The boss of both Ducati’s racing and product development said that the GP9 was a radical departure from past practices, most notably in using a carbon fiber frame. Though it’s yet to be raced, early results have been encouraging.
Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner was the fastest rider on both occasions when he tested the GP9 and his new teammate Nicky Hayden is quickly coming to grips with it. Stoner missed the final test of 2008 to have wrist surgery, but will be back in action, along with Hayden, when pre-season testing begins in Malaysia at the start of February.
“The GP9 represents a major change because for the first time for many years we have changed a few concepts, which were part of the DNA of our firm,” Domenicali said during a news conference at Wroom 2009, Marlboro’s annual combined MotoGP and Formula One team launch in the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio. “We have made many tests and essentially we have a new frame and that is the major change.
“In a non-conventional way it represents a new structure, which is quite innovative. Without going into too many details we replaced the traditional frame with a carbon fiber frame, which links the upper part of the motor with the steering column. We wanted to have a better compromise between the weight of the bike and the rigidity of the bike. This was first thought about and then we did a series of tests, first with Vitto (Guareschi) who is our first judge when we test these solutions. Vitto promoted this solution and from the tests done by the official riders in Barcelona, they also gave us positive feedback, so we continued with the adjustments and decided to opt for this new strategy.”
Domenicali said abandoning Ducati’s trademark birdcage frame was difficult, not only for the company’s image, but also because it “has always been the basis of our bike. The traditional frame works extremely well because we won the MotoGP and WSB championship with this structure. Now we think the new frame will be even better, but only the facts will tell us if this is going to be the best solution or not.
“Apart from the tubular steel trellis chassis other things have changed. Among these we have changed the philosophy with how we managed the engine in terms of a new combination of the airbox and calibration of the engine with new mapping. We have tried to make the torque curve as flat as possible and looking for better driveability. One of the problems of these bikes has always been how fickle it is to manage the engine. It has a lot rpm and the capacity to better manage the rpm is better if the torque curve is flat and we have a linear response from the engine. This is why we have focused not so much on improving overall power, which is more or less the same as last year, but we have focused on increasing the driveability of the bike. Other changes to the suspension and electronics are just small evolution steps. This is just continued development of our bike.”