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Is WSB Champ Carlos Checa the Man Who Can Fix Ducati’s MotoGP Machine?

Carlos Checa, aboard what was essentially a privateer Ducati (with some limited factory support), had a historic season en route to his title in 2011. Fifteen wins and twenty-one podiums, eclipsed the best campaigns posted by past champions Troy Bayliss and Ben Spies, for instance, and even more than the best year had by the the legendary Carl Fogarty. Riding superbly, and with supreme confidence, Checa has been asked by Ducati to help it develop the 2012 MotoGP bike. That bike, it was revealed today, is entirely new except for the front end (fork and steering components) and employs a twin spar frame that allows the engine to be moved fore and aft, as well as up and down, something the old frame design prohibited.

While Checa has already tested one of the earlier MotoGP prototypes for Ducati (concluding the tires were more to blame for Ducati’s failed 2011 season than the chassis), he will be the first to test the all new 1,000cc prototype at Jerez next week, even before Rossi and Hayden try the bike for the first time at Sepang two weeks later.

Checa has undoubtedly had some input into the design of the all-new chassis and engine specification, and it can be expected that he will be the major influence on the baseline setting that Hayden and Rossi both begin with at Sepang during their test.

Checa is a wily veteran at 39 years of age, and still rides superbly. His win record last season was compiled against very stiff competition including, among others, talented factory Aprillia riders aboard arguably the best bike on the track. After a lengthy MotoGP career, Checa is at the peak of his game despite his age. The fact that he has been aboard a bike with similar torque as the new 1,000cc MotoGP prototypes only adds value to his input.

30 Comments

  1. monsterduc1000 says:

    I like Checa, but he is not the man to do. He never won a championship in the premiere class, so how would he be able to help them develop a winning bike? Ducati has 2 MotoGP world champs on their bike (even though Hayden hasn’t done much in recent years, he is still won one) and if they can not get it to even podium, the problem is the engineering.

    If anything, Ducati blew it when they didn’t bring Bayliss to MotoGP. The guy wins a WSB title, then pops in for the last race of the MotoGP season as a wildcard on the “old” 990 and takes the win, CONVINCINGLY!!! If anything, this was the man they should have had racing for them in the top class and developing their bike.

    On a side note, the only guy to win consistently on the Duc, and really only through sheer force of will was Stoner. As good as Rossi is, he is past his prime and just doesn’t have that raw talent and the crazy drive that he used to, and that Stoner has now.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “If anything, Ducati blew it when they didn’t bring Bayliss to MotoGP.”

      actually, he had already been there and parted company. he was teammate to capi for 2 years when the desmosedici got invented.

  2. GG says:

    Checa was always a quite average 500/MotoGP rider with a very occasional podium every now and then. Come on people … Checa a legend …. no way !

  3. Michael Esdaile says:

    Jeff, what do you mean by ‘screamer’ as in the RC45 was a ‘screamer’. I thought it was a V4 with both crankpins in line (360 degree crank). Was it something else?

  4. Dale says:

    I admit to “favoring” All the Riders, I think they have, as a group (in general) earned it.

    Carlos Checa won a World Championship last year, Impressively.

    As I recall when he was racing in MotoGP he used to practice on a R1 on a go-cart track, that would have been a sight…

    I remember him in Utah have an electrical/mechanical failure (fly-by-wire?) while leading causing a DNF, twice. After the second race he was still composed, calm, classy, to my amazement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into the temper tantrums/punk kids routine. I might have swore some and have been in a bad mood though, at least. Not his first rodeo.

    Carlos has been a top competitor for a long time, he’s the defending World Superbike Champion. With his wealth of experience, Carlos Checa would seem a natural asset, amoung others, in helping Ducati rise to the top in MotoGP, yet again.

    Go Ducati!!!

  5. Stinky says:

    I’ll bet Checa’s right, the Duc can’t work with the tires they have to use. To make it work with the spec tires they’re gonna have to make an adjustable bike. Stoner could win with anything, dominate with some. Ducati seems to listen to it’s riders, wants to get better, toss their tradition if need be. Rossi has developed winning bikes before, I’d like to see him do it again. He was hurt last year, tried to develop the new frame, cost him some finishing positions. Hate to say it, but, Hayden is the next Colin, great guy to have on the team,everybody loves him, I don’t think he’s a threat to win again, maybe a wet one. Love to see fresh talent come onboard, but you’re gonna finish farther back, replace a lot more crashed bikes. They’re doing what I’d do, stay put, develop the bike, see if Rossi can pull another rabbit outta the hat.

  6. W1LLPARK3R says:

    checa is a fantastic SUPERBIKE rider, but if he even gets another one off motogp ride, he will just run around at the bk of the grid…rossi is saying the new 1000’s are gonna be similar to the 800’s.

  7. Vertigo says:

    “a privateer Ducati (with some limited factory support)”–ha ha. If by limited, he means complete–then yeah…Ducati helped out a little.

  8. Brendan says:

    No. It is time to stop “Re-cycling” the old blokes and get some fresh talent in there eg. Andrea Iannone. If Rossi/Burgess can’t get your bike to go there is NO WAY Charlie Chucka is going to help.

    • bikerrandy says:

      How is a young, less experienced racer going to help Ducati ? Stoner was the exception. Milandri, others didn’t succeed.

      • Superchicken says:

        Not to mention it’s questionable if Stoner did anything to improve the handling of the Ducati. He’s a good rider, of that I have no doubt. I just wonder about his ability to communicate what wasn’t good with the bike back to the engineers.

        • Pat Walker says:

          Not to mention it’s questionable if Stoner did anything to improve the handling of the Ducati.

          Did ducati even listen to it’s riders?
          It’s hard to say from the outside.

          • Superchicken says:

            True. And since Stoner was doing quite well, maybe there wasn’t all that much to listen to, come to think of it. Nobody else was able to ride it, but if I was Ducati, I’m not sure I’d want to start mucking about with the bike all that much based on other riders when the top rider was doing so well on it. I can see where Ducati might think the bike wasn’t all that bad and just needed some tweaks to get it working for more riders.

  9. Buzzard says:

    You can debate if Ducati has an unfair advantage all day long, but when you look at his performance with respect the field and compared with the 2010 factory team on a bike that appeared to have nothing left in terms of development, then there’s little doubt of Checa’s brillance.

    Chec’s a class act and he has earned his accolades.

  10. bikerrandy says:

    With all his years of racing in GP + WSBK, I’ll bet Checa has ridden on more diverse chassis/motors than anyone else still racing. Checa won the `11 WSBK championship on a long in tooth Ducati. Wasn’t he the only Duck rider to do any good this last year?

  11. Retarded Andre says:

    Funny, I think Checa also holds the record for most crashes in a season aboard a GP bike. Careless-Chucker was his name-o. Good guy though, always glad to see him at the top.

    • Neil says:

      I think is WSBK title showed what crap the GP bikes can be. Not like the old days when you could bend the bike in the corners using throttle, clutch and brakes. As Kenny Roberts Sr. said, these GP bikes have one line and one speed, get anything wrong and you’re done. So we cannot blame the rider. Hayden, Rossi and Stoner all excelled on the Honda. Many a very good rider could not ride the Moto GP bike. Too stiff. Tires as hard as a rock and electronics going against everything you grew up learning as a rider.

  12. Pat Walker says:

    The greater number of cylinders per displacement the more hp you can make.

    A 1000cc 4 cylinder will make 25% more hp than a 1000cc twin.
    Ducati had no advantage

    There are many books that you can find this in –
    top dead center 2 pg 40
    the art and science of grand prix driving by lauda

    • Scott in the UK says:

      I’m not disputing that – Ive know it for about 30 years. What I am disputing is the artificial “levelling up” between the configurations. Ot to put it another way – how many Formula 1 or Senior TTs has Ducati won? Not many – as since Hailwoods time a 4 is a more efficient way to generate the power, and the handling differences that he exploited so wonderfully (coupled with amazing talent) have dissapeared.

      Now personally I would like to see as many engine configurations as possible in every racing class (including 2T btw), but we need to be clear about this – the rules do not reward the most effcient engine, and give Ducati an advantage (and Honda when they made the SP1/2 and Benelli as well), and we just need to be honest about it. Thats all.

      • Pat Walker says:

        but we need to be clear about this – the rules do not reward the most effcient engine

        The rules outlaw 6 cylinder motors along with 8 cylinder motors. They are both more
        efficient than a four. So 4 cylinder motors are rewarded by not having to compete
        against 6’s and 8’s.

        the rules do not reward the most effcient engine, and give Ducati an advantage

        Currently the rules don’t give Ducati anything all they do is level the playing field.
        Previously when 750 4’s were racing against 1000 twins the twins had an advantage.
        I am not up on world streetbike parade rules but I hope there isn’t some weight
        advantage for one motor layout over another.

        • Dave says:

          The number of cylinders do not determine which engine is best, arguably the configuration is what creates an advantage. There were very few good results out of a traditional I4 engine but V4 (Aprilia) and alternative I4 (Yamaha) enjoyed success. Honda, Suzuki, and Kawasaki all struggled.

          There were 4 Ducati bikes in the field. One did well so it’s clearly not just the bike and if it’s true that it makes less power than the 4’s, max HP is not the key to race wins on 2 wheels.

          • Jeff says:

            Alstare Suzuki has done very well in he recent past with a traditional inline 4 (Biaggi, Haslam, Chili), as has Ten Kate Honda (Toseland, Vermeulen, Rae) so I do not buy your assertion that the engine layout is the significant factor in the equation. Russell also did OK on a Kawasaki I-4…

            750-fours were competitive with 1000-twins because of weight restrictions and lack of development (and capacity) of the twins. Once the twin grew to a full 1000cc, and was sufficiently developed to not only trounce the 750-fours with torque, but match it with top-end HP as well, the 750-fours had enough of replacing crank cases every 500 km’s to remain competitive (Bostroms 800cc four was a missile in AMA, but was extremely costly to run… Enter the 1000-four. (http://www.motorcycledaily.com/2002/11/25november02kawasaki800cc/) But, with air-restrictors (and a weight penalty?) to minimize inherent HP advantages of the 4 vs. 2.

            Once the 1000-fours had developed enough torque to match the twins (Fours already had top-end) the 1000-twins were forced to chase top-end power to remain competitive, and soon got sick of having to replace crank cases every 500 km’s to remain competitive with the fours, so welcome the 1200-twins, but with air restrictors and weight penalties. (sound familiar?)

            Moral of the story?

            1) HP does in fact matter if you want to win motorcycle races, but so does torque.
            2) A 2-cylinder engine is not competitive with a 4-cylinder engine given equal restrictions (Why are there no twins in motoGP?)
            3) Trying to balance rules between different engine configurations is very difficult, and no matter what you do the factories will eventually find a way to make their chosen design competitive, but may not be able to stomach the cost for very long, at which point they will lobby for a rule change. (Japan and Italy have both done this in the past decade)

            I therefore submit that the real reason for a twin versus a four is to take advantage of current SBK rules (RSV1000, VTR1000, TL1000R, or if you’re late to the party RC1190 for twin biased rules, or RSV1000 and S1000RR for four biased rules…)

            I would also counter you by stating that the only reason for alternate layouts (Inline or Vee) is for packaging. Kawasaki tried to minimize the width of an inline-four by doing their monocoque frame on their initial ZX-10 that went over the top of the engine (versus around the side of it) and all of the Vee engines are constantly fighting fore-to-aft engine position and wheel base issues, or doing crazy things like rotating the engine backwards so the front wheel doesn’t hit the front cylinder bank. (Seriously, when was the last time you heard of an inline 4 engine having front wheel clearance issues?) Both formats have their advantages and disadvantages, it’s simply a matter of which constraint you are better equipped to deal with. Why were Suzuki and Honda’s GP engines (And Aprillia’s SBK) less than 90 degrees? Because it was simply easier to package a narrower “V” despite the fact that a narrower angle restricts inlet tracts, and negates the primary balance benefits of a 90 degree layout thereby requiring counter-balancers that rob HP

            If you want that “Classic V-4 torque”, build your I-4 crankshaft with a specific firing order like Yamaha did with their cross-plane R1 and sacrifice top-end just like the RC30’s did. If you want that “classic 4-cylinder top-end rush”, build a screamer V-4 just like the Honda did with the RC-45 and Ducati did with their 800cc motoGP bike.

            Engine layout has very little to do with anything beyond packaging, and aerodynamics, which is itself a variation of packaging.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “max HP is not the key to race wins on 2 wheels.”

            exactly. i contend this is but a notion people unwittingly project ON to moto-side from their exposure to car-side. understandable when you consider automobiles (and it’s associated elements of performance and racing) are what 99% of people first come in contact with. it’s all around us. motorcycling…? let alone roadracing…? not so much.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “Previously when 750 4’s were racing against 1000 twins the twins had an advantage.”

          while not an insignificant amount of time, that was only for a span of 5 years (’98-’02). while the rules AFFORDED an extra 250cc’s for the twins, ducati technically didn’t run a full “liter bike” until the 916SPS homologation in 1998… and then it was only 996cc. prior to this of course was 851, 888, 916, 955, etc. in hindsight, a nice tuning variable to have at one’s disposal for ultimately building a company and a brand. note, honda’s SP1/RC51 was a full 999cc for all 3 years it competed (’00-’02). HRC swung for the fences knowing full well they were just biding their time until they could focus their attention BACK on grandprix and “important stuff”. history now records this important stuff as the V5 “shock and awe campaign”.

  13. NJ Steve says:

    Carlos is the epitome of a racer…. smooth, cool, calm, dedicated & determined.

    It’s always a pleasure watching him race.

    He will provide much needed input to the Ducati engineers.

  14. Randy Singer says:

    >> I like Checa, but he had a 20% capacity advantage over the 4s and that capacity advantage goes
    >> a long way to explain the Ducati WSB record.

    That’s what competitors expressing sour grapes might say. However, after the Ducati won during past seasons in WSB the FIM imposed a rule on Ducati teams that they have to use an intake restrictor. So I’m not sure that the displacement advantage explains Ducati’s record in WSB this past season at all. It may simply be that the Ducati was a superior bike overall, with a superior rider taking the championship.

    • Scotty says:

      We will never know. Its not been a level playing field sinve the start of WSB. No sour grapes in it – they have a 20% capacity advantage no two ways about it. Whether you think thats a significant advantage, is the interesting question. They are not the only mannufacturer favoured by the men who own WSB – Aprillia have also benefitted especially in the first year of the V-4, and years ago Bennelli did too.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “We will never know. Its not been a level playing field sinve the start of WSB.”

        i’m afraid we DO know. in ’03 they weren’t allowed a displacement advantage and we’re forced to run “even stevens”. ducati still manage to bag superbike titles 4 years straight…!? ’03, 04, ’05 over in BSB, and again in ’06. note, iirc the i4’s only ran with their intakes plugged on the world stage a single year (’03).

  15. Scotty says:

    I like Checa, but he had a 20% capacity advantage over the 4s and that capacity advantage goes a long way to explain the Ducati WSB record. If Burgess and Rossi cant sort it out, I doubt Carlos can but good luck to him.

    I have said it before and I’ll say it again; this year demonstrated just how good Stoner was on the Ducati.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “he had a 20% capacity advantage over the 4s and that capacity advantage goes a long way to explain the Ducati WSB record”

      maybe yes, and maybe no. the V12’s are forced to run with a restrictor. i’m not saying they don’t have an advantage, but one has to ask how much is that 20% being “eroded” by the use of a single sided swingarm…? the supposedly inconsistent trellis frame…? the mis-placed weight of underseat pipes…? the poor chassis positioning of an L-twin…? and the “coup de grace”… throttle bodies homologated @ 64mm, choked down to only 50mm…? that’s like asking an asthmatic to breath thru a crazy straw… no…?