The Ducati Marlboro team is hoping for a change in fortune with the likely introduction of a new engine spec for this weekend’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden tested parts following the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello that may go into the new engine. The factory riders were followed at Mugello by two days of endurance testing by the test team with the results being analyzed before deciding what which parts would go into engine number four that would be introduced in Monterey.
Prior to the test, Rossi had said the test would be important.
Rossi is hoping that the new...
Rossi is hoping that the new engine spec to be used at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will help improve their performance in the coming races.
“We hope that we can improve the bike a bit at the test in order that we can make a step forward at Laguna,” he added. But his track time with the new engine spec was cut in half by a crash caused by a hardware issue, according to Ducati Corse technical boss Filippo Preziosi, which ended his test.
Last year was the first time Rossi rode the Ducati at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He believes the 2.4-mile, 11-turn circuit in the hills east of Monterey is “a very difficult track, because there are many holes and many elevation changes. In general, though, the bike isn’t bad at that circuit. It’s one of the tracks where we’ve gone a bit better compared to some of the others.”
And, though he only has one win at the track, his epic victory over Casey Stoner in 2008, Rossi enjoys it.
“Laguna is quite nice and a lot of fun,” he said. “Above all, it’s a track that’s different from the others. It’s a bit old-style, and it’s very fun.”
How much fun he’ll have this year will depend on the improvements made to the Ducati GP12. Rossi started strongly on the new engine at the Mugello test, with gains in agility and corner entry, before crashing.
Because of the problems, there was some concern about implementing the engine changes in Monterey. But Rossi was hopeful the Ducati test team could find solutions. He said he and the team would decide what to implement once everything from the test was analyzed, “but I don’t know, for me maybe it’s better to wait and try to make the test in a better way before using in a week another race.
“I have to change the engine”—both Hayden and Rossi have used three engines over the first nine races—“and the engine have the chance to put the new stuff in, so whenever we want. Also if it’s not ready for Laguna, also the next race.”
The aim is to “make the engine smoother in acceleration, but you know, this is 20% of the package,” he said. “We’re waiting for the 80% for the more important modifications. And they try to be ready here, but unfortunately is not ready, so next time.” The next and final in-season test follows the August Czech Grand Prix in Brno.
Hayden wasn't sure if he was...
Hayden wasn't sure if he was going to use the new engine spec at Laguna, but it seems very likely as both he and Rossi are already on their third engine.
Hayden had some new engine parts and he also tried some electronic enhancements planned for Laguna, but he didn’t ride the next evolution Desmosedici which will likely be the basis for the Ducati GP13. Said Hayden, “the new bike with the different weight and electronics in different places, no I didn’t try that.” Preziosi said the weight had been redistributed by rearranging “some components on the bike in order to put all of the mass as close as possible to the center of gravity.”
Hayden continued: “I mainly just tested setting stuff. The Ohlins guy had a couple of different ideas. We tried some different forks, some different shock combinations, some electronics stuff. just general setting parts. I didn’t really try anything major that I couldn’t use in Laguna.”
Hayden wouldn’t commit to using the new Ducati engine at Laguna Seca, though it seems likely.
“You know, I’m not sure when we’re going to put in the new engine, to be honest,” he said, echoing what Rossi had said. “They still have to really calculate the miles and understand.” But Preziosi said the next engines in the allocation would be put into service, though he wasn’t specific about which new parts would be fitted.
“With what we have tested, in Laguna we will seal engine number four, as planned,” Preziosi said. “Engine number four is ready to use some additional parts we are developing. Some parts could be delivered directly to Laguna, some parts will be delivered in the following races depending on the final results and only when we are sure that these parts are an improvement in terms of performance.”