While Ducati might not be getting a two-wheel drive system in MotoGP anytime soon, the Italians are apparently in the process of running a parallel program to its MotoGP racing effort that explores the concept of Ducati Corse switching to an aluminum twin-spar frame. Uncovered by French journalist Thomas Baujard of the French magazine Moto Journal (yes, we really wanted to make sure you knew the French were involved with this), Ducati Corse has apparently enlisted the help of a third-party chassis manufacturing and engineering firm to construct a prototype aluminum chassis.
This news plays into the fact that Ducati has absolutely no experience in making an aluminum twin-spar frame, having dropped the steel trellis design for an all carbon fiber version back in 2009. Not wanting to start from zero, like Corse did with the carbon chassis in 2009, and with the “frameless” chassis in 2010, Ducati hopes that with aid from a third party, the Italian company can come up to speed on the twin-spar design, and begin to make improvements for the GP11/GP12 for Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden.
The parallel program is a response to Ducati’s focus on both the mid-term and long-term strategies within the company. Clearly believing that the frameless carbon fiber chassis is the direction the company wants to take for the future (they are basing a street bike on the design after all), the company needs a middle option to help bridge it through the current GP11.1’s development — enter the conventional aluminum frame that Rossi has been asking for from Ducati Corse.
Talking to the press at the Brno test, Filippo Preziosi made it clear that Ducati was “open-minded and “ready to use what we believe is better” in developing the Desmosedici. Realizing that Ducati likely has better short-term solutions to its problem, but also desiring to improve on what they believe is a superior chassis configuration (this belief goes back into Preziosi’s belief that the v-twin motor is a superior engine design, due in part to the fact that Ducati can make a very light motorcycle based of the L engine arrangement), a parallel development process allows Ducati to continue refining its frameless chassis design, while making an immediate improvement with an aluminum chassis (assuming that project can ramp-up quickly enough).
Ducati’s biggest problem is that the carbon fiber frameless chassis gives feedback differently than a traditional metal chassis, making it a tough-study for riders who have had an entire career centered around a twin-spar aluminum frame design. Compounding the issue further is the fact that while carbon fiber is infinitely more dynamic and tunable than aluminum or steel, it also means that Ducati has to go through many more permutations of carbon fiber chassis parts to find the right amount of flex and feedback to accommodate what the riders are looking for in the Desmosedici. With limited resources in building all these carbon fiber parts, Ducati is having to slowly but surely not only understand its creation, but also zero in more variables than on a standard racing package.
Preziosi spoke to this sentiment when he said, “We are exploring different solutions, though I don’t think material is the key point. But for sure, shapes, stiffness, distribution of the stiffness through the length are concepts that we want to explore in order to build up knowledge. So, this is something we will do, and of course, every time you put something new in the truck, you have to compare it with the existing solution.”
While Ducati made improvements at Brno, the company is feeling a great deal of pressure from press, fans, and likely other stakeholders as to why the G.O.A.T. is not competitive on the Italian company’s MotoGP machine. Whether or not Ducati runs the aluminum frame design in competition might be a moot point, as the existence of such a project could also serve the purpose of allowing Ducati Corse the ability of saying they’ve tried everything.
Despite what direction Ducati Corse goes, at its feet there is a time period of learning required. A testing session on an aluminum dual-sparred frame GP11.2 could just as easily give Preziosi and his crew the information needed to say that developing the carbon fiber chassis will bring better results quicker than fine-tuning the aluminum chassis the company has no experience with building and developing.
Time will tell where Ducati goes on this magical mystery tour, but one thing is for certain: in November Ducati is going to have to do a lot of spinning on how its MotoGP derived chassis is an improvement over its iconic steel trellis design.