Rossi On The Ducati's Handling, His Fans, And World Superbikes

When Valentino Rossi speaks, the world listens. The popularity of the nine-time World Champion is such that fans (and consequently, the media) hang on his every word. Since Rossi switched from Yamaha to Ducati, the scrutiny has become even more intense, every word and action being analyzed a million times for extra levels of meaning.

So when Rossi spoke to Italian magazine MotoSprint (English highlights over on Autosport), there was plenty for the fans and media to get their teeth into. First subject was of course the Desmosedici GP11, and Rossi's struggle to master what is proving to be a highly wayward beast. The problem, Rossi explained, is getting the bike to turn. The Ducati does not want to turn in corners, and Rossi said he was having to slide the rear to get the bike to turn through corners. The team continues to work on setup changes to alter this behavior, and Rossi told Motosprint that he believes that part of the problem will be solved quickly through electronics changes.

Fundamental problems remain, however. "The problem is that we lack handling. We need to try to make this bike turn better: at the moment the Desmosedici has a lot of understeer," Rossi told Motosprint. Major changes were needed, but with limited testing and the season just a week away, there is little time to develop and test those changes. For now, Rossi's only option was to adapt his style to the bike, and try to find further setup changes to help the bike to turn. Rossi's hope was that the cooler temperatures at Qatar and the upcoming European rounds would make the Ducati a little easier to handle.

Rossi also told Motosprint that he was aware he had his detractors among racing fans, especially among a specific section of Ducati fans. Those Ducati fans, Rossi believes, have become so used to having him as a target, that they are finding it hard to get used to seeing the Italian aboard their beloved marque.

Perhaps one of the reasons that some of the hard-core Ducatisti are so opposed to the coming of Rossi is that his signing is blamed for Ducati's withdrawal from World Superbikes, its spiritual home - an accusation which is not entirely unjust, as Alan Cathcart explained so adeptly in last week's issue of Cycle News. To appease these Ducati fans, Rossi once again repeated his ambition to race in World Superbikes, expanding on his previous commitments. Last year, Rossi said his only interest was in racing one or two races in World Superbikes, but Rossi told Motosprint that he may well end his career in World Superbikes once he retires from MotoGP. That will be later, rather than sooner, however. Speaking at the launch of the Speed Master Moto2 team, Rossi's best friend Alessio "Uccio" Salucci told the media, including Italian website GPOne.com, that Rossi would like to spend two years' racing World Superbikes, adding that it would be another five years before Rossi was ready to make the switch. With MotoGP about to make the switch to 1000cc, perhaps the MotoGP class could turn out to be the ideal preparation for World Superbikes ...

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Comments

These snippits of rider interviews/press releases are driving me crazy.

Racing!

Total votes: 78

Wow, that Cycle News piece was quite interesting...

Makes Ducati's logic quite the head scratcher.

Total votes: 87

I'm going to go out and buy that Cycle News so I can read this in my hands lol. (yes I know I can read it for free via that link but still :P)

Total votes: 86

AFAIK, Cycle News is a digital-only publication. Nothing on paper for the moment. I've been highly sceptical of digital magazine formats, but since buying a new computer and hooking it up to a larger resolution monitor, it's starting to make sense.

This is of course the point of digital publishing: you survive by offering quality. Too many magazines have websites that are just add-ons. They detract value from their paper publications, rather than adding value by being an online reflection. But that's a discussion for another day...

Total votes: 75

Do any of you read GP Week? I have read it since it started, and it's pretty darn great. Michael Scott writes for the Moto GP part, and they even have Peter Windsor doing some pieces for F1. It doesn't get much better than that (present company excepted, of course), IMHO.

David, have you read (or do you read) GP Week?

The Cathcart piece was...baffling. I suppose that when I become a bazillionaire like certain members of the Ducati board of directors, I will also start saying and doing completely nonsensical things.

No. Wait. Never mind. I already do that.

The comments about the Ducati understeering, and it needing to oversteer...brings absolutely EVERY LAST video clip, sound byte, crash, win, EVERYTHING into focus regarding how the Ducati handles. Oversteering a car goes toward drifting, or maybe a less-efficient but controllable method of circling a road course. Oversteering a bike (on asphalt) gets you THRILLING footage...and either a crash or a victory. It' just...AMAZING how much the last few years of Ducati now makes SENSE! Of COURSE you wouldn't be comfortable with an understeering bike. Of COURSE you wouldn't naturally want to oversteer it on purpose (again, on asphalt), and if you did, you would likely crash. (Kinda reminds me of Garry McCoy)

It all...makes...SENSE. Ride it over the edge. I remember when Casey crashed out at Qatar, there was an article on why he crashed...and the explanation was that he wasn't pushing hard enough and going fast enough. Going TOO SLOWLY caused him to crash. Now it all "clicks". Of COURSE Casey always lined up last to the starting line. Of COURSE he rode at 11/10ths on the first lap. He had to have heat, lots of it, and to push over the edge. From the first corner.

This is just incredible. Now I finally get it. WOW. I've been waiting a LONG time to try and understand why the bloody thing is so FAST/AWFUL. Now...it all makes sense. It sure explains a bloody encyclopedia-full of questions.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go curl up in a fetal position and alternately laugh hysterically and weep uncontrollably. :)

Total votes: 84

Have I just read it right? Has BMW pushed Duc out of SBK? Or am I missing the whole point of it?

Total votes: 81

I've come to notice that I haven't read much on what Nicky has to say about any issues with the Duc? Does anyone know of any articles or is he keeping his mouth shut to not contradict anything Rossi says...?

Total votes: 88

I think Nicky knows that it'd do him no good to really say anything negative about this year's machine, because the test times and the races are going to do all the talking for the entire Ducati paddock. Instead, he's just got to focus on the only thing that matters, which is doing his best to ride his bike. He knows his role, knows his political limitations within Ducati, and will let his results speak for themselves.

I think there's also a very distinct lack of his name being used when other riders bring up their biggest competition. This year, it's all about "honda" or "my honda teammates" and as a side note, they include "oh and one must always watch out for Valentino" with nary a word for Nicky. What can he do except keep his head down and do the hard work he always does? He'll let his riding tell them what's up, and if not, well then that's racing. He knows better than to just sling mud to protect his "honor/pride"

Re: Cycle News- Thanks David for the heads-up! I read the article, wow that was eye-opening. It's an interesting website premise, basically a magazine but without printing costs..

Total votes: 83

I hadn't even thought about it like that. Such a great observation. If that were me, that would sting so I hope this creates enough motivation for him to get his butt in gear then. Anyway, we'll have to wait and see how testing goes on the 13th and 14th. Feels so far away, ughhh..

Total votes: 77

Interesting how little you hear from NH's lip about the Duc good or bad.

Given the comments that Rossi has to spin it up to turn in sounds to me like he's getting some practice for the 1k's.

Total votes: 86

I've read the interview and got the impression that it is more of a branding/position push by the owners(the rolls royce of motorcycles??) and Rossi is one aspect of the new direction. Being a factor rather than a cause. Looks like BMW have done a Honda?/tetley bitter man, if you can't beat them buy them.. and left duke up the creek. For my money duke still have a factory team it's just not xerox and they have an easy get out for not beating the aprilia motogp bike which won't be easy within the current rules. It's a good bit of marketing. Privateer Ducati against full factory bikes and looks good as of PI.
I suspect alot of the Rossi detractors maybe ex Casey/Ducati fans, as it was a glory period for them, I know I'd find it hard to back, the guy who had been their biggest nemesis of the last few years.

Let's hope Rossi can put his knowledge, which is the best incite into the duke I've read so far, to good use and make it work on track. Though as Casey has proved on both bikes it's along way from the Hondas... As with any rider a couple of results can sway the fans but it's going to be anything but easy this year...

Go Rossi!!! Go Nicky!!! Go Ducati!!!

Total votes: 90

Not quite true.Ducati loyalists became loyal to the riders that won on the brand they were/are loyal to,all the way back to Paul Smart,Mike Hailwood,Raymond Roche through to Troy Bayliss and Casey Stoner.
So yes,many of us were disgusted with the treatment Stoner got in 2009 in the media and by Ducati (offering Lorenzo 14 mil).
Rossi is a sports celebrity brand not a motorcycle brand.
Branding their road bikes with #46 and #69 does not wash with their hardcore fan base.
It may ease over with the younger generation of Ducatista,but failure by Nicky and Vale over the next couple of years or weeks will see those who prefer exotic Italian machinery switching to Aprilia in droves.
Rossi knows this only too well. He has had the Marlboro zillions thrown at him and must deliver for Ducati as of next week.
Interesting to note that he has to powerslide it to get it turned and now suggesting the ECU can sort it. Casey's been sliding it scince he first got on it to get it to turn. Catalunya 2007 was a prime example. Oversteer : You go into the corner too quick and you hit the pole backwards. Understeer : You go into the corner too quick and you hit the pole head on. Advantage to understeer : You get to see it happening,so you crank it up,lean it further and slide the rear end around if you can, and pray it works precisely lap after lap. No easy way out for Ducati from hereon in. After Mugello last year I'm not too sure Valentino is into risking it all and Nick,well,he's not about to upset any applecart soon.
Thanks for the link to Alan Cathcart's article. That was insightfull.

Total votes: 99

Make your mind up. Is it Two years, Two weeks or next week he has to deliver?..try Two months!

I think you'll find Rossi has been powersliding to get it turned since Stoner was in nappies and Lord only knows how Casey would have fared taking the liberties he does on an NSR..
As for taking risks..did you watch the Sachsenring comeback, Motegi or Sepang?

I dunno..you guys.
Hope the watch batteries last longer than your memory!

Total votes: 94

The odd thing about it is that Casey repeated said he got better results when he turned down the electronics down to a minimum while riding the Duc.

Total votes: 85

" steering " by the rear wheel, as befits those who have a flat track background, becomes more predictable/controlable with less electronic interference ?

Remember Garry McCoy....Roberts Snr....Doohan....

Total votes: 90

While a factor, I think it's more then just that. Nicky can slide and steer with the rear wheel with the best of them, and it just ain't cutting it for him.

Nicky is a mile flat track win from a career Grand Slam, rarefied air to say the least.

Total votes: 90

There is a very good article on Asphalt and Rubber - "Ducati's Deal with the Devil' which makes interesting reading after reading Cathcart's.
Maybe Ducati don't care too much about the 'loyalists' as they are a fixed market and Ducati need to grow?

Total votes: 75

I seem to remember that Yamaha years ago trumpeted their technical innovation of having the engine spinning in the opposite direction to usual so that it mitigated some of the gyroscopic effeect of the wheels so making the bike more agile (all else being equal - which it isn't!) and reducing weight transfer under acceleration.

Does anyone know whether this strategy is still employed? It would be a factor in the Ducati being more difficult to steer and also a source of power loss between engine and rear wheel which won't help the Yamaha woes in this aspect of performance.

Total votes: 85

Wow... I never knew that there were Ducatisti who would have been mad at Rossi... :O

Total votes: 98