It's been an unimaginably tough season for Ducati in 2011. The arrival of Valentino Rossi has served only to prove that the design of the Desmosedici has some fundamental design flaws that only a particular talent can ride around, and the factory Ducatis have spent all this year circulating in mid-pack. Right now, the focus in Bologna has shifted completely towards 2012, with this season being used to gather data to help build next year's bike.
At Indianapolis, both Marlboro Ducati riders confirmed that major changes are on the cards for the Desmosedici for next year, with the current design, now being used by both Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi in the GP11.1, likely to see large-scale modifications.
Speaking to reporters, Rossi acknowledged that the new parts which debuted at Brno had helped, finishing the Czech round much closer to Jorge Lorenzo and the front runners than he has been for some time. The change - a modification to the headstock, including inserts and fork bottoms - had given Rossi a little more feel at the front, but it was still not enough. If he was to be able to fight with Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner for wins, he said, a much bigger step would be needed.
Rossi summed up the bike's good points, and pointed out what the Ducati's weakness is. "The bike has good stability in the rear, especially on entry, the gearbox is not so bad, the engine is quite good, but we need especially the feeling on the front and in turning," Rossi told reporters. "It's always very difficult to understand what's happening at the front, and it looks like we don't have enough grip from the front tire to turn the bike."
A lot was being done to remedy the situation, Rossi emphasized. "We're working very hard for next year. We need to have a clear idea about the bike for next year for the Valencia test at the last race. That's in November so we don't have much time." Even between Valencia and the start of the 2012 season, there was room for improvements to be made, Rossi said. "The bike of Valencia is not the same as the bike at the Qatar race next year. But we need to understand which way forward."
With so much work to do, testing is going to be crucial, Rossi said. But Ducati would not be testing their 1000s after the Misano round, as the factory has not yet produced some of the changed parts that Rossi was hoping to test. "I don't think we will test in Misano because nothing is ready," Rossi told reporters, "But we will try in the next week at some other track with some other parts."
The reason for the wait is that Filippo Preziosi, the engineering genius behind Ducati's MotoGP project, had a number of major changes he wanted to test. "Filippo has three or four different ideas to follow, different configurations of the bike, a small modification, medium modification, big modification," Rossi revealed. But it was not the rider's job to dictate engineering choices. "He [Preziosi - Ed.] has to decide. He's the man, I'm the rider, I wait to see what he will bring for the next time, after my part is to be precise and give the right direction for the next evolution for next year. "
Neither Rossi nor Hayden were keen to talk about exactly what changes were being planned. "There's a lot of talk going on, I'm sure you've all heard the rumors," the American said at Indianapolis. "I'm not asking questions, I don't need to know, though I hear a few things here and there. I'm probably not going to ride it again until Valencia. No big changes engine-wise."
The engine was not the Ducati's biggest problem, Rossi agreed. "What I see from the track, our engine is not so bad. Unfortunately, we lost the advantage that Ducati had in in that area the last years, but I think the bike is not more slow from the engine." But the limited resources that Ducati has at its disposal were the biggest problem that the Bologna factory faced, Rossi said. "You know in our situation, which is quite bad, we are Ducati so we are not as big as Honda and Yamaha, we have to concentrate on the area which gives the most disadvantage at the end of the lap, and right now that's not the engine. So before, we have to fix the bigger problem, and once we fix the bigger problem, we can work on the engine."