Ducati and Valentino Rossi, unfortunately never successful partnership. Let’s take a closer look at the Desmosedici driven at the time by the nine-time world champion.
After finishing third in the 2010 MotoGP World Championship, Valentino Rossi decided to leave Yamaha, the world champion team, to join Ducati from 2011. Seeing the Doctor change team at that time led to many speculations, in addition to great emotion in the paddock. But the story didn’t go as planned. Rossi struggled to adapt to the Ducati GP11, radically different from the Yamaha M1.
But why were the two years with Ducati so difficult? Let’s review closely a victorious bike with Casey Stoner, but with which Rossi has never managed to be competitive.
The Ducati Desmosedici GP11 was largely similar to that of the previous year. This prototype followed a different philosophy than the other motorcycles on the grill. In particular, it did not include a conventional double beam aluminum frame.
Instead, the GP11 was built using a load-bearing motor / airbox. The airbox acts effectively as a sort of frame, starting from the head of the fork and fixing itself to the engine between the front and rear cylinders.
Looking closer at the openwork parts of the fairing, it is possible to see the two front cylinders and the two rear cylinders above the Ducati D, just below the tank. The engine is moved forward to add weight to the front.
The air box that served as a frame was made of carbon fiber. It made the bike incredibly stiff and light. But it was relatively short, as it ran from the fork head to the space between the cylinders. This meant that he was not sensitive to bending. The front of the chassis was very rigid, even too much: the riders complained of the lack of feeling. The bike was then light in front and this caused the unpredictable losses of the front, characteristics of Ducati in these years.
In addition, due to the absence of a conventional frame, the adjustment of the swingarm and suspension was also slightly different. The swingarm pivot is bolted directly to the engine crankcase (you can see it on the left of the wording “DUCATI” on the fairing). Even the tie rod of the rear shock absorber was screwed directly to the engine crankcase and then fixed under the swingarm. The GP11 also had a carbon fiber rear ring which was attached to the two rear cylinders.
In 2011, Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi complained about the lack of feeling on the front. This led Ducati to completely change its GP11 and create the GP11.1, as it was nicknamed. The most important change was the different material used for the airbox. They replaced the carbon fiber version with an aluminum version. It helped to soften the front and give greater feeling: aluminum flexed more than carbon.
In the image you can see this part in aluminum. It starts from the head of the fork and goes up to the engine, attaching itself to the front and rear cylinders. Both drivers admitted that the GP11.1 update was a step in the right direction. However, the bike was still too rigid in the front. At the time it was said that, even with the transition to aluminum, the piece was still too short to achieve the desired flexibility characteristics. Further improvements were therefore needed.
The GP11.1, among other things, also had an updated gearbox, a completely new swingarm and a different rear linkage. The swing arm was a big step forward, as the GP11 suffered from cushioning problems. This new swingarm was now overturned, just like in the Yamaha that Rossi had driven the year before.
With the regulations that provided for the passage from 800 to 1000 cm³ for the 2012 season, Ducati worked on the development of the GP12 for most of the previous year. This presents the first double beam aluminum frame ever used by Ducati in MotoGP. The old air box and carrier engine had disappeared and a much more conventional motorcycle appeared in its place.
With the new chassis, the swingarm has been (again) completely revised. The upper part of the rear shock absorber is now fixed to the rear part of the frame instead of to the engine. The bike has improved, but Rossi and Hayden have consistently experienced problems in the front throughout the 2012 season. Ducati had completely transformed its Desmosedici GP bike, but still had some problems to solve.
The GP12 was updated during the year, as happened for the previous GP11. The attachment point of the swingarm has changed slightly, but the biggest difference is the shape and size of the frame. Ducati has perfected the design of its frame in order to find the long-sought feeling on the front for several years. The changes were intended to make the GP12 flex more in some areas, less in others.
During the two years spent by Rossi in Ducati, the Desmosedici have undergone radical changes. The bike has been completely redesigned more than once. Ducati really tried everything it could and never gave up on making Rossi and Hayden win.
According to some, Rossi’s difficulties with Ducati were due to the search for the right feeling on the front. He had ridden a Yamaha for the past 7 seasons, an optimal bike in this sense and which favored speed when cornering. Ducati was different. Many believe that Casey Stoner was successful with the Red because he drove much more with the rear of the bike. Whatever the reason, Ducati has worked for one and not the other.
Unfortunately it was not suitable for Rossi. When he left Ducati at the end of 2012 to return to Yamaha, the book ended on this missed love story between an Italian rider and a beautiful Italian bike.
Paul Emile Viel’s original article on paddock-gp