Filippo Preziosi: “The Two-Cylinder is the Best Engine, If You’re Not Constrained by Rules”

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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