Hayden, Dovi Look to the Future

Henny Ray Abrams | February 14, 2013

BROOKLYN, NY, FEB 14 – Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso are looking beyond the next test in Sepang for the kind of improvements that will take them closer to the front of the MotoGP pack.

Hayden and Dovi finished the first Sepang test two seconds off the pace with the ninth and tenth fastest times, respectively, and just behind MotoGP rookie Bradley Smith. With less than two weeks until the next test, Hayden and Dovi believe that Ducati has to radically improve the Desmosedici if they’re to have any hope of fighting for a podium this season. Everyone on the team from top management down has said this is a development year, but Hayden and Dovi are racers and they’re not willing to give up on the season before it starts.

“I would say we need some help,” Hayden said. “It’s not a couple clicks of rebound. Couple, little bit of preload off the front is not going to be two seconds.”

He added that the team has “got to take some bigger directions and maybe in two ways. You know, in one follow two different paths. Like I said, we need to improve in a lot of areas. Unfortunately, that’s the one thing for the engineers, it’s not just chatter or just grip or just turning. We have to improve in all the phases.”

To that end, Ducati hired former San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT rider Michele Pirro to lead the development test team. They also have a second test team which concentrates on endurance testing.

Hayden admitted that the new management hadn’t had time to get up to speed before the Sepang test. Bernhard Gobmeier, the new Ducati Corse boss, and MotoGP manager Paolo Ciabatti joined the team at the first of the year. It will take them some time before they’re fully cognizant of the level of the machinery, and what specifically needs to be changed.

“Well, I mean, it’s more there’s a lot of new changes going on where they haven’t had the time,” Hayden said. “The new guys only started in the January, they haven’t had the full…you can’t just go in and make a new part, it takes time. You got to run it on the dyno, bench test before it comes here.”

Dovi stuck to the company line that there was much work to be done and to not expect anything any time soon. But he also pointed out that, no matter how good they make their motorcycle, the competition has only gotten stronger.

“The gap is big and we all knew that,” he said. “We have given all the feedback to give some direction and I have pushed the engineers a lot at this test that to fix the bike we have to work in every area. It is not one big problem and if we fix that we can fight for the victory. The level of our competitors is so high. We are in a strange situation, because I have never seen Yamaha and Honda both strong like this in the past with all the strong riders.”

Having come from the Repsol Honda and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teams, it was widely assumed that the Ducati would be completely foreign to Dovizioso, and he admitted it was, initially.

“I felt the bike difficult from Valencia, so I can expect in Jerez” at the final MotoGP test “and Qatar different again, so I don’t know what to expect, but this is not important,” he said. “But we need something big and the problem is we have to wait because it is not easy to make a new one. I still don’t know in Sepang 2 what we can test.”

Asked what needed to be changed, Dovi said, “Everything,” adding that he would like to see a new bike from the ground up.

“Yes, I am here for that,” he began, “but before I started here everybody knew that, so I don’t say something strange. I signed for two years for a reason.” Hayden has a one year deal. Ducati Corse boss Gobmeier has said it will be 2015 before Ducati can fight for the championship.

To get there, both riders believe Ducati should be pursuing a parallel path of development with the test teams, which they know that will take some time. Both Gobmeier and Ciabatti have said they believe there’s more in this engine and that there are currently no plans for a re-design.

“Our bike is this one, so we have to develop this one,” Dovi said. “There is some project back in the factory already started for improve the bike, but this is the base, so we have to change this.”

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.