Head of Ducati Corse, Filippo Preziosi is a busy man under regular circumstances, and with the shenanigans going on in Ducati Corse’s MotoGP team right now, the former motorcycle racer is a hard man to get a word with, let alone on a race weekend in Brno. Somehow catching up with Preziosi during MotoGP’s Brno test, our friend David Emmett at MotoMatters, along with several other journalists, sat down with Ducati’s Maestro of MotoGP to ask him about where the Italian team was headed, and the challenges it is currently facing.

There is of course a tremendous amount of chatter going on in the MotoGP paddock about Ducati’s “frameless” carbon fiber chassis, a switch to an aluminum twin-spar frame, the Bridgestone tires, and Valentino Rossi’s psyche, all of which Emmett has already summarized for us in his detailed analysis of Ducati Corse’s situation. Taking on all of these issues, Preziosi sheds some insight on what is going on behind the scenes at Ducati, and is candid about what issues they are and are not facing.

Dismissing out right that the “L” engine configuration is at least partially to blame for Desmosedici’s lack of front-end feel, one of the more interesting points Preziosi makes is his preference for the v-twin motor. Acknowledging that the package will perhaps make less power/torque than a four-cylinder, Preziosi opts for instead the two-cylinder’s rideability, and if the rules allowed it, the motor’s weight advantage over the inlines (this of course coming from a man who has figured out how to make a v-twin without the weight of a traditional frame).

His comments raise some interesting thoughts about the way rules are constructed in motorcycle racing classes, and perhaps speaks to the central issue occurring MotoGP: that the rules are pigeonholing the development of GP motorcycles into one particular slot, that just happens to be a four-cylinder motorcycle with a conventional frame that reacts to a prescribed tire construction methodology. Preziosi makes some other interesting comments that read well between the lines, check them out in transcribed interview after the jump.

Q: Recently Jerry and Valentino said that they would perhaps like to see Ducati working on a parallel project, alongside the GP11.1, which kind of suggests perhaps you need to explore an aluminum frame. Is this something that you are exploring?

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. This is nothing new or special, and is the same as what we did in the past. When we changed to the monocoque frame, we brought it to the Barcelona race test for Casey, and asked him if he preferred the old one or the new one. So we just have to do what we did in the past, just with a different type [of frame].

Q: With the monocoque frame, do you have enough options to explore all those parameters that you’re looking at? Does that give you enough options to test?

We test some different option, and we build up some knowledge from that. So now we are doing other modifications to the bike that are related to the stiffness, but not necessarily related to the frame.

Q: The shape of the engine itself, the “L”, limits to a certain extent the changes you can do with the weight distribution. Are you also looking at the shape of the engine? Or is the engine set…

At the moment, we have never reached a configuration in which the engine was the limit. Typically, one limit could be where you are trying to put more weight on the front, and you touch the front wheel to the cylinder head cover. But we are away from that limit, so at the moment we can modify the weight distribution without any constraints coming from the engine. So we are in the middle of the adjustment.

Q: You are working parallel to other solutions. Are they more radical or more like the solutions the Japanese are using?

We are open-minded. We are ready to use what we believe is better. For me, when we first came to MotoGP, we decided to race with a four-cylinder, even though the two-cylinder was allowed by the rules. The reason was because we think that in the rule it is written [implicitly] that the four-cylinder is better performing in the lap time. I personally believe that the two-cylinder is the best engine if you are not constrained by rules. So for the market, it’s the best, but if people who write the rules write with different numbers, between the two and four-cylinder, it pushes the technician in one direction or the other.

And for me it is the same, for example, for the tires. The tires, the kind of tires we are using, push the technician in using one kind of stiffness or another. There are other rules for example. the weight limit is another thing. In the market, you have no weight limit. So if you are designing a lighter bike, you will have the advantage. Usually in the race category, there is a minimum weight. So if you have a lighter solution, you may not have an advantage. So sometimes you use a solution, the right solution, depending on what’s written in the rules. So for me, we are open to use what we believe is better.

Q: If you could use the two-cylinder in MotoGP, in what ways would it be better?

For me, the two-cylinder has a good drivability. When I read about more torque, I’m laughing, because what is more important is not the crankshaft torque, but the wheel torque, and because the total ratios between the four-cylinder and two-cylinder are different, because the revs are different, it’s enough you put a street bike on a dyno, and you make a measurement of the torque at the wheel, and you easily discover that for example, a four-cylinder 1,000 has more torque than a two-cylinder at the same bike speed. So this is just mystification from my point of view. But the rideability of the two-cylinder is easily the good point.

Q: How much has the single tire design constrained you from developing in a particular direction, tires will be changing next year, the construction will be a little bit less stiff, how much does that affect your thinking?

I was speaking about the difference between the Bridgestone MotoGP tires and the sport bike tires. The Bridgestone MotoGP tires are a fantastic product. They’re developed to resist the amazing forces that this kind of bike and this kind of riders can apply, especially in the front, and for the specific needs for the race. You can reach the best performance at the end of the race, you can use the same rubber in a lot of different tracks, with a lot of different temperatures. So this kind of tires are the pinnacle of tire technology. But to reach that performance is completely different from the tires for the normal riders and the normal bikes, which have other needs.

For that reason we are in a single-tire rules, and we have to adjust the bike. We are not any more working with the supplier to have the best package. The tires are that one, we have to do the bike that allows the tires to have the best performance. So it’s possible that the stiffness or the weight distribution or the way of the bike is moving that are optimal for the Bridgstone MotoGP tire are completely different from other applications. I am not talking about the difference of this year and next year, that will be i think the same philosophy, the same small difference.

Q: It will not force you to change more than you want to if you do if you had the same tire?

We are interesting in developing the bike. Because only if you develop you build knowledge for the company, so we are happy to be forced… if we fix everything, there is not any room for improvement, there is not any result for R&D department, so a lot of engineers lose their work. So we hope we are forced by the rules to change and change.

Q: Is Ducati missing Casey Stoner more than you expected.

I miss him from a personal point of view, because we worked years and years together, but now he is the enemy and we have to do all that is in our hand in putting Vale in doing in what he show he is able to do: winning

Q: Valentino has talked a lot this year about the problems with the front, and he tried something this weekend that was an improvement and he was able to get the bike into the corner. Do you have any evolutions in the same direction that will offer an improvement in the near future?

For me, we did a small step yesterday, this race weekend. Not a huge step and for sure not enough, so I believe still the main problem is the turning and the confidence entering the corner. So we are focused on making other steps. We are pushing for that and as soon as we have something available for that we will put it in production. We cannot know now if is for this year or for next year, but of course we are focused on that.

Q: You said you missed Casey from a personal point of view, because you worked with him. Are you missing him from a performance point of view?

Casey is a really fast rider, but we have a nine-time World Champion, so I think we have good material in our house.

A big thank you to our friends at MotoMatters for sharing this recording with Asphalt & Rubber!

Photo: Ducati Corse

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  • Tom

    Why can’t there be a motorcycle company out there who refuses to be hemmed in by FIM? Lamborghini doesn’t race as a company and doesn’t care and I think that they do sell some cars each year as well as Ferrari. FIM has retarded motorcycle development for decades and its time for a company to make a better bike and then come out and say that they would race but they don’t want to slow down or make a more inferior bike. Not only would it be better to have a superior bike but it would be great marketing.

  • spytech

    I think MV Agusta will be the lambo of bikes. lets see…

  • Jake

    I’ve always had issues with Ducati because they want their cake and eat too. They want to be compared against the Japanese but then they want adjustments so things are “fair”. When they are winning everything is great but when they aren’t the complain about the rules and being disadvantage. In MotoGP they have the same rules and quite simply built a worse bike then the rest. In SBK, they quit because “the rules aren’t fair” but then dominate the next year with a satellite team on the same bike the factory team couldn’t do crap with last year. go figure.

    If they want to race a twin there are a number of series that focus on twins . But that’s not what Ducati want to do. They want to race against ffours, but then only with exceptions. I personally don’t agree with the ways the rules are in non-MotoGP racing where different configurations are allowed different displacements. Because when ever one dominates the others complain about the rules.

    @Tom I don’t agree that the FIM has retarded bike development. No one has to race and this stuff about needing racing to develope and sale bikes is a marketing myth. You don’t need racing to develop a bike, especially when racing mainly offers solutions to problems that exists only in specific conditions, like say a MotoGP race. And there is no real proof that racing helps sale bikes as Yamaha’s sells went down while they had Rossi (developing the hideous looking R1 also help that). If anything has held back bike development it is the economy and more important the market. If people don’t want it, what good is it? The 999 is a perfect example. Technically the bike was better then the 996 and 1098 but the consumers hated it. I personally have no love for all the electronics these days and as such I won’t buy any bike that will not allow me to completely turn them off. and when/if ABS becomes mandatory I won’t buy another new bike again.

    But regardless, I hate it when a company wants to race a series, knows what they are getting into, but then complains about the rules when they don’t succeed. What has hurt Ducati more then the base rules of MotoGP has been the tire rule which was ironically the result of Rossi. When Ducati first went to Bridgestone it was because Michelin wouldn’t/couldn’t make a tire specifically for them. Bridgestone did and the results spoke for themselves. Now with the spec tire that isn’t an option. I think it’s completely stupid that a bike has to built around the tires instead of the other way around. So if the spec tire rule was meant to take tires out of the equation then it has seriously failed. The top riders/teams are still out front. The middle group is still in the middle and the tailenders are still just making up numbers

  • Jeram

    @ spytech..

    yeah if by that you mean… heavy and with handling on par with a sack of potatoes… then yes they are the lambo of bikes :P

  • Random

    @ Tom: Even if I agree with your point, I can’t imagine many improvements to motorcycle design that wouldn’t be too expensive or would reduce durability. Apart from some fairing variations, many new technologies are currently being studied and employed in non-racerep motorcycles (such as dual-clutch and active suspension), but usually costs or weight are currently prohibitive for racing bikes.

    For me the real problem is the limited improvement that can be made to ICE bikes – so mature that factories research things that improve tenths of a second in a lap – but I’d love to be proved wrong, any ideas on things you would like to see in a motorcycle (apart from dustbin fairing and recumbent racing bikes :) )?

  • MTGR

    I find it ironic that Rossi was one of the main people pushing for Bridestone tires as spec, then pushing bridgestone to get the tires to work with bikes other than the Ducati ((namely his Yamaha). Ducati and Bridgestone spent years and millions to design that tire around that bike and create a winning package and Rossi was teh main push in dismantling that.

    Now Rossi finds himself at Ducati with a front Bridgestone that is not working with that bike.

    Payback is a bitch. Stoner must be laughign his butt off right now.

  • Rob

    It all comes down to money, and thats a shame. Surely, to see which bike was truly the best given equal rides, tires would have to be developed to work with a specific engine/chassis/swingarm etc., however Bridgestone would naturally take the biggest paychecks which of course would come from the biggest manufacturers and devote more time or R&D into developing tires for that bike.

    So the spec tire has its advantages and clearly some disadvantages. Ultimately, Im curious what a simple cost cap would be like instead of a trillion other rules. A very straight forward : “heres X amount of $, go as fast as you can with that within a season regardless of engine size/weight form etc”

  • There is merit to questioning rules for a prototype class whether one agrees with Ducati raising the rules debate or not.
    We all want to see what engineers and riders come up with that will reliably go the fastest around various road courses. (i.e. here are the tracks, build the best bike that you think will win the most points by season-end). The racetracks will dictate the ‘rules’ of construction for chassis material, engine configuration, engine size, etc. The only rules that remain would be for rider conduct.

    Hopefully electric bikes will further question the reason for rules in this type of class once they start competing with i-c bikes.

  • BikePilot

    I’m with RacetrackStyle and Tom on this one — there is a lot to be said for absolutely minimizing the rules governing bike design, tire use etc in a prototype class. Afterall the whole point is to showcase innovation and provide a forum for the manufactures to develop technology for use in road going bikes. If the rules pigeon-hole bikes into a certain formula a lot of that R&D benefit is lost and the every-day street rider suffers as a result. It also makes for less interesting racing imo.

    Tracks can always be altered to keep speeds down as needed and a variety of mechanisms can be employed to keep costs down (though whether that’s something worth messing with is another thing altogether).

    Best of luck to team ducati. I’ll continue to enjoy my 90 degree twins on the road (along with the 2-stroke triple of course). Twins really are best when it comes to road bikes imo.

  • jamesy

    Money, pure and simple. The cost of developing a race tire is in the millions and the cost of each hand built one in the hundreds, with teams using dozens per race weekend. Hence the SPEC tire and its cost paid by the tire co. This is why Ducati doesnt get its choice in Motogp-
    I do agree that rules could be set based on power to weight ratio so that each package could be evaluated by keeping 0-100, 0-150 times in a close range and then let ’em have at it. And dump as much electronic wizardry as you can. Some machines will dominate some tracks but others will have their moment as well. Frankly, the processional nature of this “racing” is getting boring as hell.

  • Tom

    Jake says,

    “Tom I don’t agree that the FIM has retarded bike development. No one has to race and this stuff about needing racing to develope and sale bikes is a marketing myth.”

    Huh? Have you ever been around sportsbike buyers? Christ, its all they talk about as though there is an appreciable difference between the Japanese 4. I bought into the Suzuki Mladin hype and although I still prefer Suzuki, all the Japanese 4 are virtually the same.

  • Nazz

    This is why I love Ducati, they aren’t generic. They are not scared to try new and unheard of things. Ducati develops new equations rather than trying to optimise old ones like all the Japanese manufacturers. In the end that is what develops the future of motorcycling. It seems to me that Ducati develops a motorbike and calculates the cost afterwards rather than minimise cost before hitting the drawing table. It may not win races all the time, but it sure as hell makes them the top motorcycle manufacturer in terms of technology.