Photography By: Henny Ray Abrams
MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, ITALY, JAN 16 - Ducati Corse General Manager Bernhard Gobmeier laid out his plans for reviving Ducati's MotoGP team after two disastrous and expensive seasons, during his first official encounter with the media at Wrooom 2013 in the Italian Dolomites.
Gobmeier was brought in as a turnaround specialist after the excellent work he did with the BMW World Superbike team. Gobmeier brought in former MotoGP rider Marco Melandri and the right technicians to dramatically improve the team's competitiveness. Unfortunately, Melandri ended the season disastrously, effectively handing the title to Max Biaggi.
Like HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto, Gobmeier is an engineer by training and brings those analytical skills to the table. Like Nakamoto, he has extensive experience in both the two and four wheel worlds, having worked for BMW and Porsche in the auto division before moving to the bike side.
His first impression was a "very, very positive one," he said. "Ducati for me was and seems to be and appears to be like a really big, very friendly family, which is important also for the morale, the motivation of the people. And therefore I think the atmosphere in a company, the unique atmosphere in the Ducati company/family is really the base for the motivation, the dedication of our staff of our people which are dedicated to the brand, to the company, to the project, what we have, our projects, what we have in front of us."
What he has in front of him is an underperforming motorcycle that only Casey Stoner had success on. Fixing it will be an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary process, he said, and he saw it as a long term project. Having just joined the company, Gobmeier was reluctant to go into specifics, choosing to say that he had ideas for what the bike should be and that he was confident the engineers at Ducati were up to the task.
Racing, he pointed out, is a game won incrementally. There is no silver bullet, no part that's going to shave half a second off a lap time. "It will be all little steps and step by step we will improve the bike," he said. "The potential is there. We are pretty firm and pretty confident about this. Of course, the bike is not perfect, as we all know, but we will have some ideas and we will incorporate in the next few weeks and months. Some of those ideas are already in the bike, but also evolutionary steps will follow during the season."
Asked for specifics, Gobmeier said, "We see big potential with the current bike. We still have to tap all of this potential. There is a lot things what we can do in terms of adjustment of the springs and in terms of geometry, in terms of stiffness. There is not everything explored with that yet, and before we didn't explore all of this I would hate to go to something new, unknown and to do some experiments just for the sake of experiments. So we will continue with that as we have.
"Of course, we are currently also working on the engine side in order to improve torque, torque delivery. The rideability on the engine, there will be new, let's say, strategies both on hardware but also on the software. We are utilizing quite a lot the extensive know-how which is in the company in terms of electronics. As you know, the key and the heart of any riding behavior of modern bikes, of modern GP bikes is in the software, so we are having a lot ideas how to improve the riding dynamics and improve the handling and control of this 'beast' because to have have that kind of horsepower, that kind of torque on two little patches of rubber, it needs a lot of control and we definitely have to help the riders in order to keep control over this and certainly there are a lot of things more in the software than in the hardware, so you don't see totally new pieces on the bike."
One other area he's committed to improving is communication. Valentino Rossi and his team complained that their concerns weren't being heard. Gobmeier insists that will change.
"One of the things what I noticed, and this is something what we have addressed immediately, I believe the communication between what's going on the race track between the rider, the team which is on track, and the factory has to be improved," he said. "Of course, we have heard also through your papers and online communication that there was always a complaint of Valentino that there were some deficiencies and, of course, I believe there were some deficiencies-we have addressed this-and we have a way and we found a way to improve this by quite a bit this next season. What I found is that everybody in the company is very positive in those, let's say, changes in those ideas what I had in order to work together in, let's say, hopefully a much more efficient way, and so far there was very welcoming reactions on these things."