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GP Week : Issue 190
MOTOGP >>> FEATUrE When Audi (actually via Lamborghini) took over Ducati in the middle of 2012, the situation seemed clear. After two declining years underlined by the failure of even Valentino Rossi to repeat the winning form of Ducati’s first and so far last World Champion Casey stoner, much was expected. With an injection of funds along with some austere simple Teutonic logic, surely the Latin flair of Bologna’s desmodromic specialists could be brought back into full flower. It could still happen. An all-new bike is promised for next year, although the prototype is behind schedule, and won’t be ready for post-season tests (both Yamaha and Honda have exercised their 2014 bikes already). But in fact the on-track results have been the opposite. The gap to the class leaders has grown bigger rather than smaller. And nobody expected it would take quite this long. Race statistics are discouraging, to say the least. Rain has brought relief only once, at Le Mans, where Rossi-replacement Dovizioso led for a goodly spell, and only narrowly missed a sole rostrum finish. For the rest of it, a downward trend. At the opening round, Dovi was seventh, less than 25 seconds adrift of winner Lorenzo. The gap hovered around this mark over the next races, and dropped to less than 20 seconds at Ducati’s test circuit of Mugello, round five. Since then results have gone from bad to worse. At some tracks the factory riders have been reduced to fending off the top CRT bikes. The biggest gap was at the Sachsenring, where the top Ducati was Hayden’s in ninth, fully 45 seconds behind winner Marquez. In the last half-dozen races, that crucial gap has averaged a lamentable 38.95 seconds, and the top Ducati result a distant seventh for Dovi at Brno. This has not been through lack of effort by riders, who have engaged in much more testing than any others; nor on the part of team or factory. A whole separate test team has been busy most of the summer, while endless changes and revisions to chassis stiffness ratios, geometry, swing-arms and electronics show that the boffins are busy at the drawing boards. Changes have not been as radical as during Rossi’s two-year tenure, when the carbon-fibre mini- chassis monocoque was replicated in aluminium, then replaced with a half- and then a full aluminium beam chassis, finally espousing convention. But even those huge changes seem just so much fiddle-faddle. The riders’ complaints are the same as they have been for two or more years – vague steering, a reluctance to turn, and a destructive pumping or pattering from the rear under acceleration. Audi’s arrival caused one major staff change. Filippo Preziosi, long-time head of the racing division Ducati Corse and the father of the Desmosedici since its inception, was moved aside, and soon after wards resigned. The wheelchair-bound engineer is still regarded as a genius in some quarters, though clearly the latter-day Desmosedicis were not his finest hour. In his place, a German: Bernhard Gobmeier, fresh from a term bringing the BMW Superbike team to success. With more than half the season gone, Gobmeier sat down to answer GPWEEK’s questions, and admitted he was not satisfied. But he might be getting some well-muscled assistance in the near future. Former Ducati Corse head Claudio Domenicali, now group CEO, has pledged to take a more direct interest in the racing department from now on: GPWeeK: We all expected a bit more of Ducati this year. What is your view? BERNHARD GOBMEIER: There’s different aspects. If you just look at the lap times and race results, we have had some positive steps forward but we also had some real negative ones. That is what you can see from the outside. “From the inside, we have made progress in certain areas. “To be honest, the overall package we did not improve as much as we wanted. Clearly there we still have some deficits. “We did a lot on the bikes. We redeveloped or newly developed a 27 GPWEEK.com // 27 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: