In Spain right now, an assembly of Ducati Corse technicians, mechanics, and riders are tucking into bed after completing the first of three days of MotoGP testing at the Spanish track. After failing to debut its new Ducati Desmosedici GP12 at the 2012 Wrooom media event, Ducati Corse is holding some very private tests at Jerez to sort out the GP12 before Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden ride the 1,000cc format machine at the Sepang test at the end of the month. Details about the Desmosedici GP12 have been sparse, though Ducati Corse General Manager Filippo Preziosi did let it be known that the 2012 Desmo was 90% new in its design.
Testing at Mugello today and tomorrow, Ducati has very discretely (like that could actually happen) begun testing its Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” – a modified version of the GP12 that features an aluminum frame made by FTR. Replacing Ducati’s innovative carbon fiber “frameless” chassis, the twin-spar aluminum frame is an attempt by the Italian factory to bring more front-end feel to its riders (read David Emmett’s analysis of the Desmosedici’s troubles here). Testing today with Franco Battaini, we get these first photos of the Desmosedici GP12 “EVO” (or is it GP12.1?) testing at the Italian track.
Despite his perennially upbeat demeanor on Twitter, Chris Vermeulen’s recovery continues to progress slowly. The factory Kawasaki rider, who has yet to complete a race in the 2011 World Superbike season, will remain in Europe while teammates Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes travel to this weekend’s race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.Vermeulen has been attending recent races in Europe and participating in practice and qualifying sessions, but an off at Monza tore a hole in his elbow and added to the Australian’s injuries.
Vermeulen will test for the team at Motorland Aragon early next month, with a plan to return to racing at Misano for the June 12th weekend. “It is disappointing to not race in America but my injuries are still healing. The good thing is they are improving,” said Vermeulen.
Testing concluded today in Estoril, with MotoGP teams getting another day to sort out their 2011 race motorcycles on the Portuguese track. The day was perhaps most anxiously awaited by the Ducati Corse squad, who brought out new chassis parts to address the issues with the Ducati Desmosedici GP11. Feedback from both Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi was positive about the changes, and the Ducati Corse team seems to be heading down the right course of softening up the GP11.
“It was a positive test because the new updates were immediately better. The bike was more sensitive to changes made to the front, which makes it easier to work on a setup that works better for me,” said an upbeat Valentino Rossi. “I realized that as soon as I got on the bike and then, over the course of the following hours, we constantly progressed. We also had an engine with a slightly smoother power delivery that I liked a lot.”
“We’ll start using it when the rotation plan allows it. I liked the tyres that Bridgestone had us try, they seemed very good. Of course the other riders also made great progress, and the less positive about today is the gap to the front on my best lap. Anyway, everything that the Ducati technicians brought worked, and that means that we’re on the right path. We have to continue working, but today’s test gives us confidence.”
Normally in our “Caption this Photo” series we just fire up a provoking picture, drop-in a photo credit, and let you the readers haver your way with it in the comments section; but for today’s photo, I thought our selection deserved a little background story, since not everyone is familiar with what Chip Yates and the SWIGZ.com Pro Racing team has been up to this past year.
Having a day of testing in the desert outside of Victorville, California, the SWIGZ crew have been practicing with Larry Kleinschmidt to hone Chip’s dirt-riding skills, as the team is set to compete in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb later this year. Yates is an accomplished road racer, but his dirt racing experience stems from four-wheeled endeavors, not two — hence the coaching from Kleinschmidt to help tackle the 2.6 miles of dirt road that still remain on the Pikes Peak course.
After a day of successful testing at Jerez with Franco Battaini and Vittoriano Guareschi on the GP12, official word has come down from Ducati Corse high command that Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden will swing a leg over the new 1,000cc machine tomorrow and Saturday, respectively. Valentino Rossi has presumably already made the trek back to Spain this evening, and will test the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 tomorrow, while Nicky Hayden will return his press junkets from Germany, and have his turn on the GP12 this Saturday.
For the 2012 season, MotoGP will be reverting back to its 1,000cc format (actually, it used to be 990cc, but what’s ten cubic centimeters among friends?). While many MotoGP fans have been awaiting the day that the “big bikes” would return to premier racing with their powersliding, rider chewing, wheelie popping ways, it’s hard to get excited when the first two races of the last 800cc season have been so eventful. Nevertheless the die has been cast, and this week should be begin our first glimpse into these two-wheeled monsters.
Motorland Aragon will host a private test for the factory Kawasaki and BMW Motorrad Italia World Superbike teams Thursday and Friday this week. Though Kawasaki had a good bit of winter testing both at the official WSBK test in Portugal and private testing in Sepang, the Italian BMW team suffered the effects of inclement weather and lost testing time. This private test comes just one week before the World Superbike season resumes at Donington Park in England, whose improvements have recently been approved by the FIM.
Importantly for Kawasaki, Chris Vermeulen is expected to test in Spain. After injuries and surgery kept him out of much of the 2010 season, the Australian hoped to return at his home round but was unable to pass the physical. He sat out testing and racing in Australia, remaining at home and working on his physical therapy.
Continuing our thought on who really was fastest at the Qatar test, the idea of comparing best lap times again seems more than moderately preposterous, considering last night’s sessions were for testing purposes. That’s not to say however that some basic understanding of how teams are shaping up before the season cannot be divined, and by looking at the individual lap times we can get at least an impression of whom is finding some consistency on the desert track.
MotoGP’s last pre-season test concluded today in Qatar, as riders finished their second day of lapping around the Losail International Circuit. Conditions were colder than yesterday, and the wind made its presence known earlier in the day than before. At the start of the session, riders seemed reluctant to take to the track, but it wasn’t long before testing was underway in earnest.
Once again the Hondas proved to be very fast, accounting for three out of the Top 5 fastest riders for the day. Unlike Sunday, the Yamaha camp was divided in progress, as Ben Spies was very comfortable with the day’s results, while Jorge Lorenzo, in the best of light, was frustrated with being unable to keep pace with Stoner and Pedrosa (and his teammate). The Ducatis continued to struggle in the windy conditions, again showing issues with turn-in. Sixth quickest, Randy de Puniet topped the time sheet for the Italian manufacturer, followed by Nicky Hayden (9th), Hector Barbera (11th), and then Valentino Rossi (13th). MotoGP’s testing at Qatar saw just about every Ducati end up in the gravel trap, with the majority doing so at Turn 2, a problem spot on the track in the past.
MotoGP riders will get Tuesday off from riding, and then go into a four-day program for this race weekend, taking to the track once again Thursday night. Stay tuned to Asphalt & Rubber, as we’ll will be here in Qatar for the rest of the week covering the first race of the 2011 MotoGP season.