Ducati To Bring Radically Revised GP11 For Rossi At Assen

The pairing of Valentino Rossi to Ducati was a match made in marketing heaven. The combined selling power of the two Italian legends was beyond question, and the very definition of the word "synergy". However, the match also involved huge risk: the only rider so far able to win on the capricious Desmosedici was Casey Stoner, and if nine-time World Champion and prime candidate for the title of greatest motorcycle racer of all time Rossi also failed, then questions would be asked both of Ducati's design direction and Rossi's ability to adapt to a bike that Stoner had clearly mastered.

The results speak for themselves: Despite having put the Desmosedici GP11 on the podium at Le Mans, and currently sitting in 4th in the MotoGP championship, it is clear that Rossi is a long way from being competitive on the Ducati in its current form. Despite multiple changes having been introduced - a new subframe/airbox, a new engine with a heavier crankshaft - the Ducati is still no match for either the peerless Honda, or even the underpowered Yamaha, the bike still incredibly difficult to turn. If Rossi is to be competitive on the Ducati, clearly a radically new approach is necessary.

That radical new approach is to be raced at Assen. Ducati have announced that they will be bringing a completely new bike for Rossi to race at the Dutch track, based on the development work done on the 2012 machine as tested at Jerez. The bike will feature a new chassis, a new inverted swingarm as used on the GP12 - which features the shock mount at the top, on a special upper subframe, as GPOne.com explained in an excellent piece of technical analysis - as well as a new engine modified to use the new chassis and swingarm, as well as a new seamless gearbox, similar to the one currently being used on the Honda. 

Valentino Rossi will be the only Ducati rider to use the new bike at Assen, as the radically modified chassis layout requires a new engine, and the engine allocation limits prevent Nicky Hayden from taking an extra engine this early in the season. Rossi has so far used his 3rd engine this season, while Nicky Hayden is already on his 4th, having lost an engine at Estoril. As a result, the American will have to wait until Laguna Seca before he gets a chance to use the GP11.1, as it is being dubbed by Ducati.

The news that Ducati has switched to a chassis based on the 2012 bike will fuel rumor and speculation about the tests that Ducati have already done on next year's machine. Ducati have already used 5 of their permitted 8 days of testing on the GP12, and there has been much wild and unfounded speculation that Rossi has been testing this year's machine in the guise of the 1000. According to Italian TV broadcaster Sportmediaset, during the most recent test at Mugello, Ducati asked local inspectors to verify the capacity of the machine being ridden by Rossi, to prove that he was not testing the 800 illegally.

It is clear that Ducati have stayed strictly within the letter of the law with respect to the tests, but the issue does highlight the problems caused by allowing extra test days for the switch to the new 1000cc category. The lessons learned from testing the new machine may well be applicable to the current year's machine, or, as in Ducati's case, make the factory decide to abandon their current direction and gamble on the direction selected for next year. If anything, the advantage is likely to be greater for Honda and Yamaha, whose 2012 machines are expected to much more closely resemble this year's machines.

Below is the official Ducati press release announcing the changes:


The Ducati Marlboro Team, continuing its development process with the Desmosedici, will introduce a variety of new updates at Assen. Valentino Rossi will take to the track with the next generation of the bike, called the GP11.1. The design process for this bike began after the Sepang tests, with construction beginning after the riders approved the GP12's chassis during its first test, at Jerez.

For the GP11.1, the Corse Department prepared an 800cc engine that installs in the chassis that Ducati engineers are developing for 2012. The bike will also use a new gearbox, the "DST- Ducati Seamless Transmission", the design process for which began in 2010.

Nicky Hayden, who has already used four engines this season, will use a GP11 equipped with the step-2 frame, whose stiffness has been further modified compared to the step-1 version that was introduced at the Estoril test. According to the engine-rotation schedule, he will ride the GP11.1 at Laguna Seca.

Assen is a track that both Ducati Marlboro Team riders like very much, and one where both have achieved strong results: seven victories and three podiums across all classes for Valentino Rossi, one victory and a podium for Nicky Hayden.

VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Marlboro Team

"Assen is one of my tracks—one of those that I like most and where I've had some nice races in all the classes. We'll try to take advantage of that good feeling and of our experience at this circuit because Thursday morning we'll debut some updates to my bike that are very promising but also very fresh. Filippo [Preziosi], the guys at Ducati and the Test Team have worked really hard, and that has enabled us to make this new step with the development of our bike. We haven't had the chance to test the 800 since Estoril, so we'll do it during the race weekends, being aware that despite having very limited time, we'll have to focus on two jobs: making basic adjustments to the new technical parts, and finding a general setup for the race on Saturday. We'll have to do a good job on the track in order to get the most out of the work done at the factory. It will be hard, and we know it might take some time before we can completely reach the potential of the whole package, but we're happy and motivated by the work we're doing."

NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Marlboro Team

"There was no GP this past weekend, but the time went by pretty quickly, as I had a test at Mugello and a couple of PR appearances. Now it's time for Assen, which is an awesome race. I have some good memories there, including a win, and it's a place I really like, with a lot of history and tradition. The track has changed over the years, but I like the new section. We've had a big gap to the front lately, but now we have another new step with the chassis. The first step helped with the feeling, and hopefully this one will also help with the lap time. It's clear that Ducati is working hard, and that's motivating for me, for the team, and for all of our Ducati supporters. I look forward to getting my hands on a GP11.1 as soon as possible as well."

FILIPPO PREZIOSI, Ducati Technical Director

"We decided to make the GP11.1, which is an 800cc engine in a GP12 chassis, in order to accelerate development on next year's bike, and also to provide our riders with a potentially better base for the current championship. Considering that Valentino still hasn't ever ridden the GP11.1, this decision could require some races for the team to completely take advantage of its potential, but we decided to move forward with it because we believe it's an important step for our development process. The next-generation gearbox, on the other hand, is a solution that we think will be an immediate improvement. The Ducati Corse Department will continue studying further innovations, both for this year and for 2012. At the same time, we have developed an additional step for the frame for Nicky, and he'll receive the GP11.1 at Laguna Seca."

Circuit Record: Dani Pedrosa (Honda – 2010), 1'34.525 – 172.982 Km/h
Best Pole: Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha - 2010), 1'34.515 - 173.001 Km/h
Circuit Length: 4,542 km
MotoGP Race 2011: 26 laps (118,092 km)
MotoGP Schedule 2011: 15:00 Local Time
Number of laps: 26
Total race distance: 118,092 km
PODIUM 2010: 1st Jorge Lorenzo, 2nd Dani Pedrosa, 3rd Casey Stoner
POLE 2010: Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha – 2010), 1'34.515 – 173.001 Km/h

2010: 3rd (Stoner)
2009: 3rd (Stoner)
2008: 1st (Stoner)
2007: 2nd (Stoner)
2006: 12th (Hofmann)
2005: 9th (Checa)
2004: 8th (Capirossi)
2003: 6th (Capirossi)


Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP11
Race number: 46
Age: 32 (born in Pesaro 16 February 1979)
Residence: Tavullia (Pesaro, Italy)
GPs: 247 (187 x MotoGP, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)
First GP: Malaysian GP, 1996 (125cc)
Number of Wins: 105 (79 x MotoGP, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
First GP win: Czech Republic GP, 1996 (125cc)
Poles: 59 (49 x MotoGP, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
First Pole: Czech Republic GP, 1996 (125cc)
World Titles: 9 (6 x MotoGP, 1 x 500cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 125cc)

Rossi's MotoGP/500cc track record at Assen
2010: Grid: DNS; Race: DNS
2009: Grid: 1st; Race: 1st
2008: Grid: 3rd; Race: 11th
2007: Grid: 11th; Race: 1st
2006: Grid: 18th; Race: 8th
2005: Grid: 1st; Race: 1st
2004: Grid: 1st; Race: 1st
2003: Grid: 3rd; Race: 3rd
2002: Grid: 1st; Race: 1st
2001: Grid: 3rd; Race: 2nd
2000: Grid: 6th; Race: 6th

Rossi's 250 track record at Assen
1999: Grid: 1st; Race: 2nd
1998: Grid: 3rd; Race: 1st

Rossi's 125 track record at Assen
1997: Grid: 1st; Race: 1st
1996: Grid: 8th; Race: DNF

Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP11
Race number: 69
Age: 29 (born 30 July 1981 in Owensboro, Kentucky, USA)
Residence: Owensboro, Kentucky, USA
Number of GPs: 140 (140 x MotoGP)
First GP: Japanese GP, 2003 (MotoGP)
Number of wins: 3 (3 x MotoGP)
First GP win: USA GP, 2005 (MotoGP)
Poles: 5 (5 x MotoGP)
First Pole: USA GP, 2005 (MotoGP)
World Titles: 1 (MotoGP, 2006)

Hayden's MotoGP track record at Assen
2010: Grid: 5th; Race: 7th
2009: Grid: 13th; Race: 8th
2008: Grid: 4th; Race: 4th
2007: Grid: 13th; Race: 3rd
2006: Grid: 4th; Race: 1st
2005: Grid: 5th; Race: 4th
2004: Grid: 16th; Race: 5th
2003: Grid: 12th; Race: 11th

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So far, bar any wet weather, all qualifying practice and races have been faster in 2011, with one exception, qualifying practice at Catalunya.
So the pace is clearly higher in 2011.

Despite this fact, Hayden qualifies slower than in 2010 in 5 of 6 rounds (except Qatar by 0"3) and generally further away from the pole.
Hayden is always slower in race in 2011 compared to 2010, though sometimes not from much but in general further away from the win due to higher race pace in 2011.
In general, he loses 3 to 5 spots compared to 2010.

As for the "Stoner 2010 VS Rossi 2011" battle:

Rossi always qualifies slower than Stoner the year before. And usually he is much lower on the grid (Stoner never qualified outside of the top6 in the first 6 races in 2010). Rossi is rarely the fastest Ducati rider (only twice compared to 4 times for Stoner).
Stoner had 1 pole and started 3 times from the first row compared to Rossi who never started higher than the 3rd row of the grid.

In races when Stoner did not crash, Rossi race time is always slower except marginally faster at Catalunya (0"6 over 25 laps).
Rossi's fastest lap of the race is always slower than Casey's from last year.
In the 3 races when Casey crashed, Rossi is faster than Hayden in 2010 on 2 occasions (Estoril and Le Mans), his fastest lap in race being also faster on these 2 races.
Rossi was marginally slower in Qatar than Hayden the year before but most notably he was still half a second away from Stoner's best lap (set in only 5 laps).

Out of those 6 races, Stoner had 1 pole, 3 podiums and 1 fastest race lap. Rossi has 1 "lucky" podium.

I am not arguing to know if comparing data from 2010 and 2011 is relevant but merely pointing at the evidence that qualifying and race pace are faster in 2011 while Hayden is slower this year and Rossi is yet to beat Stoner's performance from last year.

Total votes: 14

I don't even want to know how long that took you. But thanks for doing it.

If you feel like doing my taxes next year, shoot me a PM.

Total votes: 10

First of all congratulation on that analysis! very complete it must have taken you a long time. Thanks for it.
Here you bring a very important fact that I think makes comparing Casey last year with Rossi this year almost pointless. Nicky on a Ducati, the only constant between the two season, is slower this year. Now unless anybody thinks that Nicky is working no as hard as last year it is a reasonable opinion (and just an opinion) to say that the bike itself is slower. So Casey 2010 vs Rossi 2011 is far more complex than who did the fastest lap.

Total votes: 11

makes it look like he is not very happy with the development direction chosen by Rossi, Burgess and Preziosi in the winter and 2011 season.
After one third of the season, the new bits introduced in 2011 do not help him to go faster, actually they make him slower (in qualifying and race).

Before everybody dreams of ALL the Ducatis going faster, first let's see if the development in 2011 can benefit Vale, then if it can translate into faster pace for Nicky.

Eventually, even if Rossi and Hayden were to become more competitive in the second half of the season, I really doubt the satellite Ducatis will see any improvement in 2011.
They'll have to wait until 2012.

Total votes: 6

You have a point there, but how about the times in the 2010 november test for Nicky I think they weren´t great either. Also he said he really liked the new chassis a couple of races ago. I think this extreme change to the bike is the right way to go.

Total votes: 13

Especially when people get their teeth into it.
Nice piece of work.

Total votes: 13

because the only true comparison would be if Stoner was still on the Duc which he is not. The one constant in this fairly petty argument is Nicky. Anyone compared the differences between in times between Casey and Vale compared to Nicky? Also we really have not heard much from Nicky comparing last year to this year but he generally seems more frustrated this year which tells me there has not been the development of the Duc compared to how far Honda has moved forward. Anyway really hard to compare apples to apples in this I just know right now Casey would be a lot happier than Vale.

Total votes: 13

Makes you wonder how much truth is behind Nicky playing the test mule for parts Valentino isn't sure of. Sort of makes the comparison to last years times questionable at the least.

My oh my, this is a fiery year, isn't it? So much drama off the track that it is - almost - more fun to come here, to motomatters, than to watch the race on Sunday (or, Saturday, in the case of "The Cathedral").

As to the Casey vs Rossi business... It does not make a good deal of sense to compare times between the two. Each has (or had, in Casey's case) two seperate agendas. If you can accept that Casey had resigned hope of significant development work on the GP10 then the rest should flow logically. Casey wanted to go fast. Rossi wants a better platform.

Good Luck Valentino. Casey, keep spanking them.

Total votes: 16

David, it's only in epic multi-page discussions such as this one that I notice a bug with the site. I like being able to log in and have any new posts I haven't read identified as such so I can navigate through the new comments in the discussion quicker. Unfortunately, this only works for the first page. When discussions sprawl out to multiple pages, the "New" tags disappear as soon as you navigate to the second or third page of the discussion.

Is there any way to fix this?

Total votes: 17

This is the only bug I bumped into on this website, usually virtually unseen but a bit annoying when trying to keep up with comments on more than one page.

Total votes: 12

Number of comments (and their order) is now configurable. That will now get around your problem, but it does mean you have one very, very long page of comments!

Total votes: 10

as one very long page of comments with identifiable new posts is MUCH better than losing track all the time.

Total votes: 11

Again, the only thing you can compare is Nicky Vs. Nicky, 2010 vs 2011. Casey isn't riding the 2011 desmo, period. boy anything comes up and the Rossi haterz start doing backflips.

Rossi isn't stupid. I guarantee it is in his contract that updates throughout the year must come or he can leave the contract. He is the most clever guy in the paddock, knows GP history, etc, etc. I guarantee he knew Ducati was not providing updates to Stoner last year. Why? None of us will ever really know. Perhaps it's because they are still sore over Casey missing races due to exhaustion, or lactose intolerance, or whatever that was, I don't know. Either way, they are busting their collective humps because they have to. I know it's more than Marlboro pressure, or Ducatsi pressure or anything else. It has to be in Rossi's contract that he will lead development and they have to work and provide updates.

I don't know why everyone is so quick to bash Rossi and glorify Stoner. Stoner isn't riding this year's desmo.

Total votes: 17

The criticism of Rossi probably has a lot to do with the fact that Stoner supporters have put up with Stoner bashing from Rossi supporters and Rossi himself ever since the 2007 championship. Comments like: Stoner only won in 2007 because he had the best bike/tires (but when did Rossi ever win without the best bike/tires? 2004 maybe, that would be the only time); Stoner can only win on a Ducati (another myth comprehensively busted this year); If Rossi was on Ducati he'd win more than Stoner (myth busted). There's a lot of posters and Rossi fans who still refuse to give Stoner any credit, just check out MCN and Crash.net. Perhaps they sense that Rossi's crown has slipped badly, and it could be argued that Stoner is already the best rider in the world at this moment. Comparing Rossi's record with Stoner's is futile because Stoner is a lot younger and has many more years left than Rossi does. Rossi also had unequivocally the best bike (Honda), most successful crew chief (Burgess), and special Michelin tires in his first years in MotoGP (2000 to 2003). The fact is that both Rossi and Stoner are exceptional talents, but some fans choose to ignore the fact that Stoner, love him or hate him, has brought enormous new interest to the sport. Rossi had never been challenged before like he was in 2007. And we are blessed to have three aliens in MotoGP who can beat Rossi fair and square on any given day.

Total votes: 14

Checa is 39, riding better than he has in his whole career, Biaggi is 40 in a few days, doing a damn find job following him. Rossi is only 32, he has at least a good four or five years left in him so I don't understand saying they can't be compared. It's not strength that wins races, it's skill and mental concentration. He just had one bad year last year and can't adapt to the bike this year and people act like it's a wrap.

Total votes: 8

Rossi at 32 ought to be in the prime time of his career, you are absolutely right. However, I don't think Checa and Biaggi are good examples. They are not competing against some of the hottest young talent to appear in motorcycle racing in twenty years: Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Spies, Simoncelli. Incidentally I think that Rossi's 2008 MotoGP championship was the best of all his championships for that very reason: he beat Stoner. That's a whole lot different and tougher than beating Biaggi, Melandri, Roberts Jnr, Capirossi and Gibernau in Rossi's earlier championships. Rossi himself acknowledged that Stoner had forced him to raise his game.

Total votes: 15

Wow - huge number of comments. Sad to see a little rider bashing going on but glad to see it's pretty minimal.

I don't think the Duc is as good as last years, but that's purely going on Nicky's times - but I guess that might be down to new parts being fired at him. Nicky spent a good while adjusting to the Duc and it must be hard for him when it all changes. But we will never know, I suspect. I have huge respect for Nicky and his ethic.

I always enjoyed reading Nicky's comments on Stoner - even before he'd joined Ducati. Anyone else remember him saying that Casey basically appeared to crash the bike most corners and then recover it? And on how hard he was working to control the pumping of the rear... If that's what it takes to master the Duc in its current form, then I'm not surprised that most who ride it can't gel with it. Would you want to ride like that?

Surprised by the lack of contemplation on what the 2011.1 will be. For me, the fact that the old mill won't fit the new frame, or what passes for a frame, speaks volumes. Especially if we think to compare the 2012 GP bike with the 2012 WSB bike. On the WSB 2012 bike, the trellis frame is gone - to be replaced by an aluminium airbox-come-subframe. The engine is being rotated backwards (by 13 degrees if memory serves) to allow better packaging, particularly with respect to the front end. It's not hard to imagine that being applied to the 2012 GP bike too, and would explain why a 2011 800cc mill wouldn't fit a 2012 frame. Although it could just be different size of the engine. But I'm guessing there's a rotation too. This rotation of the engine on the 2012 WSB bike has also forced them to redesign the swingarm/suspension solution. Interesting, no?

On the past, I'll just observe that no other rider has been able to duplicate Casey's feats on the Duc. There's a lowest common denominator, and it's not the rider.

I'm looking forward to seeing the 2011.1 Duc - and I bet there is an awfully huge amount riding on its success. If it can't be made to work, the the whole 2012 projects for both WSB, GP, and even road bikes is going to be looking awfully shaky. I think they are taking a huge risk, but would be risking more by not taking it!

Let's hope for no more injuries too...

Total votes: 9

Desperation time has arrived. Employing numerous "improvements" simultaniously is surely a desperate act. I think what we are seeing is that the Rossi-Burgess developement team are in reality nothing more than above average. The real reason for their success through the years is simply that Rossi is the rider. If they were the ultimate in development that some believe, Rossi certainly would have achieved more by now. My guess is that after Rossi rode the Ducati for the first time, he drew two quick conclusions. One, that Stoner is better than he thought. Two, that he was is in for a long up hill battle. I also bet that Burgess wishes he had never made that statement about correcting the Ducati short comings in nothing flat. He's been very fortunate to be hooked up with Rossi all these years. No different than Bill Werner being hooked up with Gary Scott, Jay Springsteen, and Scott Parker. Is that a slam on Burgess or Werner? Absolutely not. Both are masters of their craft. But they are not the only masters out there. They've simply been fortunate in their respective pairings. You can win with an average tuner and the best rider. You will never win with the best tuner and an average rider.

Total votes: 12

1. I read somewhere that Burguess said the seamless gear box does not make big difference. Are Ducati listening to him?

2. I have heard Honda took two years to develop that new gear box. When did Ducati start developing it? Recently?

3. So.. it become legal for official riders to test new parts in mid season as much as they want. When was rule changed?

Total votes: 8

1. You don't need to make a big difference - even the small ones help.

2. Since 2010 allegedly.

3. Dorna assure everyone it was all above board and monitored. As was Honda's test.

This is obviously a special year with the introduction of the new bikes for 2012. We can't expect the teams not to test. It's not too surprising that Rossi wants to try the new chassis - on the supposition that he thought it was better than what he had.

There's no block on bringing in new parts at any time, whether engine or chassis related. Does anyone really think that Honda or Yamaha wouldn't roll out a chassis or gearbox change for their own factory riders from a 2012 bike if they raved about how much better it was?

Total votes: 9