MOTEGI, JAPAN, SEPT 30 – The Ducati Marlboro team had its best weekend in three years at the previous Aragon Grand Prix, but whether they can build on their double podium that won’t be answered until Sunday afternoon.Aragon third place finisher Nicky Hayden, for one, couldn’t say whether the Desmosedici would work as well here as it did in Spain. Aragon winner Casey Stoner also couldn’t say and wasn’t sure whether the geometry changes the team made to his bike were the reason for his first win of the year. The last time Ducati had two riders on the podium was at Phillip Island in 2007, when Stoner won and Loris Capirossi was third.”It’s clear our bike worked really good at Aragon; even without (Stoner’s) changes, he was fast on Friday with the old set-up,” Hayden said. In speaking with engineer Filippo Preziosi, Hayden pointed out that a Ducati had led every session but on in Aragon. “We were both basically in the top three all week and clearly our bike worked really good. And I didn’t change a lot.”Being a new track wasn’t like normally a new track you’re kinda a bit off, especially start with spring rates and little things. Man my bike worked really good out of the gate there. The gearing, we talked about how the simulator how they pretty much nailed the gearing with that.”Hayden and Preziosi talk frequently and last week they were throwing out ideas. Because the Aragon track was so smooth, they didn’t suffer the same front end problems they’ve had all year. That, and the ability to get the bike turned. “And that track didn’t really have 180s and hairpins. That track was really flowing, where we didn’t have to come back on ourselves. That was really the only two things I could come up with. Also, like you said, it’s a track that generally, the kinda tracks me and Casey go well at anyway. Lot of elevation and stuff.”Stoner’s geometry changes resulted in a set-up closer to Hayden’s, Hayden said. The difference was “where the weight sets. He pushed his front end out a lot and already I’d had my front end out more than his. Not quite to that…he went and made a big step compared to what he had been running.” By kicking out the front, he also had to change the rear. “I don’t know all the exact changes they made, but that’s what I gather.”With rain forecast for much of this weekend, including race day, Stoner wasn’t certain how the Ducati would work.”I have no idea,” he said. “Like I said, we don’t even really know that the settings made a huge difference. It might’ve just been that we were that much faster than other people that we weren’t pushing the bike as hard and made things come to us, because we got used to the track faster. We go to a circuit where everybody’s very comfortable. I don’t know if I’m going to have to push that hard again and make the bike overwork and then that’s when I make my mistakes. So we really don’t know if the setting made a difference or not. We’re going to have to wait until we go to a local track, kind of thing.”On the eve of the start of the race weekend, Hayden is hoping for a dry race, “but sometimes on Saturday night you’re praying for rain. I definitely been down that road before, but it’s hard to start saying. Now, obviously, hopefully would be a nice clear weekend all weekend, but, you know, I would hope to have one wet race this year. Or even flag to flag. I hope we don’t go the whole season without one of those, because they’re pretty entertaining. You get some surprises. I’m glad every week’s not flag to flag. But I do like coming in. You switch the bike. You have to go out and go fast immediately in the wet or dry. It’s very hard. But I would think here, Phillip Island, surely we’ll get a flag to flag at some point.”
Will the Ducatis Struggle in Motegi?
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.