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Cecchinelli admits Ducati still have their work cut out

Cecchinelli admits Ducati still have their work cut out

Cecchinelli admits Ducati still have their work cut out

With the first six full days of testing on the 2004 Desmosedici taking place at Sepang and Phillip Island over the last two weeks, Ducati MotoGP Team Technical Director Corrado Cecchinelli revealed after the gruelling sessions that work was still unfinished on the Italian factory's challenge for the MotoGP crown this year. "I hope that we have enough time to iron out our problems before Welkom," said the Italian. "My sincere opinion is that I think so. I'm not saying that we will gain one second and will be faster, but it is reasonable to say we will be closer."

Cecchinelli was speaking after the end of the Phillip Island test which saw both Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss complete their first test on the GP4 machine. "We have done big things to both the engine and the chassis, the engine is much smoother and much more powerful, and the frame is completely different. We are also working on the forks, this is mainly what we need. I'm not saying this is all we have to do, but this is the area, for me, we need to improve."

Unveiled at a press conference in Bologna at the beginning of this month, the GP4 is the brand new version of the Desmosedici machine which stunned the MotoGP world with its thrilling debut performances last year, and the factory have been keen to acknowledge that they have produced a machine which is ‘60% new' for 2004. After preliminary tests on the bike by Vittoriano Guareschi in Valencia in January, last week's tests marked the first ride on the bike for team racers Capirossi and Bayliss, and of course the chance to give their first feedback.

"The riders have been saying to me that they miss confidence in fast corners with the front," continued Cecchinelli. "Also they had some problems late on the final day with the rear grip. They didn't have this so much earlier on, so this is something we will have to look at." On a more positive note the Italian engineer went on, "They say that the power delivery is much better than last year, but still not perfect. This is of course one of the things which is holding back the lap time. But this is in general with anyone, any rider and their bike, with more power you can always go faster. It's easy to say."

Many journalists at the test began to suggest that too much had been done to what was an incredibly successful bike last year, and the stop-start lapping from the two riders added fuel to their fire. However, Cecchinelli denies any such accusation: "I don't think we've tried to change too much as some people might have suggested. I think that if you want to stay at the top, you need big jumps always.

"You cannot just rely on what you have and make small steps, because the other ones are making big steps, and for sure this will be a championship where everyone will be at their best. Yamaha because they want to win the championship again with Rossi, Honda because they want to win without Rossi. So everyone will want to be at their best this year. We know that we were going to lose with last year's bike in better shape, so we needed to make a better machine."

Much had been said before the tests about the changes made to the bike but, after its first outings, Cecchinelli went into more detail. "We worked on mass concentration to have more handling, we worked on aerodynamics and on cooling, to improve the rider comfort. It's a different bike if you look closer. The basic concepts have remained the same because we are convinced that the overall concept of the bike has no problem – in terms of the frame type and the engine layout and the rear suspension etcetera."

The engine was undoubtedly one of the strong points of the Ducati in 2003, yet this has also come under the scrutiny of the Ducati designers. "We have worked more on the tuning of the engine. We worked on the combustion chamber shape, on the piston head shape. To improve the power and to reduce the fuel consumption, we worked on the inertia of some parts. It's an evolution, it's not a different engine. We worked on the friction, and on different lubricants with Shell, everything you can do on the same engine to make it better."

In response to the confirmation that fuel tanks will be limited to 22 litres (from 24) in 2005, Cecchinelli admitted this was a concern for the Italians. "We are trying to think about not only power, but also fuel consumption. This does not mean of course that we will race with 22 litres in 2004, because we think that would be a real limitation. It will be happening on one side, but we are keeping the fuel tank size reduction in mind," he concluded.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2003

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