After spending some laps on track with the factory Ducati Desmosedicis at the two-day MotoGP test at the Red Bull Ring, Danilo Petrucci believes no one will be able to challenge the speed of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone in dry conditions.
Ducatis occupied the first four places at the test with Valentino Rossi the first non-Bologna backed rider in fifth. The nine-time world champion was close to a second slower than Iannone's fastest time.
While neither Marc Marquez nor Dani Pedrosa were present at the shakedown in July, Petrucci believes the sheer power generated by Ducati's 2016 engine should be more than enough to ensure the Italian manufacturer ends its 100-race winning drought in the premier class.
“I expect, if the race is dry and the tyres are good, I think the two Ducatis will make the race away from everyone. The two Andreas have a very good engine. They are very good riders. I think they enjoy the track with that bike,” opined Petrucci, who ended the test in 14th.
“Other times I had the chance to stay in front of them but this was very difficult. The gap with the engine is so high. We are going to fight as always and don't like so much to stay behind.”
One potential pitfall to Ducati's challenge could be the new batch of rear tyres Michelin has brought to Austria. In the test, the compound was much too soft, with riders suffering blistering after ten laps or more.
For Petrucci, the characteristics of the new rear tyres will be key. “We have to check this tyre because for sure the two factory Ducatis are really fast. They have a different engine. We don't have the same engine as the factory bikes but we don't have the stability of the GP14.”
While sat on Ducati machinery, Petrucci felt Pramac's GP15s aren't best suited to the short, fast 2.6-mile layout, as they don't have the punch of the '16 machines, nor the braking stability offered by the GP14.2s run by the Aspar and Avintia teams.
“Maybe for me and Scott we don't have the perfect bikes but we can stay with the others,” continued the Italian. “Anyway, we have to try this tyre. I don't know if it's different or if it's the same as Jerez and Austin. I wasn't there so I don't know. We have to come closer to the two Andreas.
“Maybe we can fight for a position in the top five but it will be very difficult. Our bike is not so stable. We have to work on the braking area. We have to see how it goes. Our engine is quite similar for the speed like the Yamaha factory or the Honda. We have quite the same speed. We have to set up the chassis quite well to stay with them.”
Pressed on where the Ducati makes its advantage, Petrucci's team-mate Scott Redding explained how the added power is of a huge help.
“The power does help because it's straight – brake – straight – brake. It's a little more technical around [turns] seven, eight, nine. I think you do get more advantage from the speed.
“We do have a good chance to do something this weekend but I'm sure the other manufacturers will somehow manage to bring it closer. Even if it was a f**king drag race they'd still find something for the weekend to be competitive.”