If you head down to Mugello today (Thursday, September 8th), you will be lucky enough to hear the mighty sound of Ducati's 2012 Desmosedici GP12 engine pounding out the laps around the classic Italian circuit. And unless you are very lucky - or highly ingenious - that is all you will get to see. The test of the GP12 is being held behind firmly closed doors, with observers extremely unwelcome.
All this just adds to the mystery of exactly what Rossi and Ducati are testing on the Desmosedici GP12. When asked about it at the Misano round of MotoGP, Rossi remained vague: "Something for the front, and to help turning." The manner in which he casually dismissed the parts to be tested was meant to suggest that the test was of only limited significance for the moment, Rossi adding that the goal of the test was to work for 2012. Of course, Rossi's brilliance as a communicator - both in the positive sense of getting across his point with humor and insight, and in the negative sense of hiding information that he or the team wish to keep a secret - makes it impossible to evaluate the sincerity of the claim. After all, "something for the front," could be a new set of triple clamps, a revised offset, a new subframe, or a completely new chassis.
However, despite the vagueness of Rossi's pronouncements, it is almost certain that Rossi is today testing the aluminium twin spar chassis which has been built for Ducati by a Moto2 chassis supplier. That chassis was completed some time last week, MotoMatters.com has learned, and is now in the hands of Ducati's technicians. The aim of the test will be to evaluate whether the twin spar chassis provides a clear benefit for Rossi's more precise corner style over the carbon fiber subframe currently being employed. If the chassis shows potential - the chassis has almost certainly been designed internally by Ducati, with only the production having been farmed out to an external party - then work will begin in earnest on preparing the chassis for the first public test of all of the 2012 MotoGP bikes, directly after the final round of 2011 at Valencia.
Rossi fans hoping for an earlier appearance of the aluminium chassis will be disappointed: a twin spar chassis requires completely different engine mounting points to the current subframe being used, and modifying engine casings would mean that Rossi would need to take 2 new engines. As the Italian has already started ot use his 6th engine at Misano, that would mean starting races from pit lane twice, an unacceptably high cost for the R&D it would provide. Rossi's insistence at Misano that the parts to be tested were for 2012 would seem to substantiate this supposition.
At Misano, Filippo Preziosi denied emphatically the rumors that either FTR or Suter were producing an aluminium chassis for Ducati. Chassis and swingarm were part of Ducati's core competence, and components that Ducati would always keep in-house, as the knowledge required and gained in the process was an important part of Ducati's intellectual property and would help them in building and designing the road machines that help to fund the racing project. But Preziosi also said two things which contradicted his own denial. The first was to admit that Ducati's trademark steel trellis frame was also manufactured by an external manufacturer. And the second was to tell the press quite frankly that Ducati would never be completely honest about what it was developing or not. "We will never tell you what we are building," Preziosi said, half-joking. Honda was secretive, Yamaha was secretive, so naturally Ducati was secretive. They would tell the press what they felt was appropriate, Preziosi said, adding "but sometimes, we lie!" It is a safe bet that this is one of those times.