We’ve talked about this before, but the Brno round this weekend, followed by the testing of the 2012 1000cc bikes by Honda and Yamaha immediately thereafter, only reminds us of how tough this year has been for Ducati.
When Ducati introduced its carbon fiber-framed MotoGP prototype a little over a year ago, it seemed cool and forward thinking. Carbon not only has a superb strength-to-weight ratio, its flexibility and bending characteristics can be customized almost infinitely based on the quality of the carbon and the nature of the lay-up. This is something that is well established in bicycle manufacturing, for instance, where strength-to-weight has always been of paramount importance.
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the recognized leaders in race bike development, i.e., the team of rider Valentino Rossi and crew chief Jeremy Burgess, Ducati seems incapable of improving the handling of its race bikes (including, the frame that is intended to be used next year). Rossi and Burgess, like everyone else, have essentially zero experience with carbon fiber chassis, and the bike simply isn’t getting any better.
Now, of course, Ducati has to be concerned that carbon fiber is the wrong material for next year’s 1000cc machine. This may be at least part of the reason Ducati has chosen not to test the 1000cc bike alongside Honda and Yamaha after the Brno race.
Is Ducati considering a switch to an aluminum frame like the other manufacturers have been using, or even a return to a steel trellis chassis that has worked so well for them in superbike racing? There is an interesting discussion on this topic on the MotoMatters website here.
It is clear that Ducati needs to do something rather drastic, and perhaps a switch to a different material for its chassis is a necessary first step.