It has been clear for some time that Ducati have a lot of work to do on their Ducati Desmosedic GP11. Where Honda and Yamaha have made huge steps forward over the winter, all of the Ducati riders have struggled during testing, with all six riders crashing during the final winter test at Qatar, and then only the two Marlboro Ducatis in the top 10 at the opening MotoGP race in Losail, with Valentino Rossi the best finisher in 7th.
Rossi's technical debrief was a perfect illustration of just where Ducati is at this moment: After speaking to the press after the race on Sunday night, Rossi went back into the paddock hut housing the Ducati team for a technical meeting with his pit crew and Ducati engineers that went on for what seemed like a very long time indeed. Ducati clearly has a lot of work to do.
But the presence of Rossi and his legendary crew chief Jeremy Burgess may start to pay off soon for Ducati. Speaking to the Italian TV channel Sportmediaset, head of Ducati Corse and engineering guru Filippo Preziosi revealed that the team would be bringing a host of new parts to be tried at the Estoril MotoGP test, due to take place on the Monday after the Portuguese Grand Prix. Some of those changes will be "radical and visible," Preziosi asserted, whilst others will be just as important though not as visible.
Among the changes will be a new chassis, Preziosi revealed. The chassis will continue to be a carbon fiber subframe, however. "You can radically change the behavior of the bike without changing the shape of the elements," Preziosi said, though adding that changing the elements could also help to change the bike.
One of the biggest changes will be in the engine, Preziosi added. The aim was to make the engine respond a lot less aggressively in the corners, especially when leaned over hard. Making the bike easier to turn and control in corners is a key aim for Ducati.
As for a new gearbox, to match the performance of the Honda's instantaneous gearshift, Preziosi was cautious. Where Valentino Rossi had hinted at Qatar of having a new gearbox to test at Estoril, Preziosi insisted it was not that simple. "You can't just decide you want to build one and then use it," Preziosi told Sportmediaset. But it was definitely something that needed to be thought about, the Ducati boss added.
The changes for Estoril will be just the first batch of changes due to be phased in during the season. The Ducati Desmosedici looks like undergoing a major change throughout the 2011 season, to make it easier for everyone - not just Valentino Rossi - to ride.