Ducati's Non-MSMA Entry Machines - A Great Gamble With The New Regulations

At Assen, Ducati MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti revealed to the MotoGP.com website that they, too, will be offering bikes for non-MSMA teams in 2014. While Honda is selling a simplified production racer version of the RC213V, and Yamaha is to lease M1 engines, the package Ducati is offering could turn out to be very interesting indeed. Instead of producing a separate machine, Ducati will be offering the 2013 version of the Desmosedici to private teams, to be entered as non-MSMA entries, and using the spec electronics hardware and software package provided by Magneti Marelli.

Although the current 2013 machine is still far from competitive - at Assen, the two factory Ducatis finished 33 seconds behind the winner Valentino Rossi, and behind the Aprilia ART machine - the special conditions allowed for non-MSMA entries make the Desmosedici a much more interesting proposition. Though the main difference between the MSMA entries (i.e. factory and satellite teams, using bikes run directly from the factories) and non-MSMA entries (i.e. privateer teams, using any bike they like) is in the choice of software for the spec ECU (MSMA entries get to write their own software, non-MSMA entries have to use the standard Marelli software), the amount of fuel (20 vs 24 liters) and the number of engines (5 vs 12), there are a couple of other differences which are also significant.

The first and most obvious difference is the use of the softer option tire, which is only available to the CRT teams, and which will continue to be available to the non-MSMA teams for 2014. One of the Desmosedici's biggest problems is that it goes well with a new tire, which still has plenty of grip, but fades badly once the tire wears and the rear starts spinning too much. The softer option tire could help cure part of the Desmosedici's problem, with more grip throughout the race, allowing them to maintain the same pace throughout the race. Nicky Hayden has repeatedly shown an interest in testing the CRT tire, and has stated his belief that that tire could help the Ducatis to go faster.

The second difference is that while the MSMA entries will be subject to an engine freeze, with no engine development allowed from the first race of the season until the end, that is not the case with the non-MSMA entries. Those teams have been given the ability to keep developing their engines throughout the season, to help get them closer to the factory machines.

The option to keep developing engines could allow Ducati a back door to help solve their problems with the Desmosedici. While much of the work done so far on the bike has been related to chassis stiffness, some of the weight distribution problems could be related to the engine design. While the 90°V layout is probably not the problem - the success of the Honda RC213V, which is also a 90°V, would seem to confirm that - the rest of the physical layout of the engine could be an issue. The Ducati lump is said to be larger than the corresponding Honda and Yamaha units, and the gearbox layout is less compact and much longer than its Japanese rivals. Thanks to the engine freeze for MSMA teams, any development on engine layout cannot be introduced until the following year. Supplying Desmosedicis to non-MSMA teams would allow Ducati to experiment with different engine layouts and test how they work in practice, getting the fundamentals ready to be included in the factory bikes the following year. With an allowance of twelve engines, two or three different layouts could be tested throughout the year.

Using non-MSMA entries, and accepting the limitations of the spec software, Ducati will be able to continue the work that needs to be done in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Although having a test team is valuable, having the opportunity to test changes in a race is even more useful. Providing the machines to teams at a cost - unknown at this time, but likely to be around the million euro mark, in line with the informal demands from Dorna - will also help cover at least some of the cost of this development. Racing with the softer CRT tire will help tackle another area where their current bike is weak, and provide yet more data on a key area of development.

Of course, using this approach is arguably a violation of the spirit of the rules, which are intended to keep factory support out of privateer teams. But to withdraw non-MSMA status from a team requires the support of the majority of the Grand Prix Commission members, and would be submitted by the MSMA, of which Ducati is a member. The Japanese factories are unlikely to demand the retraction of non-MSMA status from a team using the Ducati Desmosedici bikes, partly as a matter of honor, and partly as they also realize that the series needs Ducati to be competitive. Ducati's plan to supply non-MSMA teams with Desmosedicis is a de facto extension of their development program, and given the gap to Honda and Yamaha, it is badly needed.

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I'm curious, could you go more into the engine development freeze you're referring to? I'm aware of a rule that forces the factories to stay with the same bore/stroke, but nothing related to engine cases, gearbox, etc.

If there is a rule like that, would that rule also preclude Yamaha from adding a seamless gearbox next year if they can't introduce it this year?

During upcoming seasons the manufacturers will be required to homologate the engines. The homologation period will be one season.

Instead of offering to sell Desmos for 1M they should be paying teams to use bikes that will for all intents and purposes be development mules!

I'd love a Duc GP engine to build a chassis around and wildcard some races. Any angel investors out there?

>>Of course, using this approach is arguably a violation of the spirit of the rules

There is no such thing. If the rulemakers cannot embed the spirit of the rules in the words they use to craft them then its all fair game.


The softer tyre is available to the Non-MSMA bikes, as I understand it, because with less power they don't wear out the harder ones the prototypes need. So sticking a softer tyre on the Ducati seems a good way to lose grip even sooner... unless they plan to turn the power down significantly.

Plus, the soft option is for the rear, which isn't the end with the problems.

If a team has trouble getting the tires up to temperature, the tires often wear faster than if they get overheated. Softer carcasses/compounds could actually make the tires last longer.

Under normal conditions the harder compounds last longer, with a slight sacrifice in outright grip. The softer CRT tyre works for non factory prototypes because they don't put as much force though them, so the tyres last despite being softer. But I also would have thought the Desmo would chew the CRT tyre to bits unless im missing something.

At first I thought they would have a hard time talking anyone into paying to ride a nightmare of a bike, but it may be a good idea. It would not be the first time a factory supports a CRT to get into or, in this case, to get to the front of MotoGP. I wonder what would happen if the privateer Ducatis start getting better results than the factory ones.

If Ducati really thought like you've proposed here, should they have assumed the fact that they will still not be competitive in 2014 and it's going to be another development year but this time more diverse one? It's a shame. I wholeheartedly feel sorry for Duc, despite all of their efforts, they are still out of game. How do they keep the spirit up for the riders and the technical team?

is an interesting proposition by itself. But seeing as the chassis is the achilles heal of the Ducati, maybe the more interesting side of this is the possibility a customer team might just scrap the chassis and build a frame which doesn't have chronic understeer issues but still using the missile V4 Desmo.

This would still be huge egg on Ducati's face though... some little private team coming in and designing a better chassis than a multi billion dollar 50+ year old motorcycle company? I mean ART is already doing it but to do it with the same engine would just be too much.

Why are people surprised that ART have a good bike? Aprilia have won around 20 riders and constructors GP championships. Ducati have won.... 1. Based on historical evidence one would EXPECT Aprilia to out-perform Ducati, the fact they are doing it (albeit only with Espargaro, but still) with a street-derived engine just makes it all the more impressive.
IMHO Aprilia's achievements are all too often overlooked.

The softer tire last longer than the hard one because the hard one spent most of the time grinding and sliding rather than adhering and the rate of wear increases.Or so goes the idea.

Now wouldn't it be funny that the customer Ducati beats the factory because of said tire?

This is an interesting article with plenty of new information. However, I'm uncertain about the credibility of claims that Ducati will use "CRT" customer bikes for backdoor engine development. First, homologation procedures are complicated regulations with lots of flexibility and loopholes. What is a homologated engine? It must be defined. If the engine is defined as a piston, rod, crank, inlet/exhaust valve, and V-angle, Ducati could change the engine block, case, and cylinder head all they want. They don't need to use CRT teams. Obviously, homologation is more complicated, but you get the gist. Second, as Cosman points out, why would any private team pay Ducati to do the donkey work? Finally, the spec ECU is going to hobble the new CRTs to prevent them from exploiting the full potential of the extra 4 liters. If the CRTs are not putting out the same power curve, or if they are using different tires, how is Ducati supposed to fix engine flex and weight distribution, etc.

It looks like Ducati are simply trying to maximize their revenues. The other MSMA members have pneumatic technology they can't sell or won't sell. Ducati don't have that problem. Ducati can sell a desmo valvetrain that should be more reliable than spring valves. If they keep the CRT machines very similar to the GP14, they save money.

You seem to be obsessed with homologation issues. Please explain what homologation rules apply in MotoGP? So far as I'm aware, they relate only to production-related classes such as superbike & supersport.

At present, we know the GPC homologates fuel systems to limit fuel pressure. As David points out in the article, engines will be frozen in one year intervals. This also requires homologation. The organizers can't enforce a freeze unless they know exactly what the engine is before hand. The engine definition will determine the strictness of the freeze. The spec ECU and software will also have to be homologated.

Spec ECU won't be homologated, as it is supplied by the organizers. No need for homologation when Dorna can just pull the ECU and slot another one, tell a factory to reload their software.

Spec software is also supplied by the organizers, so no need to homologate it, the teams get software updates when they are ready.

If race control are distributing the ECU's, they will definitely be homologated b/c race control have to account for each unit supplied and make sure it lives up to the parameters set forth the in the supply contract.

Regarding the engine freeze, when you think about it, race control are already homologating engines b/c they have to catalog and seal each one. Homologation and sealing simplifies technical scrutiny b/c each engine is checked during the lull between rounds, rather than immediately after the race. Right now, the teams are homologating five engines per season, but since the rules only specify 81mm, 4-cylinders, max 1000cc, no variable valve and no composites, the teams can make significant changes to the design with each homologation, in theory.

Perhaps the simplest way to "freeze" engine development is to require the teams to homologate all engines before the season, and then have technical direction seal the engines and randomly distribute them to the relevant competitors. This would probably force the manufacturers to build engines with identical specification, and it would eliminate differences between the factory and satellite bikes. This simple engine freeze arrangement could possibly prevent an extraordinarily complicated set of homologation procedures, though one bike manufacturers (Suzuki 2011) could beat the regulations.

Even if Dorna use this simple arrangement, it doesn't really behoove Ducati to use CRT's for development, imo. The teams can already test as much as they want, provided they don't use factory riders, and provided they can maintain a supply of Bridgestone tires. It would be more effective, imo, to convince one of the riders to become a well-paid reserve rider, and to have him turn laps at Mugello until the problem is solved.

It's been shown time and again that test riders who aren't up to pace with the GP riders are bordering on useless. That's why Ducati contracted Pirro this year. Unless they could get Stoner to come back as a test rider anyone other than the factory riders is useless.

I have been saying this for years. Factories can cure grid numbers buy selling or leasing last years bike with a start of the season spec motor for a set fee an then have development packages at set prices or leave it standard! EASY FIX

Marc VDS team anyone?? Team the experience of Nicky, with Mr. van der Straten's favorite Redding...and Mr.VDS now owns Anheusher-Busch ( Budweiser )... Now there's a team with some serious backing. A dozen engines each? Here's some pocket change, mate. A new hunk of aluminium to stick it all together? My factories use millions of pounds/kilos of it, and some of the best aluminium metallurgists in the world.

David, are there any restrictions on how many bikes a team can bring to a track? Nicky is famously helpful and friendly to teammates, they both speak English (well Nicky sort of, y'all ) and Bud on the grid would be huuuge.

A couple different versions in the box, After first practice Nicky says "hey, Mark, try this one". And would churn out the laps for testing. And be proud (and very popular in the US) for showing the Bud colors around the globe.

Carmelo would wet himself.

Boxes don't mean, non-adjustable, do they? That would be madness, I can buy a 'programmable' Power Commander online... You just can't write your own software with the uncountable-myriad of options that the MSMA 'factory' systems allow? Surely the spec box would allow fuel delivery adjustment needed to tailor general fuel consumption. Maybe not off-throttle fine mapping and throttle gearshift matching and custom button-select fuel maps and traction'wheelie control through specific cylinder cutting and...well, you get the idea.

If I were Ducati I'd dump the MSMA entry altogether and go non-MSMA even with the factory bikes. I'd recognize that my bike has more fundamental problems than just electronics, and I can save money at least on software writing by letting Magneti Marelli write the software for me, and I can concentrate on developing the chassis/engine package more freely. In the short term, knowing that I have a pretty bulletproof engine, and with 7 more to play with during a season, as well as the additional fuel, I tune them up a bit and give my riders a way to make up some time on the straights. If the spec software isn't quite up to snuff yet (it will be, given time) I'll just let my talented riders control the bike instead of the software. With a softer tire I might not be able to last complete race distance, but at least we could give the Hondas and Yamahas some trouble for a bit of the race. Maybe. It's worth a shot, anyway, because playing by Honda's rules hasn't gotten me anywhere.

The spec ECU has plenty of adjustability. Think of the software as being like Excel, you can put in whatever numbers and formats you like, to get the results you desire.
The difference with the MSMA teams is at they can write their own macros.

Homologation when referring to race machinery means the the drawings for all the relevant parts, I this case all the components that make up "the engine" the are registered with the FIM, so any part used must conform to that drawing. How they define "the engine" will be written in the regulations

At this stage of Ducati's game I tend to agree. Dorna would not like it though. Clearly the series would then be seen as a 2 manufacturer 4 bike/rider class.
What the hell? Its already there. Quick fix. Ban pneumatic valve gear. Parity restored between Ducati/HRC and Yamaha. Its not like we are going to see pneumatic valve gear appear on road bikes ever. So much for technology developed on the race track for the road.

Pneumatic valves aren't that big of a deal. The answer isn't to limit technologies. Technologies are just a means to an end. What's the end goal of pneumatic valves? Letting the engines rev higher to make more horsepower. So how do you fix that? Put a cap on engine speeds that makes pneumatic valves unnecessary, or put a cap on horsepower to make high engine speeds unnecessary. You ban one tech, they just make another one to work around it.

Well, how much would Dorna really care? If Ducati showed you could be competitive running the spec ECU and software, all manufacturers need do is supply an engine and a chassis, doesn't that make it more appealing for other manufacturers to enter the game? Suzuki's said the biggest barrier to re-entry is electronics; if (big if, I know) the spec stuff is good enough that alleviates a lot of cost for new manufacturers. As Magnetti Marelli gains experience writing the software, and they will, with teams utilizing M1 engines, year-old Desmos and proddy RCVs next year, they could bridge enough of the gap to the MSMA teams that 24L, 12 engines and softer tires gets the teams the rest of the way. Hell, Magnetti Marelli may well be better at writing this stuff than Ducati is; it could be an immediate step up.

It's true. That is enough advantage to really make non-MSMAs competitive. Yamaha will be under the gun from its non-MSMA entries too, unless they intentionally saddlebag them, which would make teams not want to lease them. Dorna has actually set things up nicely somewhat this go round.

The Factories are all in a bother about being allowed to develop "fuel-saving" electronics"? OK, drop the pneumatic valves. The loss of the sky-high rev limits they allow, along with sky-high special crankshafts, connecting rods, pistons, oiling systems, etc- totally impractible on road bikes-impose an RPM limit without compromising the nearly-religious zealotry of the factories concerning electronics. As per Pit Bull; like we're going to see street bikes (or cars) that idle at 5,000 rpm and require preheated-prepressurized lubrication systems needed to survive more than a dozen starts, a la Team KR (remember them?). Lauded at the time for introducing F1 methods to make their engines more reliable... and needed to run such an engine without very frequent rebuilds. It's called high-speed dynamic wedge lubrication for geeks. Such engines don't produce usable torque until about 10,000 rpm, anyway. Interesting horsepower numbers, but torque, i.e usable power, no. (HP is a funny mathematical standard, where acceleration-not rpm-is most important. Diesel engines make HUGE, consistent, usable torque-efficiently-but low HP due to slow acceleration).

Better, in the interest of "fuel saving technology", would be to develop a compact turbine and CVT transmission. Piston-engine fuel electronics are a band-aid. Some firms are actually spending money and effort on this. Now THAT's looking to the future. Next step is a tiny bio-fuel turbine powering an alternator and electric drive like-God Forbid-modern train locomotives and military warships. You want to apply torque(power)? 10,000-ton destroyers, guns, armor, ammo, and all, go from zero to top speed and back to zero in a couple of lengths (a 250 meter ship in about 1 km. Ask the British Royal Navy about their latest..). Imagine what a 100-kg bike could do, given comparable technology. It would rip your arms out to 300 kph then pitch you over the bars--without heat-wasting friction brakes! And recover some energy too. Honda wants to be the NASA of motorsports? No, they want to control the reciprocating-engine market they dominate until Hell, and the profits, freeze over. Fuel-saving electronics are the future of the sport? Efficient, innovative powerplants are the the future. Unless you want to bank billions milking old, cheap, 1800's reciprocating technology, that is. That's business.

No, I don't like Honda and their holier-than-thou corporate ethos. If they want to lead in technology, like they claim, look to Nissan and the hybrid "Batmobile" LeMans racer.

You need to revise your physics. Power (measured as HP) is not "a funny mathematical standard", it is the measure of the rate of work. That's why your electricity and your gas is sold in units of power x time. It also has the advantage that it is not dependent on gearing, whereas torque is. It has nothing to do with acceleration vs rpm, unless you are talking of the religious dispute between manufacturers of inertial vs brake dynos.

As for "user friendly torque", it's a myth built on the coincidence that in the past low rpm high-torque engine have tended to have a broader spread of power than high rpm low torque engine with the same power. You should ask yourself why diesel trucks run 27 speed gearboxes...

Also, modern trains where I come from do not have "tiny bio-fuel turbines". They pull their power out of the nearest nuclear power station via thick copper wires. The TGV cruises at 300km/h that way and has set records over 500km/h... diesel-electric trains run at a fraction of those speeds (and so far as I know, most use reciprocating piston engines).

Next step is a tiny bio-fuel turbine powering an alternator and electric drive like-God Forbid-modern train locomotives and military warships. You want to apply torque(power)? 10,000-ton destroyers, guns, armor, ammo, and all, go from zero to top speed and back to zero in a couple of lengths (a 250 meter ship in about 1 km. Ask the British Royal Navy about their latest..). Imagine what a 100-kg bike could do, given comparable technology. It would rip your arms out to 300 kph then pitch you over the bars--without heat-wasting friction brakes! And recover some energy too.

What are you talking about? I'm not even going to get started on your locomotive idea, but just for laugh, name a fast 'bio-fuel turbine powered electric drive' train for me.

And then, you don't know much about warships do you? For starters you'll be hard pressed to find a destroyer reaching much passed 150m let alone 250m. It'll take a super carrier class aircraft carrier to extend to such extravagant lengths, which her majesty's royal navy doesn't possess.

Further, a warships acceleration is measured in minutes! Minutes. As in even the CRT bikes will finished at least a couple of laps before a Destroyer class ship like the Type 45 will have even reached cruising speed. Then for some bizarre reason you mentioned going from top speed back to zero, I don't even need to point out how ridiculous it is to compare a warship putting its props into reverse to a bike clamping pads to rotors to slow down. Not to mention the top speed, despite being hindered by being propelled through water, is about 30 knots.

I'm not claiming to be an expert on warships, and i could certainly be wrong, but even a casual observer like myself has to believe your talking out of your ass.

What Aprilia have done is show that they can sell a privateer team a fast bike for a fraction of the cost of leasing a Honda or Yamaha, provided they are not obliged to meet the silly engine and fuel limits.

So now Dorna wants that to stop. Silly me, I thought it was exactly what they were trying to achieve.

Aprilia is being "encouraged" to become an MSMA team, hence 20L and 5 engines and all the extra costs involved. Also, Espargaro's bike makes use of Aprilia WSBK software. Next year they have to run the MM software (like PBM et al this year) if they want to keep the higher engine and fuel limits.

On another angle,Mat Oxley unwittingly affirmed the situation in the above article aptly titled 'The Honda/Yamaha pendulum'. Right now it is a two manufacturer contest between 4 riders for top podium any weekend aided and abetted with pneumatic valve train.
That is the situation right now. Its a Yamaha vs Honda series as it has been since 2008/2009.
Ducati, even with Audi backing are pretty much out in the cold unless the tyre war is resumed. Then you factor in factory vs sattelite. No way MSMA factory teams are going to aid and abet a sattelite rider winning. Bad for business. Such an outcome may just suggest last year's bike is better than this year's model. Really. Rhetoric it is, but anyone thinking Dovizioso would be languishing behind Rossi in the standings at this stage 2013 on a factory Yamaha alongside George needs his head read. Crutchlow proves the point.
Statistics and sundry BS re Ducati.
Chuck that alloy beam frame in the smelter. Ressurect the chrome/molly pipe frame and let Pirro run 'em back to back and tweak settings for a week. Cheap trick. Within the context of the Yamaha/Honda pendulum ... why not? Its not like they are part of the propellor anymore within MSMA.
I do like my Desmos's.