More Frustration for Rossi at Phillip Island

October 18, 2011
Scott Mathews
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Valentino Rossi suffered another Ducati front-end crash in Sunday’s Phillip Island race that ended in further bitter frustration and disappointment for the nine-time world champion. Rossi had just passed factory Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista for fifth place on Lap 14 at Turn 10 when he lost the front-end of his GP11.1 machine and tumbled out.

Valentino Rossi - 2011 Phillip Island MotoGP
Valentino Rossi crashed out for the second round in a row as the Italian was running inside the top-five. 

Rossi was once again baffled as to why he’d lost the front again with what he felt was a routine overtake on Spaniard Bautista at the downhill right-hander. The Phillip Island crash was the latest in a long line of front-end crashes for the 32-year-old, who seems increasingly bewildered at how to solve Ducati’s inherent lack of front-end feel.

The Italian has complained constantly ever since he made his Ducati debut in Valencia about a lack of front-end confidence but radical changes to the Desmosedici are having little impact. Rossi’s crash in Phillip Island continued a dismal October so far for the seven-time MotoGP world champion after he tumbled out of the Japanese race earlier this month on the first lap.

Rossi said: “It’s a shame because I could have been fifth. It was an unfortunate crash that I wasn’t expecting. I had lost a bit in the first laps compared to (Nicky) Hayden and Bautista, but then I found my rhythm and I was going to catch them because I was in a better situation with my tires. I caught them fairly easily and I passed Nicky. Then when I passed Bautista, unfortunately, I lost the front after passing him. I didn’t expect it at all, because it wasn’t such a violent or late braking move. You can see that well from the television. I had already passed Bautista in the left-hand corner and after looking at the data, I entered exactly as I did on the previous laps. The front closed, and honestly, I don’t understand why.”

Hayden Positive After Aluminum Frame Debut 

Nicky Hayden said his debut on Ducati’s new aluminum frame in Jerez last week was positive, but the American admitted Bologna engineers still have plenty of work to do to make the GP12 a more competitive package.

Nicky Hayden - 2011 Phillip Island MotoGP
Nicky Hayden: “Ducati hasn’t got enough credit for how hard they have worked to give me and Valentino [Rossi] the best opportunity.”

The 2006 world champion had to make a quick dash from his Kentucky home to Europe after Valentino Rossi withdrew from the Jerez test with a left little finger injury he picked up during a first lap crash in the Japanese Grand Prix. Rossi’s withdrawal meant Hayden got his first chance to assess the aluminum frame Rossi has been using since the Motorland Aragon race last month.

Designed in Bologna and built in the UK by specialist FTR to help improve a vague front-end feeling, and Hayden said of the new aluminum component: “We had a good test and the team is working extremely hard. We won’t know what we’ve got until we line up with the other guys on the same track but it is clear we have still got a lot of work to do. It was the first time I rode the aluminum front frame and they have done a nice step there but we haven’t fixed all our problems. We have more stuff to try, but is has been a nice step. That’s why when Valentino tried the bike he was so desperate to race with it and start from pit row because it is a good step.”

Hayden said it was obvious that Ducati was working hard to close the performance gap to Honda and Yamaha and he added: “They’ve taken a lot of stick this year and Ducati haven’t got enough credit for how hard they have worked to give me and Valentino the best opportunity. But it hasn’t been enough and together the bike and the riders haven’t got the results the team and our sponsors deserve.”

Aspar Confirms Ducati Split

Spain’s high profile Aspar squad will split with Ducati at the end of the 2011 MotoGP world championship and is now working on its own private 1000cc project. Having initially planned to expand to a two-rider effort with the Bologna factory in 2012, the Aspar squad confirmed at Phillip Island that plans to continue running just one Ducati had also collapsed.

Hector Barbera - 2011 Aragon MotoGP
Aspar has confirmed its break with Ducati at the end of 2011 and will work on a private 1000cc project next year.

It was only at last month’s Motorland Aragon race that rumors surfaced that budget problems meant the Aspar squad, owned by former 125GP world champ Jorge Martinez, would have to lease just one Ducati GP12 for current rider Hector Barbera. But talks to lease one bike collapsed just hours before the start of the Twin Ring Motegi race in Japan earlier this month.

Aspar Sporting Director Gino Borsoi said the team was now in negotiations with Eskil Suter about running a Suter/BMW machine, which uses a tuned S1000RR motor. Borsoi also confirmed that talks had commenced with Aprilia about a project that would use the Italian factory’s RSV4 motor.

In Australia Borsoi said: “We have tried a lot to find a solution with Ducati to run one bike in 2012 but it was not possible to finalize an agreement. It is a complicated story but at the end of the day we didn’t find a solution. Now we are thinking about our own project for CRT and honestly we have only just started this process because this was never our plan.”

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