Far from sitting on their laurels after winning seven of the last eight WorldSBK races of 2016 Ducati came out of the blocks swinging at Jerez with a busy testing program. Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri had a host of upgraded parts in the Spanish sun.
Davies spent the majority of his time working on chassis development with Melandri focusing on the engine. Afterwards the Welshman gave a revealing insight into the makeup of the mindset of one of the world's top racers.
"It's easy to say that testing is fine tuning but it really isn't fine tuning," said the Welshman. "We want to take steps forward with the bike and don't want half a tenth; we want to find tenths of a second. You won't get those tenths by changing a little bit of this and a bit of that and thinking that we won seven of the last eight races. We need to take steps forward because our biggest competitor has come out with a new bike and it's up to us to react and step up to the challenge."
Having Melandri, a former 250GP champion and MotoGP race winner, on the other side of the pit box will undoubtedly help Ducati to step up to that challenge. The 19-time WorldSBK race winner has looked to be in a very positive mindset since returning to the class and ended the test marginally faster than Davies overall.
"It’s been a really positive test," commented the Italian. "The team is doing a great job and everyday I feel more comfortable on the bike. We still struggle a bit on fresh tires, also because with the cold climate it’s more difficult to warm them up, but we’re heading in the right direction. I would have liked to do a race simulation, but we’ll wait until Portimão because I had some blisters in my hands after such a long break. Physically [after my surgery] I feel fine though."
Having completed 132 laps over the two days Davies said that he worked through a comprehensive program trying to find those big steps forward. With the work being undertaken he was clearly not as concerned about the overall lap time as he was in finding out what worked and what didn't work on the Panigale R.
"In testing when you get a part you put it into the bike and you find out how it feels," explained Davies. "You put laps on the part and then try a few things with it but it's time consuming and by the time you've done that you need to move on to the next part. We've a list as long as my arm to focus on and you end up moving quite far away from what would be the base bike. There's no disasters and it's just testing of these parts rather than [when we're racing where we] put together a package that cherry picks all the best parts.
"Having Marco does lessen the load and it helps. There's a lot of stuff to test and it's time consuming to get through it all. You think that you have all day to get through the workload and that eight hours will be enough but the time goes like that. We split the work today and Marco tried some new engine parts and I tried some chassis parts. If something is way off for us it won't get tested again but in Portimão we'll cross over to each other what we both liked here."
With four days of testing remaining before the start of the 2017 WorldSBK season in Phillip Island the Ducati team will continue trying to find their best overall package. The team has yet to tip their hand and show their true raw speed, as shown by Melandri setting the fourth fastest time and Davies the fifth fastest, but with the relaxed nature of the garage throughout the test it was clear that there is a quiet confidence of maintaining their 2016 form.
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