Guest Blog: The Ducati Dilemma

By Angelo A. Anolin

Photo: Ducati

Ducati. Proudly Italian (although can be contested after being purchased by Audi). One hell of a beast inside the track. Very few riders can tame the beast, with the last successful one retiring and switching to four wheels. Six years ago, it was the fastest and meanest bike, capping the year with the title. Runaway winner during that year on fast tracks like Philip Island in Australia and Misano in Italy. Unforgiving, especially in the hands of a skillful rider. Overpowering in the straights and relentless in the drive to be always ahead.

But that was six years ago, a period of time by which the fastest two-wheeled machines in the world are handled to the limit by the most skilled riders on the planet, is constantly evolving to get that tenth of a second advantage in the corner, in the straight, in the corkscrew, and just about every area available on the track. That time period has allowed the other teams, notably Honda and Yamaha to make changes to their machines – not in terms of just power delivery, but the agility and driveability of the bike. Ducati has focused so much on their power delivery that they negated a crucial aspect of the race – corner speeds. With the power designed for the straights, there’s no easy way for the bike to be managed on the corners on full lean, with the least amount of rubber touching the tarmac. Excessive power either tends to upset the front resulting in a crash or spins the rear tire so much it gets into a different line which has the rider turning off the throttle to bring it back properly.

And now as the 2013 testing season has started, the Ducati riders face the bleak reality that their factory Japanese counterparts have a whopping 2 second edge every lap. The factory Ducati riders have already told the media that what they have right now won’t be able to compete, given the current bike which has progressed slowly since its glory days that was six years ago. It is evident in the frustration shown in the faces of the Ducati riders every time they go back to the pit lane to modify something.

The Ducati racing team is in a bind right now. Part of them wants to stay with their current bike, hoping that introducing some small changes would allow them to bring the bike closer to the front. On the other side of the fence they are probably starting to ask themselves whether they need to perform a total bike revamp, by starting from the ground up with a clean slate.

Part of the Ducati problem is that the small changes they make to the bike does not provide them with the consistent feedback to further experiment with changes to the bike. An example would be adjusting the dampening of suspensions on the bike where a rider will try it in different successions, with each succession providing a different feedback. Having no good basis is certainly a recipe for disaster as the team would have no reliable baseline to reference.

The Ducati needs to win, or at least be competitive. No company or sponsor would be willing to gamble on a losing effort.  The red beast competing is good not just for them but for the whole of MotoGP itself. The answer may lie through radical changes, but if it is certainly a good baseline to developing a solution to their dilemma, then by all means they should go for it. It’s a technical challenge and perhaps a very expensive one that is, but the essence of winning should be the goal as always.

2 thoughts on “Guest Blog: The Ducati Dilemma

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