Max Biaggi's brief return to MotoGP is over. After two days of testing Ducati's MotoGP bike at Mugello, filling in for the injured Ben Spies, Biaggi returns to his day job, as TV commentator for the Italian coverage of World Superbikes.
Two short days were not really enough time for Biaggi to get back to grips with a MotoGP bike, especially given that testing stopped early on both days after rain started to fall in the afternoon. Biaggi faced two problems, returning to riding at speed for the first time in eight months, and returning to a MotoGP bike for the first time in over seven years. Given those difficulties, the times he set in the end were respectable. According to GPOne.com, who had reporter Luca Semprini on location, Biaggi's best time was a lap of 1'52.1, which would have seen him qualify in 23rd position for last Sunday's MotoGP race, just ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama on the FTR Kawasaki CRT machine.
Biaggi told GPOne that he had been surprised at how difficult the first 30 laps had been, getting back up to speed after such a long lay off. Biaggi described the bike as like a factory 250, more nervous than the World Superbike Aprilia he raced up until last year. Biaggi made light of any suggestion of a return to racing, or even taking up a role as a tester. This was just a one-off, he told GPone, though if the occasion arose to test again, he might consider it. "For the moment at least, I'm the fastest commentator in the world," Biaggi joked.
Elsewhere, the Ducati riders were getting on with the hard work of testing. Andrea Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden and Andrea Iannone all tested the new lab bike, while Michele Pirro continued to work on refining the machine. Opinions were split on the bike, though all of Ducati's riders agreed that it was a step forward. Where they disagreed is in whether the improvement was sufficient to warrant trying to race the bike. Andrea Dovizioso felt that it was good enough to try to race at Barcelona, but Nicky Hayden was not entirely convinced. Whether the bike will be raced at Barcelona also depends on the availability of parts: Ducati is building a "race" version of the lab bike, with the optimum stiffness found during experimentation with the lab bike built in to the chassis, rather than created using inserts bolted into the frame. Dovizioso told GPOne.com that there would probably not be enough time to produce enough frames to allow both Hayden and Dovizioso to race the new chassis. But if Hayden is not keen to race that bike anyway, that could be a problem which solves itself. That bike is due to be tested at the Monday test after the Barcelona race.
Below are the press releases from the Pramac team and the factory Ducati team, issued after the test:
Biaggi concludes two-day test with Pramac Racing Desmosedici GP13
Max Biaggi today concluded an interesting two-day test on the Pramac Racing Team’s Ducati Desmosedici GP13 at the Mugello circuit.
Despite a few rain showers, which brought an early end to track activity on Thursday and Friday afternoon, the Italian mainly tried to reacquaint himself with the power and the differences in the latest generation of MotoGP bikes, with carbon brakes, tyres and the latest electronic package innovations, without searching for quick lap times.
“I’m back to being a rider for the first time in eight months! It was great because this is a sport that I really love, and after what feels like a long time, it was a great opportunity to ride a MotoGP bike. In the early laps I actually felt that I had really been away for eight years, because a MotoGP bike always has an immediate reaction, and a progression that just doesn’t exist in a Superbike. It was also nice because I established a great feeling with the group of people who were assigned to me for this test, just like when I began in Aprilia in 2009. There was a positive feeling between all of us, even though it was just a single test. I’d like to thank first Ducati, and also team Pramac for this opportunity. We were rather unfortunate because out of two days available we more or less only had one due to the rain, but it’s better than nothing. We didn’t do any damage and we had some good fun!”
Francesco Guidotti, Pramac Racing Team Manager
“The first day was spent with Max trying to find out as much as possible about the bike because, as we said, after eight years of not riding a MotoGP bike, it was clear that his memories were from a long time back! Things have changed a lot since then, in particular the tyres, but probably the carbon brakes were what slowed him down the most in his gaining overall confidence in the bike. On the second day, however, we could see an improvement right from the first time he went out; maybe during the night he reflected on what had happened the previous morning, as he hadn’t ridden in the afternoon due to the bad weather. I think it was great for him to test with us, and for us it was a great pleasure to have him in the box again!”
Iannone works with “laboratory” Desmosedici GP13 at Mugello
Today Andrea Iannone successfully completed three days of testing with the Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Team at the Mugello circuit.
Beginning on Wednesday, Andrea rode the standard version of his GP13 in order to work on issues encountered in the race this past Sunday, whereas Thursday and Friday found the 23-year-old aboard the ‘laboratory’ GP13 that has so far only been raced by Ducati Test Team rider Michele Pirro.
Iannone gave positive feedback on the ‘lab’ bike. He deemed it to be good, and though it is still in need of improvements, he felt it to be the right path to follow for the future.
Andrea Iannone – Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Team – 107 laps
“I’m very happy to have had the chance to try the ‘laboratory’ bike. I found it a little bit better than the other one, with some advantages for riding, including better agility in change of direction. I improved my pace compared to what I did over the race weekend, when I had a lot of trouble. It was important that I improve in order to better understand the problem we had with the shock in the race. Now we can be more relaxed as we head to Barcelona, where the most important thing will be to figure out how to improve my pace after we change the tyre. Currently, I’m clocking the same times with a new one as I do a tyre that has 26 laps on it. I have to learn how to take advantage with a new tyre.”
Francesco Guidotti – Team Manager Pramac Racing Team
“I hope we’ve been able to provide positive input in order to help Ducati with development and to take the right direction with the new bike. We’d like to thank them for this opportunity, and we hope to be able to contribute again. Wednesday we focused on finding a solution to the problem that Andrea had during the race, and we're pretty sure that we found it. Now we can be a bit calmer as we leave for Barcelona.”
Ducati Team completes Mugello test
Just four days after completing its home Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit, the Ducati Team carried out a two-day test at the same track with riders Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden. Ducati Test Team rider Michele Pirro also took part in the test, logging a full three days at the Tuscan circuit.
Although afternoon rain showers ended each day prematurely, conditions were perfect in the mornings, enabling the team to complete much of the scheduled work program. Dovizioso and Hayden continued their tests with the 'laboratory' version of the Desmosedici GP13, increasing their familiarity with the bike and gathering data. Meanwhile, Pirro carried out work on the same bike, which he will ride in the Catalan Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya next week.
Andrea Dovizioso - Ducati Team (70 laps)
“We did some good testing, especially today: setup, new parts, and riding with the new frame to try and get the most out of it, and we were consistently fast. We rode all day at 1:48 in every exit, which is very important. When I wanted to push, I did a 48.2, which is a good time. I could’ve gone faster, but I’m pleased with my speed and consistency. We improved a bit with the various changes to the weight distribution and my riding position. The improvements aren’t huge, and this frame won’t make enough difference to reduce the gap, but for me it’s still a small improvement. We’ll see if we can have it ready in time for the weekend in Barcelona, or if we’ll just use it in the post-race test.”
Nicky Hayden - Ducati Team (103 laps)
“If we’re completely honest, we didn’t achieve the progress that we’d hoped for, which is unfortunate. This laboratory bike has some positives, but at the moment, the lap time is very similar to our current bike. Hopefully these days will help the engineers to learn something. Thanks to my guys for coming here and working hard, because it’s not easy to go back to the track and test after a long GP weekend.”
Michele Pirro – Ducati Test Team (93 laps)
“The test was affected by the weather, as it rained in the afternoon on all three days. Compared to the other riders, I had to focus on some aspects of the frame and the engine in order to bring the development forward. We certainly found some positives, and we hope that they’ll prove useful in the coming races, where I’ll ride the bike that I raced this past Sunday. I’m pleased with the work we did, so now we’ll wait for Barcelona to see if the things we tried will work a bit better.”