The Jerez test offered the first chance to see the new regulations in action. For Marco Melandri it confirmed his worst fears; Ducati are being hit harder than anyone
That Ducati has been hit hardest by the 2018 regulations shouldn't come as a surprise, but following three days of testing at Jerez it was surprising how morose Marco Melandri felt. The Italian returned to WorldSBK in 2017 and was able to have a strong season that was highlighted by a victory in front of his home fans at Misano.
A winter of testing was expected to see the former 250GP champion once again a position to chase a title. Instead he was left chasing his tail at Jerez and acknowledging the mountain that the Italian manufacturer may have to climb. Rome wasn't built in a day and after three years of Ducati rebuilding their WorldSBK title challenge Melandri made it clear the extent of the challenge facing the team.
“With the new rules it is very difficult for me,” admitted the Italian. “I like a smooth power delivery, but with this gearing it is too short for us. We have a lot less revs and it's not easy for us. We tried so many different gears this week and it feels as though you are using only half a gear compared to last year and we are hitting the limiter all the time on the exit of corners. It's not nice to ride at all. I think that it was more of a penalty for us compared to the four cylinder bikes.
“I knew that Kawasaki would be as strong as they are and that we would struggle. I'm not surprised that we are having to work a lot harder than they are with these new rules. I think that sometime the people that write these rules are in their office and don't really understand the bikes. We have a lot of work to do to get our performance back.”
Trying to find that performance saw Ducati work on chassis settings as well as gearing solutions. While Melandri was unable to find a gear ratio that offered him the required feeling he did make a step forward with his feeling mid-corner. Having struggled for edge grip throughout the season the Italian used the test to try and find a solution. The new track surface was fast at Jerez and Melandri felt that it will only be at the January tests on a cooler track surface that Ducati will know if their new setting is an improvement.
“We found some interesting solutions at this test to improve our edge grip. For me it's been very difficult at any circuit where there is low grip and even though this track isn't the best to test at for this problem we think that we found a good solution. The corner entry was good here and that was what we focused on. This test was about finding the direction for next year and understanding what will change for us with the new rules.”
Ducati will be back on track in January at Jerez and Portimao.
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