After several years of unpredictable handling from its MotoGP prototype, Ducati are confident they have 'turned the corner' with the all new GP12, to be raced by Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden during the debut season of 1000cc competition.
Ducati's introduction of a carbon-fibre frame, stressed engine and MotoGP's single-tyre rule were among the causes touted for complex handling issues that only 2007 world champion Casey Stoner could overcome.
But even the super-talented Australian was caught out from time to time and when his 2011 replacement, MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, struggled with the same front-end issues Ducati left no stone unturned in seeking a complete solution.
Major revisions introduced during last season seemed to miss the mark, but they were part of a learning process that culminated in the production of Ducati's first MotoGP machine to feature a twin-spar aluminium frame (unstressed engine).
That's the same frame concept with which Rossi won a record 79 premier-class races for Yamaha and Honda, although Ducati's unique carbon fibre swing-arm remains.
An initial version of the GP12 was tested by Rossi at Valencia last November, with a second '90% new' specification only completing its first laps in mid-January. Rossi and Hayden then rode the new machine for the first time during the Sepang test.
Speaking during Thursday's final day, Ducati Corse general manager Filippo Preziosi wouldn't divulge which of the many technical changes - including weight distribution and geometry - had finally cured the front-end problems, but did speak frankly about the factory's sense of relief.
“This test was mainly focussed on if the bike is better in the front and I can say that it is,” declared Preziosi, making his first visit to the Malaysian Grand Prix circuit.
“We have learnt that the ideas we had, regarding the reason why the bike was not giving the rider the right feedback and turning in the right way into the corner, were correct. It was not easy! These ideas were something we believed, but there is a big difference between believing and knowing...