Valentino Rossi’s failing rear tire forced him to pit just after the mid-point of the race and he fell out of the battle for fifth.
Valentino Rossi went from challenging for his best dry weather result of 2012 to finishing in a disastrous 13th after he suffered a major rear tire failure in Assen. Rossi was locked in a battle for fifth position with Nicky Hayden and Hector Barbera when his factory Ducati GP12 developed an early vibration from his hard compound Bridgestone rear tire. The problem worsened and got so unrideable that the nine-time world champion had to enter the pits to fit a new rear on Lap 17.
The 33-year-old confirmed afterwards that his tire had lost large chunks of rubber and he said: “It is a pity because with the mistakes of some guys in front we can arrive at the end with a better position and take some points for the championship. I did a very good start but unfortunately I had a problem with the rear tire from beginning and it became a dangerous situation. We decided to use the hard tire because the temperature was going up but like Nicky and Barbera also some other riders have a similar problem but not like me. Now Bridgestone will assess the tire but unfortunately it can happen and we will see what they say. Here the tire on the right was quite soft and the temperature was very hot and for sure the 1000 puts more stress on it. For safety reasons Bridgestone make a softer casing and maybe also this sometimes creates more heat. It is the first time this year it happened though. One time it can happen and unfortunately it happened to me.”
Bridgestone promised an immediate and thorough investigation into the tire defect that also struck Texan Ben Spies and cost him a podium after he had to slow so much that Andrea Dovizioso overtook him on the final lap for third.
Shinichi Yamashita , General Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tire Development Department, said: “We saw the highest track temperatures of the Grand Prix weekend and the race was run at a very fast pace. The warm temperatures meant that all riders selected the harder front slick, while all but seven riders selected the harder slick option for the rear as well. Unfortunately a few riders experienced a problem with their rear tire today and we sincerely apologize to those riders affected. We have commenced a full investigation into the matter and I will personally take the affected tires back to Bridgestone’s Technical Centre in Japan tomorrow where they will undergo detailed analysis to determine the cause of this issue.”
Rossi has had a host of issues on the Ducati, from understeer to lack of front-feeling and in Assen, excessive tire wear.
Rossi Urges Ducati Action
Before the race, Rossi urged Ducati to devise a clear plan for future development of the struggling Desmosedici machine after his 10th-place performance in qualifying for the Assen TT. The Italian posted a best time of 1.35.057 in a rain-hit session but was still 1.344s off Casey Stoner’s pole position time.
Weight distribution changes to Rossi’s GP12 to try and gain more rear grip and extend rear tire life only sacrificed too much front-end feeling and Rossi said: “Today was more difficult for us because we tried to move the weight more to the rear with a set-up to reduce the rear sliding and improve tire performance. But when we moved the weight to the rear unfortunately the bike became very difficult to ride at the front. I had less grip so it was more difficult to stop the bike under brakes and also less turning and more understeer with less weight on the front. It was quite difficult. At the end we have to come back to the setting of yesterday which was a little better but with the problems I was not fast enough. I was also a little unlucky because I kept a lot of soft tires back for the time attack but the rain came and I could use just one tire.”
Rossi then went onto say that Ducati’s technical staff in Bologna, led by Filippo Preziosi, needed to focus on a clear development strategy to improve the Desmosedici and bring it closer to Honda and Yamaha. He has scored just two podium finishes in 24 races and at a time when Ducati needs to be convincing Rossi to sign a new contract, it seems his belief in the project is fading.
The bike is still suffering an understeer issue that radical changes like switching to a conventional aluminum frame has failed to cure. A revised engine spec will be rolled out at Laguna Seca but this year Rossi and teammate Nicky Hayden have also struggled with excessive rear tire wear and have been unable to maintain a fast pace over a full race distance on worn Bridgestone rubber.
“I think that in Ducati to try and bring this bike to a better level we need a clear and a better plan to try and fix the problem,” said Rossi. “At this moment we expect just a different engine to try and have the bottom smoother, which I think is a good idea. But for the problem of the understeer and to finish the tire too early I don’t know what I have to expect. We need some good ideas because to try and fix the problem it is not enough just to try with settings. We need something more but unfortunately I don’t know what. We have known about this problem precisely from Portugal. We arrived to a good setting and did a pretty good race. It is the same problem I spoke about at the test in Jerez because I did a simulation and I stayed behind (Stefan) Bradl and I said exactly this. So it was March. After that we had to arrive at a good point of speed to try and understand because in the first two races I was very slow but from Portugal the problem looks the same. For this reason I expect some good ideas and a good effort to try and fix this problem because it is very optimistic to try and think that just moving the weight on the bike will fix the problem.”
Rumors are already in the air that Rossi might leave the Ducati squad for 2013, but the Doctor has insisted his focus is on making the Desmosedici a race-winning bike.
“I hope I can race next year with a competitive bike”
Before the Assen race, Rossi still insisted his prime focus is on making Ducati’s struggling Desmosedici a race-winning package. Pre-race Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta was quoted in a recent interview saying that the 33-year-old will be riding competitive machinery in 2013, but refused to say with which manufacturer. Rossi is understood to have held talks with both Yamaha and Honda but again spoke of his desire to return Ducati prior to the Assen TT weekend.
Rumours are growing that he will split from the Bologna factory at the end of the season. Ducati has already offered British rider Cal Crutchlow a two-year deal to quit Monster Yamaha Tech 3 and senior management have also spoken of their intention to keep Rossi.
Speaking about Ezpeleta’s comments in Holland, Rossi said: “I read in the newspapers and I am not sure but I think it is something that he hopes and I hope that I can race next year with a competitive bike. But the first choice is to try and be competitive with the Ducati. We need to increase the performance of the bike and try to improve the results in the next years with the Ducati.”