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GP Week : Issue 135
SPY reports from secret Ducati tests at Jerez in the week after the Aragon GP revealed that Ducati has taken one step further down the road towards convention, with lead rider Valentino Rossi testing a chassis built using conventional principles, out of aluminium. The chassis is believed to be that shown in spy photographs in design form, from British Moto2 chassis specialists FTR. But while a report in Italy’s GPONE.com website describe a twin-spar fabricated aluminium chassis very similar to those used by all other MotoGP competitors, this version (designed in-house by Ducati) retains the use of the engine casings as a stressed chassis member. As reported in these pages from Aragon, the first aluminium chassis that Rossi used was a first step away from the mini airbox-chassis, with flex built into the front engine mountings, and the full chassis extending further back towards the seat mounting. It is not clear whether this new version incorporates the airbox, but the main beams of the chassis extend still further back and lower; although the swing-arm pivot remains on the engine casings. Results were reported encouraging, with Rossi within half a second or less of Stoner’s pole time for the race earlier this year, set on the 800cc Honda. But some reports were that Stoner had been significantly faster again at the same circuit, when he tested the Honda 1000 for the first time. This is the fifth chassis Rossi has tried this year. The first change was after the first three rounds, when a revised-stiffness Mk2 carbon airbox-chassis arrived. At Assen, round eight, Rossi got the redesigned GP11.1, based on next-year’s prototype, with a more Yamaha-like rear suspension arrangement. The un-named first aluminium chassis came for the last round at Aragon. THERE was a strong element of “we told you so” to Bridgestone’s regular post- race debrief, issued in the week after an Aragon GP where several riders – including Spies, Lorenzo and Rossi – complained of tyres that were destroyed by the end of the race. In a statement that confirmed the principle that riders will complain about tyres no matter how good or bad they are, the company gave former ten-time 125 GP winner Masao Azuma, now a tyre technician, the chance to give a plain- talking response to a season of growing criticism of the MotoGP control tyres. “At this high level tyre compound selection is always a balance between warm-up performance and race-distance durability. You maximise one at the detriment of the other,” he explained. “ This season riders have specifically been asking for tyres that have improved warm- up performance for improved safety in the early laps, and were happy to sacrifice some race-distance durability for this. This is exactly what we saw happen on Sunday.” Azuma analysed lap times to show that in spite of a much cooler track Stoner was inside his lap record on the second lap, proving the warm-up performance of the tyres. “ The flip-side of this, as the riders know, is that tyre performance will drop off later in the race,” said Azuma. Furthermore, conditions – especially a dirty surface off-line – encouraged tyre wear. From the riders’ side, the rapid wear had been a shock to some. “I never felt a tyre drop off so suddenly so quickly,” said Spies after the race. Race-winner Stoner, by contrast, had no complaints about wear, and pointed to poor set-up as a reason. The same difficulties had arisen at Indianapolis: “We knew we had a problem all weekend, and we had to change our bike and set it up to take away that tyre wear. "Others who also didn’t suffer, it was also because of the way they’d set the bike up, nothing to do with riding style. Or if the tyres are wearing because of your riding style ... then change your style. Do something different,” he said. ROSSI TESTS DUCAT-AHA Bridgestone: “We told you so” Tyre woes at Aragon were ‘as requested’ Chassis number five is one step closer to convention 16