Mugello MotoGP Insider: Ducati

July 5, 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.

A poor start forced Rossi to work past several riders en route to his sixth-place result at Mugello.
A poor start forced Ducati’s Valentino Rossi to work past several riders en route to his sixth-place result at Mugello.

Valentino Rossi’s Ducati debut on Italian soil saw him suffer a crushing defeat in front of his adoring home fans at Mugello. Riding the new GP11.1 for the second race, the updated Desmosedici has not been the magic wand cure to Rossi’s problems and he was only sixth in the 23-lap race. The gap to race winner Jorge Lorenzo was a massive 26 seconds and Rossi reiterated his pleas for more upgrades to roll out of Bologna as soon as possible.

The nine-times world champion said: “The bike was a little bit better because in the Warm-up we did a great modification to the setting of the bike. The weather conditions in Assen and here in Mugello doesn’t help us to improve the new bike, so we tried a big modification and it is coming better. I was able to make a better rhythm and be more close to the front. We have a bike that is different in many aspects from the one we started the season with. We’re aware that it needs to undergo further development from a technical point of view, but even at this stage it has shown that it has a good margin of improvement just with set-up. We still have to work on this type of setting because we improve the turning but we lose a bit of grip but we can work more on this setting for the new bike. The gap is 0.8s from the top. If we race with the new surface and the other one with the old then maybe we can win. But 0.8s in the race is the same gap as in some other places, so we need to work.”

Rossi said he lost vital ground at the start of the race because of a clutch problem, which meant he had to pick his way by Monster Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow, Colin Edwards, Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera.

Rossifumi gather to root The Doctor on his home soil.
Rossis GP11.1 hasnt turned things around quite yet  but The Doctor was smiling during his photo op with Italian beauty Bianca Balti.
Rossifumi gather to root The Doctor on his home soil (top). It wasn’t all doom and gloom in the Ducati camp as Rossi was smiling during his photo op with Italian beauty Bianca Balti.

“I lost some time on the start because the clutch slipped, and I was almost last into the first turn, with a lot of ground to make up. It’s a shame because I’ve always managed to do well on the starts with the Ducati this year. Still, I’m not sure how long I would have been able to stay with (Ben) Spies and (Marco) Simoncelli even if I had started better. The problem is quite clear and we have to work. First we need to improve the setting of this bike but also make something else to make a bigger step. The problems are the same, also because the bike is the same. The new bike changes the rear, the rear works but the front remains the same, so we need to make something.”

Entering the Mugello race, Rossi surmised the Ducati’s woes were made more prominent by the huge leap forward by Honda. Before the action on the track got underway, Rossi said “The bigger problem this year is the Honda, which made a great step and a big improvement that didn’t happen last year. I think that the GP11 in the last season doesn’t develop in the right way and starting from 2007 the Ducati won less races year by year. This bike is very difficult to ride and Stoner rode this bike in a very good way, also because he was five years with the same bike. For all the riders that come from a more normal bike, it is quite difficult and I think mainly that bike has arrived at the end of its development. With this one (GP11.1) we have more space to improve the bike.”

Rossi competed at his home race in Mugello without the influence of legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess after the Australian flew home to be with his seriously ill wife. Burgess discovered his wife Claudine has been diagnosed with breast cancer and the crew chief, who has masterminded all of Rossi’s seven MotoGP world titles, immediately left Italy to return home to be with his family in Adelaide.

Rossi, who has been working closely with loyal crew chief Burgess to try and transform Ducati’s fortunes in 2011, said “First of all I’d like to wish good luck to Jeremy, who won’t be able to join us this weekend due to very important personal reasons. We’ll miss him very much in the garage, but we look forward to seeing him at the Sachsenring.”