Iannone And Pirro Test Ducati Chassis Updates At Jerez

The first test at Sepang was a disheartening affair for Ducati. The times of all four Ducati riders - Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso in the factory Ducati team, and Andrea Iannone and Ben Spies in the Pramac Ducati junior team - were well off the pace of the fastest men at the test, with Hayden, fastest Ducati rider, ending the test two seconds behind Dani Pedrosa on the Honda. Ducati acknowledged that they had a lot of work to do, and that there would be no quick fixes. Serious improvement would not come in the short term.

But Ducati Corse boss Bernhard Gobmeier was at pains to stress that improvement would be made, and that Ducati is working on a number of solutions. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro joined Pramac's Andrea Iannone at Jerez this weekend for three days of private testing at the circuit, trying out some modifications which could be tried at the next MotoGP tests at Sepang, just over a week from now. Parts tested included new chassis parts, as well as some electronics updates, which Ducati declared had performed 'according to expectations'.

Italian technical blogger "Manziana" on the Motocorse.com website explains some of the changes which Ducati could have made, including a modified fairing and chassis, to accommodate a modified exhaust system. The changes could have been made as part of the first steps towards a new design, which would solve some of the issues highlighted by Valentino Rossi's crew chief Jeremy Burgess, which include not being able to locate the output shaft correctly, causing the swingarm to be too short and the frame too long. The Italian electric bike blog Moto Elettricheblog posted a diagram on Facebook explaining some of the issues.

We should see at least some of the changes tested by Ducati at the following MotoGP test at Sepang. It should also be clear whether those changes have helped or not. Real change, however, is unlikely to come until the middle of the year, when Ducati is rumored to be introducing a completely new bike.

Below is the press release from Ducati after the three-day test at Jerez:

Ducati Team development test concludes at Jerez

Three days of private testing concluded today for Ducati at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain. The riders present at Jerez for the Italian factory were Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone, whom it was decided to send late last week in order to provide further development input for the Ducati Desmosedici GP13 bike, together with test-rider Michele Pirro.

During the three days, several new components on the chassis side of the ‘laboratory’ bike were tested successfully and everything went according to expectations. In addition the riders tested some different electronic strategies and they also went according to plan, leaving the team satisfied with the outcome. The success of both of these solutions indicate that the Ducati Team is working in the right direction, in what is just the first phase of its development programme for this year.

The next appointment for the Ducati Team and Pramac Racing Team riders will be next week in Sepang (Malaysia) at the second round of IRTA-organized pre-season tests, scheduled for February 26-28.

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How have Ducati got this so wrong? On top of this, how could they not blatantly see that this design concept was a dead-end proposition? It seems even fans now understand the fundamental problems of the GPxx series, and still, Ducati think they're just missing something small? It won't take long for the folks at Audi to figure this out. There is nothing here worth keeping save for desmo valve actuation and the new gearbox.

A Fundamental Problem:

Ducati has designed a bike to first and fore-most maximize rear grip. Here is their fundamental problem IMHO. I think that when they first thought of what a four stroke Grand Prix machine would be like, they probably knew pretty soon the levels of power that these machines would be capable of producing would far exceed that of a current two-stroke. So maximizing how much of that you could get to the ground would be paramount to creating the best machine, or so they thought. Remember, though the machine was first designed as a "super twin", the basic geometry stays the same, in a 90 degree L-layout. Anyone who saw Ducati's initial prototypes knew they where more akin to drag bikes than anything in a road-racing paddock. The thing was made to be a rocket ship, and it was.

They Were Half-Right:

At first Ducati seemed to be right on the money, and in a sense, they kinda were. The bikes where very fast from the beginning and proved to be competitive in the hands of physical, aggressive riders (i.e.. Capirossi, Bayliss, Stoner). Back in the "ride free" days on MotoGP's electronic-less era, riders could slide the bike to their hearts content, and Ducati riders in particular could slide to STEER their bikes. And by God, slide they would. It those days, the bikes were more akin to Super-Superbikes. Still, every time there's been a GP Ducati on the track, there's been a rider onboard asking for more feel from that front end. It's been like this from the very beginning. The only difference was that they could literally "slide" around the problem before. Now they can't because a computer won't let them.

Digital Killed The Bologna Star:

The minute they implemented traction control onto the Ducati the bike became another beast. Unable to slide that rear end due to an infant traction control system, the ECU couldn't tell a "good slide" from a "bad slide". It couldn't tell if the rider was deliberately trying to break traction to steer a bike, or if it was about to high-side it. It just sensed loss of traction, and cut power, making they bike understeer and push wide. Ducati's L-Twin layout was designed specifically to maximize corner exit traction. This is true of all their design's, including the superbikes. When you start making a lot more power than a superbike, the design starts showing it's limitations. At one point, there where rumors of 290HP engines on Ducati test benches at the factory. With that kind of power you almost need electronic systems just to make the thing humanly ridable around a race track. Ducati was forced to get with the program (there's a pun there) and their bike's fundamental design wasn't optimized to work with these systems. The minute fuel conservation became part of the game things got really complicated. Casey Stoner is very talented. He specifically only turned the traction control down because that's what was holding the bike back, and he recognized this. The wheelie control, and launch control worked just fine, but the the TC wasn't allowing a young Australian kid with a dirt track background to get that thing steering on it's rear (cause it sure as hell didn't want to steer with the other end). So he turned it down, and that old slip-sliding Ducati was back, and wouldn't you know it, was still blistering fast in a straight line. Cue race wins. The trick is finding out what your machine's weakness is, and taking the most advantage of it's strengths. That's how people win championships in motorsports. That's how Ducati did it in 2007.

Ducati needs a Phoenix:

The current design needs to be scrapped. There's no other way of putting it. It was a design that did what it was suppose to, it won races and a world championship. But it is now a design that has reached it's full potential. The rules will always dictate the optimum design. Ducati is using a design not optimized for the rules they currently compete in. Therefore, you must start a new. From the ashes of this bike needs to rise a new Ducati. One capable of performing just as well as any other bike on the grid because it is designed to work with the rules not around it.

We all know the folks in Bologna can do it, and I can't wait to see what they come up with mid-season.

I would just add that by just rotating the engine back they did more damage. What hey needed was new engine cases. When they rotated the engine they also moved the front sprocket. This had to effect the rearend a lot. I don't understand. Why they didn't make a new engine case for this. I just hope they get it right.

re: "I would just add that by just rotating the engine back they did more damage."

correct, simulating a possible narrower V angle on the cheap. i'm sure they're just chomping at the bit now to rush out and burn a fortune creating the actual thing. NOT.

re: "What hey needed was new engine cases. When they rotated the engine they also moved the front sprocket."

unless of course they intelligently used the output shaft as the C/L of rotation.

From what we can gather, they just took the 2011 motor and rotated it back a bit and put on a different sump. Since it no longer needed to act as the structural part of the chassis it was heavier than it needed to be , and the sprocket was now in the wrong place. If some keyboard hacks can work this out then Preziosi et al would have been well aware of it too. Surely it can only have been a lack of resources (ie money)? They didn't have the people or facilities available to manufacture a totally new bike AND engine, so they had to make do with a modified version of the 2011 engine in the interim. Remember the 2012 bike only just made it in time for the season, and was not present at the Wroom event.

re: "Since it no longer needed to act as the structural part of the chassis it was heavier than it needed to be"

computer aided optimisation has allowed the placement of extra material only where needed while at the same removing it from where it's not needed. it's employed in the pani's super-Q and had already been employed even earlier in production of the cases for the monsters and the T-evo superbikes (read 848). old hat this.

From what I've heard, the reason the GP11.1 (or whatever the hell you wanna call it) did not have engine cases, was simply down to cost. Although, if I'm honest, a race outfit being sponsored by Phillip Morris claiming they're skint I find rather hard to believe.

Ren-jr. Cracking comments.