Factory star Andrea Dovizioso insists he isn't surprised by the speed of the 2014-based Ducati, as used in MotoGP this season by the satellite Avintia and Aspar teams.
A GP14.2 rider has made it through to Qualifying 2 in all three events so far this season; Hector Barbera starting eighth on the grid in Qatar and Argentina, with team-mate Loris Baz twelfth today in Texas.
Dovizioso, who claimed seventh in qualifying, believes the change from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres has helped the GP14.2 - but warns its deficiencies in terms of the energy needed to create the lap time remain.
“I'm not surprised because it is related more to the tyres than the bike. With Bridgestone I think it was different,” he said. “That [GP14.2] bike is fast in practice, because in practice many riders can use energy and be fast. But you can't ride like this in the race. Nobody can. To do all the race like this is impossible. That is the difference.”
Barbera was ninth in Qatar, 21 seconds from the top. Aspar's Eugene Laverty was then an excellent fourth in the chaotic Termas de Rio Hondo race, but 37 seconds from victory.
After arriving at Ducati Corse, general manager Gigi Dall'Igna modified the original GP14 to create the 14.2 version. The all-new GP15 then became the first complete Ducati designed under his leadership.
“From 2014 to 2015 was the turning point,” confirmed Dovizioso, who took two podiums on the GP14 and five on the GP15. “The bike improved a lot, I was able to start to work in a normal way and we start to fight for good positions. Also we were fast the year before, but just in practice. We knew why and when we fixed that problem it became a normal bike. I was able to enter, but especially turn, on the right line.”
One of the main factors in solving the Desmosedici's long-standing understeer problem - which became worse as tyre grip reduce during a race - is believed to be the introduction of a counter-rotating engine for 2015, something Ducati and Dovizioso refuse to publically confirm.
“It was a mix of many things. It is never one thing that makes that big a difference,” Dovizioso said.
Yamaha, Honda and Aprilia are now all believed to have counter-rotating engines.
The Italian was speaking in the Circuit of the Americas paddock, where he explained that a lack of track time - not helped by a practice fall - means he is still chasing the right set-up ahead of Sunday's race.
“Every practice I did maximum four laps [in a row]. Because we had a small problem yesterday on the bike and this morning I crashed on the second exit. So if you look my fast laps during the weekend it is half the normal. We miss those laps also because this track is very difficult about the line, to find the right balance on the bike.
“So I arrived in qualifying without the best set-up. Especially the feeling on the front tyre is not the best. So I wasn't smooth enough to really do a good lap time, but when we put the harder tyre on the rear it is not bad. So I'm more confident for the race, but still we have to improve a little bit the feeling on the front because Marc and the two Yamahas are a little bit far. But if conditions are good for warm-up we have the possibility to improve and fight with them.”
In terms of his FP3 fall, Dovizioso stated: “I think everybody is really on the limit on the front because the grip is not wonderful and if you make something more, just a little bit when normally nothing would happen, it is over the limit. I was two degrees more and I lost the front.”
The former 125cc world champion expects to race with the new harder rear tyre, which only arrived in time for day two: “Yes I think so. This morning when I try first time I did a 2m 4.7s in the first exit so it is very similar to the softer one.”
Dovizioso will be promoted to sixth on the grid due to the penalty handed to team-mate Andrea Iannone (fourth in qualifying) for taking the #4 down during a failed overtake at the end of last Sunday's Argentina race.
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