It blunted Casey Stoner’s blistering speed, shattered Valentino Rossi’s confidence, and now Ducati’s long-standing understeer issue is the bane of Andrea Dovizioso’s life.
Huge pre-race optimism that Dovizioso could spring a surprise in last night’s season opening MotoGP clash in Qatar failed to materialise as the Italian struggled with understeer and excessive rear tyre wear.
He’d started fourth after qualifying just 0.009s off the front row but he’d always wanted to reserve judgement on Ducati’s potential until he’d raced the GP13.
The judgement was all too familiar hearing for Ducati, as Dovizioso slipped quickly out of contention to seventh, over a second a lap off Jorge Lorenzo’s pace and understeer again the major complaint.
In the floodlit Losail International Circuit showdown in 2012, Nicky Hayden was sixth and 28 seconds behind winner Lorenzo.
The deficit to Lorenzo last night was down by four seconds and Dovizoso was marginally faster than his race time on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 a year ago.
But the four Ducatis finished between seventh and 10th, which was helped by Stefan Bradl’s tumble out of the top six on lap nine.
Dovizioso admitted his performance had showed the reality of Ducati’s potential and that his final result had pretty much matched his expectations before he’d flown to the Middle East.
He said: “Before coming here this was the best result we could think about. This is what we expected but after qualifying everybody thought we could make a really good race but this is the reality. The race is always different and we have to start from here. The practice went so good and everybody expected a good race. Not a podium but maybe something close but the reality is different. I have experience to know that you have to wait until the race to understand the true level of our bike. We have to work. If you don’t consider the practice then nobody expected more than what we did in the race. I am faster than all the riders in Ducati last year and also Nicky was faster. We made an improvement but it was the maximum we could make this weekend.”
Understeer, where the Ducati won’t hold its line in the middle of the corner, continues to plague the Desmosedici, as does the inability to keep good grip like Honda and Yamaha beyond the first few laps.
The former 125GP world champion added: “We have to improve everywhere to stay in front but until we resolve the problem of turning then everything will be not so important because when the bike doesn’t turn you are slow and when the grip goes down the problem becomes bigger.
"I pushed really hard to try and improve that point and we have tried a lot of set-ups but with just the set-up we can’t fix.
"We were so good in practice because we have more grip than Honda and Yamaha when the tyre is new. We can use that positive point to make the lap time but when that grip goes down all the problems come out and I can’t keep the same speed in the middle of the corner.
"The reason why we have more grip is the set-up and we use the grip in a better way at the start. But we use the tyre more and our problems come out and become bigger and bigger lap-by-lap.”