Shortly after lunchtime at the MotoGP test at Brno, journalists were given an opportunity to talk to Filippo Preziosi, Director General of Ducati Corse and the engineering genius behind Ducati's MotoGP project. Naturally, the question of a traditional twin spar chassis came up, as well as what Ducati was testing on Monday, both questions that Preziosi deflected rather gracefully. But he also talked about the role of the Bridgestone tires in development, and why he would dearly love to be able to race a twin in MotoGP.
A transcript of the press conference follows, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Jensen Beeler of Asphalt & Rubber, who transcribed it for us:
Q:What were you testing?
The test of today was based on understanding what are the main directions for the future, for the mid-term and long-term future. So we tested very different setups in order to check the preferred weight distribution, center of gravity, stuff like that for Vale. For the mid-term. So, in order to give the design people the targets for the new bikes.
Q:When you say mid-term, how far out is that?
Q:Are you testing these changes with the existing components, or are there any new parts on the bike?
We supplied some prototype components in order to make it possible to make these big changes. Some tests are just, me let say, theoretical tests. You would not run the bike with that configuration…
Q:But you need data from that configuration…
Exactly. The data, the feeling, to understand.
Q:Recently Jerry and Valentino said that they would perhaps like to see Ducati working on a parallel project, alongside the GP11.1, which kind of suggests perhaps you need to explore an aluminum frame. Is this something that you are exploring?
We are exploring different solutions, though I don't think material is the key point. But for sure, shapes, stiffness, distribution of the stiffness through the length are concepts that we want to explore in order to build up knowledge. So, this is something we will do, and of course, every time you put something new in the truck, you have to compare it with the existing solution. This is nothing new or special, and is the same as what we did in the past. When we changed to the monocoque frame, we brought it to the Barcelona race test for Casey, and asked him if he preferred the old one or the new one. So we just have to do what we did in the past, just with a different type [of frame].
Q:With the monocoque frame, do you have enough options to explore all those parameters that you're looking at? Does that give you enough options to test?
We test some different option, and we build up some knowledge from that. So now we are doing other modifications to the bike that are related to the stiffness, but not necessarily related to the frame.
Q:The shape of the engine itself, the "L", limits to a certain extent the changes you can do with the weight distribution. Are you also looking at the shape of the engine? Or is the engine set...
At the moment, we have never reached a configuration in which the engine was the limit. Typically, one limit could be where you are trying to put more weight on the front, and you touch the front wheel to the cylinder head horizontal cover. But we are away from that limit, so at the moment we can modify the weight distribution without any constraints coming from the engine. So we are in the middle of the adjustment.
Q:You are working parallel to other solutions. Are they more radical or more like the solutions the Japanese are using?
We are open-minded. We are ready to use what we believe is better. For me, when first came to MotoGP, we decided to race with a four-cylinder, even though the two-cylinder was allowed by the rules. The reason was because we think that in the rule it is written [implicitly] that the four cylinder is more performing in the lap time. I personally believe that the two-cylinder is the best engine if you are not constrained by rules. So for the market, it's the best, but if people who write the rules write with different numbers, between the two and four cylinder, it pushes the technician in one direction or the other.
And for me it is the same, for example, for the tires. The tires, the kind of tires we are using, push the technician in using one kind of stiffness or another. There are other rules for example. the weight limit is another thing. In the market, you have no weight limit. So if you are designing a lighter bike, you will have the advantage. Usually in the race category, there is a minimum weight. So if you have a lighter solution, you may not have an advantage. So sometimes you use a solution, the right solution, depending on what's written in the rules. So for me, we are open to use what we believe is better.
Q:If you could use the two-cylinder in MotoGP, in what ways would it be better?
For me, the two cylinder has a good drivability. When I read about more torque, I'm laughing, because what is more important is not the crankshaft torque, but the wheel torque, and because the total ratios between the four-cylinder and two-cylinder are different, because the revs are different, it's enough you put a street bike on a dyno, and you make a measurement of the torque at the wheel, and you easily discover that for example, a four-cylinder 1,000 has more torque than a two-cylinder at the same bike speed. So this is just mystification [myth-making] from my point of view. But the rideability of the two-cylinder is easily the good point.
Q:How much has the single tire design constrained you from developing in a particular direction, tires will be changing next year, the construction will be a little bit less stiff, how much does that affect your thinking?
I was speaking about the difference between the Bridgestone MotoGP tires and the sport bike tires. The Bridgestone MotoGP tires are a fantastic product. They're developed to resist the amazing forces that this kind of bike and this kind of riders can apply, especially in the front, and for the specific needs for the race. You can reach the best performance at the end of the race, you can use the same rubber in a lot of different tracks, with a lot of different temperatures. So this kind of tires are the pinnacle of tire technology. But to reach that performance is completely different from the tires for the normal riders and the normal bikes, which have other needs.
For that reason we are in a single tire rules, and we have to adjust the bike. We are not any more working with the supplier to have the best package. The tires are that one, we have to do the bike that allows the tires to have the best performance. So it's possible that the stiffness or the weight distribution or the way of the bike is moving that are optimal for the Bridgstone MotoGP tire are completely different from other applications. I am not talking about the difference of this year and next year, that will be i think the same philosophy, the same small difference.
Q:It will not force you to change more than you want to if you do if you had the same tire?
We are interesting in developing the bike. Because only if you develop you build knowledge for the company, so we are happy to be forced… if we fix everything, there is not any room for improvement, there is not any result for R&D department, so a lot of engineers lose their work. So we hope we are forced by the rules to change and change.
Q:Is Ducati missing Casey Stoner more than you expected.
I miss him from a personal point of view, because we worked years and years together, but now he is the enemy and we have to do all that is in our hand in putting Vale in doing in what he show he is able to do: winning
Q:Valentino has talked a lot this year about the problems with the front, and he tried something this weekend that was an improvement and he was able to get the bike into the corner. Do you have any evolutions in the same direction that will offer an improvement in the near future?
For me, we did a small step yesterday, this race weekend. Not a huge step and for sure not enough, so I believe still the main problem is the turning and the confidence entering the corner. So we are focused on making other steps. We are pushing for that and as soon as we have something available for that we will put it in production. We cannot know now if is for this year or for next year, but of course we are focused on that.
Q:You said you missed Casey from a personal point of view, because you worked with him. Are you missing him from a performance point of view?
Casey is a really fast rider, but we have a nine-time World Champion, so I think we have good material in our house.