The Ducati factory MotoGP team took an important step into their future this week when they brought out their GP15 machine for its official debut.
For the last few seasons, one of MotoGP’s strongest subplots has been the trials and travails of the Ducati team; since the series moved to a Bridgestone spec tire and Casey Stoner moved to Honda in 2011, the Italian manufacturer’s machines have struggled. Even Valentino Rossi was unable to achieve any sort of success on the factory’s bike during his time with the factory. He left the team after two years.
The situation was so bad that Cal Crutchlow (who went to Ducati after chasing a factory ride for some time) only lasted a year with the team, leaving for LCR Honda after a season of no success.
The basic complaint everybody heard was simple: The bike wouldn’t turn well, and Ducati’s engineers refused to address the basic underlying issues. There was more to it than that – Rossi had pointed out the Ducati machine was much more of a work-in-progress than its paddock counterparts from Japan, and Crutchlow had other mechanical issues in 2014 that cost him points.
But in late 2013, even before Crutchlow left (he’s been replaced by Andrea Iannone this season), the seeds of change were being planted. Luigi Dall’Igna was brought in as general manager, bringing with him a history of winning with Aprilia’s World Superbike team. Then, last summer, project director Paolo Ciabatti actually admitted the steering issue, and told fans the team was working to address the problems.
Roughly seven months later, the new bike has taken to track at the second Sepang test. Test rider Michelle Pirro rode the bike first, then handed it over to the race team yesterday. Factory rider Andrea Dovizioso still did his best lap on the GP14.3, but Iannone focused on the new GP15 during the second Sepang test yesterday. They both said they were happy with the new bike.
“I am satisfied with my first approach with the new bike. We were all waiting impatiently for it and we couldn’t wait to go out on the track, and my first impressions are very positive,” said Iannone. “Obviously we still have to work a lot to adapt the bike to our characteristics but we have a good starting point and I am more than satisfied.”
Dovizioso said the new bike addressed the greatest failing of the last few Ducati prototypes.
“Above all I hoped that the new bike turned into and went through the corners better. Already on my out lap I could feel that the GP15 had improved a lot from that point of view and I am satisfied because this was the most important aspect for me,” he said.
On Monday, Iannone did 26 laps on the new bike and Dovizioso did 17 laps on the GP15. This morning, they took to the track again; Iannone ended in third on the day, and Dovzioso in fourth (Marc Marquez was first, Jorge Lorenzo second).