As the 2012 MotoGP plot thickens, no chapter is more complex than that of Ducati. Trying to turn the GP12 into a red Yamaha has been unsuccessful, but along the way it has become something the team’s second rider likes quite a bit. This is the best Ducati Nicky Hayden has ridden according to The Kentucky Kid, and his 3rd place in Jerez qualifying and up-front pace at the beginning of the race makes that plain to see.
For Nicky, the job is about finding a setting that allows him to keep that pace over race distance, whereas Rossi has admitted he needs to regroup and redefine his approach to a bike that is simply never going to be a Yamaha. “I must get used to riding the bike a bit differently than I’m used to,” he said after the race. “A bit differently” may be an understatement, for if it were only “a bit” he’d likely have done that already.
The tension in Rossi’s side of the garage is thick, as it is not only the rider who is experiencing failure under the microscope of international (and Italian, most intensely) media. A formerly very successful team of Burgess et al. is growing more and more frustrated with the lack of results and their own inability to apply their years of experience to a machine that doesn’t respond to their touch.
This weekend one journalist asked if it was a mistake to bring his crew from Yamaha and if he might have been better off with an Italian crew who had experience with the Ducati. Rossi appeared not to want to talk about that and deflected the question, saying his team had always served him well in the past.
But as Ducati bends over backwards and spends and spends for an aluminum frame, and who knows how many other secret concessions intended to please the rider have been made, the lucky benefactor becomes the hardest working man on two prototype wheels, Nicky Hayden. Let us pause to enjoy the irony. HRC put their eggs in a talented but tiny basket called Dani Pedrosa, and built a bike too small for Hayden to ride. Ducati is now trying to please their star rider and has come up with something that instead suits Hayden.
We may be in for a very interesting 2012 if we get to see how well the Greatest of All Time can adapt himself to a package that won’t respond to a riding style that has claimed nine world titles, and at the same time see Juan Martinez sharpen a tool that suits Nicky very nicely indeed.
Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blog, Twitter, & Facebook.
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Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved