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GP Week : Issue 125
With half the season gone and the dream of a Rossi steam-roller having turned sour, Ducati is in a dark place, along with both riders. They now have two different motorbikes, neither of which is as good as the Japanese opposition – and a dilemma over whether to persist with the newer GP11.1 or to switch Rossi back to the earlier GP11, that he abandoned full of new hopes three races ago. And they haven’t resolved it yet. As a consequence, they are to take two bikes of each type for each rider to Laguna, deferring the decision as long as possible, and probably until they have had a chance to make back-to-back tests at Laguna. The GP11 has handling problems. Pumping from the rear has been improved but not solved, but the greater issue is front-end feeling, so vital for rider confidence and consequently for speed. The GP11.1 (actually next year’s proposed GP12, with the engine modified to 800cc) also has handling problems. A new rear suspension arrangement fixes the back end, but has simply thrown more focus on the front-end problems. Rossi is struggling worse than Hayden at present. He qualified second-last while Hayden qualified eighth and top Ducati (also the top rider from Kentucky, as he ironically commented), and narrowly beat Rossi in the race. But he did say “we found a better balance from practice, so I could push harder in the race.” Being Rossi, nobody blames poor results on the rider. In this way, Ducati’s dream all-Italian team has become more of a nightmare. They are blamed for everything. There is at least one dilemma greater than which bikes to wheel out next weekend. It is whether they can match the Japanese while they continue to pursue their design heresy – a bike basically without a chassis, except for the tiny carbon-fibre box up front – blamed for lacking the right degree and direction of flex for good handling. They have to decide whether to keep going on their own path – the thing that makes a Ducati into a Ducati. Or do they need to build a Japanese -style twin-spar frame in order to take the greatest benefit from their expensive star rider. Ducati’s dilemma ... 28