MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Ducati: all about the middle of the corner
The second in our series of tech investigations into all six MotoGP factories: this week we reveal the main aims on Ducati’s 2018 R&D list
Last season Ducati played its best MotoGP campaign since its glory days with Casey Stoner. The factory won six races, fought for the riders title to the final round and very nearly made it into the top two of the constructors' championship for the first time since 2008.
It’s been a long road through the wilderness since Ducati lost Stoner’s racing genius. Ducati Corse engineers have had to throw away many of the Desmosedici’s unique features to make the bike competitive again. First, the screamer engine was replaced by a big-bang configuration when Valentino Rossi arrived, then the carbon-fibre chassis went before he was gone.
After Gigi Dall’Igna joined, crankshaft rotation was changed to improve steering. Now the factory is working to make the Desmosedici more like the other bikes through the crucial mid-corner phase.
This isn’t so much Ducati copying its rivals as it is the reality of a championship run under control-tyre rules: if you want to be competitive you must adapt your bike to the tyres, which effectively means that the entire grid becomes homogenised.
The Ducati is still different, of course, but the less different it becomes, the more competitive it becomes. No doubt one of the reasons Dall’Igna wanted to get his former Aprilia rider Jorge Lorenzo on board was to bring some of the Yamaha YZR-M1’s user-friendliness to the Desmosedici, which is exactly what’s happening, according to Lorenzo’s chief engineer Cristian Gabbarini.
“The base is good and for sure we are working in Jorge’s direction,” says Gabbarini, who last worked at Ducati when he was Stoner’s crew chief. “I think next year the bike will be closer to Jorge’s riding style. Many of his comments matched what other riders were saying, so Ducati is pushing to improve the bike in that direction.”
Of course, Lorenzo didn’t win a race last season, while Andrea Dovizioso won six, in his fifth year with the factory. The Spaniard and the Italian have slightly different riding techniques, but they aren’t night-and-day different. And Ducati can happily cope with moving forward in two not-quite-parallel directions.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.