendly but without the (insert un-nameable essence word here). Who else would/could make the Panigale? Give Checa and co development time, they only have 2 bikes out there and just hopped out of the nest. Ducati in MotoGP as a radical evolution force relative to Honda seems fitting, and is a cool part of our sport as such. Besides that, contrqst hanging out in their garage enjoying wine, cheese and prosciutto while talking w riders and touching the bikes w the Japanese 'no pictures please' thing on Thursdays reminds one of how human and heartfelt the Italian teams are. More power (and front end feel) to 'em eh? GREAT ARTICLE DAVID.

to know is - what changed between the Ducati-specific tyre and the MGP standard tyre? Because Yamaha adopted it quite quickly (and Rossi had to 'learn' it) I assume that the basic construction didn't change. Is that correct? If so, is it a matter of compound, or something more complex?
Would Bs tell the truth or give us BS?

..Honda with all their resources over 2 decades to create a frame that handled; perhaps a more realistic timeframe is needed. Honda had "evil-handling" GP machines from the tiny multi-cylinder '60s Hondas right through to Gardiner's and Doohan's, a very long development cycle. Ducati have neither the time or fabulously dominant engines to stay the course for that length of time. I hope the solution is near to bring another strand of competitiveness to the racing.

Everything used to have decade cycles. Now 5 years is a long time. I haven't a clue what the problems are, but Ducati/Audi have had a lot of data thrown at them this past 2 years and Burgess can probably draw a good diagram of what a Honda/Yam frame , engine, and gearbox looked like. Ohlins can probably advise on what a good fork set-up or swing-arm/link looks like too.
They are well on the way and I really hope it's this year not next that the work/pain starts to produce benefits.

It may have escaped the rabid Grand Prix cognoscenti's attention, but Ducati has won a long string of Superbike World Championships with 'unfashionable' 90 degree L-twins using steel tube chassis but a 'fashionable' single-sided swing-arm with a nightmare for set-up eccentric rear hub to adjust chain tension.

On the injection side, Ducati has used twin, triple and single injectors in its Superbikes, and won championships with every one of them. Now, as an observer who has an almost pathological dislike for the jargon that is used by riders and mechanics to mask their ignorance of chassis set-up, can someone point to an observation of ANY team using scales to adjust the 'weight bias' of their motorcycles? Come on, just one! Formula One teams use these but I have NEVER seen a motorcycle racing team using one. So I think we can disregard the jargon of 'weight bias.'

In the late 1980s, the Physcis Department at the University of New South Wales, working in collaboration with chassis set-up expert Greg McDonald, worked out the ideal dimensions for the chassis of a racing motorcycle. Critical is the distance between the steering axis and the axis on which the rear suspension pivots. In this area, Honda's RC30 was too short and Yamaha's OW01 was too long. The Ducati 888 was about spot on, as was the Kawasaki ZX-7R.

In 1990, McDonald, constrained by Superbike rules, modified an RC30 (legally) in such a way the steering axis was pushed forward 10mm and the fork off-set was reduced from 35mm to 25mm. He also 'trenched' the swing-arm to stop the chain pulling down on the arm, and worked out the ideal location for the rear axle. The team mechanic then used chains of different length whenever he changed the final drive gearing, to maintain the rear axle in its 'ideal' position. After that, the rider of that bike (Shawn Giles) was unbeatable through Turn One at Eastern Creek Raceway. In the Tasmanian round of that year's Australian Championship, the official Team Honda RC30s both crashed (on seperate laps in the same corner) while Giles was able to run at the front with a bloke called Mat Mladin - a rider one or two of your Grand Prix cognoscentis may just possibly have heard of.

Later, McDonald worked with Peter Goddard - a collaboration that ultimately netted Suzuki its first Australian Superbike Championship. But prior to Goddard's Suzuki ride, he raced for a private team in the All-Japan Formula One Championship on a Yamaha OW01 Superbike. McDonald consulted on that project and ultimately took 13mm out of the main chassis spars to get the ideal steering axis-rear suspension pivot distance. The first time Goddard ran that chassis at Suzuka, he lopped 2.5 seconds off his previous best lap times.

McDonald also consulted with the Martin Adams headed 'Commonwealth Honda - Smokin' Joes' Honda RC45 team in AMA Superbike racing, starting mid-1994. At that point, the American Honda RC45s were struggling to run in the top 10 in AMA Nationals, and at the Laguna Seca round Kevin Magee and Mike Smith were both out-qualified by a young Mike Hale on the then seven year old RC30.

McDonald also helped set-up the team's CBR600s.

As usual, when a new bike appears and does not get results, the riders copped the blame so Magee and Smith were 'let go' at the end of 1994. Hale was kept on, and Miguel duHamel rejoined (after a year with H-D). By then McDonald had got a chassis set-up that worked well and in 1995, American Honda won 8 out of 10 AMA road race Nationals with the McDonald set-up RC45s and out-qualified the English Castrol Honda team at Laguna Seca.

This was working within Superbike regulations which do not allow any modification to the homologated frame.

There are many other riders who have benefitted from McDonald's work, including Kenny Roberts Junior after Warren Willing asked for McDonald's input into the factory 500 Suzuki.

One thing McDonald will tell you is that as soon as you start dealing with team managers at factory team level, ego generally over-rides anything remotely approaching common-sense. They see any outsider as a threat to their position and generally do their best to freeze them out.

At another level, Troy Bayliss was hampered in his Ducati MotoGP years by Livio Suppo's unwillingness to allow the mechanics to change the bike's set-up to something Bayliss wanted. Was this Suppo's ego (or ignorance) getting in the way? That is why Bayliss insisted on his Superbike mechanics sorting the bike when he raced the final 990cc MotoGP race at Valencia. He apparently gave Suppo a single finger 'salute' at the end of that race - after leading every lap.

That was also the race in which Rossi 'choked' and lost any chance he had of winning the 2006 World Championship, which Nicky Hayden won.

So, while people chase red-herrings, correct chassis geometry and set-up are the over-riding parameters to racing motorcycle handling.

When Casey Stoner - tired of micro-adjustments to the 2010 Ducati MotoGP V4 - called for radical set-up changes, at Aragon in 2010, he not only qualified on pole and won the race, he set a race time that is still the race record. The point is, the base Ducati chassis at that point was capable of being adjusted to a winning configuration.

That day, Nicky Hayden out-rode Jorge Lorenzo to put the second Ducati on the Aragon podium, but a year later, he was 25 seconds back in the field, with the improvements Ducati had wrought by abandoning the c-f chassis and rapidly producing a series of contraptions that did not work.

The fact is, like it or not, Ducati made more chassis changes in the two years Valentino raced for them than at any time in the previous decade. But, did ANYONE (Rossi, Burgess, the race mechanics, Preziosi etc) understand the basic underlaying parameters of a successful motorcycle racing chassis?

One the evidence, one would have to say no, they did not.

'Weight-bias' and single injectors have nothing to do with that.

As an FYI, I have seen teams in the GP paddock uses scales to set the weight balance, and then work from there. They tend to do it in the evenings, before they get the bikes ready. They don't use it during the sessions themselves, as it's too time consuming.

Other than that, great post. One of the comments which the Ilmor engineers made to me was that they were dismayed at the lack of scientific method used in the MotoGP paddock, no working around data. But then again, given the very dynamic nature of a racing motorcycle, riders can compensate for all sorts of weight issues by moving their bodies around. Riders can even compensate for set up issues using their bodies.

But fundamentally, you are right. A good set up is 90% of the battle, as Jorge Lorenzo, Ramon Forcada and Wilco Zeelenberg demonstrated last year.

Over on Soup, there's a most interesting comment from Hayden - acknowledged as one of the most diplomatic riders in the field - that perhaps adds to the 'dots to be joined' I commented upon earlier in this thread: ( ) :

"Nicky Hayden knows Domenicali and sees him being made CEO as a positive change.

"It is nice to have somebody in charge who knows racing and likes it," said Hayden last night. "Somebody who doesn't think (racing) is a silly expense, or don't understand why they're spending all that money on testing. He knows that the testing that we're doing does help the company, does make for better streetbikes."

"I don't know how much change this will have on racing," Hayden said of Domenicali's promotion. "but it's definitely not a bad thing."

Of course, and as always, one has to make one's own conclusion as to what information this adds to the picture of Ducati motoGp development.... but just personally, I feel it adds somewhat to the picture of Del Torchio's impact on the progress of Ducati's motoGp efforts. However I acknowledge I am biased. That doesn't necessarily make me wrong, however.