Rain in Portugal cancels testing; Ducati aims for changes by US GP

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Nancy Knapp Schilke, Editor in Chief

The MotoGP teams just wrapped up the Portuguese Grand Prix with Casey Stoner landing the victory ahead of Lorenzo and Pedrosa. Today however, the skies opened up at the Autódromo do Estoril circuit, forcing the officials to cancel the first in-season test for the 2012 season. The test has been provisionally rescheduled for the 6th June in Spain at Motorland Aragón.

In other news, Filippo Preziosi, General and Technical Director of Ducati Corse, held a press conference after the test day was canceled and revealed that the Ducati MotoGP team plans to showcase changes to the Desmosedici engine in time for the United States Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Practice day will be 27th July on the famous California circuit that is home of the famous “corkscrew”!

Preziosi explained how the new engine characteristics should aid the riders out on-track: "We believe that the engine drivability will help when you are at full lean and you open the throttle. To have a smoother response could help in avoiding that, when you are on the edge, you start to spin up and the bike starts to understeer. But we are doing some other activities on the chassis side in order to reduce the understeer."

Filippo Preziosi, Ducati Corse General Manager
Filippo Preziosi, Ducati Corse General Manager

Photo by: Ducati Corse

Ducati Corse has paid close attention to what their two riders, who are both former MotoGP champions, have said regarding their current 1000cc bike. With their current Desmosedici the team has not been one of the front runners in the opening three rounds of competition this year. Seven times MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi managed to place seventh at the recent GP in Portugal for his best finish thus far this year. His American teammate Nicky Hayden’s best was eighth at the season opener in Qatar.

“I think the result yesterday is based mainly on the small steps taken between one practice session and the next, keeping the same basic bike set-up and just trying to solve the small problems that you have practice by practice. Of course the result is better than before, but it is not at the level we are expecting, so we know we have to close the gap,” commented Preziosi.

It is not a matter of power as both Rossi and Nicky Hayden commented that the Ducati engine is actually producing too much power and it is traction on corner entry and exit where both riders would like to see and improvement. This is where the Ducati engineers in Bologna are focusing on as Preziosi explained, "We are working on improving the drivability. One of these items is an engine that has more torque at low rpm and less power at high revs. Usually this kind of engine gives better drivability. For the engine we have now, we have a lot of torque even at low rpm, and in fact we are not opening the throttle body at low rpm, because the torque is more than the chassis is able to use. So for that reason there is a question mark that only our riders can answer - if it makes sense to add more torque and less top power, even with this kind of engine? So we are very interested to test this engine to get an answer to this question."

The Ducati Corse team will run a number of tests in the coming months to improve the Desmosedici and they are aiming to have their new engine ready before the summer break. Preziosi continued, "We think that we will end up at Laguna Seca with a complete package. We have different items we think will be good, so we are optimistic about our three tests at Mugello in May, June and July. We will test this package and should be ready for Laguna. The plan is to test with Valentino in May, and Nicky in May, June and July. July is an after race test and May and June are private tests. The first test is after Le Mans. Unfortunately we cannot test it today. If the riders are happy with the changes, we are ready to supply the third engine for Silverstone with that spec."

But for sure we will try in the direction that Valentino shows us.

Filippo Preziosi

The process will take time and the Italian team will not rest until they have the perfect bike to fully challenge the Honda and Yamaha teams. Italian rider Rossi’s first season with Ducati was in 2011, but the main goal was to be ready for the new 1000cc era for this year. He is their star rider and that was made very clear by Preziosi: "For sure this challenge is being done because we want to build a bike for Valentino, because we believe that a bike Valentino likes, is a good bike for all the riders. We are following the direction of what he suggests. Of course we are trying to do that at the best of our capability, which is not enough right now to be faster than Honda. But for sure we will try in the direction that Valentino shows us.

“We give Jeremy (Burgess) 100 per cent freedom to define with Valentino what the best set-up is. So as Ducati, our duty is just to supply material, and we believe that the crew chief is imperative in the box. The way of working is to put the right person in the right position and allow that person to do what he thinks is best. We can suggest what our ideas are, but the final decision, day by day, practice by practice, is made by Jeremy speaking with Valentino."

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Series MOTOGP
Tags desmosedici, ducati, estoril, ffeatured, hayden, preziosi, rossi, schilke