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MotoGP 17

Ducati’s winning secret

It’s going to be a weird weekend for Cal Crutchlow. He will be contesting the Indianapolis GP for Monster Yamaha but I suspect that journalists at his daily media debriefs will only be interested in asking him questions about the bike he’ll be riding next year.

motogp race  Ducatis winning secret

If this was Formula 1, his team PR would probably commence each debrief with the words, “Please, ladies and gentleman, we’d appreciate it if you only asked questions relating to Cal’s performance on track this weekend. Thank you for your understanding…”

Or maybe MotoGP has already stooped to these levels and journalists will be told to do just that at Indy. I hope not. Crutchlow always likes to speak his mind and it will be a sad day if he does get muzzled. In fact I’d like to see anyone try to put a sock in his mouth because, like most top racers, he doesn’t respond very well to being told what to do.

There’s been a lot of talk over the last week or so suggesting that Crutchlow is doing the wrong thing by going to Ducati because he’s doing it for the money. Well, of course, that’s got to be a major factor in his decision. How could it not be? Back in the summer of 1992 I asked Kevin Schwantz what was most important to him: winning the world title or earning big money. He chose the money (and then he went and won the title the next year anyway).

motogp race  Ducatis winning secret

If this attitude seems wrong, consider these wise words from three-time 500 World Champion King Kenny Roberts: “ten cents and a World Championship won’t buy you a cup of coffee”.

Racers have short careers and face even shorter times during which they can earn some serious money, times that are sometimes made shorter still by horrible injuries. So if you were a racer and someone offered you more than ten times what you were earning from your current employers that had already shown complete disinterest in keeping you on their bikes, would you really turn them down? Of course you wouldn’t.

Rumours suggest that Crutchlow will earn between £2.5 and £3 million for each year of his two-year deal, though these figures are almost certainly just guesstimations by journalists and other paddock folk. Ducati are paying him a lot of money because he’s a talented and hyper-determined rider and because their bike has such a diabolical reputation that no one will ride it for less than a big bag of gold (for all kinds of reasons, not least because his medical insurance premiums will surely go through the roof).

motogp race  Ducatis winning secret

And what chance of podiums, wins or a shot at the title in 2014 and 2015? At the start of this season – the start of Ducati’s post-Rossi era – factory engineers told us that 2013 is a data-gathering mission and that the real upgrade in machinery will come for 2014. Therefore Crutchlow must have some hope that the GP14 will be a substantial improvement over the GP13 which suffers from exactly the same problems as the GP7, GP8, GP9, GP10, GP11 and GP12: crazy understeer and suspension pump on corner exits.

And this is in spite of several new chassis and this year a new engine, which is more compact than last year’s because it’s no longer big and stiff like the old engine designed to be an integral part of the chassis. Bit by bit the Ducati is turning into a Honda or a Yamaha, which might just be a factor of the control-tyre regulations which effectively require all bikes to be the same to work with the same tyre. One by one the Ducati trademarks disappear – the monocoque chassis and the stressed-member engine – but still the devilish behaviour persists.

motogp race  Ducatis winning secret

Hopefully, maybe, just maybe, the penny will drop one day and Ducati will turn the corner, both literally and metaphorically. But so far it’s a mystery how they have failed to turn the bike around.

In fact Ducati already know exactly what is required to get them winning again.

“I don’t understand the behaviour of the Bridgestones,” says Bernard Gobmeier, Ducati’s new MotoGP manager. “Getting rid of the control-tyre regulation would certainly help us because the control tyre is totally different to the tyre we had in 2007 when Casey was winning. Bridgestone chose the safest tyre but unfortunately not one the one that works best with our bike. We’ve spent many years trying to adapt our bike to this tyre and we’ve not been so successful.”

Of course, MotoGP is unlikely to return to open-tyre competition, so Ducati have got to crack the secret of the Bridgestones, just like everyone else. Let’s hope for Crutchlow’s sake that they do just that, and very soon.

Click here to read more from Mat Oxley on MotoGP

motogp race  Ducatis winning secret

Add your comments

17 comments on Ducati’s winning secret

  1. Daryl McGrath, 14 August 2013 11:13

    Great article from Mr. Oxley as always.

    I for one think Crutchlow is right to make the move. Audi didn’t buy Ducati to have them mired in with the CRT’s. You have to have solid foundations before building a house and this is what’s happening in 2013 – Audi are putting in order the things we can’t see which will mean it’ll be 2014 before we do actually see anything of a step forward. I just hope 2013 doesn’t break Dovi’s spirit in the meantime – he has slipped back towards Hayden recently where he was soundly beating him earlier in the year…

    And if Cal is moving for financial reasons too, good luck to him. There isn’t one of us who’d turn down a 10 fold salary increase!!

  2. Pat O'Brien, 14 August 2013 12:11

    I hope Ducati gets it right but this is what happens when you have more competitive riders than you have competitive rides.

  3. R.E.B, 14 August 2013 13:42

    I for one do not blame Crutchlow one bit if money is part of his motivation for going to Ducati. At the risk of sounding naive if they are having trouble working with the tyres why don’t they just copy the teams that aren’t? I thought most racing teams just copied the winners anyway!

  4. Barry Glading, 14 August 2013 14:10

    What we need is a new tyre war. It must surely be more cost effective for Michelin, Dunlop, Pirelli and Bridgestone to spend money on developing tyres than it costs the factories to ‘improve’ electronics and seamless gearboxes? Or what it’s cost Ducati to still not be able to unlock the secrets of the control tyres, for that matter.
    Good on Cal for giving it a go. If anyone has the Stoner attitude, it’s him, and that may be what it takes to get that last second out of the Ducati.
    Thanks for the writings, Mat.

  5. Mark Roberts, 14 August 2013 15:41

    As usual, Kenny Roberts sums things up in the most succinct fashion. :)

  6. Larry T., 14 August 2013 16:10

    Whu shouldn’t Crutchlow take a stab at the Desmo16? With the stupid MSM controlled current situation, he’s got nothing much to lose as long as he doesn’t kill himself trying to force a bad handling bike up to the front. While I hope Borgo Panigale can again have a competitive machine, if it’s little more than a red version of a Japanese moto with a desmodromic valve train – it will be a huge loss. It’s bad enough they’ve already sold the whole works off to the Germans! I’d bet the value of trellis-framed V-twin Ducks will be increasing over time.

  7. Bill, 14 August 2013 18:52

    “One by one the Ducati trademarks disappear – the monocoque chassis and the stressed-member engine – but still the devilish behaviour persists.”

    You know Mat, this would be something that turns me off from Motogp.

    I was once a big Ferrari fan, for their persistence to use V12 engines vs the Renault V10′s. These days the engines dont make any difference in F1 anymore and I have stopped being a fan of Ferrari for quite a few years. I really hope MotoGP rules dont force them to build a Yamaha/Honda clone, and that Ducati keeps their trademark stuff.

    That said I truly hope the Audi boys can change the bike in a way that Crutchlow can mount a challenge.

  8. Jonathan Settle, 14 August 2013 19:30

    What ever the reasons anybody who knows Cal knows he will ride at 100% and that’s what really matters. Read so much bs from people about the money being the motivation, of course it is and anybody who says they wouldn’t change jobs for more money is full of s..t! Go on Cal show the doubters what you can really do.

  9. erwin, 14 August 2013 20:02

    are there still really people intrested in the ducati soap??

  10. Pavlo, 15 August 2013 04:34

    Hell I now want Cal to do well

  11. Ping, 15 August 2013 09:56

    Go for the money and ensure it is managed well, that stuff can disappear real fast. I went to Pirelli for the money because of my situation at Dunlop, turned the job around and won a World Championship in the second year. Look where Pirelli are now.
    Motorsport development is a step by step process and usually a painful process but when it comes good, oh boy, what a feeling!
    Work hard, keep it on it’s wheels and be patient. Engineers prefer feedback to another trashed bike, and good luck Ace!!
    ps Learn the language, the relationship will be 100 times better.

  12. Graham Warley, 15 August 2013 09:59

    Along with fuel allowance, electronics etc, received wisdom is that the patch of rubber connecting the bike to the tarmac is still the fundamental performance issue, so for the new boss at Ducati saying he does’nt understand the Bridgestone tyres is worrying.

    In F1 Bridgestone did exactly what they are doing in MotoGP. So scared are they of being seen to cause crashes, they go for super safe options, forcing the manufactures to build bikes around these tyres.

    However, when F1 went with Pirelli, after a honeymoon period they are now being pilloried for making tyres that don’t last and after Silverstone have had to make radical changes.

    Dorna don’t want a tyre war, they love the idea of an income stream that results from a single supplier. This does’nt help the racing, but when did that ever bother them?

  13. The Original Ray T, 15 August 2013 16:46

    Good move for Crutch in many ways. I hope he gets a ton of money, because MotoGP careers are not like F1, where you can hang around with no results for better part of a decade.

    This is Ducati’s last grasp for the ring, they now have all the money they need, a decent rider again, and there should be no excuses.

  14. chris b, 15 August 2013 20:49

    great article Mat

    mmm, yea i always thought of all the people currently in MOTOGP who could make the duke a success was Cal, and from MOTO2 Scott would have been a sure bet to handle that brutale, what’s happening with Scott by the way?

    winning is everything but a bit of money helps, bit surprised by Yamaha, never saw Cal at Honda, possibly at Suzuki, but yes at Ducati, good luck, be interesting agin Dovi,

    and what of WSB’s Mat?

  15. kowalsky and imaginary friends, 20 August 2013 16:27

    moto gp is not as f1 in pr terms, thanks god, but it’s going that way. I hope it takes some time, so i won’t be around to watch it.
    Kenny might have said that line about the coffee, quite probably when he was fighting the FIM, but other great american riders like wayne rainey always went for the bike before the money.
    i hope cal made a good choice, because the fans like him, and he is a true racer.

  16. Sam Lowry, 5 September 2013 08:08

    I look after people’s gardens in the pays d’Auge. If I took a ten-fold increase. . .why, I’d be on 90.000 euros a year! (‘wanders off in eye-glazed wonderment. . .)

  17. Evers, 3 October 2013 07:42

    Lol..I want to see marc marquez on a ducati

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