(left to right) Valentino...
(left to right) Valentino Rossi, Ducati General Manager Claudio Domenicali, Nicky Hayden, Ducati Corse technical director Filippo Preziosi, and Ducati MotoGP team manager Vittoriano Guareschi were all present at Wrooom 2012.
MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, ITALY, JAN 11 – The first question posed to Ducati technical boss Filippo Preziosi at his technical briefing was “Where is the new bike?” The answer, unspoken, was “nowhere to be seen,” but that didn’t keep the personable Italian from fielding, and mostly dodging, questions about the bike for the next 53 minutes.
Today was Preziosi’s turn under the spotlight at Wrooom, the combined Ducati/Ferrari team intros in the Italian Dolomites where the latest Desmosedici is unveiled. Not this year. The bike is being rushed to be ready for a test next week in Jerez with Carlos Checa and Ducati test rider Franco Battaini. Even the riders haven’t seen it.
Both Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden deferred technical questions to Preziosi during their media briefings on Tuesday. But Preziosi wasn’t forthcoming and, to be honest, didn’t get a lot of technical questions. Those that he did get, he dodged for the most part.
So what do we know that we didn’t know yesterday? The motorcycle is almost entirely new.
...in the case of the Ducati, what we’re going to try in Sepang, the only components which are used from the previous bike are the front so the fork and steering... "
At the post-season test “In Valencia we were able to do half of a miracle because we developed a bike with perimeter frame using most of the components that we had available used in the pre-existing bike,” Preziosi said. “But the reason for that was that we wanted to develop a bike which had the perimeter frame, but which for the rest was the same so as to understand, our goal was to understand what was the impact of just the perimeter style frame and not of the change in weight distributions, in the pivot position and so forth. Well instead what we have done now is a bit what the Japanese do when they develop a new bike. When you see the bike, when you saw the 1000cc of Honda, well, they had to tell you it was 1000cc because otherwise it was very similar to the 800cc bike structure-wise. Surely there was not a single measurement, a single component that was the same as against what was the previous bike. Well, in the case of the Ducati, what we’re going to try in Sepang, the only components which are used from the previous bike are the front so the fork and steering so to say. All the rest is totally new.”
“We changed the chassis, the frame,” he said. “We changed the tank, the seat support. We changed, of course, the engine, of course, the swinging arm. We made some changes to the engine in terms of casting so that it can be hosted within the position we consider it more suitable.”
Rossi’s crew chief Jerry Burgess said the biggest problem of the Desmosedici GP11 was that the engine was in a fixed position. The perimeter frame of the GP12 solves that problem, while making the bike infinitely more adjustable. And they’ve done it in record time. The need to build a new bike was obvious from the start of the season, but it was only six months from the end of the year when they began the process than finished with the GP12 with the perimeter chassis being tested in Valencia.
The very personable Preziosi...
The very personable Preziosi fielded numerous questions on the new GP12 (which was missing from the Wrooom presentation) and deftly sidestepped them in discussing the bike for 53 minutes.
Preziosi made the point that because the factory riders had very limited testing in 2011, they had to test on the race weekends. He said “we have to thank Nicky and Vale, because on many occasions they had to carry out tests that were indispensable for us to understand how we had to design the bike. And of course, this may have sacrificed the results that they could then achieve on Sundays. And I really, I think that I'm used to seeing always the positive side of things, even when things are indeed difficult and I think that what was nice about this last season was the unity of this group, even if the performance was at the antipode of, say, what we were expecting. And I think that this is, however, fundamental to do well in the future, to have a united group.”
The motorcycle that is going to be tested in Sepang at the end of the month is going to be one “that's going to allow us to have many different setups and that's where the difficult part is going to come, because of all the possible setups with the bikes, these bikes are extremely adjustable in many of their parameters. Of course there is one which we hope is going to make the bike perform particularly well, but there are many other adjustments which must be discarded so we must find the one which is right.”
The work was necessary because of a dismal season, about the worst in the history of the Ducati MotoGP project, while also being the most expensive. Hayden and Rossi each carded a single podium, both riders finishing third just once. The gap the Hondas and Yamahas rarely changed, even as late as the Valencia test when Rossi was 1.5 seconds behind pace-setter Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda.)
“Well, the gap was a major gap,” Preziosi said. "Surely was also amplified by the fact that as mentioned previously we used the Fridays and Saturdays more to do tests then to adjust the bike for the Sundays. And also because we changed various bikes during the season. This has not helped our riders in the natural process of adjustment with the bike which comes throughout the season. In turn, all of these things added up together translate themselves into a delta of inferior performance.”
Asked when he thought the gap would be closed, he answered, “It's impossible, of course, to answer your question because this may be reduced thanks to the work that we are carrying out. However at the same time there is just as intense work carried out by the other teams to increase the gap, so it's not taken for granted that since we are working we’ll reduce this gap. We can cut down on this. If the quality and quantity of the work that we do is superior to what our adversaries are doing our competitors are doing and this is obvious that this is not easy, this is not taken for granted. To take for granted that during the winter you worked better than Honda is, of course, you'll be a bit presumptuous in thinking this. But what is important is we are fully aware that we can do it because we have done this already in the past and to commit ourselves to work with the highest possible collaboration within the team and we’re strong in this we’re all together to achieve it.”