One of the most notable things to emerge from the post-race tests at Valencia was the new firing order being tested by the Marlboro Ducati team. The difference in engine note between the new engine and the old one, still being used by the satellite Pramac team was striking, with the GP10 sound much more like Yamaha's M1 - and a return to Ducati's original big-bang roots - than the pure screamer currently in use in the Ducati Desmosedici. And although it was obvious that the engine was not using the original "twin pulse" configuration, which saw the two vertical and horizontal cylinders firing almost in unison, the cylinder pairs were clearly no longer firing 360 degrees apart either. The sound had everyone speculating, wondering just how Ducati changed the bike and why.
MotoMatters.com was fortunate enough to be part of a small group of journalists who had a chance to talk to Ducati Corse's General Manager and engineering guru Filippo Preziosi about the GP10. In the few minutes we had with Preziosi, he covered the new firing order, the rationale for making the switch, and what he thought of the proposed 1000cc engine regulations due to come into effect in MotoGP in 2012.
Question: So, it looks like a positive test, both Casey and Nicky very happy?
Filippo Preziosi: Yes, I'm very happy, because all the new parts we provided to the rider that were approved by Vittoriano (Guareschi) at the last tests in Mugello are good for the riders. So that's very good for me because both the riders gave me the same comments, and that makes me more comfortable that we are making the right choice. So now we start building the bike for 2010, and the same bike that is approved by the official riders and by the test rider Vito will be provided to the satellite team, for the first test in Sepang. So, now it's time to work again in developing the bike starting from that stage.
Q: Can you explain a little bit about the firing order, because it sounds completely different to the GP9?
FP: Yes, it's funny because it's enough to change a little the delay between the left and right cylinder of the same group, vertical or horizontal, and the sound is completely different. But of course what we were searching for was the driveability, and we found that there is an improvement in that area. Of course we will lose some power, but of course what is interesting for us is the lap times, not the top speeds. I think all the rider are enjoying it so we will go on in that way.
Q: Casey said it smooths the bike out and it's made it tamer. Because of that, will you look at revising the chassis?
FP: I think with the new engine, the optimal setup will not be the same setup you choose for the old engine, because the riding style will be completely different. Even the riders will have to change their riding style. So that make me even happier, because we reached a good lap time without changing the setup, so I think there is some room for improvement.
Q: You have switched between the screamer and the big bang before at Ducati, now this seems more like a big bang engine, why did you decide to change the engine concept at this stage?
FP: Because I think we have to test continuously different things to improve the performance. At that stage, it was really interesting to test the different firing order.
Q: What was the main target to increase performance? To make the bike smoother to ride for Casey or to improve the rear traction or what?
FP: No. I discussed with Casey a lot what we need for the bike, and he was asking for a smoother bike. I'm sure that when we do something for Casey, even the other riders are faster. And that was exactly what happened today. So we never found something that Casey asked us to do that was not also good for the other riders. So we never have a conflict.
Q: Is the goal also to use less traction control and save more fuel so you have more fuel at the end of the race?
FP: Yes, for sure. The engine is smoother, so it is easier to ride and this is a small advantage.
Q: Because you can hear it kicking in a lot less...
FP: That's true.
Q: There's been some talks about the 1000cc capacity coming back in a couple of years, based on production engines, what's your opinion?
FP: It's not production based. Is 1000 cubic centimeters, with a maximum stroke that allows production engines to be used without a huge difference. But still, a prototype engine will be faster. So I'm sure that top teams and manufacturers will produce completely prototype engines. Other manufacturers can start from a production engine, using some parts and modifying others without a rule that will force you to use this part or the other part. So it's not production-derived, it's completely free, just the stroke, just the bore and stroke must be the same.
Q: Have you started work on a 1000cc engine? Have you even started to think about it?
FP: No. First this one.
Q: Do you think it's a good idea to go back to 1000s?
FP: It's an easy way to have a higher number of riders on the grid, because you don't need the prototype engine, you can use some in-between engines. But I think the top riders will be the same, the top manufacturers will be the same.
Q: What about next year, your riders will only be allowed to use 6 engines for the whole championship, so one engine may need to last 2,400, 2,500 kilometers. Have you had to sacrifice some performance to achieve reliability?
FP: For sure there is a compromise between durability and performance. We are working and we are trying to lose as little performance as possible. We will decide at the first race what level of detuning we need. We will try to do all the winter tests in the most powerful condition in order to check the durability, but we will check the durability on the test bed and we will decide where to put the rev limiter.
Q: Is the easiest way just to reduce RPM?
FP: The rev limiter is the medicine which will solve any durability problems. But unfortunately it also reduces the performance.