Ducati recently finished its first series of official MotoGP testing at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, beset by the typically hot and humid conditions and rain that interrupted track time. Nicky Hayden had a painful shoulder injury that limited valuable time on the bike, limiting input to the technicians as well as getting a feel for the new machine. Valentino Rossi continued until the rain arrived, finishing the session with the fifth-best time behind Honda's Casey Stoner, Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha's Ben Spies.
Technical changesA big part of the progress the team has made is due to the twin-spar aluminum frame, which provides better feel of what the front end is doing, something that Rossi has been concerned with throughout the 2011 season (and which he alludes to in his comments below).
While Fillipo Preziosi, general manager Ducati Corse, is happy with the overall progress that has been made so far, he hasn't revealed details of the changes that have been made. Preziosi expressed concern that while the GP12 is performing better than the previous version, the gap to Stoner's Honda is still 1.2 seconds, but the gap to the Yamaha's is half that.
Here's what the riders had to say:
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) 5th, 2:00.824 (42 laps)"We on the team are all happy with how this test has gone, especially today," commented a typically up-beat Valentino Rossi. "With a 2:00.8, we're starting to get to a decent time. The two Hondas and the two Yamahas are still ahead of us, but we consider this test to be a starting point. The most positive things we've achieved are that the front now lets me ride a little more as I'm able, that the bike reacts well to changes and that we have very clear ideas on what's still missing. In particular, if we manage to improve the bike's behaviour on acceleration, we'll be able to take a consistent step forward. I know that the work has never stopped at Ducati, and now with the information we've gathered, they'll keep working on the areas that we've identified. That might take a while, but there's still some time before the first race. We have to keep improving, so we're not getting too excited, but I'm pleased with how things have gone so far."
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) 10th, 2:01.729 (just 19 laps)In what must have been a very frustrating time owing to a should injury that limited time on the bike, and as a result, the amount of feedback required by the team technicians to optimise settings, American Nicky Hayden nevertheless put a positive spin on the Sepang tests:
"Obviously, I'd like to have done more. I can't really say it was a real test for me, but I did a few laps each morning in order to at least get a feel for the new bike, get a little data and understand a couple of things. Even in that limited time, I was able to make small improvements and go quicker each day. Ducati did an amazing job with this bike in a short amount of time. It's smoother than any other Ducati I've ever ridden, it looks slick and it's good to work on. It's got good power, and the front end is working well, but with the extra power, now we've got to find better rear traction at the first touch of the throttle. With the few adjustments we've made, everything seems to be going in a good way, so now I just need to get healthy."