18 March 2015
MotoGP: ‘The GP15 is a real Ducati’
“We have the same engine angle as last season and we have the desmodromic valve system. The GP15 is a real Ducati” - Gigi Dall'Igna.
The biggest surprise of MotoGP pre-season testing has been the instant performance of the Ducati GP15.
The all-new machine is the first complete Desmosedici by Gigi Dall'Igna, who joined Ducati from Aprilia at the end of 2013.
The Italian held his nerve by waiting until the second of the three pre-seasons tests to debut the bike, which was promptly hailed as solving the turning problems that have baffled Ducati for years.
The GP15 left Malaysia with the fourth fastest lap time, then went on to dominate the final test in Qatar. Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso each led one night of testing at Losail, venue for the opening round of the championship at the end of this month.
Most worrying for its rivals, Iannone and Dovizioso did not use the soft rear tyre available to the Open class plus Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia factory entries. Instead the Ducatis set their time on the harder rear tyre, which is what they will use in the race.
With Honda's world champion Marc Marquez the only rider within half-a-second of the Ducatis at Losail - the Spaniard set the second fastest lap time - the prospect of a Ducati pole position (using the extra performance of the soft tyre) is very real.
Victory will clearly be a much tougher task and the loss of the final night of Qatar testing also meant race simulations were scrapped. But the very fact victory is being mentioned shows just have far Ducati, without a win since 2010, have come.
So what was the key to the Desmosedici's transformation? Dall'Igna wasn't going to reveal any secrets, but he did disclose a change in philosophy at the Ducati Corse headquarters.
“In my opinion this bike comes from a real work of different areas,” Dall'Igna said at Sepang. “For me in the past maybe [at Ducati] the engine was an engine, the chassis a chassis. So the engineers designed the engine and then at the end the chassis designer had to develop the chassis [around] the engine.
“Now I think it is quite different. We really worked together. Everybody had to accept some compromise. That means some decisions about the engine came from the chassis designer and the reverse.
"This is I think the step that we did and also why this bike is so small in comparison with the [previous Ducatis].”
Given the changes that have been made, and similar design features that now exist among all of the MotoGP manufacturers, Dall'Igna was asked if he feels the GP15 is still 'a Ducati'?
“I think so,” Dall'Igna replied. “One of my problems, frankly speaking, is that I normally don't watch what the other [factories] are doing. For sure I have some ideas and probably these ideas are similar to the other manufacturers.
“But at the end we checked all these ideas inside Ducati, with the Ducati people and technology. Yes or no comes from Ducati. So I think it is a proper Ducati. We have the same [engine] angle as last season and we have the desmodromic [valve system]. The GP15 is a real Ducati.”
Dall'Igna denied that changing the 90-degree engine V, a layout also used by Honda, or the factory's unique desmodromic system had been out of bounds.
“If I was in another brand probably I don't use the desmodromic system because this is a system that has a lot of potential, in my opinion, but it is quite complicated,” Dall'Igna admitted. “So if you do not have the knowhow to do this it is quite difficult. But we are Ducati. Ducati has a lot of experience with this kind of system and in the end I think this is an advantage in comparison with the other solutions.”
Ducati's rivals - Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Aprilia - all use pneumatic-valve technology rather than the trademark, mechanical system at Ducati.
“In my opinion we have exactly the same advantages as the pneumatic system, but at low rpm the friction is a little less. The overall performance of the engine I think is better [with the desmodromic],” Dall'Igna declared.
Dall'Inga surprised his rivals by steering Ducati out of the factory engine freeze and into the Open class technical concessions at the start of 2014. Without that change, also available to Suzuki and Aprilia, Dall'Igna believes it would have taken three years to reach the point they are at with the GP15.
Ducati will lose two litres of race fuel, down to 22 litres, if it achieves a dry race win or two more podiums this season. That will have almost no impact since, “we finished with 22 litres in all of last year's races.”
Three dry wins would then mean loss of the soft rear tyre, but that would only hurt Ducati in qualifying and offer the opportunity to run the very hardest option in the race. The chance to use 12 instead of five engines, avoid the development freeze and increased testing will remain until the end of 2015 regardless of results.
2016 then sees the introduction of a single ECU and Michelin replacing Bridgestone as tyre supplier. The softer Open class tyre and different quantity of race fuel are set to disappear (22 litres for all) but some results-based perks - such as avoiding the engine development freeze - will continue for uncompetitive manufacturers.
It is not yet clear if Ducati will join Honda and Yamaha in being ineligible for the 2016 concessions. That will depend on where the bar is set and what Ducati achieves this season.
“My target is at least one win. I don't know when, but this is the target for Ducati in 2015,” Dall'Igna said.
If the Qatar test is anything to go by, he may not be waiting long...
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