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This time last year, Ducati were the kings of testing. In 2020, however, it’s the number 20 – Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) – who leaves the Sepang International Circuit on top of the timesheets, with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) the fastest Desmosedici GP20 in fourth, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) in sixth, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) in eighth and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in 14th. What began as seemingly more muted feedback than some factories’ took a definite upturn on Day 3, however, as the debriefs on Sunday remained cautious but sounded a lot more positive.
The only way is up for Ducati
For Ducati Corse General Manager Luigi Dall'Igna, that positivity was pragmatic but broad: “I’m quite happy, for sure the bike improved in comparison with last year’s bike,” was his first statement in his interview on Sunday evening. Going into more of the specifics, he cited both improvements he’s seen and those he expects in Qatar.
“We left some engine updates for the Qatar test, not a lot of improvement but I do expect something more, and the turning is a bit better, we tested the new chassis in Jerez and Valencia and this is a result of that test. Here we only have the new spec of chassis so we can’t make a proper comparison but from the comments of the riders and the data we collected at the end of last year I think we’ve improved a bit.”
The bigger challenge for Ducati, it seems, lies in the tyres. “There is still some work to do because of the new tyres, they need a different setup with the chassis and also from the electronics point of view we have to set up some parameters up,” explains Dall’Igna. “We’ve collected a lot of data at this test so we have to analyse it and then come back to the Qatar test.”
The tyres were also a key talking point for the riders. Dovizioso went fairly in depth in his debrief on Sunday, explaining what they’d been working on and some important improvements he and teammate Petrucci had been able to make.
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“I’m happy about today because we arrived a bit late, but this morning we did a lot of testing, a lot of laps, and we’ve improved the setup a bit and my feeling with the tyre. We have more grip, yeah, which normally is better, but the way you have to ride it is different and we were struggling to manage the tyres. So I’m a bit more happy.” The past tense – were struggling – seemed key. “I think just me and Jack did our lap on the medium tyre, and the pace is quite good. Me and Danilo did ten laps together, just to test something and like always when you do that test, completely different things come out – similar things to the race.”
Teammate Danilo Petrucci echoed that, citing the track time they shared as a vital part of the test.
“We worked with Dovi during the day, it’s how we did it last year and especially in testing. We understand much more now because riding together in race pace is good. We did just 10 laps but it was enough to understand something, especially about riding style; two riders at the same time, with the same tyres; it’s a good thing.
“We worked a lot. For sure we’re not fully satisfied and there’s sill something to understand, but at least today we were fast on a single lap. There is still work to do and there are many riders faster but we understand many things and this is good. Qatar is a different type of track, maybe it will be better. But I’m happy with the things I tried, although I’m not fully satisfied, but we still need to understand the tyres.”
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Leaving the last word to Dovizioso, there was some more talk on the new tyres – although with more engine updates expected for Qatar and the chassis already decided at the end of 2019, maybe that’s to be expected.
“I really don’t know how the tyres will be in the race,” Dovizioso says. “In Malaysia the temperature is really high and conditions different to other tracks, but the way the tyre works is a bit strange, the drop was quite high when you make consecutive laps. I think we have to do more tests, unfortunately there’s only one more in Qatar and that’s a strange track. We have to test more because when you arrive here there’s such good grip, and everyone doing 58s, that’s not the reality in the race. You have to understand the setup when you ride for the race not the laptime, and it’s completely different but it’s still something we have to understand. We have feedback after these three days, we’ll see.
“I don’t think what this test shows is clear for the beginning of the Championship. I saw Maverick had the best long run, Rins looks really strong, and some other riders…but when you make consecutive laps, not many riders are really fast. So I’m quite happy…”
With ever-the-caveat: “…but for sure we have to improve.”
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Improve was something Johann Zarco (Reale Avintia Racing) did throughout the three days at Sepang. The Frenchman’s first outing on the Desmosedici was very promising, as he finished less than a tenth off Dovizioso at the end of the three days in Malaysia. How will the double Moto2™ World Champion get on at the Qatar Test?
The Borgo Panigale factory will be back out on track at the Losail International Circuit from the 22nd to 24th February, the final test days before the season proper begins.
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