7 February 2014
Sepang MotoGP Test: Dall’Igna talks Ducati Factory/Open dilemma
“For us probably, I'm not sure, it will be difficult to develop the bike with the Factory MotoGP rules” - Gigi Dall'Igna, Ducati.
On the final evening of the Sepang MotoGP test, new Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall'Igna sat down with a small group of media in the team's hospitality.
The main question he faced was naturally whether Ducati - without a podium for the first time in MotoGP last season - is to switch its official team of Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso from the Factory to Open class.
Dall'Igna gave little away, insisting nothing will be decided until he has poured over this week's track data.
“I will analyse all the data from this test at home and after that I will take the decision about the future,” he said. “I have been here this week just to develop the bike. This is the main target of Ducati at the moment because we have to improve.”
Ducati has so far confirmed that Pramac's Yonny Hernandez will race in the Open class with Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Hernandez's team-mate Andrea Iannone still provisionally listed as Factory.
The new Open class requires use of the complete control ECU, but allows benefits such as four litres more race fuel, twelve engine changes, a softer rear tyre and no in-season engine development freeze.
Dall'Igna underlined that Ducati need the freedom to develop their bike, which may not be possible under the revised Factory class rules.
“For sure the problem that I see with the Factory rules is that with five engines, frozen, it is really difficult to develop properly the bike, because you cannot change the mounting on the chassis. You cannot change a lot of things. It is, in my opinion, really difficult.
“If you fix the engine [position] you fix mostly the chassis. To change the stiffness of the chassis you need to change around the mounting of the engine. For us probably, I'm not sure, it will be difficult to develop the bike with the Factory rules...
“I don't know. I'll analyse all the data and information properly at home because this is the real first test with the  bike. After that I will make a decision.”
The official deadline for an Open/Factory MotoGP decision is February 28, the last day of the next Sepang test. However Dall'Igna confirmed that the decision should be made before the return visit to Malaysia.
Dall'Igna also pointed out that Ducati may opt to move more, but not all, riders to Open: “Why not? We will see.”
Dovizioso was the fastest Ducati at this week's test, in seventh and 0.837s from Honda's reigning world champion Marc Marquez. Iannone was ninth (+1.192s), new signing Crutchlow twelfth (+1.524s) and Hernandez 18th (+3.023s).
“The bike for sure has some problems, but not only one. I have to fix maybe 20 problems. You cannot solve one problem and find one or two seconds. It is impossible! You gain a tenth here, 0.05s there, put it all together and make a step,” Dall'Igna explained.
“Understeer [Ducati's persistent problem in recent seasons] comes from many different things. There are many areas of the bike that can improve this problem.”
Dall'Igna joined Ducati from Aprilia last November, having overseen the title winning World Superbike RSV4 project. A modified version of the RSV4, the ART, was used by Aleix Espargaro to dominate both seasons of the CRT MotoGP class.
The previous CRT 'claiming rule' has been erased for 2014, clearing the way for full specification prototypes fitted with the standard ECU in the newly titled Open category.
Espargaro has moved to an Open class Yamaha for 2014 - and set a stunning pace at this week's test, finishing fourth fastest and joining only Marquez, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in breaking the two-minute barrier.
MotoGP leaders Honda and Yamaha, whilst supplying Open class machinery, show no signs of considering a switch away from the Factory class.
Dall'Igna said that he had not spoken with Honda or Yamaha about Ducati and the Factory/Open class.
However earlier in the day Repsol Honda team manager Livio Suppo was asked for his thoughts on Ducati potentially making an all-Open move.
Suppo was Ducati team manager from 2003-2009 - including Casey Stoner's title victory - before switching to Honda where he has overseen two further riders' titles.
"Honestly it's none of my business. Sure Ducati in the past has done the best choice when they take a risky choice, so maybe it could be a good idea. But I am not there, I have no idea," he said.
The risky decisions that paid off for Ducati include an early switch to Bridgestone tyres and signing Stoner after just one season on a satellite Honda.
Suppo also confirmed that to be eligible for the Open class "you just have to use the Dorna [control ECU] software" regardless of machine specification. Factory class entries must also run the control ECU hardware, but will continue to develop their own software.
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