Ducati will focus on taming the aggressive power delivery with its factory GP12 machine in a bid to make the new 1000cc Desmosedici a more competitive force in MotoGP.
Reeling after witnessing Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi finish sixth and 10th in the opening race in Qatar earlier this month, Bologna technical staff will concentrate on taming the aggressive power delivery while also seeking to cure a chronic understeer issue.
Ducati has to work fast to appease Rossi after he was critical of development of the GP12, which is still haunted by many of the fundamental issues the nine-times world champion struggled with during a disastrous 2011 campaign.
The Italian’s patience snapped after he finished over 30 seconds behind Qatar winner Jorge Lorenzo to start the new 1000cc era in dismal fashion.
The understeer and aggressive power delivery issues that Rossi complained about constantly last season have remained, despite a radical revamp of the GP12 to help the 33-year-old become a consistent podium contender.
Many now believe the aggressive power delivery is what is causing the understeer issue, with the bike not able to hold a line when Rossi and Hayden open the throttle. And the aggressive power delivery also means the Ducati struggles for rear grip under acceleration out of corners, which Rossi and Hayden have also complained about in 2012.
Ducati team boss Vittoriano Guareschi told MCN “We try to understand better what is starting the understeer and the problem is coming when Valentino first touches the throttle.
"It is like the rear pushes the front and we have started working on the electronics because this is also new. We need to have a smoother engine, especially at the first touch of the throttle and for this reason Valentino loses the feeling with the front because the rear tyre pushes the front.
"This is a big job to fix and this is now the number one priority to make the power less aggressive. We need to have more connection between the throttle and the rear tyre.”
Whether Ducati technical boss Filippo Preziosi will have new parts available in time for Rossi and Hayden to test immediately after next month’s Estoril MotoGP race in Portugal remains to be seen.
The one-day test is due to take place on May 7 and Guareschi added: “Filippo understands where the problem is and he is working on solving this issue.
"The chassis in this moment is not the main problem. The problem now is the drivability and we want to solve this problem as soon as possible. I don’t think there will be a lot (of new parts for Estoril) but I know Filippo is working to improve the machine and this is a good opportunity to try a new piece or some new electronics.
"We need to close the gap and I think it is possible because the base of our machine is much better than the old one. It is necessary to make small adjustments and not big changes like last year.”
Experienced crew chief Jerry Burgess also believes improving drivability of the GP12 motor is vital to help keep Rossi’s motivation strong for the coming races.
He told MCN: “We went through this with Honda in the late 80s and early 90s before they went to the Big Bang engine. They were focussed a little bit too much on top speed and not enough on drivability.
"To make a very good motorcycle you need to maximise both corner entry and exit and for the short straights between the corners. The main straight only turns up once on a lap.
"The rest of the track is where you can make a gap or pass riders. Perhaps we don't have as much grip as we would like but we believe we can improve the drive of the bike somewhat and overall that will gives two or three tenths per lap.
"When all that is tested and done, which is after Portugal, we should have a better handle on what we have.
"Nothing is crystal clear but the more we work around the problems and remove some things you get a clearer picture.
"The other bikes are certainly sweeter and we have experience of the Honda over many years and the Yamaha more recently, so we have experience with what we need."
Ducati is using a conventional twin spar aluminium frame in 2012 in a bid to give Rossi more front-end feeling and to cure the understeer issue that proved such a handicap last season.
But Burgess doesn’t believe Ducati already needs to start looking at further changes to the frame to help with the understeer issue and he added: “I don't think there will be a new frame in Estoril and so far we don't have a chatter problem.
"I still feel we have some adjustment room to reduce the understeer and we do have options to adjust the power delivery. And there are probably some others things that can be done in Bologna. We are still finding our around the bike to get the balance right so let's see where we are in a few races.
"We go back to Jerez soon with the bike we ran in the test, plus what has been developed since, and we'll see if we are making logical progress."