Rossi and crew are at a loss...
Rossi and crew are at a loss to explain the reasons for the continuing lack of front-end feel with the Ducati GP12.
Twenty months into the great Ducati experiment, Valentino Rossi and his team are lost.
The nine-time world champion admitted as much after finishing ninth in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, 36 seconds behind race winner Jorge Lorenzo, and 21 seconds behind teammate Nicky Hayden, who was once again the top Ducati rider, a distinction the American sees little value in.
Hayden races to win, as does Rossi, but winning is a long way off for both of them. From the time Rossi first tested the Ducati GP10 in Valencia at the end of the 2010 season, through a number of chassis changes, and a completely new motorcycle with an aluminum chassis for 2012, there’s been a distinct lack of feeling in the front end. The Ducati GP12 is clearly the best of the lot. The front-end crashes that plagued both Rossi and Hayden last year are mostly gone: When they crashed in exactly the same spot on the brakes at Silverstone, it was the first time both had crashed this season. But they still don’t have an answer to the front-end struggles.
“For me our bike have a problem that we cannot create enough front grip for stop the bike and for turn the bike,” Rossi began, “and at this moment we don’t understand in which way we can fix and especially we don’t understand why, where is the problem. So with the setting we can move the bike all through the front to all through the rear, high, up, but at the end the problem remain always. Sometimes you can go a little bit faster, sometimes you can go a little bit slower, but no way to fix this problem.”
The problems Rossi had this weekend may have been temperature-related. The Ducati GP12 is especially unsuited for hot weather and today the track wasn’t hot, but it was hotter than it had been most of the cold, rainy weekend. “Today, especially when the sun came out, I could actually feel the difference when the sun came out and it started to even make it worse,” Hayden said.
Many racewatchers are speculating...
Many racewatchers are speculating that Rossi will be looking elsewhere to ride in 2013, but the nine-time World Champion is keeping faith that Ducati will solve the problems.
Rossi pinpointed his worst areas with the Ducati as “Turn 1, the first time after two or three laps and also the other time on the Turn 15, after the back straight for try to stay with the other guys, try to stay with the group, but unfortunately no way. Because for example, Nicky, all this weekend, have the same problem with the rear, but especially in acceleration, I have some slide, some spin and some movement and in fact he cannot fight with (Cal) Crutchlow at the end, but just in acceleration. For me after three, four laps I have a lot of problems in the entry, because I slide in the entry and I cannot bring enough speed into the corner and if I try to use the front I have a lot of vibration so also for this reason Nicky is faster than us and did a better race.”
Rossi admitted that except for the first wet practice, he was “always was very slow.” A morning warm-up modification improved the Ducati package, but it didn’t carry over into the afternoon.
“I try at the beginning to stay with the other guys,” Rossi said after moving swiftly forward from his tenth place starting position, “but I lose the front two times. I had a problem to enter in the corner. I had a lot of front chattering and also after some laps the rear tire slide very much, so for this reason the race is worse than what we expect.
“I broke also one pipe after three four laps and I lose some speed and some horsepower, but anyway, I think doesn’t do the difference.” Rossi has had no luck at Silverstone—he missed the inaugural 2010 race through injury—but found some solace in collecting points.
With Rossi’s contract up at the end of the year, and various star gazers have him going to every team in the paddock, the question was asked how this would affect his future with Ducati.
“For me, under my point of view, the only important thing is the competitiveness of the bike,” he said. “The rest of the contract for me is not a big problem. So I know that Ducati, in Ducati they work a lot and they try to bring something for the next races so we hope to do this step as soon as possible. Because the problem is one. If we are able to fix that problem we can go a lot faster.”
When Rossi struggled earlier in the year he was told that significant engine upgrades would be available for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. Rossi doesn’t think his contract will be resolved until after the Czech Grand Prix, which follows the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix that ends the summer break.
“Yeah, I think in Laguna is important,” he said, adding that it was difficult to say if the new engine would be ready for Laguna. “Depends from a lot of things, because Ducati work under different point of view. But, yeah, we have to make a step as soon as possible. Laguna maybe will be an important race for understand if we can do, but is not the last chance.”
Nicky Hayden was once again...
Nicky Hayden was once again top Ducati finisher at Silverstone, but he took little satisfaction from that distinction.
Hayden’s race problems with the Ducati GP12 were more straightforward than Rossi’s. The possibility of a cooler track and a few raindrops prompted the team to change from Bridgestone’s medium tire to the medium soft. (Only Rossi used the medium.)
“In the beginning I did 2:02.9, some really fast laps and just destroyed the tire,” Hayden said of his fastest laps of the weekend. He’d qualified seventh fastest at 2:04.162 and on his first flying lap went 2:02.971, then 2:02.922 on the next one.
Hayden was at the tail end of the lead quartet behind Ben Spies, Casey Stoner, and Alvaro Bautista. Hayden was on the same second through lap five, but the sixth lap everything would change. Hayden’s lap time of 2:05.041 dropped him from fourth to seventh and at the end of the lap he was 2.347 seconds behind Stoner.
He said that with the Ducati, “when the tire went away nothing works. Bike was hard to get it stopped and I started to get a lot of chatter. Both sides really, but mainly left and really the left side of the tire was just destroyed and was impossible to keep the pace. It wasn’t much fun at the end.”
Hayden also had an electronics glitch that ramped up the traction control out of Turn 15 down to Turn 16 “costing me a lot of time. Was certainly not a great race, but was by far the closest I’ve been to the leader this year; 15 seconds at the line. So I guess we got to look for some positive.” Something Rossi is doing his best to do as well.