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GP Week : Issue 122
DUCATI has incurred the wrath of its rivals and the approval of its riders by bringing next year’s bike to this year’s competition, at the weekend’s Dutch GP, after taking advantage of extra testing opportunities for the 2012 machines. But the plan backfired somewhat when Rossi struggled with the new bike in qualifying, though his team found some improvement for race day, and he was promoted to fifth by crashes ahead of him. Dubbed the “GP11.1”, the bike was at first only for Rossi, with two in his pit, with team-mate Hayden obliged to wait until his home GP at Laguna Seca. With a new quick-change gearbox as well as the chassis change, first results were promising. Rossi was second in the wet first free practice, fifth in the dry the next morning. But he failed to match the general improvement in qualifying, slipping to 11th, almost two seconds off pole. Looking dejected, he admitted: “Results were not as good as we expected. It was not so bad in the morning but it looks like I don’t understand the way to ride this bike to the maximum, and how to set it to ride with a good feeling.” He was again having trouble getting the tyres up to temperature, spoiling the corner entry. The new bike is next year’s, but for the engine capacity. The new engine built to 1000cc rules (actual capacity unknown) was either sleeved or destroked to 800cc. Team chief Vittoriano Guareschi revealed that “only the brakes, the wheels and the front forks” are the same from the GP11 to Rossi’s GP11.1. Most crucial, as well as a front chassis with revised stiffness, is the rearranged rear suspension, with the swing-arm now under- rather than over-slung. Rossi and Hayden had both spoken well of the new GP12 chassis after testing it at Jerez earlier this year, and then at Mugello in the days after the last GP at Silverstone. The idea of converting the GP12 to next year’s rules hatched in the weeks after the first test, and the GP11.1 had been essayed by test-rider Franco Battaini at Mugello while Rossi was testing the GP12 after Silverstone. Only then was the decision taken to race it at Assen. Ducati brings tomorrow’s bike today ... SECOND Marlboro Ducati rider Nicky Hayden also got an upgrade for Assen – a ‘Step Two’ chassis with further changes to the stiffness ratio. But the new bike was consigned to the back of the pit, after a cancelled free practice session left the 2006 World Champion short of time to test it. “I tried it in the wet in the first free session, and while you can’t push so hard it didn’t seem to be like a big step.” With that afternoon’s session cancelled and an extended free session the next morning also cut short by rain, “we decided that qualifying wasn’t the time to test a new chassis,” he said. ... but Hayden keeps his new bike in reserve 14