El problema de la Ducati Desmosedici: un análisis exhaustivo


HogarHogar / Blog / El problema de la Ducati Desmosedici: un análisis exhaustivo

Apr 13, 2024

El problema de la Ducati Desmosedici: un análisis exhaustivo

El paso de Valentino Rossi a Ducati fue una combinación perfecta en el cielo del marketing; el poder de ventas combinado del piloto de motos más famoso del mundo y la marca de motocicletas más emblemática del mundo seguramente

Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati was a match made in marketing heaven, the combined selling power of the world's most famous motorcycle racer and the world's most iconic motorcycle brand would surely prove to be a veritable sales steamroller. Casey Stoner had already proven that the bike was capable of winning races - though it clearly had a problem with the front end - and with a seven-time MotoGP champion and the crew that helped him win those titles, success would be quick to come.

If sales of merchandise are anything to go by, then the move was definitely a success, MotoGP circuits coloring red as Rossi fans stocked up on Ducati gear, the red still tinged with Rossi's traditional yellow. But a look at the results sheets tells a different story altogether. Though the Italian is 5th in the championship standings (and just 2 points off 4th), Rossi has consistently crossed the finish line between 25 and 30 seconds after the winner took the checkered flag. So far, Rossi has taken just a single podium - arguably gifted to him, with Dani Pedrosa being taken out by Marco Simoncelli, and then Simoncelli being punished with a ride-through - and has found himself in the battle for 5th or 6th. By any measure, Rossi's move to Ducati must be counted a disaster, the combination a massive disappointment to fans, followers and even fellow riders.

Unsurprisingly, there has been fevered speculation about the cause of the problems, and whether it is down to the rider, the bike, or the combination of the two. Rossi fans point to his record, and the fact that he won a race in October of 2010, even while suffering with a damaged shoulder, only fixed after the end of the season. Yet Ducati fans, along with a contingent of Stoner fans, point out that Stoner was able to win on the previous incarnation of the machine (the GP10 the Australian raced last season was very similar, with one or two exceptions, to the GP11 which Rossi started the season off on), and so there can't have been that much wrong with the machine. Others postulate that it is not so much a single factor, but rather that the combination of Rossi's high-corner-speed style and the Ducati's flaky front end that is to blame, the Italian unable - or unwilling - to adopt Stoner's excessively aggressive corner entry style which allowed him to tame the Desmosedici.

So where does the truth lie? What is really wrong with the Ducati-Rossi combo? Is Rossi over the hill, or did Stoner make the Ducati look good, or is Rossi just not capable of adapting his style to the tricky Desmosedici? And if it is the bike, can Rossi's wily veteran crew chief Jeremy Burgess cure what ails the Ducati? We will go through the possible causes of the problem one factor at a time, but first, it may be helpful to identify exactly where the problem lies.

The Symptoms

Why is that neither Valentino Rossi nor Nicky Hayden have been able to get the Desmosedici to work? It all comes down to one thing: front-end feel. "The problem is in braking and entry," Rossi said at Mugello. "I don't have enough feeling from the front for corner entry like I want." The Ducati simply is not returning enough feedback from the front tire to the rider, nor providing enough grip from the front Bridgestone tire. "We have a lot of problems to put enough temperature into the tires," was Rossi's verdict at Assen, where very cool temperatures prevailed. At both Assen and Silverstone, Rossi had been forced to use the softer compound tire during practice, which helped by coming up to temperature a little more quickly, but as the soft front was only good for a few laps, it was never going to be an option for the race. The hotter temperatures at Mugello helped a bit, giving more feedback from the front, but still Rossi remained eight tenths of a second slower than the leading group.

Summarizing both Rossi's and Hayden's descriptions of the problem over the first half of the season, the front end of the Ducati feels vague and does not provide sufficient feedback, leaving both Marlboro Ducati riders with a lack of confidence in the front end. And the underlying cause of the lack of feel is the difficulty of getting the ultra-stiff Bridgestone tires up to temperature.

Is It The Rider?

The biggest variable which has changed between 2010 and 2011 is the departure of Casey Stoner and the arrival of Valentino Rossi. Though Rossi is now riding a heavily modified machine (the GP11.1, as it has been dubbed, is a destroked version of the 2012 Desmosedici, its capacity reduced to 800cc to make it legal for 2011), the bike he rode until Assen was not much changed from the bike Stoner left behind at Valencia in 2010. The bike had a modified triple clamp, a slightly different swingarm, and a slightly revised front chassis. The biggest changes have been in the field of electronics, Rossi and his crew helping to provide a much more user-friendly engine response package, introduced after Estoril.

So if Stoner made the Ducati work, then surely the problem must be with Rossi, right? Though that might appear to be the logical conclusion, that grossly oversimplifies a complicated situation. Just 9 months ago, with a weakened shoulder that left him struggling, Rossi was still capable of winning races and scoring regular podiums. He was poetry to watch, flowing over the Yamaha M1 and able to put it just about where he wanted. In the 11 races after returning from the leg he broke at Mugello, and still struggling with the shoulder injury he picked up in a training crash in April, Rossi was on the podium 7 times, including 1 win. Riders simply do not lose that kind of speed over the winter break, not unless they suffer a career-threatening injury.

From the moment he swung his leg over the Ducati, Rossi was immediately miles off the pace. He ended the two-day test 1.7 seconds off the pace of the fastest man, Jorge Lorenzo. Three days earlier, in the race, Rossi's fastest lap had been just a few hundredths slower than Lorenzo's. Worse still, Rossi looked nothing like himself on the bike. Several observers commented that it was as if someone had sneaked into Rossi's motorhome, stolen his leathers and helmet, walked in through the back of the pits and onto the Ducati without anyone noticing he was not Rossi. At that first test in Valencia, Rossi looked like a journalist riding the bike, someone far less comfortable or able easing his way around the track.

Rossi was not the only rider to undergo an overnight transformation. Loris Capirossi jumped off the Rizla Suzuki and onto the Pramac Ducati and went nowhere, while Randy de Puniet has been transformed from the man who regularly scored top 6 results on the LCR Honda to a rider who can barely make it into the top 10 on the Pramac Desmosedici. With the Ducati's history of destroying riders' reputations - along with their self-confidence - Rossi is just another casualty in the long list that started with Marco Melandri.

The startling difference between Rossi's times from this year and those from last year is one clue that the problem is not with the rider. At Laguna Seca, where comparable temperatures prevailed between the 2010 and 2011 events, Rossi was 14 seconds slower this year than on the Yamaha. At the 2010 event, Rossi was still using crutches, the US round being only his second race since returning after breaking his leg at Mugello, some 8 weeks' beforehand. But the key piece of evidence that the problem is the bike and not the rider is the times of Nicky Hayden: the American was also 14 seconds slower at Laguna in 2011 than he was in 2010.

The Bike

So it appears we can safely rule out the problem being the rider. And if it isn't the rider, the problem must lie in the bike. Indeed, speculation and conjecture about where the problem lies have been more intense than ever this season, with everyone and their mother-in-law apparently having an opinion. The ideas around the Ducati's shortcomings seem to fall into three schools of thought, two centering around the chassis and another focusing on the engine, with the theories about the chassis being by far the most popular.

The favorite culprit is the use of carbon fiber to build a frame, the properties of the material being blamed for the lack of feel in the front end. The layout of the chassis is the next favorite among the pundits, the short subframe which joins the steering head to the engine being fingered as too small to provide sufficient flex for the front. And the third, but far less favored option is the layout of the engine, the characteristic L-shaped 90° V4 forcing too much weight towards the rear. Let's go through these options one-by-one, and examine how much blame should be attributed to each.

A Brief History Of Motorcycle Chassis Design

Before we look at carbon fiber, a quick word on motorcycle chassis. Once upon a time, a frame was just some tubing that held the engine in place and connected the steering head to the swingarm. As tires improved and engine outputs increased, the forces involved in braking and accelerating started to overwhelm the tubular steel chassis, and frame builders started to make their frames stiffer. In the 1990s, chassis builders started to encounter the opposite problem: as their frames got stiffer and stiffer, the bike started chattering and vibrating, making handling terrible, especially when leaned over, when the suspension of a bike ceases to work, being in the wrong plane. And so the concept of flex was introduced, adding sufficient flexibility to allow the bike to absorb some of the bumps while leaned over, but still stiff enough to keep the chassis stable in a straight line and under braking. Since the late 1990s, and especially since the four-stroke era began, a huge amount of work has gone into engineering in exactly enough flexibility in specific areas, while retaining the stiffness in the planes where it is needed.

As tuneable flexibility has become increasingly important, the attractiveness of alternatives to aluminium has also grown. Traditional aluminium has the benefit of being light and easy to work with, but as MotoGP chassis designers push the limits, they also run into a few limitations. Engineering in flex is a matter of designing chassis elements with a specific thickness and shape, but the underlying properties of aluminium mean that at some point, achieving the precise amount of flexibility required means sacrifices strength. The way to get around this problem is by making elements longer, allowing a mass (usually, the mass of the engine) to use the greater leverage provided by a longer element (such as an engine spar connecting the engine to the main chassis beam) to provide the flexibility without sacrificing rigidity.

When the rest of the world switched from perimeter steel tube frames to aluminium twin spar frames, Ducati took a different but still ingenious approach. Instead of wrapping the engine in aluminium box section, Ducati welded up short sections of light steel tubing to create a trellis frame. The advantages were that the chassis was relatively easy to tune, by changing the diameter and position of the individual tubing sections and redistributing the load and the flexibility, and Ducati persevered with the design for six years until they dropped it in favor of carbon fiber.

The downside to the trellis frame is that the trellis - a series of joined triangles - limited the amount of space available for the airbox. All those short, straight tubes meant the airbox had to be shoehorned in, restricting the airbox in both size and shape. Furthermore, the disadvantage of having the frame constructed from twenty or so short sections of steel tubing is that those twenty tubes require forty welds to join them all. Getting weld strength to a precise tolerance is a very tricky art at best, and the more there are, the more chance of variation. While still at Ducati, Casey Stoner said that even when he had identical setups on his two Desmosedicis, they would never feel exactly the same. Paddock rumor suggests that variation in stiffness between two supposedly identical steel trellis chassis could be large - as much as 15% - due in part to the problems of reproducing so many welds and so many parts to completely identical specifications.

Carbon Fiber - Too Stiff For Racing Motorcycles?

Hence Ducati's decision to go for carbon fiber (CF). The advantages over steel trellis are manifold: as CF is a composite, it can be easily molded to create whatever shape is required; its flexibility and stiffness can be almost infinitely tuned using a combination of fiber direction and thickness; it is incredibly light, with much greater strength than metals; and the stiffness and strength can be tuned to respond differently in different axes and directions, a more difficult trick with metals. Ducati's main reason for choosing CF was the combination of stiffness, low weight and the ability to form the material into the shape required.

The Desmosedici's forward chassis section functions as a combined airbox and subframe: the subframe is required to be light and strong, while the airbox needs to be large enough to feed the Ducati's bellowing intakes as its 800cc motor spins at 20,000 rpm. By carefully calculating the desired stiffness in the different planes and axes - stiff enough to remain stable under hard braking, supple enough to flex from side to side to provide some suspension over bumps at full lean, all the while resisting torsion, or the urge to twist - the required combination of the number of layers of carbon fiber weave and the direction in which they are laid can be worked out. Once assembled, the subframe can be cured in an autoclave and sent to the team. Data returned from testing can then be integrated into the models used to create the existing subframe design, and a new iteration produced in the same way.

The claims by many that carbon fiber is too stiff to use in a motorcycle chassis can be put down to a common misunderstanding. CF can be made as stiff or as flexible as the designers want it to be, by varying the thickness and direction of the fibers in the weave. Its use is common in fishing rods, and for a demonstration of just how flexible CF can be, check out this video of a CF fishing rod being tested to breaking point.

The problem is not that CF is too stiff, but that the feedback it provides differs so completely from conventional aluminium. The property most often quoted is hysteresis, which in this instance, refers to the rate at which absorbed energy is returned. One of the benefits of CF is the fact that it can be made to damp vibration, its hysteresis meaning that the energy absorbed from an input (such as striking a bump) is released in a much more controlled fashion. Tap an aluminium tube and it rings like a bell; tap a CF tube and it emits a dull thud.

This is a property that Ducati had hoped would help them solve the problem of chatter (or extreme vibration over bumps) but it had an unintended side effect. Just as with the original attempts at using carbon fiber for chassis, starting with the Cagiva back in 1990, the damping also removes some of the feel from the front end. When used to build swingarms - as Aprilia had been doing for their 250cc racers for several years - this damping helps remove unwanted vibration, but at the front of the bike, that vibration also contains valuable information. As Guy Coulon once explained to me on the subject of unconventional front suspension systems, what is required of a racing motorcycle is that the information from the tarmac should pass directly into the rider's brain with as little interference or loss of data as possible. Any system which removes or alters that information means that the rider has to learn to interpret the feedback almost from scratch. All of the experience gained in his many years of racing is of little value in interpreting what he is feeling.

This is what caused the Cagiva to fail back in the early 1990s. The riders, brought up on a generation of steel and aluminium chassis, simply could not understand the feedback they were receiving from the machine. And this seems to be at least one part of the problem with the Ducati Desmosedici: the carbon fiber subframe connecting the front forks to the front of the engine may be damping the vibrations too much, reducing the amount of information traveling from the front tire up into the rider's brain. Alternatively, it may be returning too much information, providing more feedback than most riders are used to receiving. Filtering out this new (and not necessarily useful) information may be what is confusing the riders about the feel.

As we said earlier, the underlying problem of the Ducati is the difficulty the riders have in getting the front tire up to temperature. The stiffness of the CF chassis may not be the problem here, but the feedback from the chassis could make it harder for the riders to push the tire hard enough to start working.

So is the choice of carbon fiber the main cause of Ducati's problems? Looking at the theoretical benefits of the material it is hard to say that it is. There could be an issue where the feel of a CF chassis is sufficiently different to traditional aluminium that it is hard for riders with many years' experience of metal frames to interpret and understand. But with Rossi known more for his adaptability than for his rigid adherence to a single style, this does not seem like an insurmountable candidate. So let us examine the next candidate.

The Mini-Frame - Less Flex Than A Twin Spar

If it's not the material, perhaps it is the amount of material being used. The major difference between the Desmosedici and the Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki is not so much the use of carbon fiber, but rather the use of the engine as a stressed member of the chassis. Where the Japanese machines have long aluminium beams joining the headstock to the swingarm, the Ducati has a short, boxy section bolted on to the cylinder heads of the two banks of cylinders that compose Ducati's 90° V4. The mounting is as direct as possible, with the mounting points placed near to the headstock.

The advantage of this construction is that it uses the stiffness of the engine casings as an integral part of the chassis, and allows the chassis to be made much lighter. With both the front subframe and rear swingarm attaching directly to the engine, there is little superfluous material around. This makes it possible to keep the bike very narrow (there is no perimeter frame snaking around the engine), as well as using the stiffness of the engine to maintain stability under braking. Again, by integrating the airbox into the subframe, another extraneous part can be discarded and the weight of the bike kept down.

Criticism of the design focuses on the shortness of the parts involved, and the complications that adds in obtaining the desired degree of flexibility. The words of Masao Furusawa, the design genius behind Yamaha's M1, are often cited, about the need for the chassis to bend like a tree. Longer chassis sections create a longer lever, and allow flexibility to be created much more precisely. To illustrate the argument, take a long, thin object - such as a cane, or a wooden ruler - and try to bend by pushing down at both ends. The object should bend like a reed. Now put your hands just a couple of inches apart and try to bend the object again: it's almost impossible, at least not without snapping the object. The long engine mounting spars on Yamaha's M1 are a case in point, their length aimed at absorbing bumps while the bike is leaned over.

The counter-argument to this criticism is that the use of carbon fiber makes using longer chassis elements unnecessary. The very programmable nature of CF - the mixture of layers, direction, resin and curing - means that it should be possible to exactly replicate the effect of a long aluminium chassis spar merely by varying the nature of the carbon fiber used. Long sections may make things easier when building frames in aluminium, but carbon fiber dispenses with all that.

Though CF is undeniably an incredibly versatile material, there may still be some merit in the criticism. Having such a short subframe also means that the engine has to transmit a lot of the load. The engine is significantly stiffer than the chassis - it has, after all, to contain and dissipate 230-odd horsepower and deliver it to the back wheel without shaking itself apart. What this means is that the entire chassis assembly consists of two separate parts of completely different stiffness. The more flexible front subframe - complete with engineered flex to aid in absorbing bumps at extreme lean angles - is connected to a rigid engine with almost no flex at all. The central part of the Desmosedici has no flex, while the front subframe and the rear swingarm do.

On a more traditional twin spar chassis, the loads are carried from the front of the bike to the rear through aluminium beams connecting the headstock to the swingarm. The CF subframe may be engineered to provide the same amount of flex as a traditional twin spar, but the two ally beams on the twin spar flex much closer to the center of the bike. Instead of having a rigid center and a more flexible front, a twin spar chassis has a long section which can flex in the center of the bike. Added to the different forces created by attaching the engine using long front engine mounts, the feel of the Ducati will be completely different to a Japanese machine.

There have been a host of clues recently that Ducati are already working on an aluminium twin spar chassis for the GP11 - or possibly the GP11.1 - after a lot of pressure from Rossi and his crew chief Jeremy Burgess. A twin spar chassis could make its debut as early as Brno (though it is more probable to make its first public appearance at Valencia) with signs coming from several sources that big things are afoot at Ducati.

But the twin spar may not be the panacea that Rossi (and his legion of fans) are hoping for. As team manager and test rider Vito Guareschi pointed out to a gaggle of Italian journalists and myself, building a twin spar frame means fighting the Japanese on their own territory. Both Yamaha and Honda have nearly thirty years of experience of building these frames; Ducati has absolutely none. Though a lot of the knowledge is already available, the devil - and the potential for victory - is in the detail, the final refinements giving the last couple of tenths that make the difference between being competitive and running around in 7th. Ultimately, Ducati - with a lot of pressure from Rossi and from main sponsor Marlboro - may feel they have nothing to lose, and gamble it all on an aluminium twin spar chassis.

Will it help, though? Using a traditional twin spar chassis may provide more feel at the front, and it may make the riders feel a lot more comfortable on the bike. What it won't necessarily do is generate a lot of heat in the front end, which brings us to the next subject: Ducati's sacred L4 configuration.

The L4 - Bad Packaging And Poor Weight Transfer

Ask anyone with even a passing interest in motorcycling what engine a Ducati uses and they will tell you without hesitation that it is a 90° V twin, also called an L twin, because the right angle between the two cylinders makes the configuration look like the letter L. The Bologna factory has been building engines in this configuration for 40 years now, since switching from smaller capacity singles to V twins at the start of the 1970s.

So when Ducati decided to enter MotoGP, they naturally attempted to retain the iconic engine design which has been a key selling point for so many years. Filippo Preziosi was quick to understand that a twin would never be able to produce the horsepower needed to compete in the series, and so concentrated instead on building a four-cylinder engine, built to resemble the 90° L twin as closely as possible. Almost as an act of penance for the extra set of cylinders, the initial plan was for the Desmosedici to use a "twin pulse" or big bang firing order, with the cylinders in each bank of cylinders firing simultaneously, to make the bike sound (and behave) more like a twin. Problems handling the power such a configuration produced meant that Ducati had to switch to a "four pulse" or screamer firing order, each cylinder firing separately, but since then, the factory has oscillated between the two firing orders.

The major benefit of a 90° angle between the cylinders is primary balance, where the motion of each piston in the V is balanced against the other piston. As one piston reaches top dead center, the other is in the middle of its stroke, maintaining its momentum and damping the change in kinetic energy as the first piston switches from upwards to downwards motion. The mechanical balance of the L configuration means that it does not require a large balance shaft to damp the vibrations of the engine, saving power. Balance shafts cost power to drive.

But the biggest problem of the L4 configuration is its size and layout. In the modern era of MotoGP, much of the focus has been on keeping the mass of the bike as centralized as possible. The benefit of centralizing mass is that changing the setup of the bike - its weight distribution, rider position, suspension changes - can be more refined and more predictable. Knowing where all of the mass is makes it easier to calculate how to move it around to achieve the desired effect at a particular track.

The main thrust of mass centralization has been in engine layouts: Suzuki's GSV-R uses a 65° V4 engine, Honda's RC212V uses a 72° V4, and Yamaha's M1 uses an inline 4 to make the engine even more compact, sacrificing a little bit of width for more centralization of mass. Behind the crankshaft, gearboxes are stacked, the rows of gears transferring power from the crankshaft to the rear wheel folded up into a V to shorten the length of the gearbox and keep the mass even closer to the engine's overall center of mass.

The compact engine layouts have a secondary benefit as well: with the engine taking up less space, fuel tanks have migrated to be located underneath the rider's seat, placing that mass (which disappears as the fuel is burned off during the race) close to the center as well. A compact engine gives designers the freedom to place other heavy objects - including the rider - in a range of locations around the bike, to help them achieve whatever goals they may have set themselves.

And here's where Ducati's L4 falls down. The angle between the two cylinder banks makes the engine much longer than its rivals, leaving a large space between the cylinder banks which is filled only with the throttle bodies and airbox/subframe. While the front cylinder bank protrudes through a cutout in the radiators to almost touch the front wheel, the rear cylinder bank slopes back and sits right where Yamaha has its fuel tank.

The 90° angle between the cylinders forces the front cylinders to be angled forward much more than the narrower angle Honda. Visual estimates (the exact data involved is highly sensitive and impossible to obtain) suggest that the front cylinder bank of the Ducati is at 70° from the vertical, while Honda's RC212V is at just 45°. This means that the Honda engine can be moved much further forward and closer to the front wheel than the Ducati, allowing the Honda's chassis designers more freedom in placing the engine. The 18° difference in V angle between the Ducati and the Honda also equates to cylinder banks that are roughly 15% further apart, making the engine correspondingly longer. Move the Desmosedici engine further forward, and you foul the front wheel; move it further back and you drastically shorten the swingarm.

The physical size of the Desmosedici engine - or rather, its rather rangy layout - means that much of the mass of the bike is further back than its rivals, with less freedom for changing weight distribution, especially at the design stage. This difficulty in moving weight distribution is one of the prime candidates for the difficulty the riders have for getting the Desmosedici's front tire up to temperature. While the bike may feel fine and the weight distribution look good on paper, the way the weight transfers under braking and acceleration is different, and this could be what is preventing the riders from getting heat into the tire.

There are several major clues that this is exactly what the problem is with the Desmosedici. Throughout their struggles with the Ducati, Rossi and his vastly experienced - and multiple world championship winning - crew have experimented with some fairly drastic changes to the weight distribution. At Mugello, they raised the center of gravity by 20mm, a vast amount in a world where normally parameters are changed a millimeter at a time. At Laguna Seca, they tried another change, shifting the weight further back and leaving Rossi's bike looking more like a chopper than a racing motorcycle.

Indeed, the main rationale behind the switch from the GP11 originally fielded for the 2011 season and the heavily revised GP11.1 is that they could raise the center of mass much more without making the rear pump, a problem which the original design with the top-brace swingarm suffered from, and familiar to anyone who watched Casey Stoner coming out of corners on the GP9 and GP10 in previous years.

What Works In WSBK Won't Work In MotoGP

But if the L configuration is the problem, how come it works in World Superbikes? Ducati has dominated the WSBK championship over the years, and Carlos Checa is well on his way to wrapping up another title for Ducati aboard the 1198R, fitted with a 90° L-twin engine. So how can a design that is ripping up WSBK suddenly be such a disadvantage in MotoGP?

The answer to that question is to be found in the underlying cause of the MotoGP machine's problems: the tires. The World Superbike series use Pirellis as the spec tire, and the Pirellis are a completely different beast. The construction of the Pirellis is much less stiff, making generating heat in the tires a much simpler task. With a front that sticks and provides feedback, the 1198 responds perfectly, and the L twin engine is much kinder to the rear tire than the four cylinders, allowing Ducati's WSBK machine to be competitive.

The Bridgestones, on the other hand, have an incredibly stiff carcass, built to handle the stresses created by Grand Prix machinery, from the powerful engines, stiff chassis and carbon brakes. Once the tires are up to temperature, they offer astounding levels of grip and feedback, allowing unbelievable performance. Outside of their optimal temperature range, they are much less forgiving, giving little feedback and making the amount of grip available difficult to judge. The L4 being used by Ducati is a prime candidate for the Desmosedici's inability to get the front Bridgestone tires up to temperature.

The irony is that Ducati's early adoption of the Bridgestone tires created a highly-productive collaboration between the two parties. With a lot of input into the development direction, Bridgestone created tires that worked well with the Desmosedici. But as other teams and factories started to switch to the Bridgestones, Ducati's influence became less important, and once the spec tire was introduced, the input from Ducati became just one of the many data sources that Bridgestone used to develop the tires. With data from three Japanese factories using a conventional aluminium chassis and an engine sitting taller and further forward in the frame than the Ducati, the Desmosedici's unconventional design has become less suited to the Bridgestones.

This also underlines exactly how important tires have become since the introduction of the single tire rule. By limiting the design and construction of the available tires to just two compounds (soon to be three compounds, but still), the room to modify the behavior of the bikes using the tires has completely disappeared. Right now, the key to building a competitive MotoGP machine is to understand the characteristics of the spec Bridgestone tires, and designing a motorcycle to suit them, exploiting their strengths and circumventing their weakness. This is a process that Yamaha and Honda appear to have adapted to much more quickly than Ducati has.

What About The GP12?

When Filippo Preziosi suggested to Valentino Rossi that he could modify the GP12 to make it legal under this year's rules, Rossi jumped at the chance. When testing the GP12, Rossi felt the bike responded much better, and he had fewer problems with the front than he had with the 800. However, once the GP11.1 (the GP12 destroked and made legal for 2011) was introduced at Assen, the old problems returned, Rossi still left complaining of a lack of feel in the front end.

How can this be? How can two identical bikes, identical except for the length of the connecting rods, the position of the crank pins and the swept volume of the engines, behave so differently? The answer lies in the different ways in which the 800 and the 1000 (or whatever capacity the GP12 happens to be) need to be ridden. The 800cc MotoGP machines all need to carry as much corner speed as possible, which means the bike is spending a lot of time at or near maximum lean. This is exactly the point where feedback from the front end is crucial, the ability to feel what the front tire is doing. The GP12, both Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden have said, can be ridden using the torque more; corner entry is less crucial, and the available torque gives the rider more options coming out of the corner. The bike is spending less time on its ear, in that critical zone where front end feel is so crucial.

If the good news is that the 1000 will be spending less time in its weakest area, the bad news is that the problem is still there. The GP12 suffers from a lack of front end feel as much as the GP11 or GP11.1, it's just that it will be easier to ride around it. The new chassis, the bigger engine, will not magically cure the Ducati's ills. The GP12 may not suffer as badly as the GP11, but it will still have problems contending with the Honda and the Yamaha.

Fixing The Ducati

While the whole world and their cousin-in-law concentrate on the Ducati's use of carbon fiber and their minimalistic subframe which functions as a chassis, the problem may lie elsewhere. If the rumors are true, an aluminium twin spar frame could soon be on its way to the Ducati garage, possibly as early as Brno. All of Bologna, all of Tavullia, all of the Valentino Rossi - and indeed, Nicky Hayden - fans around the world will be praying that this is the solution, and Rossi can start to compete once again. If it doesn't, then Ducati is in an even bigger hole than they are now.

From all that I have learned in speaking to engineers - or rather, listening, and then shamelessly stealing their ideas, for which they have my eternal gratitude - Ducati's problems are not fundamentally down to their minimalistic chassis design, and probably only partially due to their use of carbon fiber.

The concept of combining the two - a small subframe made of carbon fiber, tuned to provided optimum flex - is basically sound, though it clearly has a few problems. The biggest being the feedback provided by carbon fiber, is fundamentally and confusingly different from that provided by an aluminium twin spar design. If riders can learn to understand the information being returned from the carbon fiber chassis, and the engineers can design the CF to produce the desired feedback, then this avenue could provide options well worth exploring. It may also offer Ducati's best hope of competing, as any move to use a twin spar chassis leaves them short of the twenty-odd years of experience the Japanese manufacturers already have.

The much bigger problem, in my view, is the layout of the engine. It is physically large, the 90° L4 layout making the engine long, and placing the cylinder banks in awkward locations when packaging a racing motorcycle. The size and shape of the engine make compromises on layout inevitable, and precisely these compromises are what are preventing the Ducati from generating the necessary load in the ultra-stiff front Bridgestone tire, and leaving the front end of the bike feeling vague. With no confidence in the front end, neither Valentino Rossi nor Nicky Hayden - nor indeed any of the satellite Ducati riders - can push the bike to the extent needed to be competitive.

Abandoning the L would be the biggest step Ducati could make towards becoming competitive again. It would open up avenues which the current layout makes it impossible to explore. The weight distribution would be much more flexible, giving Rossi, Burgess and co. more options to explore. A more compact V or even an inline 4 layout could turn around Ducati's prospects.

Rossi vs. Ducati

Of course, this means abandoning forty years of history, and a layout which has become part of the Ducati legend. If it were to fail, Ducati would have lost both its reputation as a manufacturer of fast motorcycles, and sacrificed a key part of its iconic brand identity. If it succeeds, the question is whether the Ducatisti will feel that sacrificing their heritage is worth the return in competitiveness.

It all boils down to two simple questions. Is Valentino Rossi's failure on the Ducati more harmful to Rossi or to Ducati? And would changing Ducati's design philosophy - potentially abandoning the iconic L configuration - hurt Ducati's long-term prospects more than allowing Rossi to continue failing, and risk losing him to another manufacturer?

To my mind, there is no debate. Ducati's exclusivity is built to a large extent on sporting success. Failure in MotoGP is simply not an option, the worst of all possible worlds. If Ducati is to exploit the strength of their own brand - and especially the selling power of Valentino Rossi - they need Rossi to be winning, or at least on the podium week in and week out. The MotoGP bikes are seen as so far removed from Ducati's street machines that the engine configuration - or for that matter, the chassis layout - is irrelevant. Using an L twin may be a big deal for Ducati's World Superbike effort, as there they are racing the machines that they are trying to sell. But exactly how many degrees apart the Desmosedici GP11's cylinders are has no bearing on the purchasing decisions of prospective Ducati customers. Having Rossi be successful is. If Rossi fails, Ducati fails, leaving them either to find another rider who can ride around the Desmosedici's problems, or pull out of MotoGP altogether and focus on World Superbikes.

That final scenario is all too realistic. Ducati has survived in MotoGP thanks to the generosity of Marlboro's parent company Phillip Morris. Hiring Valentino Rossi is exactly the kind of high-profile coup that the tobacco giant loves. Having him fail miserably is exactly the kind of thing that Phillip Morris hates. If Marlboro believes the Ducati project is fundamentally flawed and that Ducati Corse is unwilling or unable to fix it, they will be gone, off to find another avenue for the promotion of their brand. With Yamaha without a title sponsor, and a long history with the Marlboro brand, Phillip Morris should have no trouble in finding another partner in MotoGP.

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There's only one way to do such an analysis and that's in-depth. Quite a tome to get through but very well thought out, researched and delivered.

Cheers for that Dave.

Great read, congratulations on another excellent in-depth analysis piece.

One (rather basic) question, couldn't they design a (competitive) CF frame without using the engine as a stressed member? Having that very rigid block integrated into the frame seems whack to me, but I'm sure someone could thoroughly school me on why I'm wrong.

I really don't see the big deal in dropping the L engine for Ducati in marketing terms but then again the brand has never held much appeal to me (although I'll say the 1098 is one of the most amazing motorcycles I have ever ridden).

"If Rossi fails, Ducati fails, leaving them either to find another rider who can ride around the Desmosedici's problems, or pull out of MotoGP altogether and focus on World Superbikes." This is almost exactly what I have written on other posts. With few exceptions, only aliens win or podium in races. Rossi is not going to win on the Ducati in a dry race, ever. Although certainly still an alien, he will not ride the Ducati with the win it or bin it attitude that Casey was willing to. Neither would or will any other rider. Forget about Jorge, Casey, or Dani switching to Ducati. Ducati is doomed to mid pack placings. I thought that maybe Simoncelli was eager enough to have some sort of success with the Ducati, but he cannot seem to keep even a Honda on two wheels. Ducati belongs in World Superbike, winning and selling street bikes. The downside to all this would be that we could eventually end up with a two manufacturer series, assuming that Suzuki finally gives up their one bike team. Moto GP desperately needs diversity in order to retain it's fan base. Not only do we need Ducati and Suzuki to stay, it would be great to see Kawasaki return. But how long, in this economic climate, can we expect Ducati and Suzuki to continue in this grossly expensive sport? World Superbike is much more affordable and features closer racing on bikes that their fans can purchase.

Thanks for the Ducati 101 course. You have valid points that where Ducati had no experience with beam frames I believe they lose out if they do not try. They have six riders this year who are really going nowhere on the current design. One of the biggest drawbacks for Ducati has been the limited testing rules, so as embarrassing as it may be, some public testing with new frames in the races may be in order as to be ready for 2012.

Thank you for the insightful read! A lot to chew on.

Two things spring to mind: One is that while the amount of flex and characteristics of CF vs aluminum get a lot of discussion, I wonder about the geometric repercussions of Ducati's stressed-airbox design. I'm sure Ducati has considered and analyzed it in depth, but I haven't heard much discussion of the geometry of the overall deformation of a twin-spar frame vs the short connector. It seems like the relative amounts of bending vs. twisting might be quite different, and there's probably a lot more I'm not thinking of. What path does the front contact patch take relative to the rest of the bike when the chassis deforms?

The other thought this raises for me is the idea that if you're correct and that the engine layout is fundamentally problematic for a modern MotoGP bike (and that winning in MotoGP without using an L-engine wouldn't badly break the cachet of their bikes), then starting out an alternative layout in MotoGP could be the path to being able to roll out another engine layout to their production and SBK bikes with pre-established pedigree. Unless they feel that outside of MotoGP the L2 can be competitive indefinitely, they must be contemplating how to ease it into the sunset eventually.

A lot of thought and research went into that article. Much appreciated David.As a Ducatista of near 40 years I have come to live with the bane and boon of the L configuration, which you correctly point out is the big anomally within a GP chassis viz a viz Ducati.Truth be told, should Ducati go to a narrow angle V and twinspar alloy chassis, I will mothball my Ducati's. Because anything other than L configurated Desmo wrapped in steel trellis is not a Ducati in my book.Back to the engine.The Desmo valve gear is a huge point of strength which always negated some of the valve spring multi's advantages decades long.It's a prototype class, so pneumatic valve gear gained HRC and Yamaha leeway post 2007. I never did hear of a pneumatic Fireblade or R1.Nevertheless,love 'em or hate 'em, any particular racer on the day generally determines the outcome of any race by adapting to the tools at his disposal.Ducati GP, is and was Casey Stoner.In anticipation of the weekend, just reran Brno 2010.Not a slugfest of a race, but an eye opener in terms of glory days at Borgo Pannigale past.

Brilliant analysis David. You argued it so well that I wonder whether Burgess and Rossi were sold on it.As MotoGP bikes are meant to be prototypes and given that Ducati's GP machines have all had 4 cylinders and now use carbon fibre I can see no problem for the Ducatistis(?) with Ducati going to a narrow angle V.As Duacti have so many riders they could try all 3 options (narrow V, Beam frame, Tubular frame).

Good read. interesting points. must have taken quite a bit of research to lead to your conclusions.A great job. and another example of why this site stands alone in its quality.

In reply to Very thought provoking by proc


if that gets us more of these thorough analyses :-) (Just kidding, I enjoy reading your feed, it's a very efficient way to know what's going on in GP land and what the pundits are talking about at the moment)

I strongly believe that Ducati has NO chance to compete with Yamaha and Honda using the kind of frame the Japanese have been developing for 30 years.They need to find original/alternate solutions because they can't beat Honda and Yamaha using the same kind of technology (I guess Suzuki and Kawasaki agree).

This was the main reason for them to work with Bridgestone, underdog of the time compared to the mighty Michelin who racked all the previous titles for years. And this is the very philosophy that brought them their first and unique world title in GP.

As you point out, most people explain the "at-the-time-so-called" lack of competitiveness from Stoner in 09 and 10 (4th in the championship doesn't look that bad nowadays) by the introduction of the CF design. However it coincides with Bridgestone being handed the role of MotoGP exclusive tire supplier, and to me this has caused much more harm to Ducati than anything elsa (except for Stoner leaving obviously). They used to develop tires especially for Ducati but now they have to develop tires that should suit all the bikes, necessarily the bike being much more different from the rest of the pack is suffering from it...

Ducati's reputation was built in WSBK. In the 62 years of GP racing Ducati only has the 2007 title won by Casey in any class - so their "title winning" reputation was not built in GPs but TT racing and WSBK. Current day MotoGP is basically the playground of Honda and Yamaha. Ducati can only hope to be the 3rd best manufacture in the class and hope they can pull a Suzuki and win a title (or 2 if they are lucky) every decade. They will never be on equal footing as Honda or Yamaha.

And no one should think less of Rossi. I don't think less of Melandri for finishing almost last on the Ducati nor do I think less of Hayden. Every rider doesn't have the same style so if someone can't win on the Ducati like Stoner less shouldn't be thought of that rider. Maybe more should be thought of Stoner but definitely not less of a rider that has had success like Rossi. He is only 1 year removed from winning races.

But what the lack of success the Rossi/Ducati does is knock down some of the far fetched hero worship by Rossi-philes who thought he walked on water to realistic levels and makes Ducati realize their bike isn't as good as they thought. Rossi is a rider and not a designer or engineer - he can't turn a bike into a winner by himself like they thought. This is not a knock on Rossi because it was not him that put the unrealistic expectations of being a rider, designer, and engineer upon himself. It brings into the prospective that a rider is only as good as the bike he is on. With the level of competition so high in this age a rider won't be able to challenge with a bike not up to the levels of his competition. And Ducati has always thought their bike as one of the best. They caught lightning in a bottle in 2007 but haven't paid much attention to what the riders have been telling them over the years and now it has caught up with them.

In reply to Rossi's or Ducati's reputaion should not be affected by RDawg

The problem as far as Rossi's reputation is concerned is that Rossi's input into the 2004 Yamaha is one of those mythical things that is greatly overrated. So when a lot of people expected that Rossi would wave his magic wand over the 2011 Ducati and turn it into a championship winner their expectation was based on a false premise. Rossi himself has recently publicly stated that he is just the rider, not the engineer. Clearly, accurate feedback from the rider is important to give the engineers direction for their efforts, and Rossi is reportedly very good at that. But as Rossi said, it is Ducati's engineers who must fix the problem, just as it was Yamaha engineers, and not Rossi or Burgess, who designed the winning bike in 2004.

As for Rossi winning next year, don't bet on it. The 1000 cc Ducati, depite extensive testing, was slower at Mugello than the 800 cc Honda, as admitted by Hayden. On the other hand, the 1000 cc Honda that Stoner tested at Catalunya was reportedly two seconds a lap faster than the 800 cc Honda. If true, that doesn't look good for the chances of the 1000 cc Ducati winning anything next year.

In reply to The problem as far as Rossi's by motogpmd

so said Rossi last year when doing an interview going over his history with Yamaha. He put the lack of championships at Yamaha not having good riders, saying the bike was good when they arrived. So even in this case Rossi and his crew didn't take credit for making the Yamaha what it became under him.

In reply to the yamaha was already good... by mikhailway

While I absolutely agree on the point made above, and knowing the Superbike has little to do with the GP bike, still, winning the SBK championship must do Checa extra good.

Given the subject title I was expecting a lot of hot air, some of it possibly being blown up a certain riders arse. Instead we got a thorough review of the pro's and con's of the mighty CF Desmosedici's. Bravo David.

And not a bent pipe in sight.

Absolutely great read David!!!! I'm glad you did all the research so now all we have to do is read and comment!! LOL!

That's some thorough investigation.I agree that Ducati should look at their engine configuration. If they switch to a narrower V-four (like Aprilia) it will still be a V (even if it's already a four!?) and it won't hurt their heritage.Still, there is one question unanswered: how did Stoner win races on the bike? Sheer aggression? Is Rossi indeed not willing to risk crashing?

In reply to Great piece, one question remains. by Lo

Again, Stoner wasn't and isn't riding a Duck in 2011. Honda made a big step forward, Yamaha did also to a lesser extent. With the gains in performance Honda and Yamaha have made....I just don't think Stoner would be doing much better, if any, aboard the GP11 this year. And winning some races but going in the litter many times a season is not going to win a championship. It gets tiresome reading that statement over and over and over again.

Go look at Hayden's finishing times 2010 vs. 2011. His distance to the leader of the race has doubled at many of the circuits this year. He is the constant. He is no Stoner but that data is the best we have to judge the performance of the Duck from last year until this year. The problem is the bike.

In reply to Again, Stoner wasn't and by BrickTop

According to Dovizioso and Stoner the Honda hasn't changed much between 2010 and 2011 (probably meaning the late 2010). Remember that Pedrosa was on the move in the 2nd half of 2010. And in excactly that 2nd half Stoner got his victories with the GP10.From that perspective the "Honda made a big step from 2010 to 2011" doesn't really fly. Further we have seen some races this year where the overal race time of the winner was slower than 2010 on the same circuit.Yes, Stoner crashed a lot at the start of 2010 but he got quite solid in the 2nd half, especially after Aragon where they seemed to have found a solution against the front end problems.

In reply to Again, Stoner wasn't and by BrickTop

In the first part of the 2011 season, Hayden was being a testing mule. He wasn't riding the same bike as Rossi since the Valcencia preseason test, when he got the softer front frame refused by Rossi (who was looking to get a better setup on the version most closer to Stoner's). It's all in Guareschi's declarations, right here on this site.

While I read all of the analyzes above, I can't see how anyone can say it's not the riders at fault.The development direction chosen by Rossi's team is wrong. Rossi used to match the same total race time as Stoner, in the beginning of the season. Now both him and Hayden are far behind the total race times from last year. It shows the trend, they are losing the advantages (that made this bike brilliant under Stoner) leveling the disadvantages...

In reply to testing mule by dosed

Davids piece clearly demonstrates that it is the riders at fault to some degree. The inherent design flaws that he points to as the reason for Rossi's lack of performance have been there since 2009. If the bike design was totally at fault, no one would have been able to win on it.

He says that he doesn't want to discuss Stoner v Rossi on the Ducati despite bringing it up in the first paragraph of the article. However, once Stoners performances are dropped, Rossi would seem to be one of the better if not the best performer on the Ducati. Given that David has since stated he is not interested in the Stoner vs Rossi analysis (ie the article drops Stoner's results when considering how uncompetitive the Ducati is) one must wonder why all the hand wringing and get out of jail free card for Rossi (it's all the bike - the rider means nothing) since he is the best performed rider on the Ducati in David's data set. Surely on this limited data set, one should be giving him props for being the best of those who have ridden the Ducati. If it is a complete lump of poo, then his results this year are completely understandable and congratulations should be given for how well is is doing on such a bad bike (ignoring Stoners results per Davids methodology).

In reply to Great piece, one question remains. by Lo

Stoner's technique and skills on the Ducati were extra-ordinary ..

Mat Oxley spoke to Jeremy Burgess and wrote an article [Roadracing World] discussing Stoner's approach.

Casey would use his sublime throttle control and skills to spin up the rear through thecorner, then at the apropos time, allow the rear to "catch" producing a near-side to lift the bike and then accelerate out of the corner. It was less "win it or bin it" aggro approach [e.g. the stereotypical Super Sic] more of developing and using a high risk technique.

Burgess and Rossi indicated that this technique was not one that Rossi wouldbe able to replicate - it was just too dangerous. Stoner had 4 years of experienceon the Ducati 800cc machine.

Rossi has had the oppo, 5 years experience on non-Ducati 800cc - and as elucidated,the Ducati is less like Home in Kansas, and more like the land of Oz. Unfortunately,there is no simple way for Rossi & Burgess to tap the ruby red slippers together andget back Home to a bike that reacts like a Yamaha to front end inputs.

Thank you David for the great article, I'm sure it will be the cause of hundreds of hours of discussion; point and counter point!! ;-)

In reply to Stoner's technique - almost high side (!) to turn the Duc by notfamousyet

A lot of riders used to do it but it became difficult with the high degree of computer control over the 800cc engines, I guess it could be compared to something like having two control systems each trying to keep a system on the edge, they are constantly correcting the other system's corrections. Makes sense since Stoner likes minimal TC settings so his throttle corrections were dominant. Stoner was able to do it on the Duc and still does it on the Honda. That 1000fps footage showed Stoner doing it and Dovi not. Everyone though Nicky would be able to do it because of his similar flattrack background but I guess not. He even said Stoner's throttle control is amazing. No TC bs, no playstation generation BS, one WC was honestly amazed at another competitor's skill and only Hayden would say it outright.

I tend to think any comments made by JB on the current situation are heavily biased. Stoner rode the bike for 4 years and did crash a lot but the only real missed races were due to undiagnosed lactose intolerance. I would attribute a lot of the crashes to Stoner's development as a racer. Knowing when to back off is important and it seems that backing off on the Ducati is fraught with cold tire danger. He seems to have gotten mentally stronger with the move to Honda and either has learned to race a lot more intelligently or the Honda is allowing him to race at something other than 110% and exercise restraint. JB's calling the technique that he apparently is still using 'high-risk' without a trail of injuries to back it up is a bit empty or maybe more accurately sour grapes. Yes Stoner on the Ducati crashed a lot but he was still at the pointy end whenever he did. So far in 2011 no Duc has not turned a fast dry time in any session, let alone a race and the only time Stoner crashed was when he was taken out by the GP11's front end! I think the proof is in the results and Stoner's technique is his pass to alienhood and possible domination once he gets settled in on the RCV.

I'd think at this point Rossi would take whatever risk was out there to turn a fast time. Nicky said he looks completely on the edge and nearly falling off the bike. He is definitely trying. It's not that Rossi does not want to risk himself using Stoner's technique, it's that he can't.

Ducati built a bike to be ridden one way. They've not been shy about stating that fact and when Stoner won he was riding it as it should be. As an engineer I think a bike that is that hard to ride is not the way to go, but does Ducati have another choice? They don't have the scale of Honda and Yamaha's engineering capability so have to go for the high odds game. After seeing consistent proof that their bike was capable of winning in the right hands and going though almost every other top name rider they felt in Rossi that they were getting someone that could and has quickly and effectively adapted to anything: 125, 250, 500, 990, 800. Moving to a bike that was a proven winner if temperamental should not have been an issue. A tweak of the bike and a tweak of his style and boom, back at the front. What happened is anyone's guess. If anyone should feel short changed in this exchange it should be Ducati, they were buying the GOAT but now feel like one.

As far as Ducati's design 'shortcomings' go, as long as they were able to get tires designed around their bikes' unique needs there was no big problem. Now with spec tires that must be tilted towards an aluminum frame/mass centralized design brief Ducati are out of luck trying to go for a technical solution far outside the mainstream. I wonder if Rossi is powerful enough to instigate a change in tire regulations yet again?


In reply to It's called steering with the rear by thecosman

Except 'Ducati built a bike to be ridden one way'. Is more a case of 'Ducati built a bike that could only be ridden one way'. I don't for a moment believe their design brief incorporated specific riding styles. They like every other manufacturer out there would much prefer a machine that could be ridden by the lesser gods. They haven't been able to produce that machine yet.

As for the tyres. Well they all bitch about them and their heat retention abilities. There have been some doozy highsides already this year, and least not Rossi's at Mugello last year.

The whole Ducati being shit and the tyres not suiting it thing need to be put in the context of being only a poofteenth off the mark on all fronts - equipement wise at least anyway, Stoner had proven this point 2010, and they've not going any quicker 2011. Some think a Ducati specific tyre, a narrower vee and an Aluminium beam frame would all miraculously come together overnight in the ultimate GP machine. Dream on.....

Stick to your guns Preziosi. The L vee and CF chassis can work.

In reply to Great piece, one question remains. by Lo

What exactly gets tiresome to read over and over again?The Duc Rossi rode untill Assen was, as David stated, pretty much the same bike Stoner rode last year. So wondering how he won three out of the last six races last year seems like a viable question?

In reply to Hey BrickTop, by Lo

If it's the same bike then explain this:

Here is the data for Hayden, comparing last year to this year..

Qatar 2010 4th, + 1.8Qatar 2011 9th, + 27

Jerez 2010 4th, +9Jerez 2011 3rd, +29

Estoril 2010 5th, +27Estoril 2011, 9th, +54

LeMans 2010 4th, +9Lemans 2011 7th, +35

Catalunya 2010 8th, +27Catalunya 2011, 8th, +33

Silverstone 2010 4th, +7.3Silverstone 2011 4th, +26

Assen 2010 7th, +25Assen 2011 5th, +43

Mugello 2010 DNFMugello 2011 10th, +34

Sachsenring 2010 restartSachsenring 2011 8th, +27.5

Laguna Seca 2010, 5th +14Laguna Seca 2011, 7th. +31

Going by the race data looks like the gap to the front severely increased from 2010 to 2011.

In reply to If it's the same bike then by BrickTop


Your simple analysis to demonstrate that the GP11(.1) must be significantly different and worse than the GP 10 might be interesting if it wasn't for the small fact that most of this years races have been either cold or wet or both compared to the very hot, dry condition lasts year. You are assuming that Hayden's gap to the front should be the same for both wet and dry race conditions. This is a huge assumption for which I doubt you have any evidence at all.

Whilst it is admirable to bring some form of statistical analysis to the debate, however crude it is, and it is sound practice to use hayden as his own control variable, any such analysis must take into account any other variables that can affect race times (for example the weather). In addition, the sample size you use is far too small to reach a conclusion with any degree of confidence.

In reply to Variables at play by Disco_biscuit

Well then I would say that all of the riders were riding in the same conditions. The gap to the front severely increased despite any weather. At some circuits the gap to the front went double, triple or quadruple compared to last year. Very pertinent data and something that Hayden has mentioned in interviews this year. Out of all the bickering back and forth on here I find these "statistics" more relevant than anyone's "opinion." Numbers don't L1e. But hey don't let me throw a wrench in the Rossi piss up.

In reply to Well then I would say that by BrickTop

The gap at the front could have increased this year because Stoner is the best wet weather rider in the field (specifically Stoner is a better wet weather rider than Hayden) and he has won most of the races. It could be argued with the cold wet conditions at the beginning of the season increased his advantage over the other riders and helped with the early run of wins, therefore increasing the time gap between Stoner and Hayden. That also fits the fact pattern that you present, since you ignore anything other than race times.

In light of Davids exhaustive analysis above that clearly indicates that the likely design issues affecting the Ducati's ability to remain competitive are have not changed between the GP 10 and GP 11, can you please enlighten me as to what the differences are that support your contention that the GP 11 is so much worse than the GP 10?

Just because you find your extremely simplistic listing of the race times convincing doesn't mean there is any statistical basis to your conclusions. Taking into account all factors that can affect an outcome is standard scientific practice.You may not like it because it does not confirm your pre-existing opinion, however, this does not make it make it any less relevant or something that should not be applied to this situation.

Anyway, there is no point continuing this with you, as you are fixed in your point of view and are unable to rationally discuss the significant issues with the evidence that you claim proves the GP 11 is vastly inferior and different than the GP 10. Instead, you become defensive and claim it is just a malicious attack on Rossi.

In reply to If it's the same bike then by BrickTop

an example of Rossi's " development " skills...............................

In reply to If it's the same bike then by BrickTop

Reason why the gap increased from 2010 to 2011:1. Yamaha and Honda moved forward. Ducati didn't.2. The 2011 top rider was held back by Ducati in 2010.Very simple.

In reply to If it's the same bike then by BrickTop

Hayden maybe benefited from Stoner's performance / setups. The fact that Rossi is struggeling might push him the other way (even apart from motivation that, even for a hard worker like Hayden, might start to play a role by now). Just a thought.

In reply to If it's the same bike then by BrickTop

Compare Hayden's race time and best lap in race (and qualifying time) between 2010 and 2011.Then ponder the differences with the race time of both years (if the race is slower due to the weather, then you expect Hayden to be slower).This way you take Honda and Yamaha alleged progress and weather out of the equation.

This will tell you that indeed Hayden is slower in 2011, but not by much.

One can explain this result by a development direction from the GP10 to the GP11 (slight adjustments to front end parts for softer feel and most of all new electronics for a less aggressive engine) which does not suit Hayden.

Still, Nicky is by far the best teammate Stoner ever had, and could well be best Ducati rider this year, especially considering that the very first time he tried the GP11.1 he was as fast (actually marginally faster) as Rossi who had 3 race weekends on it already.

I agree with the comments that Ducati needs to stick with a L twin. What I don't understand is why don't they simply repackage the entire engine/transmission by rotating the L forwards so it looks like a < from the side. This arrangement worked fine for the Yamaha 2-strokes, as well as Honda and Suzuki for years. Then they can have the space they need behind the engine, shorten the package by stacking the transmission the way Yamaha started on the R1/M1, and run a carbon fibre twin spar chassis so they can get the tuned chassis flex (not engine flex).

Very interesting the stats on the effects of welding variables on the trellis frames. Certainly makes the CF chassis that much more desirable, they just need to isolate the issues: by removing the engine as a variable. Certainly in this era of the number of engines allowed being limited, to have your engine acting a major chassis component really restricts your options.

In reply to L neeeds to become a < by Matt Warburton

Because on a 4 stroke, you end up with oil pooling in the back of the partially upside-down piston... and you need a scavenge pump to get it back from the rocker gear... and since a 4-stroke needs the intakes to feed into the head rather than the crankcase, the front wheel is where you want to put the intake system.

When VR46 went both to Yamaha and Ducati the dangers were the same: if they would win it would be Rossi, losing would be Yamaha's/Ducati's fault. So, now when things go wrong it's the Ducati.One thing I missed in your thesis: I would dare to think Rossi is still the great rider he was but has lost being the great solver of problems he used to be. He might still have won races on the M1 for a long time, only having to fine tune the bike they created a few years ago. Maybe being comfortable at Yamaha he lost the ability to "build" a winning bike?

A great read and, as always, a welcome abscence of smack-talking. I think the point about just considering a change in the L format makes a lot of sense. If Ducati are so iconoclastic, it shouldn't be such a drastic proposition.

On another level, that was a gem of a comment frenchie. The tyre war.It is not strange by any means that any rule regarding anything in MotoGP revolves around #46. Mind you, the clout he had is turning downwards like the New York stock exchange right now.Nevernind. He wanted Stoner's tyres even when Michelin topped out the podiums in 2007. He got them. He won 2008 on a vastly superior bike.Well, he's got what he wanted for 2011, hook,line and STINKER. Now, we have to analyse the composition of the stuff he can't smoke which Stoner did ie: D16-L4. Suppo and Tardozzi have to be laughing. Marlboro... well, Stoner don't smoke, but they have to be wondering about how he smoked a trellis L-4 on a shoestring budget. Those good old days won't be revisited 1000cc with ageing Aces either.Back to topic. Ducati should come to grips with the fact that within their racing history, horses for courses applies. When they 'pop up' hang onto them.Or,as Rossi once proclaimed to HRC... It's the rider, not the bike.

In reply to Another Gem by PIT BULL

You just have to laugh.

Rossi wanted Bridgestones because they were what it would take to regain the championship. Judging by his results he was right.

And a vastly superior bike? I don't think so. A much improved bike compared to 2007, yes, mostly due to electronics. That was the key for Ducati in 2007, they had a vastly superior electronic package that caught the Japanese with their pants around their ankles.

Rossi is Rossi. You might not like his personality away from the track but he is deserving of the credit he gets. He has been successful on everything he's raced in his entire career, until now. His results and statistics prove this. Like David said, he didn't win Sepang, still injured, only to gfa over the winter.

If you are dominant, that dominant in your sport, IE Michael Jordan, you will get the calls so to speak. It's just the nature of the world. Hate the game not the player.

All the pot shotting reminds me of some children who have been waiting around for years to finally get one in. Sad to see.

In reply to You just have to laugh.Rossi by BrickTop

The Yamaha that Rossi rode to victory in 2008/09 was said by Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson to be "probably the best Grand Prix bike ever built". That's what I'd call a significant advantage.

The key for the 2007 Ducati was more power and Bridgestone tires. But the most important ingredient that Ducati had was the rider. Without Stoner Ducati would have been a mid field runner throughout the 800 era. This is simply factual and undeniable.

Rossi is a great rider but he has his limitations. He is not unbeatable, or the the best at everything, despite what some of his fans seem to believe. When it comes to riding a Ducati there is one rider who is unequivocally better than Rossi.

This article seems to be implying that Ducati's problem is only the bike. But Stoner proved that the bike has speed when the rider has the skills to find that speed. The problem is, as Capirossi has said, that Stoner's technique on the Ducati is impossible for any other rider to duplicate. Rossi has in effect conceded the same.

Stoner has copped years of rubbishing from Rossi fans in particular. It has hardly surprising then that some Stoner fans are taking the opportunity to hit back at Rossi and his fans. In any case it is good to see that Stoner's astonishing achievements on the Ducati, especially in 2007, are getting recognition long overdue and richly deserved.

so in very similar conditions at Laguna Seca from 2010 to 2011 Hayden was 14 seconds slower (Lorenzo 2 secs slower, Stoner 5 secs quicker) - and all using.....and I quote from above "The biggest changes have been in the field of electronics, Rossi and his crew helping to provide a much more user-friendly engine response package, introduced after Estoril." sounds like a bit of a sop (and perhaps not really deserved) to poor old JB and his crew since the 80 second flop. I mean Hayden's results - or more pertinently regression - has in many ways been more of a surprise than Rossi's failure. I would really love to hear a straight take from him as to why he feels this is.

I agree with Matt Wharburton above. Whilst the 90 degree engine is somewhat of a compromise in its size there must be design possibilities that minimise this in terms of its packaging, after all there is no design that remains devoid of compromise. I don't see Preziosi messing with this one.

As to the possibility of Ducati building an Ali beam frame. Again why would they? Like Matt I believe there's the possibility they might pull a Cagiva and try a CF beam frame to appease their rider and provide the mid flex discussed in David's essay. Yes they could build in aloominum (American pronunciation of this word always amuses me), and whilst I take Japan Inc's 30 yrs experience in the material (is there really any RS500 or OW69 technology in an RCV or M1 chassis?) with a grain of salt, Ducati would be highly unlikely to hit the nail on the head straight up in aluminium - and much more likely to go backwards in comparison to the GP11 or GP11.9 currently run. Look how many chassis' the might of HRC have thrown at the RCV212 800's down the years before getting it right 2010.

I admire Ducati for what they do. It's different (90 degree desmo, steel lattice & CF chassis), it hasn't always hit the mark, but it's not a million miles away. And again they are merely 3 years into the CF experiment and two of those years were standing still developmentally. I would prefer they stay their course and ride out the storm. But of course commercial and rider imperatives / pressure may sway Preziosi on a different tack. That would be a shame.

If my old Grandads Axes all had new CF handles put in them to compliment their new heads would they be the same axes?

We know the GP is a proven race winner. The bike could certainly use some improvement, but if the riders can't put it on the box with regularity, the problem is between the ears. No slight to Rossi or Hayden, they are simply accustomed to a completely different design with very different development criteria.

If Ducati have a weird bike with no flex, why do they hire veteran riders who have spent their entire careers developing Japanese MotoGP equipment?

Going into the 2007 season, Ducati were adamant that fielding two veteran riders was holding the company back. They ended up hiring a 21-year-old crasher for 2007, and they won a world title. Obviously, a lot has changed since 2007, but Ducati have been lulled back into their marketing stupor. They have two high-profile veteran riders whose development skills are not as compatible with Ducati's designs as originally hoped. Ducati need to develop new talent. Moto2 kids are no longer signed to manufacturers so they should be testing those kids 24/7. Imo, the Moto2 sponsors would love it.

The problem, as David points out, is Phillip Morris. If Ducati continue to placate Phillip Morris do they move closer to or farther from their ambitions?

Your analysis was truly insightful. But even with the Exhaustive Analysis it will be the Infinite Debate. Your research and depth on the subject is why I keep coming back here to read more. As a Ducati Fan and past Owner, it hurts the heart to see them struggle so hard. But I cannot put all the blame on them. If the bike is only a certain level, then the rider must figure out ways around the issue. And currently. Rossi is struggling to stay ahead of Nicky. Not knocking Nicky, but even he has admitted to Rossi being more than able to leave him in the past.

Alright, lost myself for a second. Just wanted to say great read! Keep them coming!

Excellent article, and one which echoes my thoughts. I sincerely believe that Ducati should continue with CF, as it's the future and they have priceless experience with the material that none of the other manufacturers have. Going to an aluminium twin-spar would be a severely retrograde step, both from a 'heritage' point of view, and from a practical P.o.V; they would be rookies with the layout/material, whereas the Japanese have 25+ years of experience with it.

The major problem with the Desmosedici is (as David so eloquently points out) a combination of a 90 degree V4 engine and Bridgestone tyres. Ducati really need to jettison the 90 degree layout and go to a narrow-angle V4. I believe that an IL4 really would be a step too far, but a narrow-angle V4 wouldn't ruffle too many feathers.

Interestingly, I own both a Ducati 888 SP3 (90 degree L-twin) and an Aprilia Falco (60 degree Rotax V-twin), and it is clear just how much more freedom with engine placement the Aprilia designers had. On a whim I measured the distance between front wheel spindle and crankshaft centre on both bikes. The Aprilia's crankshaft is a whole 2 inches (50mm) closer to the front wheel spindle than the Ducati, and could realistically have been moved even further forward.

By contrast, the front wheel on the Ducati is perilously close to smacking the front cylinder cambox on full bump. It's no coincidence to me that front-end feel on the Aprilia is markedly superior to that on the Ducati. And the Ducati is graced with Ohlins forks, the Aprilia has to make do with Showa.

If a road-riding bum like me can appreciate that difference, just how much of a liability is the 90 degree layout for riders of the calibre of Rossi, Hayden, Melandri, Capirossi, De Puniet etc?

I really hope that Ducati fix the 'real' problem (the 90 degree V) and don't go chasing down blind alleys building an aluminium beam frame. That would be a sickening and pointless waste of resources for an already over-stretched company.

In reply to Excellent article by mangocrazy

re: "and it is clear just how much more freedom with engine placement the Aprilia designers had."

but at what expense to vibration, exhaust flow, max throttle body size, and airbox volume...?

In reply to NO FREE LUNCH by normgshamarone

Vibration will always be less on a 90 degree V than a narrow angle V, but that's why balance shafts were invented. Ask Honda (72 deg) and Suzuki and Aprilia WSBK (65 deg).

Exhaust flow - no difference.

Max throttle body size - no difference. In fact the space between Ducati's 90 degree cylinders is largely wasted, unlike on the narrow angle Vs.

Airbox volume - better on a narrow angle V, as you have more freedom with component placement.

Anything else?

In reply to No free lunch, but a better menu... by mangocrazy

re: "Anything else?"

yup, as indicated above that balance shaft consumes power to run. it's an absorber. however, don't assume gp bikes use a balance shaft. other than twin cam B's, harleys don't and neither did first gen MV agustas. gp cases are built to a different standard. yamaha's for example aren't cast but machined from billet. back during the original aprilia effort in wsbk (corser and goddard), whitveen used to pull the balancers on the homologated cosworth/rotax V60's to free up horsepower. the unfortunate by-product was serious reduction in case life along with the occasional cracked cases. even with the balancer, the standard issue rotax's when built will literally see the bearings falling out the cases upon dissassembly at 3,000 clicks.

exhaust flow is very much different. in fact restricted. the port shape can be adjusted, but since ultimate angle and directional change is still the same number of degrees total to route UNDER the engine, the first angle immediately exiting the port is that much more acute. it has to be or otherwise all the positioning benefits of narrowing up the V are lost. the front tire can either contact the "head" on a works ducati...? or contact a "header" assuming a split rad on a works aprilia...? the choice is yours.

max throttle body size is also very much restricted. it's why suzuki updated the original 60 degree engine of the XREO to a 65 degree design in the latter GSVR for the very reason that they were limited on throttle body size. it's why aprilia spec'd a wider 65 degree from the off for the V4 as consequence of the lessons they learned with the rotax V60.

re: "Airbox volume - better on a narrow angle V, as you have more freedom with component placement."

that's a neat trick. how can you have better volume/better placement when throttle bodies themselves are OCCUPYING a good portion of said volume...? could it be you've never actually seen a set of aprilia or buell throttle bodies...?

In reply to BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE...! by normgshamarone

Yes, balance shafts cost horsepower to run - I never disputed that. But as you say, a manufacturer decides whether to run a balance shaft or not and whether or not to take the hit on case life. It's not as if Ducati would be the first manufacturer to run a narrow angle V configuration - Honda have been doing it since 2002. What exactly is your point on this?

And since when did bearings fall out of the cases on Rotax V60s after 3k miles? Mine's done a lot more than that without problem, and the Rotax engine is widely regarded as bulletproof. Do you know whereof you speak?

Your comments on exhaust exit angles indicate a lack of knowledge. If, as you say this is such a performance hit, why do Honda, Suzuki and Aprilia all run narrow angle V engines? Do you honestly believe they haven't done their homework?

I have to ask why you are arguing against what is currently accepted best practice in racing motorcycle engine design. The only manufacturer persisting with a 90 degree V in top level racing is Ducati, and that only for historical and marketing reasons. Everyone else either runs an IL4 or a narrow angle V. Case closed, as far as I'm concerned.

And you clearly didn't read my first post when I said I own both a Ducati L90 and an Aprilia V60. I am very conversant with the throttle bodies on both bikes and stand by my comment regarding wasted space on the Ducati L90 layout.

The whole point regarding the L90 vs. narrow angle V is that the L90 takes up much more space and is impossible to package optimally in a racing chassis. You have free space where you don't need it/can't make use of it - in the V between the cylinders. Narrow angle V engines are tightly packaged in that area, but that is regarded as a Good Thing because it frees up valuable space in front and behind the engine.

Now what is there about that you can't understand?

In reply to More heat than light... by mangocrazy

on my 2002 Aprilia Mille with that awesome V60 Rotac twin :-)

And this seems to be at least one part of the problem with the Ducati Desmosedici: the carbon fiber subframe connecting the front forks to the front of the engine may be dampening the vibrations too much, reducing the amount of information traveling from the front tire up into the rider's brain.

The thing is, the handle bars are mounted directly onto the front fork legs. That means there's no carbon along the transmition path from the front tire vibrations to the handle bars and hence, from that perspective, the carbon subframe shouldn't have any effect on changing the "feel".

The advantage of this construction is that it uses the stiffness of the engine casings to be used as an integral part of the chassis, and it allows the chassis to be made much lighter.

That's a good question - when you remove the central part of the twin spar frame it's not like you simply cut it away. The engine casing has to be made much stronger to handle the extra load. So the question is whether there is a weight saving at all.

In reply to damping and weight saving by magic_carpet

Aren't they all built to a 148kg rules limit? Mass centralisation though...

Good point mangocrazy on sticking with a V, but going narrower. Given that it's a V4, the connection to the Ducati road bikes is non-existent, so make it a narrow angle V4 with desmo valve actuation and it meets both marketing, spiritual and performance requirements. In a CF twin spar frame though so they're not locked into the engine usage restrictions which are obviously hampering their development now.

Gonna fess up, Krop? :D

In reply to Gonna fess up, Krop? :D by Drif10

Stealing Jinx' ideas? I thought I did!

nothing wrong with the L layout. every configuration has it's strengths and weaknesses and a desmo 90's strengths will continue to FAAARR outweigh it's weaknesses. suzuki's XREO/GSVR ran a narrow V from it's inception and it's done nothing to improve hammamatu's fortunes in nearly a decade. and if honda's 72 was so inherently righteous...? one could argue it wouldn't have taken them 4 years (@ honda budget levels mind) to sort it into the winner that it has only NOW become in 2011...?

it would seem the argument against it's packaging (the L) appears to assume the twin and the 4 are somehow dimensionally the same...? they are not. since this is bespoke kit targeted at revvability and whats had a given displacement spread over 4 combustion chambers rather than usual 2, the cylinder height is nowhere near what it is/or has to be for the production long stroke twin. the point being they have plenty freedom to locate the engine further forward if they so choose. this is also something that can be seen by even laymen in the readily available pictures of the GP9, GP10, as well as the GP11's. and should they need even MORE weight over the front...? it's nothing they aren't getting "dynamically" in the big/tall body types that are rossi and hayden. this could also be achieved statically with ballast with a greater freedom of placement ta boot. btw, not that compact and furthest forward is all important...? i contend too much has been made of this. one should consider that bikes that go from 0 to the double-ton...? ALSO have to go from the double-ton back to 0. too much forward bias and you risk using up available suspension travel and "nosing" into every turn. there's a such thing as "too much" weight transfer. sure, while it makes for a show on the telly, all it simply means is you're running out of braking force. superbike R1's suffer this condition. while in almost 25 years, "running out of brakes" is something watercooled 4v's have never been accused of.

the problem (to me anyway) first comes not so much in the employ of C/F...? but the use of dual sub-frames and the complexities triggered (as you pointed out) of that design choice. dual subframes are for street going flat twins rolling out of berlin. and they work just fine in that context, but as we've seen, they could carve D16 subframes out of say... "ivory tusk"...? LOL and the problem still exists that you don't have enough flex and need more than a few iterations of fore and aft frames just to sort the engine position on a racing motorbike. aprilia for example would just make the engine "float" inside a rolling chassis and sod the whole argument. i'll bet longtime corse boffins (think m. elders) would appreciate the time savings of having a rolling chassis once again. as you also point out, the steering head should connect to the swingarm pivot to give the longest possible lever arm. oh and don't waste time with an ally twin-spar (blasphemy this), if borgo panigale can't sort the carbon...? they certainly don't overlook the known quantity that could be an L4 in a full trellis.

Once again a great analysis, David. It seems that, while Ducati want to be at the leading edge, the problem is that they have fallen off it.

If they wish to retain the huge funding that they enjoy and the huge FOLLOWING that they enjoy, then a complete re-think of the package is essential. Back to basics and make it work.

There are no other Casey Stoners out there at the moment who can make the GP dance like he could. Accept it and move on.

Thanks for the great read.

As usually gaining knowledge from your article, thoughts and analysis. And as usually knowledge makes more questions (not questioning). So...1. Quotation: "The downside to the trellis frame is that the trellis - a series of joined triangles - limited the amount of space available for the airbox". Question: If it takes less volume of steel than alluminium to make the same rigidity it should leave more space for air box than alluminium beam frames and according to Helmholtz formula it`s about volume not shape. Where lays limitation of trellis for airbox volume?2. Quotation "Carbon... ...its hysteresis meaning that the energy absorbed from an input (such as striking a bump) is released in a much more controlled fashion" - can you post any source of this information, research or so...? Maybe I just don`t understand or just don`t know but energy should be released in the same fashion/progression/hysteresis. For sure there is possibility to make CF element progressive or linear or digressive and different all with different "fashion" but different releasing of energy - I just never found such info or never looked deep enough.3. Quotation "...the damping also removes some of the feel from the front end..." agree completely. Very important for looking for "feel" setups. If you would weld front suspension to completely stiff front end - you will get most response for rider. ...just what I`ve learned working with James Webb last year FIM STK1000 at Nurburgring.4. And... IMHO you are much closer than most of us to get information that can keep us entertaining for quite long ;). Question is simple "Is present Ducati CF frame returning too much information or not enough?5. Quotation "...Longer chassis sections create a longer lever, and allow flexibility to be created much more precisely..." Agree (not far away from short but soft). But the same chassis technicians chosen single shock over double despite it has to be manufactured much more precisely to work as well as double shocks mounted close to rear wheel spindle. Harder but possible. So looking to chassis history - far from impossible. Is it worth to try to have a year, two or five advantage in MotoGP chassis technology if someone get it right?6. Quotation "...a twin spar chassis has a long section which can flex in the center of the bike. Added to the different forces created by attaching the engine using long front engine mounts, the feel of the Ducati will be completely different to a Japanese machine...." Question: Was flex in the center of the bike been found by tests and development of experience with no math calculation (as combustion chamber in RC212 copied from RC45) where is no proper knowledge to calculate such thing. Isn`t good math idea (but not made to proper perfection) to reduce flex calculations to areas that supposed to flex as (front end headstock area and swingarm)?7. Quotation "Problems handling the power such a configuration produced meant that Ducati had to switch to a "four pulse" or screamer firing order" - never heard of handling power of such configuration. Rather that L90 4 cyl screamer balances by itself configuratio so it can reach higher rpms from scratch compared to V52`s or other. Higher rpms means more power without balancing complication and we could see that in past years (i.e. by top speeds) until Japanese development and refinement could reach natural V90 potential.8. "While the bike may feel fine and the weight distribution look good on paper, the way the weight transfers under braking and acceleration is different, and this could be what is preventing the riders from getting heat into the tire." I agree. Magic 52/48 is working at SBK but here with Bridgestones of such characteristic - setting to get more heat to the front tire means some drawbacks with rear grip. So academic question is... Would GP11/12 be the best MotoGP bike if Pirelli (low temperature) tires would be used?9. "At Mugello, they raised the center of gravity by 20mm, a vast amount in a world where normally parameters are changed a millimeter at a time" I thought that it was 20mm of rear height. can you confirm?

all was written in the mean time of reading of your comprehensive article and I see that my questions were considered by you later on so... they are no more than rhetorical questions.

Thanks for brainstorming :) U`re the best.

In reply to Statements vs questions by DamianSapinski

...are step to mass centralization. I`m just trying to follow Ducati ideas, R&D work progress before criticizing them. And what I see - their work is based on logical assumptions and technical knowledge (there is no other country with so many motorcycle faculty students) - not fashion. Obviously there is something wrong with construction that has to be made to work with gp Bridgestones. In my opinion they are giving shots in unknown area that can provide them big success or defeat. IMHO - in some years composite frames will be standard in sportbikes - as they can have superior stiffnes/weight/characteristic to any metal. With so much better material that it`s flex can be programmed in many ways in production process - in theory Carbon swingarms, frames etc. can be shorter and achieve the same or better characteristic to metal ones. It is era ahead.I know I know - I`m only person here defending Ducati`s R&D work direction. But someone has to! :) :)

In reply to Statements vs questions by DamianSapinski

Damien, Hysteresis is a material property not of the Carbon fiber, but of the polymer that makes up the matrix. Since CFRP is a composite material, it is going to have properties that are dictated by both its constituent parts. Now to understand hysteresis and the energy loss associated with it you need to understand a little bit about engineering stress-strain relationships, in particular the linear elastic region of the material. We refer to the slope of this region as the materials stiffness, but it is the region where the material when a load is applied it will deform and when that load is released it will return to its original shape. Most materials will deform linearly along this path and return linearly along the same path and no energy is lost in the process. Polymers however behave differently and when released they will return along a different path (often non-linearly) and eventually return to their non-deformed shape. The difference between the two paths (the area) is the energy lost, or work done and is called hysteresis.

In reply to An answer Q #2 by domino

Yes, and I've taught some of those courses in a former life. Now can someone point me to a publication showing this high hysteresis in carbon composites operating within their elastic limits?

I think Ducati has just tried to do too many radical ideas at once. If they had gone with CF but a more traditional frame structure they may have had better luck. Or if they had tried to go to a frameless design with aluminum/steel they may have had luck. The problem is when you try too many new things at once, when things go bad, there are just too many variables to consider/attempt to fix.

Firstly, congratulations and well done, David - thank you! For a non-technical person like myself, I learn so much thanks to your analyses - like this one.

I am a brand specialist and study how brands form and beliefs take hold in people's brains (and hearts) - beliefs that get reinforced and associated by the integral physical components that make up the brand's larger myth and story. This article seems like an excellent example of two brands in conflict. Rossi and Ducati. With the underlying subtext of Bridgestone.

On paper, Rossi and Ducati were two iconic Italian brands matching together like in heaven (sorry for the badly mangled cliche). Physical components that could cause problems were either ignored or forgotten during the matchmaking. But they were there. With Rossi the brand, there was a riding style that was created on the all-conquering Honda followed by as a poster above has said 'fine-tuning the Yamaha'. And a brand reputation built on (almost) unprecedented winning-ness. With Ducati, there are several physicalities associated - the L-config, the frame, blah, blah and...thanks to Casey's exploits, a certain winning-ness perhaps more strongly than just the product deserved. And in addition, a long history of innovative-ness and a David-like attitude against the Goliaths. As any brand marketer will tell you, once these properties are established, tamper with them with great caution. Subliminally in people's minds they can wreak havoc. Particularly in the minds of the people who script the brand's stories.

This Rossi/Ducati story is of both brands needing to acknowledge and expose their vulnerabilities which have hitherto been masked by other connections being broken. I suspect the arguments raging in Borgo Panigale are not just about the engineering fixes needed - it is the impact the respective brands are possibly taking and will take based on the decisions ahead. I would go further to say these arguments have always been there, just that the brand on the other side of the table opposite teh Ducati brand hasn't quite had the same stature as Rossi.

Ducati will eventually fix the engineering bits - they cannot not. But they will do so fighting from their corner - you only have to look at their history and how they've come through from one crisis after another. Rossi will want to script a new dimension - that of a man who wins despite the odds. I will not think less of Rossi if he fails. But I will think of him as even bigger if he wins.

My 0.02.

In reply to A brand perspective by Desmonaut

Thank you for sharing this most excellent discussion viewing the whole situation through the prisim of 'brands'. Very interesting indeed.

A recent pic of the GP12:http://twitpic.com/5l35h3/full

Reveals that there's about 5" between the end of the front subframe and beginning of the rear subframe.

Give the somewhat flexible nature of bolted attachments, as opposed to a continuous structure..... they're damn near at a perimeter frame now.

In reply to Regarding the "big stiff lump of engine" by Speeddog

You're looking at the attachment point for the rider 'subframe' - the seat - not the swing-arm, which is more like 15 inches away from the end of the front subframe. The torsional/lateral flex needed is between the swing-arm and the fork stock, the seat has no structural effect whatsoever, other than to keep the rider's bottom off the rear wheel.

should not be overlooked.

A considerable part of the general expectation when Rossi moved to Ducati was that his input would allow the development of the bike in a more 'rider-friendly' direction i.e. be more competitive for a broader spectrum of riders. It was a tenet of faith amongst a certain persuasion of motoGp fans that the development direction had been taken by Stoner in a direction that suited him only, though a more objective analysis would have noted that Preziosi himself said of Stoner's '07 season that only Stoner was riding the bike in the way it was designed to be ridden. The fundamentals of the design philosophy were set before Stoner arrived and Ducati continued to want to believe that that direction was correct because Stoner continued to deliver results.

In other words, Ducati designed a bike specifically for an 'exceptional' rider (and in that context the word should be taken as meaning basically 'outside of the normal', not as a value-laden plaudit for Stoner). Hayden in '10 managed to come to reasonable terms with the thing, though he also added significantly to the overall tally of 21 crashes in races for Ducati riders that year.

In trying to broaden the ability of the thing to be ridden by 'normal' riders Ducati has lessened the ability to be competitive - in effect, removed the teeth that were capable of biting foe and friend alike, though the foes have been the main beneficiaries. As with the products of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation where the fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws, it is now rather clear that Stoner played the role of a superficial design flaw. To see Ducati Corse can sell that idea to Ducati management would be an exercise that one would (to quote a rather famous phrase of Rossi's): 'buy tickets to watch'.

Great article as is usual. For some reason it made me think of the Porsche 928 and it's Weissach axle of the 1980s. It had an elastomer that was engineered into it's rear suspension that promoted, if I remember correctly, some toe in under cornering that improved handling. So it got me thinking that perhaps the needed flex in Ducati's chassis could be built into the mounting system of the airbox/steering head to the engine, along with an easily adjusted flex rate, rather than into the (carbon) airbox itself. Perhaps they should consult with Porsche Engineering. Just kidding.

A lot of people seem to have missed or ignored the part about feedback from the CF package being completely different to what riders are used to. Keeping in mind the comments about tyres being developed for the Ducati more so in Stoner's winning year than since they became the spec tyre, Stoner obviously has been able to learn to interpret the feedback from the CF package better than any other rider.

What I don't understand is that if the feedback is so completely different how could he just jump on a Honda after so many years on the Duc and storm the timesheets from day 1? Is he that adaptable? I'm sure Stoner has some 'secrets' on riding the CF Duc, it would be interesting to hear them!

Karel Abraham has been doing quite well on the Ducati. He is still young so maybe is finding it easier to learn the different feedback as he doesn't have decades of experience with the feedback from the twin spar design.

In reply to Feedback by Peka

'Karel Abraham has been doing quite well on the Ducati. He is still young so maybe is finding it easier to learn the different feedback as he doesn't have decades of experience with the feedback from the twin spar design.'

Randy Mamola said pretty much that, the GP10 is Abraham's first experience of a MotoGP bike so he has no ingrained habits holding him back.

It's easier to go from riding a pig to a peach then the other way around, as Rossi and Stoner are showing quite emphatically.

Interesting: Burgess Comments -


With the silver spoon well and truly out of Valentino's mouth at present, it's a bit comical watching alot of his comments, snipes and criticisms of the past blow up in his face continually from the moment Lorenzo was given preference contractually at Yamaha.

It's a blessing to be given quality machinery throughout your career, and his results speak for themselves. He is a very talented rider, exceptional perhaps - but apparently only when on machinery that allows his style to be exploited. His lack of adaption is obvious.

I hope Ducati get some results soon, I really do. Unlike most though, I really don't care if they come by having someone with the balls to give 100% and ride around the problems if needed. The Ducati has always rewarded those willing to ride it how it wants to be ridden, and THIS is the essence of Ducati - a wild beast that needs to be tamed.

The more Japanese Ducati make their bike, the less money I will send their way in the future. I love Ducati because they are different. The little factory that could. Willing to take risks to win races and continue the brand's proud history.. unlike alot of their riders' apparently.

It might not be the fastest way around the track sometimes, and it most definitely isn't the safest way.

But this is what Ducati is to me. A wild and beautiful beast - begging you to throw a leg over and show what you've got.

Maybe it's time Ducati gave Superman a call.

In reply to Silver Spoon by Damo

and doing rather well for himself at the top of the points table.

I may be wrong, but I thought Ducati's new superbike 1199 was a meant to be a narrower vtwin than the 90 degree L twin. Is this just speculation or is it an indication that Ducati realise that an L twin may be fine for a road bike, but not ideal for a race bike these days?

The key is in the relative rigidity of the Bridgestones. No feel until they get hot, and you have to take risks to get them hot.Riding with risk - I thought that was part of what GP racing was all about.I want to see Mick riding the 500 Honda on the ragged edge, or Vali at the edge of adhesion tipping in underneath Sete. Or Casey going buffalo girls on Mr Round the Outside himself.

Vali seems to have forgotten he needs to ride in the manner that made him great, rather than ride in the manner that now sees him as a brand.

And remember - the Bridgestones Valentino so desperately wanted, so he could keep pace with the runaway Stoner, now seems to be hoisting him by his own petard (thanks Will Shakespeare).Turns out it wasn't the tyres, Vali, the kid is just better than you gave him credit for.........

And in all of this sad soap opera, the only person coming up shiny is the one so many vilified. "Crashy Stoner", "can't develop a bike like Vali can", blah blah blah. The 800 era will end with only one person showing mastery of the Ducati, and with Vali's formerly untainted reputation tarnished by comparison.

All of our heroes have feet of clay, and Vali has turned out to be no different. I told my mates when he joined the Ducati that he was taking a big risk getting into bed with them, and so far it looks to have been a poor decision. I suspect ego and pride drove the decision after Yamaha started to put their eggs in the Jorge basket, and now the decision to go to Ducati looks to have been hubris on a grand scale.


I certainly enjoy this website and your efforts to provide both objective analysis and a space for reasoned discussion. However, in the spirit of the academic rigor that you have approached this most contentious of subjects for Motogp fans, I feel compelled to point out a logical inconsistency between your original question and your conclusions.

In the first paragraph you state:

"Casey Stoner had already proven that the bike was capable of winning races - though it clearly had a problem with the front end - and with a seven-time MotoGP champion and the crew that helped him win those titles, success would be quick to come."

This implies your analysis will investigate, among other things, why Rossi has not replicated Stoner's capacity to win or even look capable of winning on the Ducati. You surmise that:

"it appears we can safely rule out the problem being the rider. And if it isn't the rider, the problem must lie in the bike"

and then go further to point the finger of blame at the L engine configuration

" The much bigger problem, in my view, is the layout of the engine."

which is compounded by the complexities of tuning flex into engine/cf subframe chassis design employed by Ducati. The logical problem with your conclusion is that your stated reason for Rossi's lack of performance compared to Stoner is a variable that does not change across the versions of the bike ridden by Stoner and Rossi. Both rode bikes with an L engine and engine/ cf subframe chassis configuration. Based on the information presented in your analysis, the logical conclusion is that the 'problem' is with the rider rather than the bike, as the bikes both rode/ride are so similar in the key design aspects identified by you.

In order for your conclusion to be logically sound the finger of blame would have to go to a variable that has actually changed. This could be something, for example, like a change in the Bridgestone tyres this year making them harder to get heat into or changes in specific parts between the GP10 and GP 11(.1).

Other than that minor issue, thank you for providing an excellent discussion of the issues at play in this on-going saga.

In reply to Variables at play by Disco_biscuit

I wholeheartedly agree.

David, you summed up the issue in the first paragraph or two, and then spent the rest of the piece avoiding it. It was a nice summation of the Ducati itself and the many theories about why it has NEVER been a contender in the handling department, but none of that is new. Neither is any of it the real story here. The real story is in two parts. Rossi has been shown to be as human as the next rider and possibly not quite as great as his devotees may have believed, and secondly, Stoner has now undoubtedly been elevated to the status of being the absolute best of the current crop of riders, and by a decent margin. He is the only man in the world to truly get to grips with the brutality of the Ducati, and then this year he has proven he can jump on a bike that almost any of the good racers can go fast on and still be better than them by a margin.

Casey himself has said that you cannot ride the Ducati the way you want to ride it, but you must ride it the way it demands to be ridden. Rossi has been a resounding failure in that regard. Harsh words, but true.

To suggest that Nicky being slower this year is proof that the bike is the problem is also disingenuous, as if the problem was simply that the changes they have made had made the bike slower they could just revert to the GP10, which won 3 races at the end of last year in times that would well and truly be competitive this year. They haven't done that, mainly because Rossi couldn't ride that bike either. Nicky's poor pace this year can be explained by a number of things, not the least of which is not having Stoner's team there to get the Ducati sorted and working properly. It seems he is also waiting on Rossi to come up with the answers and develop the bike into a winner. I think Casey's comments a few weeks ago when he said if Nicky just put his head down and rode like he did last year he would be doing much better.

The suggestion by some that the Honda and the Yamaha have made a giant leap forward and caught Ducati napping is also untrue. The times just do not support that. The main performance modification at Honda is Stoner. Pedrosa's times are not substantially faster. The Honda's haven't gone ahead... the Ducati's have gone backwards.

the problems and failings of the Ducati are not new. Stoner has complained of them for years... but he was labelled a whinger. All of a sudden Rossi is complaining, and Ducati are now totally at fault.

The real stories to come from this are;1. The failure of Rossi, and the subterfuge that has surrounded it.2. The realisation of just how good Casey Stoner is on a motorcycle.3. The power that sponsors like Phillip Morris have in the running of a team.

All the other things you have discussed have actually been issues for years... but when it was only Stoner suffering, nobody really cared that much. Now that Rossi is the one being "cheated" by Ducati, it is all of a sudden a story worthy of all of this analysis?

In reply to Agreed by fanatic

A lot of the debate has revolved around comparing Stoner & Rossi on the Ducati. From this perspective its clear Stoner has the definite advantage.

However, now that Stoner is on a Honda (Twin Spar Frame) lets wait & see his results.Rossi' record on Twin Spar Frames is quite impressive.Stoner has to win multiple WC's on the factory Honda if this is to be a true debate.

In reply to Agreed by fanatic

While I agree Stoner is the biggest variable in this equation and that Nicky's performance or lack thereof compared to 2010 could be attributable to his mental state than anything physical, the only way to compare apple to apples would be for Rossi to ride the GP10. And while yes it may be simple on paper for a team to retrograde their setup to the 2010 hardware, that will simply never happen. That will always look like defeat to onlookers and feel like defeat to engineers. Rossi may have lapped slower during his initial test on the GP10 but he was still fighting a naff shoulder at the time and was nowhere near fully fit. On paper it looks like the GP11 took a step back compared to the GP10 using Hayden as the constant, and I'm inclined to believe that. However these things are way more complex than simple this or that comparison. As was stated somewhere above, playing too many variables at once just leads to confusion, and if there were one word I'd use to describe the Ducati MotoGP effort of 2011 its confused.

Great thought-provoking article and comments

In reply to Variables at play by Disco_biscuit

Other than Stoner (who remains an anomaly on the Ducati: take Stoner's results away and Ducati has 1 wet-race win and a handful of podiums), the biggest change between this year and last has been the weather. Temperatures have routinely been 10°C colder than 2010, and that hasn't helped get heat into tires. That, I think, exacerbates the situation.

As regards the difference between the riders, that is a separate issue and one which I may address at a future date. Take Stoner into account and the Ducati looks like a winning bike. Take him out of the equation and the Ducati looks hopeless. I have said for some time now that Ducati's biggest misfortune was to have Stoner riding for them, as he could ride around the bike's shortcomings. This meant they neglected to fix the bike.

In reply to The Weather by David Emmett


Rossi himself has stated that he cannot ride this bike properly or as it needs to be ridden (can't quite remember which). For you to draw the conclusion that his poor performances (by his lofty standards) have nothing to do with Rossi himself, in the face of Rossi's own statements is ... odd to say the least.

If the purpose of your analysis to look at reasons why the Ducati has not been competitive in general, may I humbly suggest that highlighting the potential for a comparison between the performances of Stoner and Rossi on the Ducati in your very first paragraph may lead readers to think that is what you are going talk about.

In reply to From the horse's mouth by Disco_biscuit

One day, I am going to write an exhaustive tome on Rossi vs Stoner. It will disgust both Rossi and Stoner fans alike. The thought of the vitriol that will unleash is deeply disheartening, and keeps making me put it off.

In reply to Rossi vs Stoner by David Emmett

David, my take on Rossi vs. Stoner.

In my mind, there's no doubt, the fastest rider on a Ducati is Casey Stoner.Rossi's struggles this year have proved that.

However, there's also a very strong case for saying the fastest rider on a Yamaha and Honda for that matter, is Valentino Rossi. He's 6x Motogp world championships (2 on Honda & 4 on a Yamaha) prove that.

If I were the boss of Ducati, I would definately hire Stoner. Likewise if I was the boss of Yamaha & Honda, I would hire Rossi. Which is better, for me, its still too early to say.

This year's WC is still in the balance. Stoner is 20pts in front of Lorenzo, but he may not win it.If he doesn't win this year, there's really no debate. If he does, then we can start to speculate.

BTW, David a fantastic article.Please write an analysis of Rossi v Stoner (from your perspective).The fans of this website would love to read it.

In reply to My take by monty168

It his hard to see how there is any case at all for saying Rossi is the fastest on a Honda or Yamaha in the current era. Rossi's skills at managing a season and winning championships are undeniable. But winning a championship is not the same as being fastest. But Rossi has never ridden an 800 Honda in the same company as Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa. On the Yamaha, in Rossi's own team, Lorenzo was clearly a match for Rossi speedwise, and probably faster, despite having a lot less experience. And team mate against team mate is the best comparison we can have. Yamaha had no qualms about letting Rossi go, so the bosses of Yamaha evidently didn't think Rossi was the fastest Yamaha rider. Then take a look at the list of riders Rossi beat in his early years (pre 2006). None of them could be classed as a MotoGP great. Rossi never raced against Doohan, so there was no real yardstick in his early years. But in any case, since we are talking about the current era, I don't think there is any evidence at all to suggest Rossi is the fastest on any of the three bikes. Nor apparently do his peers think so. Most seem to think Stoner is the out and out fastest, and this is entirely reasonable if we consider rider speed in all conditions, dry, wet, mixed, practice, qualifying. And given the performances of Stoner and Lorenzo this year, I don't think that Rossi could have done a better job than either of them.

In reply to It his hard to see how there by motogpmd

When I say 'fastest', I mean winning championships. Maybe I should have clarified this.

Its fair to say Lorenzo and Stoner are faster, but in my opinion, Rossi is still the best rider if you want to win a Championship on a Honda or Yamaha.If we look at Rossi' record vs. Lorenzo, it stands at 2-1 in terms of WCs.I believe Yamaha management were looking at the future when letting Rossi go. They wanted a dominant rider for the next decade, which Lorenzo clearly is.

Its always difficult to compare riders & determine which is faster.However, if you look at the results from the past 5 years, Rossi has 2x Championships, compared to 1 apiece for Lorenzo & Stoner.

On their day, each alien is probably just as fast as each other, but over the year is what counts & Rossi has the edge here. This will probably change after the next couple of seasons, however, lets not jump the gun.

I feel all this discussion about the greatness of Casey Stoner is abit premature. If he goes on to win this year's championship, then its all valid.However, if he loses it, then has he really got the job done.

In reply to Depends on your definition of Fastest by monty168

But comparing the number of championships won by Rossi, Stoner and Lorenzo over the last five years is not a valid comparison. Stoner was on the Ducati, which as we all now know is a very difficult beast to ride at a high level consistently, and in fact apparently impossible to ride at race winning pace for anyone except Stoner. Rossi was on the Yamaha, regarded as one of the best, if not the best MotoGP bike ever built. Lorenzo only joined MotoGP in 2008. Despite his inexperience at MotoGP level he pushed Rossi all the way in 2009 and prevailed in 2010. I see no evidence whatever, now and into the future, to suggest that Rossi would be better than Stoner and Lorenzo on the Honda or Yamaha. In fact he clearly isn't as good as Lorenzo on the Yamaha because that has already been proven. So that only leaves the Honda, and there is no evidence available of any kind to suggest that Rossi could have done better than Stoner so far this year. And given that Lorenzo and Stoner are a lot younger and less experienced than Rossi and can be expected to continue to improve, I expect their advantage over Rossi to continue to increase. Nothing can take away from Rossi's remarkable record, but like it or not, that record is in the past. We are discussing the present and the future.

As for any claim to Stoner's "greatness", he is already one of the most successful riders ever at MotoGP level. But if Lorenzo wins the championship this year he will have legitimate claim to the title of best rider of the 800 era, and yes, unequivocally the best rider on a Yamaha, better than Rossi. But we shall have to wait and see.

In reply to But comparing the number of by motogpmd

Its highly debatable whether Lorenzo or Rossi is faster on the Yamaha.I probably won't change your opinion, but lets review the facts:

Its correct to disregard Rossi's 2008 championship, since Lorenzo was a rookie.But its also fair to disregard Lorenzo's 2010 championship, since Rossi was injured.That leaves the 2009 championship, which was fought down to the wire, with Rossi prevailing.

I recently watched the 2009 Catalunya race again.To me, that race is a good example of the differences between Lorenzo & Rossi.Lorenzo was on pole for this race. If it came down to 1 lap, he is faster than Rossi.Rossi won the race by overtaking Lorenzo on the final corner (a place considered impossible by other racers). In the crunch, Rossi appears to have the ability to out-race Lorenzo.

The riders are there to win races & the championship, not set the fastest laps.The stats show Rossi having the edge over Lorenzo.

In reply to Its highly debatable whether by monty168

Once again, 2009 was just Lorenzo's second year in MotoGP. It was historically unprecedented for any team mate to push and regularly beat Rossi on his own bike. It's now 2011 and both Lorenzo and Stoner have a lot more experience. And you can't just take one race where Rossi beat Lorenzo as proof that Rossi is/was faster and ignore the races where Lorenzo beat Rossi. Incidentally Stoner has overtaken riders in that same place Rossi passed Lorenzo, he did it this year, overtaking Dovizioso, so nothing at all impossible about the move.

My point is that Rossi's experience prevailed in 2009, but that advantage has largely, perhaps entirely, disappeared, and I see no reason whatever to suggest that Rossi would win more often this year than Stoner or Lorenzo on a Honda or Yamaha, and most likely he would win less. That's what this discussion is about: would Rossi win more than Stoner and Lorenzo on a Honda or Yamaha in 2011, as you claim? It is not about the past, when Rossi (and his crew chief) had a massive advantage in championship winning experience.

Of course it is just an opinion and impossible to prove, as are so many opinions about the relative merits of riders and drivers in motor sport. There are just too many variables. After all, many Rossi fans were of the opinion that Rossi would be better than Stoner on the Ducati, and would win the championship this year. And I didn't think Stoner would win the 2007 championship, I thought pressure from Rossi would get to him. So much for opinions.

In reply to Once again, 2009 was just by motogpmd

Uh, um. Isn't this article about the Ducati? Seems we're still seeing rider fan club arguing here and now not even a Ducati in sight for pretense to be on topic.

In reply to Rossi vs Stoner by David Emmett

The anti-Stoner and anti-Ross won't digest anything like that. I am too young to remember what was at Ago times .. who knows.Just remember that every 10 readers that will sway the Rossi/Stoner thing there are 20 silent ones that really appreciate your exhaustive work and the huge effort behind it.

In reply to Rossi vs Stoner by David Emmett

to your Rossi vs Stoner Tome David. I doubt it will disgust Stoner fans much though. The critisism of Stoner was his propensity to throw it down the road rather than accept an average result, but in the light of Rossi's performance on the Ducati its now crystal clear that Stoner was riding at a ridiculous level to get the Ducati near the podium for at least 3 years. People would always discount his teammates troubles because Rossi was regarded as the one rider that could replicate Stoners speed on the Duc. Well thats been shot down in a big way. Stoner is a special rider, even compared to Rossi. Another title this year would cement that. In the 800 era, with Stoner stuck on a Duc for 4 years and Rossi only on it for 1, Stoner would have as many titles and many more wins. And to those who say the Ducati is worse/different than in previous years - check the race times for the last 2 rounds. Stoner would be still be capable of winning races this year on last years GP10!

In reply to Rossi vs Stoner by David Emmett

Please don't...

In reply to The Weather by David Emmett

Maybe that's just it.

Perhaps some of these incredibly adaptable, world class racers could take a page out of Stoner's book and just ride the thing like it wants to be ridden. If you aren't prepared to take Ducati on as a risky bike to ride then don't sign with them. Tyres, temperatures, design disasters aside - the bike has the potential to win races. Rossi, like many before him simply has not adapted as he should, and a man of his apparent talents should have figured out a way to compete on the bike and then put all of his development wizardry and god given "Itta make a wheelie thisa needs to a stop" feedback talent to refine it just how he likes it.

Instead he does what he does best - whinge until he gets what he wants. Ducati are already bending over backwards in practically every way to please him.. and heaven forbid they simply tread down the Japanese path in a last ditch effort to make him somewhat competitive. Good luck with that one too, lose your company identity and try to catch three very comfortable aliens is a huge gamble.. one I doubt he/they will pull off.

If they don't continue to bend over, where does that leave Valentino? Probably just short of taking his ball and leaving altogether more than likely, and out of Ducati probably won't be where he stops. Ironically alot of the key facts that bit him in the ass were of his making anyway.

As much as the petty rider vs rider debates grow old, they are very much relevant to this debate and whilst I understand a certain level of politics goes into maintaining goodwill down pit lane from a Journalistic point of view - 2011 has dished up some of the most article worthy head bumping in years, and just because it's Valentino finally on the recieving end doesn't mean that it should be supressed or sugar coated imho.

He quickly skipped over a couple of burning bridges and unfortunately landed himself in a big steaming pile of shit. Even worse for him was that one of his greatest rivals had polished that same steaming pile, and had given it a rather strong champagne flavour.

Dressing it in fluro yellow has done nothing but make it stink even worse (and apparently is again quite bitter!).

In reply to The Weather by David Emmett

Absolutely. In my other post on this same thread, I've suggested the same - in a slightly more convoluted manner. I'd go so far as to say Stoner's success on the Duc has gone even further - to convince them of their own beliefs in its winning ability. In many respects, it is perhaps excellent medicine for Ducati that Rossi has arrived - to really force them to confront and acknowledge its flaws with the seriousness it deserves instead of dismissing them like they did with every single preceding rider.

In reply to The Weather by David Emmett


Thank you for responding to my post with another example of a variable that has changed between this season and last. However, you have still failed to address the logical implications of your argument.

If we accept your assertion that Rossi's poor performances (by his very high standards) are 100% due to the inherent design flaws in the bike which have been present since CF was introduced

"So it appears we can safely rule out the problem being the rider. And if it isn't the rider, the problem must lie in the bike.,

,this implies the bike must impair every riders performance since the rider is irrelevant in this analysis (100% bike remember). That is, unless you are suggesting that the rider isn't 'the problem' in Rossi's case, but is 'the problem" in other cases. Further, this performance impairment should be consistent across all riders (be it a constant ratio or fixed error term) as it is independent of the rider (again, 100% bike).

How big is this performance impairment? Using Rossi as a reference, since he is your focus in the initial part of the article, it appears to be about 15-30 secs per race using your assumption that Rossi would be fighting for podiums and winning races on any other bike design this year.

"Riders simply do not lose that kind of speed over the winter break"

The logical outcome of your insistence that the rider is not relevant to the performance impairment of the cf Ducati design (2009-2011) is that every rider is/has been impaired by 15-30 secs per race. I am not sure this is what you want to be saying, as it leads to some interesting restatement of results. Even ignoring years other than 2011, (given your statement that Stoner is an anomaly on the Ducati, you clearly do not see that data as relevant to your analysis) you are suggesting that the championship would be dominated by most of the Ducati riders (including Hayden and even Abraham) if they were on any other bike design.

In reply to David, Thank you for by Disco_biscuit

I once made the comparison of the Ducati Desmosedici to the depiction of breaking the sound barrier in the movie "The Right Stuff". As you approach the sound barrier (at least, with the plane designs of the 1950s), there is a region of huge turbulence where you think the plane is going to shake itself apart. Once through the sound barrier, everything smooths out again.

I think something analogous happens on the Ducati. If you can push the bike hard enough, or find the trick to heating the tires, then the bike will respond better and be ridable. If you can't, you get stuck at the glass ceiling created by the lack of front end feel.

Casey Stoner was clearly capable of performing that trick. Valentino Rossi either isn't, or is not willing to. However, if your bike requires such a trick to work, then there is something wrong with your bike.

In reply to The Right Stuff by David Emmett

Clearly the Ducati is an ill handling bike that has a negative affect on the riders performances. I was just taking issue with your claim that Rossi's reduced performance this year has nothing to with Rossi himself. I am glad that you have now retracted that contention and agree that differences between riders also have an effect.

In reply to The Right Stuff by David Emmett

Well put.The back and forth of this thread continues to be using the Ducati as some sort of measuring device for fan boy rider comparison than an inquiry of what is going on with the bike or what is it about the bike that is such a bugger to get predictable results on the track or on setup. The "sound barrier" analogy holds water and is consistent with all the anecdotal info we have out here. Stoner by style and talent has been able to get across that divide. His own comments on many of his crashes or strategies for not crashing suggest as much. I distinctly remember him mentioning post race where he had vanished up front that he couldn't let off the pace as the bike was even more in danger of getting away from him if he slowed down. Must have been nerve wracking to be several seconds ahead and have to ride desperate & risky where you'd otherwise back off to ensure a safe ride across the line. Two wheel slides around corners then bucking and weaving out of them sure made for good viewing though.

So what now? Ducati have drives full of Casey's every control input, machine status, track position,and environmental condition since he ever threw a leg over the thing as well as years of documented rider briefs & debriefs to understand the subjective part of it all. They know exactly what is going on if apparently not why. It may be that in the past Ducati could point to that data and just say "if you ride like that, you too could win". Data is just like fans reading stats to justify a preconceived belief. Their statements about Casey simply riding it the way it was meant to be ridden was giving themselves a get out of jail free card. I agree that it's a cop out. If it was designed to perform only under a very specific way of operating then they would know what that specific way of riding is and thus be able to clearly inform the other riders of that requirement towards adapting. Obviously it isn't that clear cut. Even with Casey they would lament on how setup could unexpectedly veer into confusion. When they got it right they could taste champagne to wash the bitter frustration out of their mouths.Having one exceptional rider who can sporadically put it up front while all the others languish cannot justify the design though. To satisfy the fanboys here I will say that Casey was exceptional in both readings of the word. Exceptional as in the uppermost percentile of talent and exceptional as in an anomaly. It's the anomaly factor that justifies throwing out Casey's results when it comes to evaluating the Ducati. In an cruel inverse situation it's correct to throw out Tony Elias' results in evaluating the performance of the current Bridgestones. Elias is a known and proven talent but his results do not damn the tires. They simply point to an unfortunate combination of ride style and sensibility that put him at odds with what is known. In both cases you can't look at the outlier as the axiom. As for the helter skelter performance of riders on the Ducati there may be some credence to the old dog new tricks argument. Some rookies including Stoner when he was one may have/be doing better on the Ducati than expected while more experienced hands have had a reckoning. The rookies may A) have nothing to judge by so they don't miss what they never knew and B) are in a more desperate situation to prove something. As to why the experienced riders suffer more it reminds me of an excellent interview with KRjr about leaving Suzuki a couple years after winning the title. He knew that development of the Suzuki wasn't keeping pace with the competitors and his slide towards the rear of the pack was easily explainable. He said that he could have pushed to be more up front but in knowing how much the bike lacked he wasn't going to go out and keep crashing just to prove a point.

In reply to Well put. The back and forth by grahluk

With your comment that it is appropriate to drop Stoner's results when analysing the Ducati. If you do that, you can claim that the bike is completely uncompetitive because no-one can ride it.

Also, I hope you aren't labeling me as a Stoner fanboi. I have not once attacked Rossi in any form and have great respect for all Motogp riders. However, I do take issue with illogical arguments. There is no disputing that the Ducati design appears to impair a riders performance compared to the yam/honda design. But to claim that the rider has nothing to do with it is just plain silly. I would think that the level performance impairment is different for each rider, rather than independent of the rider. After all the Ducati without a rider just sits in the garage doing nothing. For example Stoner crashed alot, whilst Rossi has not crashed alot but lacks the confidence to push for faster times which he is clearly capable of. These are both forms for performance impairment that are expressed differently for different riders.

In fact, David comments in his latest article on the Brno round that Stoner's technique for heating the front tyre help him avoid lack of front feel that is so plaguing Rossi and the other Ducati riders.

In reply to The Weather by David Emmett

And remember all the tarts that proclaimed he only won in 2007 because of the Ducati?! Granted, they had Bridgestone almost to themselves at the time, but oh my, how that old analysis has been turned on it's head in hindsight!

In reply to The Weather by David Emmett

Who was it that said Ducati are guilty of analyzing their successes and not their failures?

Great article David, thank you.

Pardon my technical ignorance but...

1. Is a CF trellis frame a possibility? Would this be the best of both Ducati worlds?!

2. As long as Ducati can retain the iconic "V" does it really matter what angle it is?How long would it take to design, build and test a new narrower V engine? Surely they have far more expertise in this area (i.e. V twins) then that of Alu frames so this would be a more realistic, sustainable (and successful?) option?

In reply to Fixes? by standesmo

Agree entirely, but my preferred order would reverse yours (i.e. build a narrow-angle V first). And I don't believe that moving to a different V angle would suddenly alienate all their fans. I doubt a lot of them would even notice... Going to an alloy beam frame might be a bridge too far, though.

Interestingly I happen to know a guy in the UK who has been building and racing CF frames for over 20 years. His name is Derek Chittenden of Hejira Racing and he went straight from building steel frames to making CF beam frames. He's had a lot of success in the Supermono class and one of his riders was European champion a year or so back. He observed early on that CF has superior damping characteristics to steel (it rides the bumps better, apparently) and also damps out vibrations better. But his riders didn't report any loss of feedback, quite the opposite in fact. All their opinions were that the CF chassis was superior in pretty much every respect.

In reply to Short and to the point... by mangocrazy

that makes sense, as opposed to " juju " style comments that prevail. IMO, there is one aspect to the Ducati saga that has been overlooked; the human element.

Going back to Valencia, 2006 ( as was reported on this site and confirmed ) Troy Baylis's ( unceremoniously dumped by Ducati , end of 2004 ) wild card ride, conditional on him using his WSBK crew, managed by Davide Tardozzi. He's never ridden the bike or the tires. Result, pole and a runaway win.............Shunned the Moto GP team afterwards, celebrates with his guys.Those guys knew something....................truly outstanding.

Maybe there is a person(s) with their head(s) in a very dark place, with the " we will do it this way , it IS correct " .............( BMW's WSBK effort is a prime example ) who are undermining Preziosi efforts. A CF ( or any other ) chassis requires an open mind with regard to set up and a willingness listen to the rider, something that did not seem to happen with Casey.

Then there is the " no 2 steel frames feel the same " comments. Is this a " feel " or a geometry problem ? With modern laser and water jet cutting machines, accurate tube fit up is now a given, thus weld quality ( TIG )s not an issue. On all race bikes the rake, trail, S/A pivot height, F &R weights, etc should be PHYSICALLY measured on a set up plate, with and without rider, as a point of reference, not relying on some data spewed out from a computer with input of steering head inserts, triple clamp offset, S/A pivot, etc. As an example, 2 ROC Yamahas, with " identical " set up, could have a 13 mm difference in the dimension between front axle/ crankshaft.

When one hears these rider comments about no 2 bikes are the same and that Ducati don't have the capacity to respond quickly ( everything is subbed out ??!! ) when changes are requested, I question whether there is any in-house quality control on the components and suspect that they have an abysmal lack of facilities. FFS, all it takes is a surface table, a height gage, squares, inclinometer and manual lathe and mill to machine measuring inserts, to check a chassis. Has Ducati become so " corporatized " they have forgotten their traditional Italian roots and skills ? Are the Superbike and Moto GP teams totally separate entities ?

I'm curious if there are any photos that show if Ducati uses small OD controlled transverse / damped movement polymer/silentbloc ( a 21st century version of the Norton's "Isolastic " ) type mounts on their CF headstock/subframe. An easily adjustable, controlled movement in a transverse plane as opposed to changing the composite layup and core specification ?

In reply to Short and to the point... by mangocrazy

that makes sense, as opposed to " juju " style comments that prevail. IMO, there is one aspect to the Ducati saga that has been overlooked; the human element.

Going back to Valencia, 2006 ( as was reported on this site and confirmed ) Troy Baylis's ( unceremoniously dumped by Ducati , end of 2004 ) wild card ride, conditional on him using his WSBK crew, managed by Davide Tardozzi. He's never ridden the bike or the tires. Result, pole and a runaway win.............Shunned the Moto GP team afterwards, celebrates with his guys.Those guys knew something....................truly outstanding.

Maybe there is a person(s) with their head(s) in a very dark place, with the " we will do it this way , it IS correct " .............( BMW's WSBK effort is a prime example ) who are undermining Preziosi efforts. A CF ( or any other ) chassis requires an open mind with regard to set up and a willingness listen to the rider, something that did not seem to happen with Casey.

Then there is the " no 2 steel frames feel the same " comments. Is this a " feel " or a geometry problem ? With modern laser and water jet cutting machines, accurate tube fit up is now a given, thus weld quality ( TIG )s not an issue. On all race bikes the rake, trail, S/A pivot height, F &R weights, etc should be PHYSICALLY measured on a set up plate, with and without rider, as a point of reference, not relying on some data spewed out from a computer with input of steering head inserts, triple clamp offset, S/A pivot, etc. As an example, 2 ROC Yamahas, with " identical " set up, could have a 13 mm difference in the dimension between front axle/ crankshaft.

When one hears these rider comments about no 2 bikes are the same and that Ducati don't have the capacity to respond quickly ( everything is subbed out ??!! ) when changes are requested, I question whether there is any in-house quality control on the components and suspect that they have an abysmal lack of facilities. FFS, all it takes is a surface table, a height gage, squares, inclinometer and manual lathe and mill to machine measuring inserts, to check a chassis. Has Ducati become so " corporatized " they have forgotten their traditional Italian roots and skills ? Are the Superbike and Moto GP teams totally separate entities ?

I'm curious if there are any photos that show if Ducati uses small OD controlled transverse / damped movement polymer/silentbloc ( a 21st century version of the Norton's "Isolastic " ) type mounts on their CF headstock/subframe. An easily adjustable, controlled movement in a transverse plane as opposed to changing the composite layup and core specification ?

In reply to At last , a report of CF in frame application ( Hejira ) by Kiwi

in a shed with a gas set and a chest of spanners from some catalogue. That'll be why they've won hundreds of races and dozens of titles around the world on various stages. Jeez......

In reply to Yes Kiwi, Ducati Corse is nothing but a bunch of hobby engineers by Nostrodamus

They haven't won hundreds of races in MotoGP. If you remove Stoner, they haven't made double figues.

He's got a point. Weld variability may compromise metal strength, but not stiffness, so if they couldn't make two steel subframes with the same stiffness, they were getting the fit-up wrong.

Also, if you've seen some of the stories from what happened to Bayliss in 2004: sent out with 40psi in rear tyre; sent out with wrong rear tyre; bike dropped on side as it was taken off the stands for him to go on track. It did all sound pretty amateurish.

However, none of this would appear to apply to Rossi (he took most of his crew from Yamaha) and Stoner liked his crew enough to take most of them with him to Honda.

To solve their issues, Ducati needs to try everything but not all at once.

Step 1: Try wrapping the steering head in alloy and "bolt" that to the rest of the CF frame as is.Step 2: Replace the Carbon fibre frame with alloy completely. Leave the engine as part of the "frame".Step 3: Change to a full alloy frame.Step 4: Change the engine configuration to less than L.

Changing everything or almost everything will not teach you anything. My belief is that step 1 will solve most of the problems but I am only guessing and at this stage so are Ducati and everyone else.

Why - as you stated "Just as with the original attempts at using carbon fiber for chassis, starting with the Cagiva back in 1990, the damping also removes some of the feel from the front end." Without feel the rider either does not want to push or they do and crash before they can save it - Stoner won a lot of races or crashed trying.

Someone stated that the bars are connected directly to the forks - correct but the forks are connect to the triple clamps and in turn held by the frame. CF insulates the rider from any feel.

Without this feel they are not willing to push and without pushing they cannot put heat into the front tyre and without heat there is less grip and less grip means more chance of crashing - see a circle happening?

If Ducati feel they have no experience ask one of the Moto2 teams to help out. They most likely won't as ego is one of their major problems - if Stoner won it was the bike if he crashed it was the rider.

Thank you for the best analysis of what the issues are. I hope Ducati solve the issues - the more bikes at the pointy end, the better for the sport.

Great article David.I have reservations about the hysteresis story: I'm yet to find an article demonstrating that CF has significantly more hysteresis than aluminium (except in the context of partial failure as the matrix starts to detach from the fibres). In fact, while you can build springs from CF (some MTB's use them for the rear suspension), you can't make useful aluminium springs... which suggests it's the other way around.

A simpler explanation would be standard linear filter theory: you attach two massive objects (forks and engine) by a relatively light and elastic element, you have a damped resonant structure. It will pass and reflect different frequency components selectively. In particular, any signal near the resonant frequency will be lost. My suspicion is that in making the CF structure sufficiently low in lateral spring constant to allow sufficient lateral flex, despite the short front subframe, they have lowered the resonant frequency in the "pendulum" mode between swingarm pivot and steering head. The fact that all other manufacturers have systematically moved to longer-armed attachments may not be an issue of strength vs stiffness as you suggest, but trying to get the resonant frequency right in the various flexing and bending modes.

However, all that aside, one point you make is left untouched:in similar temperatures 2010-2011, Hayden's race time at Laguna Seca was 14s slower in absolute terms. Hence, nothing to do with Yamaha or Honda stepping up the game (actually I think Edwards said he was slower than in 2010).So have the tyres become more Duc-unfriendly?Was he held up significantly by Rossi compared to last year?Or were the track conditions in fact about 0.5s worse?

Hey David...

Amazingly insightful...

Has anyone considered reversing the "V" here? Similar to the way dirtbikes have turned the motor around to make it more compact and direct (Yamaha's YZF), if they put the forward cylinder upright, and the rear cylinder laying down, that would allow the mass of the motor (crankshaft) to be low and forward, while also allowing more room out back for the fuel tank under the seat. An added "bonus" would be having a natural place to hang the swing arm (off the rear cylinder head).

OK - that last bit sounds a bit far fetched even to me, but certainly plausible no?

You're 100% right - Ducati/Rossi doesn't win and Ducati is the one that loses. Rossi has proven his racing heritage over time beyond a doubt.


In reply to The V and orientation by ajpags

natural place to hang the swing arm (off the rear cylinder head).

Where would you put the gearbox, and in particular the countershaft sprocket?

In reply to natural place to hang the by GrahamB29

Ah, details, details...

Clearly you'd have to tilt the V a bit to put the gearbox directly behind/under the rear cylinder...

Completely agree though, this would be revolutionary design rather than evolutionary.


An issue which isn't addressed is the new honda transmission, which i have been told can improve a lap time by .4 seconds over last year's bike. The control tire are a real problem which I could see at Laguna. It was cold and foggy for qualifying, and they had to qualify on soft, yet the top five bikes were the only ones who chose the hard tires.I think the reduced testing, and the control tires have actually weighted things to Honda.

In reply to Honda's Transmission improvement by indesq

Look at Pedrosa's and Dovi's times, they simply haven't won 4 tenths a lap compared to last year. You save time while shifting (especially on the edge) but you lose a bit somewhere else (detailed by Repsol riders but can't recall exactly what it was). In the end it's an improvement but not that major.

And have another look at Rossi with the new transmission mimicking Honda "magical transmission", seems like he hasn't found 4 tenths either...

Great, great analysis!As usual.Thank you!

Wait... what? Weren't we talking about the Ducati here? I somehow got cross linked to a rider fan poo throwing contest again somewhere as I scrolled through the comments.David,Much thanks to your efforts in and around the paddock and in front of the keyboard to try and parse some insight for us. The challenges of the Ducati factory seem to be one of the most fascinating dramas of MotoGP 2011. Unfortunately the passions of fandom here and a to an even greater extent in other corners of the press and online chatter reduce this to an adolescent game albeit with quotes and statistics to elevate or denigrate riders, teams, or factories to a degree that the participants neither benefit from nor are interested in engaging in themselves. It's a particularly ugly corner of the human heart that displays itself all too plainly in spectator sports. So. In a futile effort to cast a vote for the big picture here I'll start with a recent quote that gave a good laugh.

"It's a hard moment for us and it's easy for everybody to take shots at us and everybody's an expert on the outside. They know exactly what what we need to do." Nicky Hayden Sachsenring '11.

As his debriefs have been displays of frustration week in and week out that above quote was spoken in a rare lighthearted laugh. I particularly laughed along and thought of the national presses and internet comments such as many of the ones above. I understand the passions and the lay persons' interest in the technical intricacies but we should all step back and ask how much we really know or have authority to speak on before we criticize or make proclamations on riders, teams, and engineers. It's quite likely we have even less of an understanding than them and maybe it's best to proceed with at least a respectful consideration of the difficulties involved. MotoGP racing is not rocket science but only in the respect that these things are land based. Beyond that it's pretty darn close.

With that perspective in view I'll try and offer one fan's perspective.

Ducati as a whole is slipping towards the back of the grid no matter who's riding. Take you're statistics of individual riders or what have you. No one is doing better on a Ducati than they have or are doing on other machinery. Factory Ducati is now fighting with Suzuki. Great for Suzuki's morale and profile but I'd rather see both fighting against the other factory machines than among the satellites.

Honda have made a great step forward. You can try and pinpoint the exact moment this happened but the fact is it has. The Honda of right now is vastly better than the one Pedrosa struggled with at the beginning of 2010 and that much better than it had been in years previous. It might be a topic worthy of an article here but there is definitely a visible result when a factory realizes that they need to change their direction and forge a culture of winning. Honda took it for granted. Losing Rossi was only a sign of them losing their way. Yamaha clearly made an internal change to become a winner and hiring Rossi during those dominant years was also only a sign of it. In both cases there seemed to be a lot behind the scenes both corporate, and in the teams that reflect the results. Honda have clearly gotten their mojo back and was evident when they started poaching key technical staff from the winning teams. Ending up with both Stoner and Pedrosa I also see as simply the most visible sign of that commitment to return to dominance. Ducati unfortunately have had a more confusing go of things. They are obviously trying to change that and I am ever so interested to see if their extra challenge now can be met. I hope so not because I have some preferential bias towards Italian bikes (or riders) but because if they don't become competitive in a consistent and meaningful way we will really see a crisis for series.

In reply to To not see as a worm does get your face out of the mud by grahluk

We cannot possibly discuss Ducati's woes this year without bringing Stoner and Rossi into it. Rossi and his fans might not like it, but it is Stoner's performances between 2007 and 2010 that define Rossi's efforts in 2011. If there had been no Stoner, no championship and only the odd win, then Rossi to Ducati on 2011 would be like Rossi to Yamaha in 2004: Rossi going to a bike that wasn't winning and trying to making it a winner. But Stoner was at Ducati, and that is inevitably the measure of Rossi's success at Ducati this year. Stoner won three of the last five races in 2010, and this is the bike that Rossi inherited, a proven race winner. So with Rossi struggling, the inevitable and entirely rational question is: is it the bike or the rider? The answer to that, as the article says, is rather complicated, and in fact no-one really knows the answer. Certainly not the fans and journalists.

In reply to We cannot possibly discuss by motogpmd

I think the real question is;

Is Rossi really this terrible at riding the bike competitively, or is he just sitting in the corner sulking and using his considerable media pull to try and get Ducati to turn the GP11.alphabet.soup into a Jap bike once and for all?

It's probably a combination of both.. though I'll say it again (and again), if you could go back and lay out a list of Rossi/JB quotes over the last three years or so that are directly related to Ducati and/or Stoner I'll Paypal you a tenner just for the laugh it will give me yet again.

In reply to We cannot possibly discuss by motogpmd

Actually, I think David does not say that it is complicated, but clearly states in the article that it is nothing to do with the rider and completely the fault of the inherent design flaws of the bike.

"So it appears we can safely rule out the problem being the rider. And if it isn't the rider, the problem must lie in the bike."

He is able to reach this conclusion by ignoring Stoner's results which indicate that the bike can win races. If no one can win on it, it must be the bike. If someone can win on it, it cannot possibly be all due to the design flaws in the bike.

In reply to To not see as a worm does get your face out of the mud by grahluk

The great step forward Honda has made is to have Stoner on an RCV. If you remove his results, Lorenzo would be dominating the championship and the consensus would still be that the the Yam is the best bike on the grid.

In reply to To not see as a worm does get your face out of the mud by grahluk

You think people discussing the ideas of others and reviewing the logical structure of arguments is an ugly corner of the human heart? You obviously aren't too keen on democracy then.

In reply to You think people discussing by Disco_biscuit

Do you normally disagree with your own posts (in a rather weird manner) on public forums?

Just askin', is all...

"Wait... what? Weren't we talking about the Ducati here? I somehow got cross linked to a rider fan poo throwing contest again somewhere as I scrolled through the comments."

Yup we were talking about the Ducati but a lot of the usual suspects who like to gloat and pump up their favorites, and take cheap shots at the rest, always seem to find a way to be heard.......

In reply to Yup by Winger

Actually, reading through the comments I still find most (and I say most...) reactions quite civilized. A story about Ducati is always going to involve Rossi and Stoner so ofcourse fans of both sides will make themselves heard. But to call this topic a poo throwing contest is far from reality. Strangely enough, sometimes there is more complaining about bashers than actual bashing... that really doesn't do this excellent site justice.

In reply to Nope by Lo

You're right. How can this whole thing NOT bring about comparisons between riders?

All this "analysis" of the Ducati and even the assertion that the Ducati is the problem misses the biggest point of all. It has been like this for years. Nobody gave a fat rats arse when it was killing off the careers of Melandri and Hayden and others. Nobody cared that Stoner has complained for years about the exact problems Rossi is complaining about. He was labelled "Moaner" and a whinger. Yet now that Rossi is the victim of Duacti's problems it is all of a sudden it is a massive story and the motorcycling world is talking about the failings of the Ducati.

The only thing wrong here is that this stuff wasn't exposed to the same analysis earlier.

There is also this garbage assertion that Honda and Yamaha have made massive leaps and left Ducati behind. It is patently untrue. The Japanese are pretty much where they were last year, give or take a tenth here and there. Ducati have gone backwards at a million miles an hour. The 37 incarnations of this years bike are ALL slower than the GP10... so why not just crack the GP10 out of mothballs then? Because Rossi can't ride that either.

To suggest that it is remotely possible to discuss this matter at all without questioning the riders involved is farcical. The one truth that holds up here is that if you put Stoner back on the bike he was riding at the end of last year he would still be challenging for podiums and occasional wins. The times bear that out. Casey this year on the Honda at Laguna, with such an impressive ride, was only a handful of seconds faster than he was last year on the GP10.

The biggest performance modification at Ducati this year is Rossi. He has wiped a second a lap off the pace of the bike. How this can be ignored in any analysis is beyond me, and then for people to complain about "rider bias" when someone brings it up is just stupid. They're facts. You can't leave them out and consider that any analysis of the 2011 Ducati performance is complete.

In reply to Exactly by fanatic

Casey no doubt faster than Rossi, but the harsh reality of going back to the last couple of years is that ducati were still losing badly just by a little less. To an alien is 4th really that much better than 7th or 8th if it is the best you can do on the bike you have?? I doubt Rossi/burgess have that mentality. Ducati needed serious change, whether they can bring themselves to affect it is a different matter. But going back to last years results is a losing mentality and approach..though I don't doubt they'd take 4th over 8th today but that's not really the point..

In reply to Nope by Lo

Not calling the topic a poo throwing contest. The topic is the trouble with the Desmosedici. The bike, the machine, not the operator. Of course those two riders' experience on it are pertinent. The debate that seems to have developed is centered around some measuring contest of those respective riders' virtues or faults. Again the owner of the site has mentioned that could be a debate of it's own for whatever reason someone would want to ponder it; another time. This is about the machine and the problems every rider, even the one with relative success on it has had. It has a problem. It's problem is not Valentino Rossi nor the absence of Casey Stoner. If we are to talk riders' statistics and details it would make more sense to try and get more info about Nicky Hayden's experience. He' the only objective control subject, a distinction that I suspect may have a factor in his status on the team. If we're to get a big picture it is only pertinent to compare the collective riders' current season's results. It's not good news for Ducati in the sense of collective rider results nor in the test subject of Nicky Hayden. They have a problem. They're going backwards. I'm sure they're burning every resource and then some to change that. I would expect and it seems there will be steps backwards to make progress. The questions here are what are they doing and will it make for surer steps forward or further stumbling.

In reply to Yup by Winger

Are you kidding? If David didn't want a discussion about the relative performances of Stoner and Rossi on the Ducati, he really shouldn't make it the main point of the first paragraph of the article. Just to refresh your memory:

" Casey Stoner had already proven that the bike was capable of winning races - though it clearly had a problem with the front end - and with a seven-time MotoGP champion and the crew that helped him win those titles, success would be quick to come."

It is only 'poo throwing' because people are bring up points that you don't like or think don't show your preferred rider in the correct light.

It seems to me that Dorna would have a vested interest in making sure Ducati can be competitive - after all, Ducati currently supplies 1/3 of the grid with bikes; not a single rider on them is happy with the performance. If Ducati decides to leave GP, the number of factory entries becomes laughable.

Ducati will spend a huge sum of money trying to make their bike work with the control tires. I would propose doing it the other way around - allow Ducati to select a tire manufacturer to work with the develop tires for their machine. It seems to me that would be a cheaper and likely quicker solution to the problem at hand.

But what about the single tire rule? I would propose altering it to allow each manufacturer to work with a tire manufacturer of their choice to develop tires for their specific bike. Then simply make these tires available for all riders on that make of bike. So Ducati could work with Pirelli, Yamaha with Michelin, and Honda could stay with Bridgestone. The CRTs could choose one brand tire from those the manufacturers have developed for their bikes. Instead of having a single spec tire, there would be 3 spec tires (or 4, if Suzuki decides to stay).

The key is that each rider on each bike have the best possible tire for his bike. Would it be unfair to Honda and Yamaha who have done a good job adapting to the spec tire? Sure, it would be unfair. But if the option is Ducati pulling out of GP racing and taking 1/3 of the grid with them, concessions would have to be made for the good of the sport.

I don't think that the spec tire rule has done anything to even out the competition on the track. Before spec tires we had 2-3 bikes running at the front; with spec tires we still have 2-3 bikes running at the front. Allowing more tire manufacturers in could also liven up the racing - what if the Ducs had a front that could heat up easier but started to go off near the end, allowing them to run off in the beginning and the others to catch them up as the race progresses? It seems now that you have two choices, and either it works or it doesn't. Right now for Ducati it doesn't. How long are they willing to stick this out? How long will Rossi stick this out? How long will Phillip Morris stick this out? My guess is that if Rossi isn't competitive by midway 2012, all three will be gone by the end of that year.

Ducati could argue that the current Bridgestones favor the Japanese bikes. I don't think that was in any way Bridgestone's intention when developing the tires, but if it came down to Dorna trying to enforce Ducati's agreement to go GP racing (and if Ducati did try to leave, Dorna would have to do something to make them stay) Ducati would have a decent argument to make there - after all, all Ducatis are suffering from the same front-end issue. This could be a "way out" for Ducati if they decide they want it.

I know none of that would come to pass, but it just seems that there are easier and cheaper ways to keep the grid competitive and allow Ducati to retain some of their brand identity at the same time.

As usually, a GREAT article David! We've all come to expect brillance from your write ups and this one is your finest, IMHO! One of the most interesting points you mentioned in the article is the fact that 'CF's tranmission of information to the rider' is there, but its 'different'! Rossi, and all the other riders that have failed on the Duc, are superb riders (come on, Rossi's resume says it all), but they have learned to interrupt & obtained their information from aluminum framed bikes', NOT CF! CF speaks a different lanuage then aluminum, but it still speaks! The problem is no one can translate CF's language, or at least interrupt the information its imparting to the rider and make it work, unless you're Casey Stoner! I'm sure, once CF is 'common' in the racing world, w/riders use to dealing with it, it won't be an issue, but for this generation of riders . . . .

For fuel (thanks Dan) here are Casey's wins on the Ducati.

2007: 10 wins.2008: 6 wins.2009: 4 wins.2010: 3 wins.

Anyone see a trend here?

In reply to The downward spiral by BrickTop

Not really a trend. There's lies, damn lies and statistics. There's also the concept of ceteris parabis, or in English, all other things being equal. In this case they are not equal.

Here are Ducati's stats for the same period:

2007: 11 wins.2008: 6 wins.2009: 4 wins.2010: 3 wins.2011: 0 wins (tbc)

Is this a trend? Has Rossi joining the team accelerated the downward trend? Well, maybe, but not necessarily, because the dynamics have changed. Not ceteris parabis.

2007: very powerful Ducati on Bridstone tires, although only Stoner can ride it to race wins in all conditions2008: all bikes change to Bridgestone tires, all bikes have more power2009: Ducati CF frame introduced. Stoner misses races due to illness2010: Ducati tries to make the bike more user friendly and exacerbates the front end problem, causing more crashes2011: Rossi joins the team after several years on the best MotoGP bike ever built (according to Rainey and Lawson). Finds the Ducati a very different beast to Honda and Yamaha.

This "trend" may support the idea that Ducati has an unresolved problem, so while the other bikes have improved, Ducati relatively has gone backwards. The anomaly is that Stoner was strong, even dominant, from Aragon on last year, winning three races toward the end of 2010, so it appeared that Ducati had found a solution. Until Rossi arrived that is, after which time it appears that Ducati has gone backwards again. Make of that what you will.

In reply to Not really a trend. There's by motogpmd

One trend I see is that the Ducati was a race winner in each year of the period you use. Is this the trend you are trying to show?

In reply to Trendy by Disco_biscuit

No. The point he was trying to make was that Ducati's results (and Casey Stoner's, until the end of 2010) have been on a downward slide since 2007. This year they've vanished.

Casey, on the other hand, has been reborn, rejuvenated and is revisiting the winner's circle with relentless consistency. He is of course on a Honda, not a Ducati.

In reply to Not really a trend. There's by motogpmd

Has Stoner swung a leg over the 2011 Duck?

Has Wayne ridden the M1? Best GP bike ever? Even if that were true (I disagree and say 211v, also where is the link?), who developed the thing into that? I vehemently disagree on that comment and this year's Honda is the best 800cc bike built and raced so far. It handles and has the power.

Valentino isn't going to go on a development path that means winning a couple of races then putting it in the litter with frequency. That doesn't win a championship. And here are Casey's season statistics to go along with race wins.

2007: Champion2008: 2nd2009: 3rd2010: 4th2011:?

Pretty easy to see a downward spiral here. Looks like over the winter, in layman's terms, Ducati took a step backward and everyone else took a step forward.So each year Casey won less and finished lower in the order. Rossi is in what...5th currently? Fits the trend if you ask me.If Casey and his team found something towards the end of the year last year that was against 2010 Hondas and Yamahas, this is 2011. 2011 is a new year and not part of the 2010 MotoGP season. Also you failed to mention that between Aragon last year, where Casey got his first race win in 2010, and the end of the season he had 2 more DNF's. The last 2 races were Portugal (DNF) and Valencia where he got 2nd. It's not like he won the last 3 races of the year.

It was just a few races ago where Bautista was passing Hayden/Rossi down the straight. So Ducati are getting beat in a straight line by a Suzuki but that's Rossi fault too right?

In reply to Has Stoner swung a leg over by BrickTop

Rossi has no beef at all with engine power. Rossi's words to Schwantz "He said, "I think the engine, we've got plenty of power. We're good. We're right there with the best of them as far as speed and acceleration goes".

You're under some delusion Bricktop in respect to the RCV which has NOT taken some quantum leap forwards. In the only GP to date 2011 that has been run with comparable track / weather conditions Stoner was a mere 5 secs quicker in total elapsed race time this year at Laguna Seca on the RCV than he was last year on the GP16. Ergo Rossi was 25 secs slower than Stoner on the GP16. Lorenzo a couple of seconds slower. Hayden 14 seconds slower with the Rossi crew developed electronics. Hmmm.

In reply to Has Stoner swung a leg over by BrickTop

Here are the links Bricktop:



Two guys that won seven world championships between them know a whole lot more about GP bikes than someone posting on a forum who has never raced a MotoGP bike. The current Honda has nothing to do with 2008/09. You said in your original post that Rossi didn't have a significant bike advantage in 2008. On the contrary he most definitely did.

As for the Honda, Pedrosa has stated that this year's Honda is hardly changed at all from last year. Clearly the Honda was already strong for the latter races last year. Also, the the claims that the Honda and Yamaha have substantially improved this year don't stack up, as has been discussed in other posts. At some tracks both bikes have been slower than last year.

Also it is well known that Lorenzo has gone back to using a lot of components from the 2010 bike.

Ducati also stated at the beginning of the year that the bike that Rossi started the year with was barely changed from Stoner's bike last year.

That's the bike on which Stoner won three of the last six races last year. It is therefore very hard to understand why the bike that Rossi was riding up until Assen suddenly became a mid field runner as soon as Rossi joined the team.

Regarding the trend that you think you see, it is statistically too small a sample to be relevant, and secondly, as I said, it is not ceteris parabis, and I already gave a sample of changed conditions from year to year. In particular the CF Ducati introduced in 2009. Also the fact that in 2007/08 Stoner was up against one front running Yamaha, but in 2009/10 he was up against two. In other words there are two distinctly separate periods: 2007/08 and 2009/10. This doesn't make for a trend.

And as for top speeds it is a simple matter to check the stats. The Ducati is consistently one of the fastest bikes in a straight line. In fact all the bikes are very close in top speed this year.

In reply to Has Stoner swung a leg over by BrickTop

I wonder what Steven Dubner of Freakonomics fame would make of this discussion. Maybe we should task him with getting to the bottom of it, from an economists perspective. While these stats are correlated do they necessarily indicate the cause. I'm inclined to think they do but only from a lay fans perspective with no data to support my conclusion.

It would be interseting to see if you could get any information about the engineering process Ducati uses for the CF frame. I fear it may be heavily reliant on FEA. I work for a huge international corporation with customers in the automotive industry. We see some of the most rediculous designs based on FEA on a nearly daily basis. This is coming from educated people that ought to be the best in the world. FEA analysis of even simple mechanics MUST be validated in testing. Instrumenting a motorcyle on a chassis dyno to record the desired flex would be the first step. Good luck with that Ducati. How does one reproduce the loading or riding in the lab?Then getting the FEA system to produce this result on that old working steel design is the second step. Then the introduction of the unknown CF into the FEA model. Then validating that design on the chassis dyno. Then they have to test it with a rider capable of a top 5 finish, sorry Mr.G not you. Anyway I do not think there are any FEA packages that are up to this task yet. My mind is boggling thinking about the chassis dyno setup. I have seen elaborate dynos for cars but they are so simple compared to cycles. Fixing the engine sounds a lot easier!

In reply to Engineering CF by ed h gray

If you explained to us what FEA was!

In reply to That post would've (possibly) made a lot more sense by Nostrodamus

FEA is Finite Element Analysis (Wikipedia entry), which is a method used to try and calculate loads and stresses through mechanical components (in this instance). The problem is (as I understand it, and I am no engineer) it only approximates the problem. There are so many interdependent inputs and factors that it is easy to get it horribly wrong, or end up modeling completely the wrong thing.

In reply to FEA by David Emmett

more often than not remain two very different things in the hunt for the ever elusive human sensation 'feel'.

In reply to Engineering CF by ed h gray

Interesting :)

Can you explain in what manner they get it wrong? My experience in working with engineers (and statisticians, and epidemiologists) is that they forget (or are ignorant of) the limits of application of the theory: eg they use a black box calculator that supposes everything is working in a linear regime, while ignoring the fact that they have included elements working way outside that domain.Usually because in spending all their time looking at programme outputs, they've lost or never learnt an intuitive feel for how a structure should work.

It's just an advanced version of the shop assistant who quotes a price wrong by a factor of 10, then brandishes the calculator at you when you suggest there is a mistake :)

From a completely selfish and non racing perspective, I feel it would be a real shame to see the CF chassis go away along with its development. I could not think of anything better than a lightweight CF Ducati Vtwin as a street bike. It would be so much cheaper to produce, weigh nothing and have great power, every street racers dream! The feedback that is needed for the aliens to do what they do is simply not something even the best of streetriders would need to have.

I would like to see perseverance with the CF and like the Vyron in Moto2 some Funny Front Ends. Tobacco companies should be helping this sort of development before we all die.


In reply to Sorry to see CF go... by pilbara

I agree that it's the way of the future.

However, cheap CF is still someway off. Although it has become universal for high performance bicycles, mid-range bikes are still welded aluminium, because it's cheaper. Production motorcycles have gone the direction of high-pressure cast frames, which are in turn cheaper than fabricating from extruded or sheet metal.

Another point is that a typical aluminium production frame weighs about 10-12kg. A Ducati 1198 frame is actually right at the light end of that scale, at 9.6kg, while a fabricated alloy race frame might get down to 6kg (I haven't weighed any lately!). So, despite the fantasies of some fans of titanium frames, even if you replace the frame with air you can't save 20kg :(

Very interesting article there.

I can't help but think - if the majority of current riders are unable or unwilling to adapt to the CF frame, how would a completely new rider tackle the challenge? If they didn't have any preconceived ideas about how a bike should 'feel'...

Either way I think CF will stay... if not, then it will be sure to make a return. The future will be interesting!

The Ducati is "interesting" from a number of perspectives.1. Non-linearity of reponse to set up changes. It has been commented by a number of riders & techs that major changes to the set up sometimes make little or no difference, and occasionally the oppo occurs with small changes making a big difference. Clearly all the dynamics (chassis, suspension, tires, engine, etc.) of a complex SYSTEM that is known as a full up MotoGP race bike & environment are not fully understood (not to mention the rider & Tarmac!).2. The inability to get the level of front end "feel" required for the best of the best riders (all the MotoGP guys) taking the bikes to the limits of adhesion (2010 Stoner said it was good, then vibrations, then smooth as the front lost grip and down the bike went [like falling off a cliff]).3. The inability to get the bike to turn in as compared to Honda & Yamaha ..

Mass centeralization / placement probably plays a bigger role than is commonly given credit .. Stoner at Laguna 2011 on Honda mentions waiting until the late laps (27?) when fuel load had been decreased and weight distribution changed to put a move on and pass JL.

As Nicky Hayden mentioned .. much speculation by the *spectators* ;-)

My 2 pence .. the improvement in tire technology , engine management, rider capabilities, is narrowing the technology / design window for the winning bike/tire/rider resultant performance combination. Suzuki & Kawasaki (remember them?) could not successfuly solve the MotoGP equation (Suzuki HP, Kawasaki rear grip) Ducati's design approach and resultant bike may are not overlapping this smaller? window of winning performance..

it *will* be an interesting show to watch!

Nice article David. From a technical perspective it will be a shame if Ducati build a 65 deg beam framed D16 - basically an Italian RCV, or a Bolognese RSV4. Canning this CF experiment will put any type of chassis experimentation back another 10-20 years.

It was Burgess who pointed out that they had a control tyre, and everyone uses the same wheels, forks, shocks and electronics - so in effect you have to have the same chassis as everyone else too. Spec racing then, but without the low cost.

Will sure be interesting to see what happens next, I'll be very disappointed if Ducati buckle and build an aluminium beam frame, and if they do, then their mountain to climb will still be significant, especially having burned up testing days on the GP12/11.999.

If they go the supposedly easy route, I'd like to see how the Ducati marketing dept can cope with rolling out a new flagship superbike model based on the engine-frame concept for their street range, while their pinnacle race bike morphs into a Bolognese Aprilia RSV4.

In reply to Interesting article by breganzane

From a technical perspective it will be a shame if Ducati build a 65 deg beam framed D16

Have a good look at an 1198 frame. It is a beam frame, with 2D trusses as functional equivalents of the beams. You could imagine fabricating the two sides of the frame on a flat table, then bending the front in and welding it to the steering head. There is only vertical triangulation.http://www.ducatiperformance.com/images/NCR.10.50.010-ncr-1098-titanum-…(actually an NCR copy, but never mind.

If you go back to the 851, it was a genuine trellis, with lateral as well as vertical triangulation.http://www.ducati8.net/images/corsa_frame.jpg

In contrast, the D16 trellis frame was laterally triangulated behind the steering head (to provide vertical stiffness) but then had flat truss connections back to the motor:http://image.sportrider.com/f/28229612/146_0704_10_z+art_science+ducati…As I understand, the CF frame is meant to replicate the same basic structural features.

In the Ducati range, it actually most resembles the evo monster frame, except that it has a diagonal brace:http://thumbs4.ebaystatic.com/m/mDZ8WZGnOhdXzprAtXCJ4Dw/140.jpg

In contrast, here is the RSV4 framehttp://images.gizmag.com/gallery_lrg/aprilia-rsv4-review-road-test-vide…

Structurally, the front 3/4 is much more like the 1198 than the 1198 is like the D16

In reply to Ducati beam frame by GrahamB29

Good to see a post in the spirit of the original article, rather than fanbois taking a pop at their particular bête noir of a rider...

As you say, Graham, Ducati have been moving towards the beam fram concept, but in their own typically idiosyncratic way. From what David says in his article, it's unlikely that Ducati would go back to steel tube as a GP frame material, given the difficulty in getting consistent weld strength/elasticity. So this only really leaves aluminium and CF as viable alternatives.

I would be very surprised (and more than a little saddened) if Ducati were to go to a copycat aluminium beam frame. I would say it's far more likely that they would produce a CF beam frame, as that would reduce the loss of face associated with such a radical change.

But I still feel that the move to a narrow-angle V engine configuration would give the greatest benefit. They would undoubtedly retain Desmo valve actuation, as it's an elegant and viable mechanism. And if they retained a CF chassis (of whatever sort) then there would still be sufficient clear technical daylight between them and the rest of the field to keep the traditionalists happy.

In reply to Good to see a post in the by mangocrazy

I'm also hoping they go to a CF beam, or in some other way move the mounts for the front subframe further back on the motor.

Another thing I noticed btw: if you look at the plane defined by the four engine mounts: on a Honda, Yamaha, Aprilia, Suzuki (SBK and MotoGP) and Ducati SBK, it is near to horizontal;On the D16, it's steeply inclined from the rear head down to the front one. That might effect the trajectory of the steering head as the frame flexes... just an observation de plus.

As for the V-angle, maybe, although I'd guess a frame is quicker to implement. Changing the V angle has massive implications for balancing, vibration and durability... although they could at least try rotating the V back a bit.

Still all just micturating in the wind... they'll do what they'll do :)

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