2009 MotoGP rookie and former Ducati test rider Niccolo Canepa has provided an insight into riding the Desmosedici grand prix machine, plus a glimpse of life inside the Ducati factory and the challenges he faces in balancing university with MotoGP.
During the past two seasons, Casey Stoner has taken the 800cc Desmosedici to 16 wins, 25 podiums and 14 poles - handing the young Australian the 2007 world championship and second place in the 2008 standings.
But the only non-Stoner victory is a wet/dry win for Loris Capirossi in the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix - while Toni Elias was the next best Ducati rider with two podiums and eleventh overall last year - making the 800cc Desmosedici the most 'mysterious' motorcycle on the MotoGP grid.
Even with the knowledge of computer data and technical understanding learnt as a mechanical engineering student, Canepa admits it is hard to pinpoint exactly how Stoner goes so much faster than every other Desmosedici rider.
“Stoner brakes later and opens the throttle sooner!” smiled the Pramac rider. “I don't know exactly what Stoner does better than us. I know he uses a lot of rear brake, but so does Nicky [Hayden]. When you enter the corner the rear brake helps to close the line.”
One area where many GP9 riders are currently losing time is on corner exit, with the rear of the bike 'pumping' up and down as the power is applied. Canepa revealed that it was actually a much bigger problem on the 2008 machine and believes it is caused by opening the throttle too aggressively.
In contrast to suggestions that Stoner's success is down to pinning the throttle and letting the electronics sort it out, Canepa believes that careful use of the throttle is the key to extracting a good lap time from the Desmosedici.
“With the GP9 the pumping is better. With the GP8 it was a big problem,” stated the 20-year-old. “With the Ducati you have to be very slow with the throttle, if you open the throttle like this [quickly] the bike starts pumping and you think you are going faster - because the bike moves everywhere - but for the lap time it is not good! It is better to be smooth with the throttle, but it is difficult to get the exact balance right.”
Having played a role in development of the GP9 last season, Canepa is already familiar with the new carbon fibre chassis, which he says offers a distinct advantage in a championship where large technical improvements are hard to find.