From Monday, a select group of the world's print and TV media will assemble at the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio to attend Wrooom 2012, the annual press launch of Ducati's MotoGP project and Ferrari's Formula One assault. The junket, funded by the Italian arm of tobacco giant Phillip Morris, starts on Monday and culminates on Friday in an exhibition race where Ferrari's F1 drivers take on Ducati's MotoGP riders (minus the injured Nicky Hayden, in all probability) in a kart race held on an ice rink in the heart of the Italian ski resort. The week features a series of events (full details on the special Wrooom website), including a chance for the fans to meet Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi at 5:30pm on Tuesday, and the presentation of Ducati's 2012 Desmosedici GP12.
Where last year, Valentino Rossi was at the center of press interest during Wrooom 2011, this year it will probably be the GP12 which takes center stage. The 2011 Ducati Desmosedici underwent several iterations and at least one major transformation during the season, culminating in the introduction of the aluminium twin spar chassis at Valencia. That bike was little better than the carbon fiber chassis bike, but then that was exactly the point of having built that frame, to replicate the behavior of the carbon fiber bike using just aluminium.
The bike to be presented at Madonna di Campiglio is expected to be different again, with major changes to both the engine and the chassis. Whispers coming out of Bologna are suggesting the 2012 bike will have its 90° V4 engine rolled back, making it much less of an L and more like a traditional V layout. The same has already been done to Ducati's new Panigale 1199 superbike, which has had its engine rotated back 6° compared to its predecessor, the 1198. The aim of rotating the engine is to centralize the mass of the engine, allowing the bike's center of mass to be relocated more easily. The chassis will also be heavily revised; the original twin-spar frame debuted at Valencia was excessively stiff in some parts, and the new chassis is expected to be the first step towards providing more flex into the frame and get more feel from the front end.
But the bike which Rossi and Hayden will unveil at Madonna di Campiglio is unlikely to be the last version of the bike for this season. Rossi is still not comfortable with the riding position - even the revised position, with the new engine, rumor has it - and is looking for another change to the engine layout. Rumors that Ducati is working on a narrower angle V refuse to go away, with multiple sources suggesting the new engine will be a 75° V4. Given the amount of work Filippo Preziosi and his staff have on their plate, it is possible that Ducati could call in outside help to design a narrower angle engine. Ducati's partnership with AMG, the performance arm of Mercedes, could see German expertise being drafted in to do some of heavy lifting in the engine redesign, despite Ducati's stated desire to retain as much expertise and development knowledge inside of their Borgo Panigale R&D department. When (or even if) such new engine could be ready is a complete unknown, but it will not be raced any time soon. However, given the number of rumors surrounding Ducati's MotoGP project over the past year, it is hard to discern whether the smoke being picked up by the racing media actually has fire as its source, or is just a by-product of the hot air they themselves are producing.
What is known is that once the bike has been presented in Italy, it will be taken to Jerez for another round of testing at the hands of 2011 World Superbike champion Carlos Checa. From there, it will be shipped to Sepang for the first official test of 2012 at Sepang, starting on January 31st. The data from that test will be used to make yet more refinements on the GP12, especially for the chassis. Despite rumors of another 5 engineers being added to the staff of the Ducati Corse department, the men and women designing Ducati's MotoGP bike will not be getting much rest in 2012.