Ducati's Secret Jerez Test - Rossi Faster On New Chassis, But Gap Still There

It is hard to keep secrets when Valentino Rossi is involved. Not because of the Italian - Rossi has been the very soul of discretion on the subject of Ducati's development - but because of the exposure he brings to any situation, and especially to Ducati. So on Thursday, Ducati held a private test of a brand new chassis for their 2012 MotoGP machine, all of the details of which were supposed to be secret, but most of which everybody knew. Even the times were supposed to be secret, but the ever well-informed GPOne.com claims that Rossi managed to lap at around 1'39 during the test.

What Rossi was testing was similarly common knowledge: Earlier this week, Ducati took delivery of an aluminium twin spar chassis - though again, GPOne reports that the difference between the Deltabox design in common use by Yamaha and the Ducati chassis is that the Ducati chassis does not have the rear cross tie joining the two spars together at the rear - and it was this chassis that was being test at Jerez today and yesterday, with Franco Battaini riding the bike on Wednesday, and Valentino Rossi taking the bike out on Thursday. The chassis, built by FTR, (though the Buckingham-based Moto2 manufacturer has consistently denied any knowledge of the project) is in response to requests from Rossi for a chassis with more feel, the Italian failing to get to grips with the original carbon fiber subframe design which has been in use since 2009. According to GPOne.com, Rossi spent his time going out for short, five-lap runs, which suggests that either he had a lot of parts to test, or that he was testing something radical that needed lots of adjustment in between runs.

As stated, Rossi eventually dropped his times to set a lap of 1'39, which is just shy of Casey Stoner's pole time from the April race of 1'38.757. Though this is an improvement on previous test times from Jerez, and it is heartening to match the pace of the 800s, there is still plenty of cause for concern. Paddock gossip - some of it very well-informed - from Casey Stoner's test of the 1000cc Honda at Jerez in May suggests that Stoner was two seconds quicker on the RC213V than he was on the 800cc RC212V during the race weekend. About a second of that was in better track conditions, insiders contended, but that still left the Honda worryingly fast. Conditions at the track for Rossi's test on Thursday are unknown, though the weather was sunny and warm.

It is hard to estimate just where Ducati are with the new twin spar project. Being around 2 seconds off the pace of the Honda RC213V would appear to be problematic, but on the other hand, this is the very first roll-out of a brand new (to Ducati) chassis concept. While Honda's 2012 MotoGP bike is based broadly on the 2011 machine, the Ducati tested at Jerez today is a very different animal to the machines that Ducati has built in the past. There may well be much more potential to come from the bike, once Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden can start riding it with any regularity.

The key point will be whether Rossi has more confidence in the front end, the Desmosedici's weak point that Rossi has struggled with all year long. That is something we will not find out until Motegi, once the press get to ask Rossi questions about the test. Though what Ducati are testing is far from secret, whether it is having any effect or not remains to be seen.

Back to top


The GPOne piece is very strange. First the say that Rossi did 1'39 today and that Stoner did 1'38,7 on QP with the 800, but then they say that Rossi's time for today was very close to Stoner's on the 1000. Do they actually think Stoner was slower on the 1000 than on the 800? It really confuses me.

One thing I always wonder about this closed door test: What tyres do they use? Bridgestone never says a word about the closed door test of any factory so I usually assume their are done on 2011 tires. Am I right?

"Bridgestone never says a word about the closed door test of any factory so I usually assume their are done on 2011 tires. Am I right?"

Some official press releases detail that riders used Bridgestone 2012 tires, sometimes along regular 2011 tires for the sake of comparison.


I believe that for every test carried on the 2012 bikes, riders have 2012 Bridgestones at their disposal, no reason to test with tires on which you won't race next year.

Thanks for that one. I didn't remember it. Well if they used the 2012 tyres then that 1'39 is only remotely encouraging if they had so much parts to test that they coudn't work at all in setup, which I doubt. Still the article in GPOne makes no sense with that 1'39 (if Stoner did a 1'37)

Either they don't believe in the 1'37 by Stoner or they forgot about it?
Which is a possibility since Stoner's test time from Jerez was never mentioned in the press release and rarely mentioned in subsequent articles that covered it...

Assuming the 1'39 is reliable, Rossi on this GP12(.3?) may have been competitive amongst fresh 2011 800cc MotoGP for the second race of the year (if he could set 1'39 on 2011 tires).
But that is not saying much for next year.

GPOne talks about the 1'39 and then it says:

"to compare, in the last race at Jerez, Stoner conquered the pole with a 1'38,757, the Australian had also tested for the first time the Honda 1000 at the same track in may. Also in that case they didn't give any official times, but Casey would have made times very similar to those registered today by Rossi"

So with that 1'39 they are saying that they believe that Casey was slower on the 1000 than on QP with the 800.

I don't think it's correct to say the difference to Yamaha is
that the Ducati chassis does not have the rear cross tie joining the two spars together at the rear.
First, because Yamaha got rid of that cross piece in favour of mounting the shock to the cases in 2008. Second, because GP-One don't mention cross pieces, they talk about the swingarm pivot as the difference:

Un doppio trave discendente in alluminio che lascerebbe al motore una funzione semiportante, con il forcellone infulcrato ancora al carter e non al telaio. Una soluzione che concettualmente riprenderebbe quella delle Ducati con telaio a traliccio, con la differenza che i tubi sarebbero sostituiti da due travi in alluminio.

According to my bad Italian, this means the swingarm still pivots in the cases and not the frame... so presumably it's a sort of aluminium version of an 851 style frame. They really are being dragged kicking and screaming towards a regular frame, aren't they?

Here's my translation attempt:

"A down-sloping aluminium twin spar which leaves the motor a semi-structural role, with the swingarm still pivoting in the crankcase and not the frame. A solution which conceptually follows Ducati trellis frames, with the difference that the tubes would be replaced by two aluminium beams."

I suppose that if you have an engine that is designed to act as a swingarm pivot, you would be wasting all the strengthening required for such a function if you failed to use it in that manner. Also, if Ducati were to truly use the engine as a non-stressed member, I imagine the optimum engine mointing points would change.

At least, that's being kind to Ducati. Personally I think like you, that Ducati are being unnecessarily resistant to different thinking. If they really want to know how a 'regular' frame works with their engine, then they (or FTR) will simply have to build one. Halfway-house solutions won't do them any favours, I feel.

Honestly I find it a little hard to believe that Stoner ran a low 1'37 on that track. The straightaways aren't long enough that the 1000cc engine could make that much of a difference. The experts up until now have all said that the 1000cc engine would either provide negligible lap times on smaller tracks, or provide you with a half second up to a full second on the bigger tracks. Valencia will be the true test.

This is what I was thinking. 2 seconds faster doesn't correlate with what we have seen so far and are being told by manufacturers.

Maybe at Monza or Old Hockenheim in qualy trim, but not in Jerez, in my opinion...

...then again in that context 1'39 seems a little too encouraging for Ducati on a green track with a freshly rolled chassis design with a new material.

Testing at Valencia is going to be a media frenzy for sure! Let's get these remaining 4 races out of the way... give Stoner (Australian Superman) his #1 plate, title, and trophy already and bring out the 1000cc machines.

left in their bag before Valencia, although the previously-planned Motegi test for Honda won't be popular with its riders. Ducati have only one more day this year so if they want to go head-to-head, Valencia is it - and can both Rossi and Hayden ride the one bike on the same day, within the rules?

There seems more desperation than inspiration right now at Bologna.

Amazing isnt it? We read all year that every change for the Ducati has made it faster, yet, it always seems to disappear at an actual race meeting.

I think we should just do ourselves a favor, and don't listen to anything Ducati say. Maybe they earn sponsorship money from Marlboro through the number of column inches generated. It can't be for race results in 2011.

Maybe they earn sponsorship money [...] through the number of column inches generated

In part that's probably true, although since Phillip Morris's aim is to get kids hooked on tobacco, it probably helps for their brand to be associated with winners... rather than with poor education, lower socio-economic status, poor health and the early death with which smoking is really correlated.

If PM end up looking like losers, I couldn't be happier :)

Smokers and tobacco companies are great. Smokers pop their clogs early, so don't overly burden the state with retirement payments & medical care (although this later subject might be a moot point). And we get their sponsorship dollars. Long (well not too long) live smokers!

Problem is most smokers die slowly... If governments were rational, they'd encourage use of high-powered motorcycles by people around retirement age :)

GPOne reports that Rossi got down into the :39s, not a 39 flat. There is a lot of room for interpretation there as to wether a 39 is low, mid or high 39s. Seing as how they Ducati were able to get into the 39s at the Jerez race this year on the GP11 that isn't very telling. The question should be how consistent will this platform be, because the problem with the Ducati isn't the lack of feel it is the lack of consistency in set-up that has plagued this bike since long before it had a carbon monocoque chassis.

Good points raised Domino.

Being able to find the combination of the lock which changes at each G.P. Sure the Ducati has an extra digit to pick over the Japanese bikes, but that's not to say it's easy on a Honda or Yamaha either.

Read this excellent interview with Casey Stoner http://cyclenews.coverleaf.com/cyclenews/20110920#pg59 to see how this year on the Honda he's had similar problems to last year on the Ducati, in terms of finding a workable set-up race by race. What works at one circuit is the complete opposite to what works at another. Change the settings, try differing lines, body position. Change and adapt.

I love his seemingly contradictory quote about power too. To paraphrase "We've got too much power already, but I still want more!"

I agree with domino. GPone states (english version) that Rossi got down to an eventual 1:39, phrased like he did a clean 1:39 -which would be encouraging, in my opinion- but not that he specifically got down to 1:39.00. On the other hand it could be that these sources being close to Borgo Panigale, are somewhat willing to play along the "factory version" of these inside news. So they could either downplay or exaggerate the success of the experiment.

Just read Michael Scott's (love that guys writing and insight) report on Misano.

Photo of VR is captioned "Rossi rode like a man possesed early in the race." (Until his tyres went off I seem to recall).

There must have been two MotoGP races - you (pretty much) get the impression here he's (VR) forgotten how to race a motorcycle.

Only the very foolish believe Rossi has forgotten how to ride. He is clearly better in the race than during qualifying, but unfortunately, the state of the Ducati means he is starting from a long way down the field. I have tried to get to trackside to watch Rossi as many times as possible this year, and I have yet to see him be truly comfortable on the bike.

I try to keep as many pointless posts from the site as possible (both anti-Rossi and anti-Stoner) and both sides accuse me of being biased, so I'm guessing I have the balance about right. However, this story is going to go on until Rossi is competitive again, whether on the Ducati or on another bike. Which means I shall have work to do all year.

David, right now I cann't see how to edit my post. The first line should have read ...

"Just read Michael Scott's (love that guys writing and insight, nearly as good as David's) report on Misano."

My post was NOT aimed at you - really a bit of general comment.

As you've said: 105 wins, 9 Championships - these are not included in packets of breakfast cereal.

"As you've said: 105 wins, 9 Championships - these are not included in packets of breakfast cereal."

Doesn't stop me checking every time I buy breakfast cereal though ...

with that David! Keep the moderating work going and thank you for all your effort :)

Pretty encouraging for a first time effort from Ducati and shows they are still keen be a little different from the rest though it is unquestionably difficult within specific regulations..
It's hard to measure the Casey/Honda/Jerez thing, they looked awesome at Mugello but I got the impression that the new tarmac allowed the bike to be run like a tuned 800 with a qualifier on.. At the other tracks, certainly Brno was it?? the best 1000 time(Casey's) was only a 10th under Danis fastest from fp2 giving the impression they haven't got the technique down yet and I think the previous test they were only just under 800 times.. Not saying it isn't so but it's a pretty big anomaly. Either way I doubt the duke time is bob on either... Be interesting to see and hear the vibes coming out of Ducati over the next week or so, if any. Certainly if there is any benefit I expect and hope we will see it at the next 3 day test, oops, race..

Track conditions and tyres are going to have a big impact on potential times. Unless everyone is on the track on the same day (at the same time of day) it's not worth comparing.
It's worth noting that the Jerez track record set by Lorenzo in 2008 is 1'38.189. This was set on sticky qualifiers but a time in the 1'37s is not unreasonable on a 1000.
As mentioned, feeling, consistancy and tunability will be more important than just best times.

It would be hard to put too much faith in fuzzy, unofficial figures at this point. Seems that Rossi is happier tho, so that must be a good thing for the tension levels in the Duc pit. You would expect there to be alot of upside to gain time in future tests since this is only the first time out? Winter testing looks like being very exciting.

What are the proposed changes and who made the proposal?

Its hard to read anything into times posted yesterday by GPone even if a 1.39 flat is the case. When the factories go head to head with the 1000's or whatever they are at the same track on the same day we will get a clearer picture.
Nevertheless,I hope it is progress for Ducati.
Thanks for the link Nostro, re the Stoner interview with Michael Scott.
His book, '60 years of MotoGP' was also a good read.

I still don't believe that times are relevant in the Ducati testing at this stage. I still think it's about Rossi testing for feel and the ability to make changes that alter that feel. If Rossi reports an improvement and thinks that it's the way to go then they'll keep heading down that path...irrespective of times.

As Burgess once said " Ignore Valentino Rossi at your peril".

That's what I think they're doing...listening...maybe unfortunately a little too late cause they should have listened earlier.

Besides you can't expect anyone to design and manufacture a chassis that's perfectly right straight off the bat no matter who you think they are. That's crazy. They're not magicians. Engineering usually makes improvements through evolution, not revolution!

I think we all knew it was going to be a tough year, as has been pointed out to DEATH. Stoner was the only one who could ride the Desmocidici competitively. The point about bringing in VR is to "fix the bike" so there is more than one person that stands a chance on it. It happened when Loris and Troy rode it. And it'll come good again. It's just gonna take time.

The "proper" alloy chassis is only gonna help. But it needs time, as was pointed out at Aragon, Dani Pedrosa had 20 chassis thrown at him by HRC last season to work with. Ducati are on number 2. Suffice to say VR and the rest will not walk away from this fight.

Someone wrote it, someone repeated it, and so it gets perpetuated. More nonsense. As I understand it Pedrosa was initially given five chassis' and three swinging arms to choose from for the 2010 season. There may have been further iterations thereafter (?), but not by a magnitude of four!

Just to add to the existing gossip out there, this was tweeted earlier in the day by Dennis Noyes.

"Got a credible tip that Rossi was ON THE PACE of Stoner Honda 1000cc) at Jerez test and that he was smiling like a cheshire cat at day´s end"

The Honda Jerez 1000 test was a private test and no times were published as far as I know. There were only rumours about Stoner's times. So how does anyone know what Rossi's pace was relative to the Honda? In any case we have heard time and time again how the latest Ducati configuration is an improvement only for the race weekend to be a disappointment. When we get all the new bikes on one track at the same time, and really pushing for fast times, we will know the real state of play. Until then it is just gossip and speculation.

If Rossi is actually smiling about it, then this is the IT that the Ducati has been needing. It may only have the feel, and not the fastest lap times...But if it has that "feel" then Rossi knows that you can tweak things from there, no longer having to pray for a shot in the dark solution, and can actually start pushing the bike to the edge of its front end grip.

Option B would be a major change in the understeer characteristics...another thing I'm sure Rossi would be smiling about if he found a change like that regardless of laptimes.

To be as fast as the finely tuned and highly evolved chassis's from Honda and Yamaha on the very first test would be an amazing achievement. Given that we should be able to expect significant time improvements from Ducati as they dial in the set up , this twitter gossip is suggesting that the GP12 will be smashing it's competitors by 1-2 seconds (or more) per lap next year. I might go and put a bet on now, with twitter's reputation for being an accurate, reliable source of information.

Who knows, it might even end up being as good as Suzuki's chassis.