Catalunya MotoGP Insider: Ducati

June 6, 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.

Valentino Rossi: This morning we started with the setup from Le Mans  but we realized that something different was needed for this track; we altered the setup  but the first changes didnt work. Then it started to mist  and thats how it was for half of the first session. The second session started with a wet track  and although we were fast in those conditions  it wasnt possible to work productively on the setup.
Despite losing fourth place to Andrea Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi experienced improvement with his GP11 at Catalunya.

Valentino Rossi believes a wrong rear set-up cost him the chance to notch his second successive podium for Ducati in the Catalunya MotoGP race. For the third successive race, the nine-times world champion was locked in a race long duel with compatriot Andrea Dovizioso, with the Repsol Honda coming out on top as he did in Estoril and Le Mans. Rossi had to settle for fifth for the third time in the last four races but the 32-year-old showed signs of progress on the factory GP11, as he finished just over seven seconds away from eventual winner Casey Stoner.

“The good thing is that the distance from Stoner is half compared to Le Mans, which was our best performance,” said Rossi. “I could actually see Stoner for the whole race, so this is a good thing. We are not so far but for sure I am not happy about the fifth place, especially because yesterday modified the rear to improve the stability of the bike and we tried in the wet warm-up it worked very well. We decided to use this for the race but unfortunately I lose too much in the entry because I didn’t have enough grip in the right corners and this gave me some problems on the brakes. I was at the limit behind Dovi but I could not push more. We made a mistake but it’s experience as we don’t know exactly this bike. With a better setting I think I could have fought with (Ben) Spies and Dovi for the podium because I think I could improve by one or two-tenths per lap.”

Rossi raced Ducati’s new heavier crankshaft motor and he was pleased with the performance and said: “The new engine is positive because with Dovi on the straight I overtake him from the slipstream. I’m happy because the bike is easier to control in acceleration.”

Rossi might have also expected a tougher fight to cling onto fifth place with fellow Italian Marco Simoncelli trying to hunt him down from sixth place. But the San Carlo Gresini Honda rider, who started on pole

Valentino Rossi - Catalunya qualifying 2011
Filippo Preziosi (Ducati technical guru): “We have good potential but a lot of small problems to fix. The areas where we can improve the bike become always more clear. I’m talking about grip on the front and also stability in acceleration.” 
Nicky Hayden earned eighth on the timesheets at Catalunya behind teammate  Valentino Rossi.

position for the first time in his MotoGP career, never recovered from a woeful start and never seriously threatened to engage Rossi.

Rossi added: “I knew that Simoncelli was in trouble because his lap time was not fantastic, so I tried not to give up and hope that he made a small mistake to give me some advantage. I hope that the first real battle with Simoncelli will better than a battle for fifth position.”

Rossi had urged Ducati to continue rolling out new parts for his factory GP11 machine after he finished over 0.8s off pole position in Catalunya. The Italian had emerged unscathed from a heavy crash Saturday morning to claim his best qualifying result on board Ducati’s factory GP11, the 32-year-old securing seventh on the grid for the 25-lap race. But Rossi made it clear Ducati is still a long way from competing for race wins in MotoGP.

Ducati’s technical guru Filippo Preziosi is present in Catalunya and Rossi said: “We speak a lot with Filippo. Firstly I need more experience with this bike. More than difficult to ride, it’s different to ride against all the other bikes in my career. I need to improve my style and also my team have to sooner and better understand the modifications to the setting. We have good potential but a lot of small problems to fix. The areas where we can improve the bike become always more clear. I’m talking about grip on the front and also stability in acceleration. The bike always moves too much and Ducati is at work. Now they have a way to follow and we have to wait. I hope some parts come as soon as possible.”

Rossi’s crash came at Turn 5 when he lost the front, though he was able to walk away unhurt. Explaining the spill he said: “It was a strange crash but it is because the setting was wrong and I am not able to put enough temperature into the front tire and I don’t have enough grip. When I arrived on the left I had a hard front tire on and the temperature was a bit more down and I lost the front very aggressive like in the wet and not with big lean angle.”

As for the 2012 Ducati, the GP12 is unlikely to replicate its domination of MotoGP after the last time the premier class instigated a major rule change back in 2007. When engine capacity was reduced from 990cc to 800cc, Ducati crushed its Japanese rivals with the GP7 winning 11 races and Casey Stoner romped to the world title. MotoGP will switch to a 1000cc capacity limit in 2012 but Valentino Rossi’s crew chief Jerry Burgess isn’t anticipating a repeat of Ducati’s unrivalled success of four years ago.

Rossi and Nicky Hayden have already completed their first shakedown test on the new GP12 in Jerez last month and Burgess said: “Valentino and Nicky were fairly happy with the bike and it was a good first test but it’s no good being happy about that now because we haven’t seen what the others are wheeling out. I’m playing my cards close to my chest when it comes to singing praises about anything but we’ve been at that 1000cc area before, so I don’t think you’ll see the quantum leap that Ducati made the last time we changed the category.”

Aspar Ducati to Double Up in 2012

Hector Barbera - Aspar Ducati
Ducati may extend its MotoGP involvement in 2012 with Aspar Ducati looking to add a second rider.

Ducati could extend its MotoGP involvement to seven bikes in 2012 with the Aspar squad confirming it is negotiating a deal to expand to a two-rider effort next season. The Spanish effort, run by former 125GP world champion Jorge ‘Aspar’ Martinez, is looking to secure the lease of two GP12 machines for the new 1000cc MotoGP class.

The squad currently runs a single rider effort with Hector Barbera but Sporting Director Gino Borsoi said: “We have started to think about two bikes and we have already spoken to Ducati. The cost is obviously a big factor but we would like to be in MotoGP with two bikes. We’re still fighting to find the money and it is not so easy when you explain the project to our sponsors.”

The Aspar squad is the biggest in the Grand Prix paddock with entries in the Moto2 and 125GP class. It plans to remain in Moto2 next season while also entering the new Moto3 class for 250cc four-stroke single-cylinder machines.

A second bike for Aspar would be a huge boost for Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta, who is under immense pressure to arrest a rapid decline in grid numbers that has seen only 17 bikes start the 2011 campaign.

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