Ducati's first MotoGP podium since 2012 was the result of genuine improvements and not the new advantages on offer to Ducati under this year's rules.
That is the opinion of Andrea Dovizioso, who took the Desmosedici to third place in Sunday's Grand Prix of the Americas. It was the Italian's first podium since joining the team at the start of last year and Ducati's first since Valentino Rossi at Misano 2012.
“The difference is that we are able to brake much harder and enter the corner faster,” explained Dovizioso. “Also we are able to use a little bit more power in the first part of acceleration and we have a little more horsepower because of new parts on the engine. This is the reason why we are closer, from the first test this year.”
Winless since Casey Stoner's departure at the end of 2010, Ducati scanned the new Open class regulations then made an audacious bid to switch away from the premier Factory class for 2014.
The main motivation was to avoid this year's Factory engine development freeze and tightening of testing rules, which would have restricted Ducati's chances of breaking free from its uncompetitive situation.
Joining the Open class, intended but not specified for official manufacturer machines, meant sacrificing its bespoke electronics. However Ducati would gain not only increased testing and engine development/changes, but four litres of extra race fuel and the softer rear tyre.
The final decision saw Ducati remain as a Factory entry, with Factory electronics, and
keep all of the Open concessions. However if Ducati achieves a race win, two second places or three dry podiums between now and the 2016 single ECU era its race fuel will be cut by two litres. If Ducati claims three wins they will also lose the softer rear tyre.
“I want to say, many people think the new rules give us the possibility to reach this speed but it is not like this. Sure they give us some positives, but we are faster because we improve the bike, especially the balance of the bike,” said Dovizioso. “The real reason we decided to go to these [Open] rules is to have a possibility to test and to change the engine during the season.”
The rules mean Ducati presently does not have access to the harder Factory tyre, meaning they could be vulnerable to tyre wear issues at some events, while the softer Open rear has only been a factor in qualifying: Dovizioso, like all of the Factory class riders except Honda race winner Marc Marquez, using the medium compound in the grand prix.
However Dovizioso would not say how much fuel he had used in the race.
On a cautionary note, while Dovizioso only finished seventh at COTA last season, the gap to Marc Marquez was almost unchanged, 22.3s last year and 20.9s this year. At Qatar, Dovizioso had been fifth and +12s from Marquez and victory, halving the previous year's difference.
Nevertheless, Pramac Ducati's Andrea Iannone also featured in the top three during Sunday's Austin race and Dovizioso's podium was a massive morale boost.
“I'm so happy for the team,” said Dovi. “I want to say 'thank you' because we've been struggling a lot. We have a gap to close and it's very difficult to make every weekend like this. But will keep working really hard. The mechanics are working many hours, but it's normal if you are in this situation because we have to recover.
“To make a podium is really important for everybody at this moment.”
Dovizioso is presently fourth in the world championship.
Team-mate Cal Crutchlow ran fourth early on in the Austin race, before pitting due to a major tyre vibration then later suffering a big accident and injuring his hand.
Any new MotoGP manufacturer, meaning Suzuki in 2015, will also get the same Factory class concessions.