Valentino Rossi finally put an end to the speculation today at the MotoGP pre-race press conference, and announced that Ducati Corse will use an aluminum chassis during the Aragon GP this weekend. First tested last week on the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, the FTR-built aluminum frame has improved the front end feeling for the Desmosedici, an issue that has plagued the Ducati all this season. Rossi will first use the new aluminum parts during Free Practice tomorrow, though the team hasn’t confirmed their use in the race just yet.
“We tested last week after the race, and it was not so bad,” said Rossi when talking about Ducati Corse’s post-Mugello test. “We tried something different on the bike to improve the front feeling and turning, and the lap times were not so bad. I was a bit faster than the last time, and basically the feeling was quite good, so we’re moving forward.”
When pressed about what changes Ducati made, and whether or not Rossi test the rumored aluminum frame, the nine-time World Champion was quick to correct. “It is not a frame,” explained Rossi. “The philosophy of the Ducati is the same, but the front part of the bike is a bit different, and is in aluminum, and not in carbon like before. But about the material, it is a question of time. We have to work to try and understand how the bike and with aluminum you need a lot less time compared to the carbon. The bike improved a bit, but this is just the first step. We need to keep working to come back and fight for the front.”
From Rossi’s description in the press conference, the changes made to the GP11.1’s chassis sound similar to what will be found on the 2012 Ducati Superbike 1199. For its upcoming production Superbike, Ducati is using an aluminum version of its “frameless” chassis design, which doesn’t have the same weight savings as the carbon version previously used in MotoGP. There is also talk that because the aluminum headstock is directly attached to the top cylinder head, the metal translates the engine heat better to the intake, and thus warms the air as it comes into the airbox and eliminates any “cold air” effect.
What’s not clear with this announcement is whether Valentino Rossi will have to take a new motor, his seventh, in order to take advantage of the new chassis design. Because the GP11.1 uses an outwardly similar motor to the GP12, it is possible Rossi won’t have to dip beyond his motor allocation and start from the back of the grid. However, it’s not clear if the aluminum components require modifications to the GP12/GP11.1 motor to mount properly.
The testing results at Mugello were good news for American Nicky Hayden, though it seems unlikely that the former-World Champion will use the aluminum chassis parts at all this season. Talking to our friends at MotoMatters Hayden said, “I spoke to Filippo [Preziosi] a couple of times, and it seems real positive. They’re pretty happy around there. So we’ll see how Valentino goes. They were pretty happy with how the test went. We’ll see how it translates on the race weekend, and we’ll see how Valentino goes with it.” When asked if he’d use the new parts, Hayden simply replied, “I probably won’t be getting it this year.”
Photos: Ducati Corse