What did Ducati find at the Catalunya test?

Forget mind coaches, if there was a single turning point for Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati's season it probably came during the private test at Catalunya, between the French and Italian MotoGPs.

Exactly what was tried ("something different") remains a mystery, but there were rumours of new chassis parts.

Since the end of the season Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna, team manager Davide Tardozzi and test rider Michele Pirro have all made reference to the test as a key moment.

Dall’Igna: "We fought back from a tough situation [early in the season] and from the test in Barcelona we improved the performance of our bike quite a lot, on the technical side."

Tardozzi: "We found something after the Barcelona test. We understood that we had something that can be good and it was confirmed at the Mugello and Catalunya [races]."

Pirro: "After the Barcelona test we found some solutions that gave [Dovi] much more confidence. This was an important step and when he managed to win at Mugello, I think his season changed."

Following the Barcelona test, Dovizioso took the first back-to-back race wins of his grand prix career, at Mugello and Catalunya. It was a feat made all the more impressive since Mugello marked the debut of the stiffer Michelin front tyre, a change Ducati had strongly objected to.

What if Rossi wasn't injured - twice?

Given the problems experienced by Movistar Yamaha at low grip and wet events such as Jerez, Catalunya, Motegi, Sepang and Valencia this season, Valentino Rossi doesn’t think his broken leg prior to Misano made much difference to his championship position.

But Rossi also suffered a training injury before his previous home round at Mugello (fourth in the race), which was followed just one week later by the Catalunya Grand Prix.

Rossi's later heroics on his early return from the leg injury at Aragon are well known (third in qualifying, fourth in the race) but what could he have done without the training injuries.

The Italian would surely have scored more points and, while it might not have been enough to overcome the bike issues for a title fight, might Rossi have finished the season as the top Yamaha rider?

Team-mate Maverick Vinales was third in the world championship, two places and 22 points ahead of Rossi…

Would Lorenzo have let Dovizioso by?

Despite all the debate over Ducati's (attempted) use of team orders via the 'suggested mapping' messages at the last two rounds, at no time did Jorge Lorenzo actually let Andrea Dovizioso by.

In Malaysia it was a mistake by Lorenzo that allowed Dovizioso through, while at Valencia Lorenzo remained just in front of the title contender until falling.

Lorenzo said he didn't see the dashboard message in Sepang but was praised by Ducati management after the race, presumably for not trying to re-pass.

And if Lorenzo's stated plan had worked in Valencia - meaning he had caught the lead group, towing Dovizioso with him - would Lorenzo then have pulled aside, with his first Ducati victory within reach?

By the Valencia test, Lorenzo was growing tired of the questioning over his decision to override team instructions in the season finale:

"I don't understand why there is still this polemic. For some people it looks like everything I do is bad.

"I'm quiet because I think I made the right decision. The people who just watch the race on Sunday don’t understand the pace of all the riders on the grid, during all weekend. The ones who are experts know Dovi's pace and what happened in the race.

"I repeat, maybe in some corners or in some moments of the race I could slow Dovi down a little bit. But in general terms - over 30 laps - I'm still convinced that [Dovi following] my wheel helped him to be more competitive. As he has said.

"After he said that, I think nobody should keep talking about it. Because if Dovi says I helped him to be more comfortable and faster, I think the matter is finished."

The only time a Ducati rider allowed Dovizioso to pass this season, following a team message, was Scott Redding at Phillip Island. The Englishman later got a frosty reception for re-passing the struggling Italian.

What happened to Vinales?

Fastest in every winter test and winner of three of the opening five races, Maverick Vinales was the runaway early title favourite. But he didn't win another race and dropped out of mathematical championship contention with two rounds remaining.

Yamaha's 2017 bike problems in the wet and low grip are well known, but team-mate Valentino Rossi later managed a win at Assen and the real mystery was why Vinales wasn't able to repeat his earlier dominant form even on high-grip circuits.

Maybe it was the change in front tyre construction? After all, Vinales didn't win after the switch to the stiffer design from Mugello. Or did the constant supply of revised chassis designs from Yamaha end up causing confusion?

Perhaps the biggest problem for Vinales and Yamaha after Le Mans - at circuits with grip - was simply that they couldn't match the pace of improvements by their main rivals.

Rossi found more confidence with the new front tyre, while progress by Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso (at the Barcelona test) and Honda's Marc Marquez (at the Brno test) saw them dominate the second half of the season.

Beyond Le Mans, Vinales twice finished runner-up twice (Mugello, Silverstone) and third on a further two occasions (Brno, Phillip Island).

What if Iannone didn't fall in Qatar?

Andrea Iannone qualified second on the grid (admittedly courtesy of free practice times) for his Suzuki debut in Qatar, and was running a close third when he crashed out at mid-race distance.

As well the chance of a podium, Iannone was on course to comfortably beat the sixth-place predecessor Maverick Vinales had achieved the previous season.

How much difference might it have made to Suzuki's season if he had stayed on?

With the team later hinting that motivation was a factor in Iannone's results, might a debut rostrum on the GSX-RR have given the boost he needed to push through the difficulties that followed?

Instead, Suzuki spent much of the season floundering, the team's best result being a fourth place by rookie team-mate Alex Rins in the Valencia finale. Another big question is what Rins might have achieved without his Texas injury.

Either way, if had Iannone had claimed a podium in Qatar, Suzuki would not be regaining technical concessions for 2018…

That's just a start. Leave your unanswered questions in the comments section below...


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Fact of the matter is that the circumstances as they were presented, resulted in the season we had.  If, if, if...  Sure, if this or that, it would have been different, but then too could the butterfly effect make a difference.  The races, the tires, the riders, and the teams were all presented with the same set of circumstances. 

The best those from runner-up and below can do is look back upon any lost opportunities, see where they could have improved and focus on doing that.  For races they did well at, remember what it took for those too.  Work with the factory to get the best possible package for 2018 and remember, 2017 MotoGP champion MM and teammate DP and Honda all are 'mostly' satisfied already with what they have in their 2018 prototype.

Focus on MM being there fighting for the 2018 championship.  If his opponents cannot do that on a consistent basis again in 2018, this thread will basically write itself in a year's time.

Good post LTR

Yeah it's pointless in a way to look back at what could have been from a racing perspective, but from human nature point of view it is obvious that such possible tipping points are analyzed, revisited and speculated over and over again. The article does a pretty good job of identifying such points.

For instance, if Marc's Honda hadn't given up the ghost in Silverstone we could have been in for a much more boring second half of the season, however even though it was an important point for the season, it's not interesting to speculate about that as it would have just made the current result that much more reaffirmed.

Well put, sir. The three key things that could halt Marquez's charge are if Yamaha sort the bike out, if Lorenzo has cracked the Ducati nut and if Marquez finally gets unlucky with an injury (hope not). 

Here's the thing Jorge... you are extremely unlikeable for reasons such as this.. YOU ignore team orders, all those people in your pits are smart and paying attention too.. Maybe they know something you don't. Despite your giant EGO suggesting otherwise. 

You simply couldn't do what was asked of you because  you are so arrogant as to think you are smarter than everyone else and that somehow justifies your disloyalty.... go away

A racer without ego is no racer, JL is the epitome of true racing spirit in an outspoken form. Or like the Kimi t-shirts "Leave me alone, I know what I am doing". Sometimes I wish MotoGP had radios just so we could hear statements like this. I do believe radios have no place in MotoGP however.

Furthermore your comment is invalid, because there was no disloyalty. Nobody in the team has a beef over his actions. Not even his teammate, the supposed beneficiary of team orders given. It appears the pundits who do not like JL for whatever reasons are the most vocal ones, having finally found some tangible action (or inaction) over which to criticize him.

Well said, Mullet. Can't agree with you more on the 1st part re. ego.


"Nobody in the team has beef over his actions". Have you been inside Dovi's garage or his RV after the race? Dovi is a gentleman and his PR skills prove it. However, I wouldn't doubt him and his close colleagues flipped their sh*t behind closed doors. Truth is, unless you were there, you coulnd't prove that statement, neither can I on my opinion.

Just on the second part, of course we don't know what goes on behind closed doors. However what we do know that there is a positive statement (as opposed to no statement, or a condemning statement). If you insist that the value of this statement is zero, then logically there is no possible statement from Ducati or Dovi that would redeem Jorge and his actions - as silence would also have been condemning.

To dwell on the topic a little bit more, ultimately the point of this news item is "what if". We never got around to the "if" on either occasion of Mapping 8. What is certain is that Dovi has shown the past season he can make a hard pass on JL if needed. He did not even try to do that. Like stated above all this is speculation and nobody can ever get to the alternate reality. However across the season the teammate skills shown are vastly improved in the Ducati garage as compared to 2016. I can only imagine the flak that would've been flying if Jorge had taken out Dovi at any time after the Catalan GP.

What is also crystal clear is that there are a group of people who are willing to blast JL over whatever action he does. If he'd moved over nice and slow, there would have been people claiming he's a Ducati lap dog and not a real racer, and that team orders originate from Satan himself.

Finally, the thing one could legitimately try to criticize JL about is not being able to put himself between Dovi and Marc elsewhere than Sepang, but MotoGP is not really a team sport. It's not conceivable by anyone reasonable either that JL should have let go of the podiums of Jerez and Aragon to drop several places and give Dovi one point more per race, which ultimately would have amounted to nothing. By looking at the season results it becomes pretty apparent that the way for Dovi to beat Marc would have been a better outcome at PI, Valencia, Aragon and some earlier races, not by relying on team orders.

Also Mullet, there is no way that Dovi would want a race win ( or Title ) gifted to him by Team Orders. Dovi is not the type and anyway this is not F1.

Myself, I don't want team orders for any reason, racing is supposed to be a race. Having said that I don't think Jorge would have lost anything by letting Dovi have a go at the leaders early in race when Dovi was clearly faster.

Interesting season for Ducati next year if Dovi and Lozzer start taking points off of each other, with the chance of Satellite riders getting in the mix too.

Wondering what your response would be if yamaha asked Rossi to move over from a winning position to let Vinales through.

99% sure Rossi would ignore it and you would be praising him for that