Ducati's carbon fibre chassis made an instant impact by winning its very first race, in the hands of Casey Stoner, on Monday night's 2009 Qatar MotoGP season opener.
Ducati's leap from steel trellis to carbon fibre monocoque - bypassing the aluminium favoured by its Japanese rivals - has been the main talking point of the GP9 since it made an early public debut during last June's post-race test at Catalunya. A carbon fibre swingarm was also introduced at the Qatar test in early march.
Carbon fibre is light, strong and extremely stiff - but also has different mechanical properties in different directions, depending on how the fibres are laid, opening up a range of new possibilities.
However, Ducati Corse general manager Filippo Preziosi said in June that it is the change in shape that is most important. “The fact we've used carbon fibre in the production of the chassis is not the most relevant point, it is more the shape that is different from before,” he declared. The new shape allows for a much improved airbox design.
For the riders, the main benefits have been in terms of stability, during braking and cornering.
“There is not a big difference between the GP8 and GP9 - the level in MotoGP is so high it is difficult to find a big gain - but there is a good advantage with the carbon chassis,” former Ducati test rider and 2009 MotoGP rookie Niccolo Canepa told during the winter.
In a feature documenting the evolution of its MotoGP chassis technology since 2003 (see below), Ducati calls the carbon fibre chassis the GP9's “most significant innovation”.
But aside from the technical advantages, it is worth noting that Ducati's carbon fire switch is also clever tactically.
By refusing to adopt the technology of its rivals - and enjoying instant success - Ducati will have effectively 'forced' the Japanese teams to start (or revive) carbon fibre chassis/swingarm projects of their own.
This is an unwelcome distraction at a time when they are seeking to refine their own '09 machines, and face budget pressure due to the financial crises, but the price of failing to spot such potential performance advantages early could be devastating.
For such reasons, any new technology spotted in F1 - even if introduced by the smallest, underperforming, team - is always investigated by the leading teams, to avoid the risk of being 'caught out'.
The full Ducati feature can be seen below:
'The most significant innovation of the Ducati Desmosedici GP9 is the monocoque frame in carbon fibre composite.