Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Ducati: all about the middle of the corner

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.

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Total votes: 16
Total votes: 12

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Comments

If this is not just an interpretation of Mat but the real situation, then I think that Ducati does not deserve to win another title, ever! The whole tone of the article it's as if Dovi's fight for the championship was just an accident and hopefully next year the rightful contendant- should I say heir - to the Ducati throne will ascend to his right position and things will go back to normal.
How dare they? And how can everyone- from Ducati to Mat - be so forgiving with Lorenzo? I do understand it was difficult to adjust to such a major change... but he was sitting on a bike that almost won the championship! The 3 podiums were more about problems with the other racers than his own doing... I really don't understand such magnanimous forgiveness. Particularly when Dovi clearly deserves number one status in the garage.
Of course any improvement that can help both is welcome, but the way it's being put sounds to me more like they need to justify the unbelievable amount of money they put on Lorenzo and so they put him first....
On a side note, but very telling about the general mood, Dovi gave an interview in Italian to La Gazzetta and said in not so many words that in Valencia Lorenzo behaviour was not very elegant...
In my opinion the utter lack of elegance it's all on Ducati's management.

Total votes: 24

However, to play devil's advocate, they're paying Lorenzo millions.  He's a 3-time premier class champ.  They HAVE to commit to that direction until it's run its course.  That direction being - allowing Lorenzo "priority" in the garage.

Surely it's a quandry, though.  Surely Ducati recognize Dovi's won them 6 races in '17, and is the more immediately competitive rider, but that doesn't change the agreements, contracts, and strategy planning set forth long before he started topping the podium.  

Ducati made a conscious decision to seek a world class rider and tailor the program to give him the absolute best chance of winning.  Those plans require major commitment, compromise and steadfastness, and can't just be scrubbed due to an unexpected breakout performance.  

But yes, I'm a big fan of Dovi's and hate the see him play second fiddle, even after his '17 season.  It's a really tough spot, but the objective, pseudo-strategist in me understands the team's position and requirement to continue to work their plan and investments.  

Total votes: 23

I cannot disagree with your "devil's advocate" position. I guess you know the origin of the expression : when the Catholic Church wanted to canonize a would be saint they would open a file and ask a neutral person to dig up everything from his/her past and then make a case against the canonization - hence the title. Which brings me to part of an old latin expression "perseverare diabolicum" : to persist (in error) is diabolical ! As i said in my previous post, if they can add some mid corner speed - without losing in other areas - great! they will all benefit from it. But even from a strategic point of view, if they just go in one direction to satisfy Lorenzo's needs - which,  in my opinion, even at the peak of his astounding performances, had a very narrow operating window (and this season is proof of it) - then they might lose on every front. Will Dovi keep the same motivation? Will he accept a "lesser" bike for the good of Lorenzo? And will 99 deliver? can they afford two team mates in the trenches needing very different weaponry? Yes, they invested an outrageous amount of money on Lorenzo, and they need some ROI... but sometimes in order to win, you need to know when to quit.

Let's hope both Dovi and Loenzo are happy and competitive : more fun for all

 

Total votes: 14

Ducati has good braking, good acceleration, good top speed. I think if they can improve the corner speed without sacrificing other areas, or make a compromise, it'll be good for Dovizioso and Lorenzo.

Total votes: 10

Jorge Lorenzo has been given twelve months so far. I am sure JLo99 will get another year. But he won't avoid a deadline. Andrea Dovizioso has had many years, Mat says five years. Ducati have got a good return from DesmoDovi.

Of corse if the investment does not pay off there comes a time when you have to cut your losses!

Ducati management ? Inelegant I agree. I personally don't like the direction Ducati motor has been going lately. Ducati corse took a big gamble with JLo. And seem to be taking Dovi for granted :( Not happy about that. Ducati chooses to develope A 99 bike that is different to the 04 bike, trying to find solutions for Lorenzo, to fix things that aren't a problem for Dovi. The big problem of mid corner speed has been there for a few seasons & still not fixed. Who is deciding priorities?

Best of luck to you all. Ducati will have to lift thier game to beat MM93 we all know that.

Have a happy & prosperous new year.

Total votes: 14

reading this a little different, folks.    Gigi says he's focusing on mid-corner & hired JLo as the fastest mid-corner expert.   and they're keeping parrallel paths.  Gabbarini says its working.   So, my sense is that they hired JLo because Ducati had already decided to changes in mid-corner.  ie., NOT changing developement to focus on mid-corner Because of JLo's needs.    

interesting point of how the control-tyre => adapt bike to tyres ==> homogenized grid

agreed MM93 sets teh bar for everyone else.

 

 

Total votes: 16

Ducati got JLO because he was the only one willing to move.  They had the bike at the point it needed what we used to refer to as 'an alien', that meant JLO, Rossi or Marquez.  Marquez probably would have been the better fit for the bike but he was happy at Honda, Rossi... err... no.  Stoner retired and nobody else was a proven title winner.  JLO was unhappy at Yamaha and was willing to take a chance.

Lets not forget what a chance he took also, he had a good money offer from Yamaha, where he presumably would have continued to be in the title hunt pending the ups and downs of bike and form.  The move to Ducati has been a career killer for some, even Rossi effectively lost not two but four years really.  Ducati owe it to Lorenzo to do everything possible to make him competitive, and they also need to show commitment for their own reputation.  If they abandon a 5 time champion due to a lacklustre first half year of a two year contract, then they will have even greater trouble enticing a good prospect in the future.

Few have been consistantly fast on the Duc out of the blocks.  Dovi had a cracking year but he's been on the bike for half a decade.  I feel Lorenzo did fairly well (some absolute clangers notwithstanding!) and was in the picture by year's end.  I look forward to 2018 to see how both he and Dovi go.  I agree Dovi has been once again somewhat overlooked, his year was very impressive and like most others I really hope he can indeed do the same or better next year!

Total votes: 13