MotoGP 1000cc Track Testing Approaches

April 4, 2011
Scott Mathews
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There are few people worthy of getting an audience with Mathews but he makes himself available on occasion to the racers of the Grand Prix paddock. If they’re lucky, he might even mention their name. He’s Scott Mathews, and he’s bringing you the inside scoop on MotoGP.

Ducatis Valentino Rossi nabbed the third-best time on Friday.
Ducati’s new 1000cc MotoGP design has undergone dyno testing and is slated for a three-day test at Jerez.

Ducati plans to shakedown its new 1000cc MotoGP bike at the Jerez circuit in Spain later this week. Dyno testing has been completed and Ducati team boss Vittoriano Guareschi confirmed that durability tests were due to finish in Bologna  tonight (Saturday). Ducati’s technical guru, Filippo Preziosi, plans to build-up a prototype GP12 in time for it to be shipped to Jerez for Guareschi and fellow development rider Franco Battaini to test. The Bologna factory has a three-day test booked at the Jerez from Thursday to evaluate a series of modifications to the current 800cc GP11 machine, including a revamped engine. The new engine is believed to feature a heavier crankshaft and revised firing order to help tame an aggressive power delivery, which has been one of Rossi’s biggest complaints since he first rode the GP11 in Valencia last November.

A new carbon fiber chassis that Ducati is currently working on could also be ready for this week’s Jerez test. But it is more likely that Rossi will debut the frame at a one-day test immediately after the Estoril MotoGP race in Portugal early next month.

“The 1000cc engine is on the dyno to check the performance and durability, and tonight (Saturday) we finish the reliability test and maybe next week we try the bike,” said Vittoriano Guareschi. “If the durability is fine, than Filippo has made a bike and maybe on Saturday it is possible to have a bike for a shakedown. This first step is only to test the engine. The rest of the bike we will make when we have a definite direction for the chassis. When Valentino makes a

Valentino Rossi - Jerez 2011
Major re-designs on Ducati’s GP11 were ordered after Valentino Rossi said that the current machine isn’t competitive enough to win MotoGP races.

choice we will build a bike according to this. It is important now to put kilometres on the engine, both on the dyno and the track.”
Ducati began working on a major re-design after being told by Valentino Rossi that the current version isn’t competitive enough to win MotoGP races. The Italian was only seventh in Qatar in the season’s opening night race, and despite finishing fifth in the Jerez race he says the Ducati is still not fast enough in dry conditions. Despite previously stating the GP11 doesn’t require major tweaks, Rossi has demanded numerous upgrades to evaluate when the MotoGP grid carries out a one-day test immediately after the Estoril clash in Portugal in early May.

The most radical overhaul elements of the GP11, which will be one of the most sweeping changes since Ducati entered MotoGP in 2003, will be the design of a new Desmosedici motor. Rossi’s biggest complaint about the Ducati is an understeer issue that can’t be cured just by set-up modifications.

But Rossi’s Aussie crew chief, Jerry Burgess, reckons Rossi’s problem doesn’t automatically necessitate changes to the Ducati carbon fiber chassis.

“You could think the changes might be with the frame, but it could easily be an engine response problem,” Burgess said. “The basic hardware in the engine, there are lots of things that fly around and they all contribute a lot. And some of those parts are far more important than a lot of people think, so we’ll be looking at changing some of that so that we better understand the problem for the future. All engines have their character and all are different. I imagine we will always have a 90-degree V engine at Ducati. That is part of the Ducati way, but I don’t think that is a problem. We have to work on getting the power to the ground earlier and with more control. So we need a general re-tuning, and a small redesign of the engine might help along with a couple of other things.”

Casey Stoner - Jerez 2011
Casey Stoner: “When I was at the front with the Ducati I had to keep pushing it. If I didn’t keep pushing it than the tires would go cold and the bike wouldn’t work right. On this [Honda] bike, as soon as I had that lead in Qatar, there was no reason to push it any more.”

Burgess reckons Casey Stoner – Rossi’s Ducati predecessor who won 23 races in four years at Ducati – didn’t experience any major problem with the understeer because of his very specific riding style.

“It is a style Casey learned as young boy and he adapted very well to the Ducati that requires the oversteer as you enter the corner,” Burgess said. “You kick the rear out and then spin the tire up a bit to get it turned. This is a very physical way to ride and Casey has mastered it better than most, but it also has its risks. That is not how you want to ride the bike. Valentino has said he can ride the bike like that, but not in his condition at the moment. And it is not the ideal way to ride. You want to make a bike that all the riders can ride so the best rider will ride it faster.”

The Estoril test takes place on May 2, meaning Ducati engineers in Bologna are facing a race against time to have such major changes implemented. Another race against time is to get Rossi’s damaged right shoulder to full strength.

“These projects need to be rolling along quite early and the idea is to build the bike into a winning bike and it will be better when he is at full fitness,” said Burgess. “But we know where we have come from in the past couple of years, and we know where we are at now. Honda has made a leap forward so we really need to be in a position so that if we go into a major re-design we can go two or three steps in one hit. This might not be a quick fix. We’re here for the long haul and we want to be ready to go racing next year and beyond. If we comeback towards the end of the year languishing in third, fourth or fifth, but start to hammer home some advantage with wins, that will be pleasing enough in itself. If we don’t than we haven’t done enough work.” 

Casey Stoner reckons racing the 2011 Factory Honda RC212V is a much less stressful experience than when he was trying to keep Ducati at the front in MotoGP. Stoner says the V4 Honda is much less mentally demanding to push to the limit and the Japanese bike is also less physical to ride compared to the wild and hard to tame Ducati Desmosedici he rode previously. Stoner won 23 races for Ducati, but as soon as he first jumped on the Honda RC212V in testing at the Valencia ciruit in Spain last November, he commented on how much easier the bike was to ride.

Casey Stoner - Jerez 2011
Following Japan’s catastrophic earthquake track tests for Honda’s new four-stroke 1000cc bike have been delayed.

“When I was at the front with the Ducati I had to keep pushing it. If I didn’t keep pushing it than the tires would go cold and the bike wouldn’t work right. On this bike, as soon as I had that lead in Qatar, there was no reason to push it any more. A 1’55.0 isn’t an easy lap time to get to, and there’s no point doing that if we’re pulling a gap lap-by-lap. We knew there was no risk in doing 1’55.8, 1’56.0, so we went there and we were still pulling an advantage.”

Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami delayed the track debut of Honda’s new four-stroke 1000cc MotoGP being developed for the 2012 MotoGP campaign. The bike was due to be track tested for the first time prior to last month’s opening round in Qatar, but HRC boss, Shuhei Nakamoto, admitted the test was cancelled. Honda was to have used the Twin Ring Motegi circuit it owns to debut the RC212V 800cc replacement, but the circuit was damaged during the recent powerful earthquake.

“Dyno testing has just finished and we are happy,” said Nakamoto. “We wanted to test last week but our plan is now delayed. Suzuka or another track on the West side of Japan is available, but we didn’t have any fuel for the trucks so we couldn’t move. Fuel is being delivered again this week so maybe we will test soon.”

Nakamoto also said it was too soon to determine whether the new 1000cc prototype would be ready to take part in a planned shakedown test on the Monday after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello in early July.

Jorge Lorenzo sporting the JL Number 1 plate - Sepang Test
Factory Yamaha is on target to deliver its team a first ride aboard the new 1000cc YZR-M1 at Mugello in July. 

Meanwhile Yamaha is on target to give Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies their first ride on board the new 1000cc YZR-M1 in Mugello in early July. Yamaha has been track testing its new 2010 bike for several weeks in Japan and plans to give reigning world champion, Lorenzo, and Spies a ride immediately after the Italian Grand Prix on July 4.

Kouichi Tsuji, the man behind development of the project, said: “We have already started our development and I am pleased to say our schedule is on time. We will begin testing at Mugello after the race. The engine power will obviously be more, but what we will be looking to find out is what kind of chassis requirements we have. The test in Mugello will give us the direction to work for this.”
The planned 1000cc test in Mugello is not 100 percent certain to go ahead. MotoGP bosses will make a final decision on whether the test will go ahead at the Estoril race in early May.