MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, ITALY, JAN 13 – Thousands of words and images flew across cyberspace on Wednesday with the unveiling of the Ducati Marlboro Desmosedici GP11, but the truth is that the bikes were 2010 test mules in new graphics.
The GP11 is a work in progress which won’t be close to completion before the second Sepang test that runs from Feb. 22-24. Not that the test team is idle. Team manager and former test rider, Vitto Guareschi, and current test rider Franco Battaini will begin component testing for the GP11 in Jerez on Jan. 17-19. Guareschi will work on the chassis and Battaini the electronics package, which has new anti-wheelie settings.
“The 2011 don’t have big changes, small changes in many places, refinements,” Guareschi said, comparing it to the GP6, the last year of the 990’s. From 2012, engine displacement goes up to 1000cc. “We touch only five or six points, but we don’t want to change the bike.”
The front of the bike is one of those points and probably the most important. The team wants to eliminate the front end crashes that plagued both Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden last year, while also giving more feedback. Guareschi confirmed what Hayden had previously said, that the front end gave no warning before folding.
“Crash immediately, exactly. No feeling with the 2010 fork,” Guareschi said, though he thought that it might be a tire problem. “Many riders crash, not only Ducati riders.”
Stoner liked a very stiff bike, a harsh ride, which is the opposite of what Hayden and Valentino Rossi want. The front will be more flexible, Guareschi said, as soon as all the “flexible package” parts arrive. They’re expected in the three week interval between the Feb. 1-3 test and the second one later in the month.
Rossi and Hayden will use 2011 Ohlins 42mms front forks with new hydraulics adopted from last year’s 48mms forks, which Stoner favored and which were blamed for many of the crashes. According to Guareschi, Stoner preferred the hydraulics of last year’s forks.
“The 2010 fork, is much better in the last part, because it has not the harsh feeling,” Guareschi said. “But in the half range, is strange. Is not…the same feeling. He prefer to have a problem close to the bottom” of the fork stroke, “but the good feeling in the middle of the corner. And Casey crash many times in the middle of the corner, especially when he touched the throttle and the return is very fast with this and he doesn’t like.”
One of the culprits for the front end problems is the lean angle. The Desmosedici was routinely cornering at 52 degrees, which forced the engineers to move the footpegs higher than normal. Pointing to the pegs, Guareschi said, “This is the minimum height, because 10mm down touch everything. Is incredible the angle.”
The new carbon fiber frame pieces—the front subsection and the chassis/air box—were ordered before Christmas, but won’t be ready until the middle of February. They’re being made “close to Modena, I think, in Ferrari,” Guareschi said. He added that it wasn’t front to back flexibility the engineers were looking for, “but side to side, torsion.” The team went to carbon fiber in 2009 because they found the head stock of previous steel tube frame would flex as much as five centimeters (about two inches) under heavy braking.
Ducati Corse’s reaction time in making components is quicker than their Japanese counterparts, Guareschi said, which makes getting parts to the satellite teams that much quicker.
“In case the bike improve, we order other pieces for the satellite team. Ducati wants to stay in front,” Guareschi said.
The GP11 power curve is “much better compared to the last year,” Guareschi said, and more linear. “Last year we have one big hole; now is completely full.” The GP11 also has more torque at higher rpm.
Guareschi was speaking of the big bang engine, which both Rossi and Hayden favored over the screamer, which has more power and torque, “but is nervous. The bike is unpredictable. Maybe with the qualifying tire is possible to go faster,” but not for 23 laps.
The bikes on display here have the high speed fairings with wider winglets than in 2010, the aim being more downforce and less drag. Rossi hasn’t been in the wind tunnel yet, but Nicky was twice last year, though he was often the slowest of the Ducatis for reasons Guareschi can’t explain.
“I don’t know why,” Guareschi said. Hayden had earlier pointed out that Hector Barbera (Paginas Amarillas Ducati) was the fastest Ducati more than once. The Spaniard recorded the highest top speed of the season, 345.7kmh/214.808mph, at the end of the front straight at Mugello. Hayden was second fastest that day at 343.4kph/212.379 mph. What makes it more confounding is that Barbera’s corner exits aren’t as fast as Hayden’s and Barbera often uses the engine on its lowest power setting. Hayden became so frustrated that he joked to Guareschi that he wanted one of Barbera’s engines.
“For sure Barbera’s engine don’t have more power,” Guareschi reassured him.
One explanation was body placement. When a rider comes from 500s or Superbike, he doesn’t have perfect position, Guareschi said, unlike riders who come up on 125s and 250s, where getting small is essential. He also pointed out Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who was often among the fastest on top speed and has a decided advantage on Hayden in both weight and profile.
“The bike is alone in the straights,” Guareschi said of how well Pedrosa tucks in.
The anti-wheelie software came out of Rossi’s two-day outing in Valencia. The team had anti-wheelie last year, but it wasn’t “proper” anti-wheelie, Guareschi said. So they immediately began work on the new system, which Battaini will test in Jerez next week.
The new software adjusts more to the circumstances, and not just to where the GPS determines the bike is on the track; the ECU will decide.
“I don’t know exactly what information it has for no wheelie, but is immediately, is not a program” that was previously inside the ECU, Guareschi said.