Bayliss To Test Ducati's MotoGP Bike

A remarkable press release from Italy. Ducati have just announced that Troy Bayliss is to test Ducati's Desmosedici GP9 at Mugello next week, at a private Ducati test from May 12th to May 14th. Bayliss is to test Ducati's MotoGP bike alongside regular tester Vittoriano Guareschi, in pursuit of improvements to the difficult Desmosedici. The press release puts it as follows: "The test has been planned for a while and will be repeated during the year at future official sessions of the Test Team. Ducati can thus count on the feedback of a three times world champion, whose talent and experience will contribute to the continuous development work carried out on the Desmosedici GP9 and GP10."

Rumors of Bayliss riding the GP9 had been floating around the internet for a couple of weeks, ever since spy shots of a set of leathers with MotoGP, Baylisstic and Marlboro Ducati logos surfaced on a couple of racer websites. The shots were allegedly taken by someone picking up a set of leathers from the Arlen Ness factory from their racing department, and had unsurprisingly generated a lot of speculation about the legendary Australian Superbike star making a return to racing. Bayliss is preparing to compete in Australia's V8 Supercars series, but is known to still have both close links to Ducati and and a hankering for motorcycle racing - despite an explicit veto by his wife.

The likelihood of Bayliss ever racing in MotoGP has to be fairly slim. After his victory in the final race of the 990 era, Bayliss proclaimed himself done with MotoGP, having gained the revenge on Ducati's MotoGP team that he had sought after being unceremoniously dumped by the squad at the end of the 2004 season. Together with his World Superbike pit crew, specially shipped in as a condition of Bayliss taking Gibernau's ride as a wildcard at the 2006 Valencia Grand Prix, he came in and took victory almost from the very first corner.

But Bayliss being called in to perform testing duty also points to Ducati having recognized that they are still having problems with the GP9. Despite the machine looking almost unbeatable in the hands of Casey Stoner, no one else seems to be capable of getting to grips with the fickle Ducati. The bike is notoriously difficult to set up, the engine mapping making the bike respond differently almost from corner to corner, disrupting the riders' concentration and robbing them of confidence. By bringing in a rider of unquestionable ability, Ducati may hope to find out whether the problem really is with the bike, or with the other riders. Given that three former world champions - Loris Capirossi, Marco Melandri and Nicky Hayden - all failed to get the hang of the Ducati (though fairness decrees that it is a little early to draw that conclusion for Hayden), it really does look like the problem is with the bike, and not the riders.

When asked by MotoGPMatters.com, a Ducati press officer said that the team would not be releasing times. "It will be behind closed doors, as every other test of the test team is. We may put out a final release." Of course, Bayliss' test puts Ducati in a difficult situation. If they do publish times, then this will unleash a tidal wave of speculation, either about the future of Nicky Hayden if the times are good, or about the state of the bike if the times are bad. And if they don't publish times, then this will generate even more speculation about why they didn't release the times. However, it will at least generate a lot of publicity for both the team and the sponsors.

 

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Comments

Calling all MotoGpMatters agents in the vicinity to hide in the long grass with their stopwatches...

While this is fascinating, given the apparent nature of the inflexibility of the basic Duc design to accommodate wide variations in set-up one wonders what the findings could do to improve things. If Bayliss does crack the 'secret' to riding the damn thing fast, then the only useful outcome might be a Bayliss master-class to the rest of the Duc riders on how to use the weapon.

Can't help but wonder if giving Hayden etc. time on the 08 bikes would be productive - surely that doesn't constitute 'testing' according to the rules? It seems that only learning what the bike demands of the rider works, trying to adapt it to what the rider wants is like trying to teach a polar bear accounting...

...bring high-quality audio recorders.

I think they need to use Bayliss to help design a "flat" or "linear" fuel and throttle map for the normal superstars to ride the bike.  Forget all the A.I., let the rider do the thinking.

Normal flat mapping was tried with Capirossi at Mugello in 2007. And that bike required at least a 1k lower rev limit.

If you want to win, you need the top speed and drive out of the corners. You'll also need to conserve the fuel elsewhere. This is Ducati's game, and it's a proven winner.

elias put that thing on the box a few times, and was just getting to the point becoming "another", then ducati sent my to the back of the pack, because he was leaving, imo they get what they got, and they are lucky to have stoner.

The idea of 'flatter' mapping makes a heck of a lot of sense, but it does also beg the question of just what it is that Stoner does to get so much extra speed than everybody else on a Duc. Does he work to somehow enhance the electronics or just ride around them in a way nobody else has managed to understand, let alone achieve in practice (no pun intended there..)?

If it's the latter, then (and I say it with considerable reservation given my belief that Hailwood was the most complete example ever of someone who could outride anything he was ever given) one has to say that Stoner is in rarified company indeed. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the pit box after Bayliss has laid down some laps.

Frankly, if the Duc electronics is so intrusive, it surely makes it a very, very difficult beast in a dogfight - a bit like having a light-sabre with a dud electrical connection, not what you want when facing Darth Rossi...

I don't know that I buy the accepted belief that the Ducati is robo-bike and that Stoner is the only guy that knows how to trust it (one translated meaning:  he is simply a passenger who knows his place), but for the sake of argument, I'll accept the premise that they have these wildly dynamic fuel and suspension maps that wreak havoc on the sensibilities of "normal" World Champion riders. 

In that scenario, they need a rider with a heavy throttle hand to log race-quality miles in testing and develop a set of fuel and throttle maps that can survive race distance while also drawing nearer to a linear power curve.  There are very few folks on the Planet who could do that and aren't precluded by the current rules package.  Add to that a desire for familiarity within the factory, and there is just one man on the call sheet.  (By the way, that man last year was Gibernau, so Bayliss is at least one louder...)

Since I am not an engineer for Ducati nor Yamaha, the following is my theory:  I believe Yamaha have effectively skirted the situation, somewhat, with their long-bang motors.  Their engines provide more usable torque in the lower regions of the rev band, so their riders can be less aggressive on the throttles during the critical apex-to-exit periods.  In return, the engineers can allow a (perhaps, only slightly) flatter fuel map - feeling more natural and predictable - that is also better on consumption since the riders don't need to pin it to W.O.T. as much.

As I have often complained already, the riders, bikes, and their engineers are not the problem as much as the rules package that forced the situation.  At least this represents good news, in that, during the past week both Honda and Ducati have tacitly admitted that their riders are, in fact, more valuable than light bulbs, and that there would appear to be a need for more flexible solutions.  Of course, this is the real advantage Yamaha have enjoyed since the end of 2003.

The word coming out of Honda and Ducati are interesting. Acknowledging that they need to develop talent rather than just pick a box off the shelf seems as though it wil lead to a very diffierent approach than either factory has taken, well, ever. With Honda being central to the Moto2 effort, perhaps we will see an increased focus on finding riders that don't fit the 250cc mold.

But back to the point at hand; It would seem to me that the Ducati motor inherently has all the benefits that Yamaha has engineered into their I4 (balance shaft, reverse rotating crank and long-bang firing). However, it appears that Yamaha has spent many years developing their bike starting with rider input before pen meets paper, where as Ducati have come up with an idea and then tried to figure out how to make it rideable. In the BBC broadcast before Jerez, Stoner said that up until the GP9, he has not been involved in developing the bike - and now that he has, it is more useable by riders other than himself. That is a good sign but it hasn't translated into results yet. The advantage Bayliss might bring over Gibernau is that Gibernau tends to wait for the bike to come to him while Bayliss tends to force it to do so.

Rusty is right. The real issue here is that the engineers are forced to work within such narrow parameters that they have to find indirect solutions to the riders problems rather than building toward the riders needs from the ground up.