2015 MotoGP Qatar Test Day 2 Round Up: The GP15 Is For Real, The Rest Of The Field is Close

There are some worried faces in the MotoGP paddock after the second day of the Qatar test. That the Ducati GP15s are fast should come as no surprise, after all, they were fastest on the first day as well. The trouble is that everyone assumed that the speed of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone was down to the fact that they can use the soft tire, which is not available to Honda and Yamaha. Despite the protestations of the two Ducati riders, who had said they spent all day on the medium tire, the same tire which the Hondas and Yamahas had used, Valentino Rossi, among others, had cast aspersions on their claims, suggesting that their fastest laps had been set on the soft tire.

They weren't. Ducati's official press release stated explicitly that the two Andreas had not gone anywhere near the soft tire so far, concentrating on improving the GP15 on the medium tire, the tire they will race. Ducati's press officer confirmed this explicitly to the Bikesportnews website. And just to check, I trawled through all the photos I could find of the factory Ducati team: through the official Ducati press website, through the official MotoGP.com website, and through a couple of other media sites. Not a single photo did I find of a tire with a white stripe, the sign of the soft tire. They really did use the medium tire.

What this means? It means that the times set by Andrea Iannone yesterday, and by Andrea Dovizioso today – a time under Casey Stoner's race lap record, set here back in 2008 – are a true illustration of what the GP15 is actually capable of, and not an artifact of having an artificial advantage. Gigi Dall'Igna and the team of engineers at Ducati have actually solved the problem. The Ducati Desmosedici GP15 is a competitive motorcycle. Both Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez conceded that they now believed the GP15 is capable of winning.

That is perhaps a little premature. Neither Dovizioso nor Iannone were putting in particularly long runs, concentrating instead on set up, and working to solve the problems the Ducati still has. Most notably in braking: braking stability on corner entry, and maintaining braking as the bike is turned into the corner.

The fact that Ducati is working on braking stability made the appearance of winglets on the GP15 even more confusing. Ducati had announced that they would be bringing a highly visible upgrade, and Andrea Dovizioso spent part of the evening riding the bike with the winglets, the kind of technical development it is hard to hide. What was the purpose of the winglets? The last time Ducati brought winglets back in 2010, the official explanation was to help reduce wheelies at high speed. That argument was rendered less credible by the winglets making their debut at Laguna Seca, a track with only one fast straight. The shape of the 2010 winglets suggested an alternative explanation, the tips flowing air past the fairing exhaust slits. Perhaps the purpose was to help extract hot air from behind Ducati's body panels, an issue for which the Desmosedici was notorious.

These winglets are different, however. Below is a tweet from Ducati showing the winglets, followed by a photo taken by Scott Jones of the original winglets in 2010. The 2015 version looks much more single purpose: providing downforce close to the front of the bike, with no ulterior use. Does this help braking stability? Well, the aim of the winglets is to help keep the front end down at high speed, helping to restrict 5th and 6th gear wheelies. If you can prevent the front end from being light when entering the braking zone, then that would smooth the first touch of braking out, and settle the bike throughout the entire braking phase. Theoretically, of course.



2010, Laguna Seca

A single fast lap is fine, but can Ducati maintain that pace over full race distance? It's too early to say. Neither the factory Ducati men, nor anyone else did a race simulation on Sunday, opting instead for a series of short runs, allowing them to work on their bikes. We will only see whether the Ducati can manage their tires over race distance – their biggest challenge in 2013 and 2014 – on Monday, when they are schedule to do a race simulation.

The Movistar Yamaha riders came closest to running a race simulation, both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi posting runs of eight full laps before returning to the pits. Their pace was positive, running in the high 1'55s and low 1'56s, yet neither Rossi nor Lorenzo were particularly happy. Rossi had had a 'difficult day', he said, the team struggling to find the right set up, only managing towards the end of the evening. For Lorenzo, the Spaniard is struggling with grip, especially the feeling at the front, Lorenzo not happy with the feeling from the new front tire Bridgestone has brought. Lorenzo's smooth, high corner speed style makes him especially sensitive to tire changes, and he and his crew have yet to find a solution to dealing with the slightly different feel of the new front.

Marc Márquez looks like the only rider who has the speed to match the Ducatis. The reigning champion put in more laps than most, and had the most laps in the 1'55s. But he also did not do a race simulation, instead doing short runs followed by time in the garage. A bike geometry change has given the Spaniard more confidence in the front end, leaving Márquez optimistic for the start of the season.

What was perhaps most remarkable on the second day was just how close the entire field was. Though the top three – Dovizioso, Márquez, Iannone – were a cut above the rest, the field from 4th spot onwards was incredibly tight. Jorge Lorenzo may have been nearly six tenths slower than Andrea Dovizioso, only 0.310 separated Lorenzo in 4th from Maverick Viñales in 14th. Even 19th-place man Michele Pirro was within a second of Jorge Lorenzo, just over a second and a half off the pace of Dovizioso.

Times on Sunday appeared to establish what you might call the normal order of things. Behind the top six – two factory Ducatis, two factory Hondas, two factory Yamahas – three satellite bikes followed closely, Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda leading the two Monster Tech 3 Yamahas of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. Espargaro was particularly relieved, after struggling with no feel at all from the front of his Yamaha on Saturday, a change of set up and a switch to a different front tire restored his confidence in the front, and though he was only 9th, he took comfort from the fact he was just 0.158 slower than Lorenzo.

The last day of the test will be the moment of truth, with most riders planning a race simulation on Monday. If everyone runs a race simulation, or at least the best part of one, then we can start to compare. What will be even more intriguing is seeing what happens when the factory Ducatis put on their soft tire. If the soft rubber gives the advantage which many credit it with, then Jorge Lorenzo's pole record, set on soft qualifying rubber in 2008 could be under threat. The 2015 Qatar test has been anything but disappointing so far, and there is much more to come.

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It really looks like Ducati has taken a step forward this time. If we could get 6 bikes fighting at the front the whole race that would be awesome. Even if they don't right away, it looks promising that they will be able to work out these smaller issues.

I haven't been this excited since 2007. Go Ducati!! Can't wait to see what they can manager on their race simulation, and even more for the race. Its going to be an exciting season.

Nice to see them back and see Dall'Igna's talent confirmed. I think there's a growing belief that 2007 was a bit of a fluke. They got the 800 engine design better then the others initially, specially Yamaha, but a poor chassis was flattered by custom Bridgestones and Stoner. It was all downhill after that and the previous management had no idea how to fix things. Though I am a Rossi fan I will cheer their first win with the GP15. I wonder if Crutchlow feels like a bit of a chump for giving up his ride? Not the first British sportsman to fail in Italy.

2007 a fluke? Sorry but I completely disagree with that "growing belief". Ducati were competitive from day dot, and Capirossi was tied for the lead in the World Championship in '06 until that first corner crash with Gibernau at Catalunya.

The Desmosedici was the real deal. Stoner is/was a rare talent but the way Bayliss rocked up at Valencia, having never ridden a Bridgestone shod D16, out qualified Capirossi for second on the grid, and proceeded to smoke EVERYBODY points to a very VERY good motorcycle.

was a very special and somewhat boring race. The title fight was between Hayden and Rossi, Rossi crashed early. After that Hayden was cruising home in third with a train of Hondas following but not daring to pass. Capirossi sat happy in second and watch his old pal Troy win. Impressive by Troy to ride that strong but he was never challenged for real and it was quiet boring to watch.

2007 was special, Carlos Checa said that the 2007 Honda was the worst bike he ever ridden.
Capirossi and Stoner could make the most of the Duc but it broke the confidence of some great riders. Glad to see the genious of Gigi Dall'Aglio make a difference and hope to see 6-8 bike capable to fight for the victory.

One problem imo is also, that a lot of people still refer to the Desmosedici that "broke a lot of riders" as if that was the same bike that Stoner won the championship on.
The bike that Capirossi rode quite successfully in 2006 was probably close, but obviously not the same as the one Stoner rode in 2007 (999 vs 800cc). And it is safe to say that it evolved from there until Stoner left Ducati in 2010. Arguably, it got worse and worse. Rossi essentially only really rode the same bike as Stoner at the Valencia tests in 2010. But I think it's safe to say that when he started the season in 2011, again, it was a bike different to the one from 2010. Even if ever so slightly.

So let's just leave it at that. Every season is different from another, every rider is different from another. 2007 was special, indeed, because of a major rule change.
Maybe 2016 will be just as surprising. Maybe even this season. The prospects are looking good.

I know I'm way too late on this, but despite the votes I think you nailed it

We will have to agree to disagree. Capirex rear wheel steered the 990 to some success, but Rossi had a disastrous start to 2006, with a decent bike he might have been miles ahead at that point. Old Gibberingnow never really got to terms with it. The Bayliss ride was an epic, but a one off. Yes they were competitive, but the desmo chassis was just not as good as Yamaha or Honda, the engine was fantastic, and still is. I'd love to see them really stick it to the Japanese this year, it'll be fun to watch.

I don't think we disagree really. I'm not saying that the pre 2007 Ducati was a guaranteed race winner. I'm just saying that it is evident that it was not the bike that completely destroyed riders reputations later on (as was the case with Melandri and, at least temporarily, with Rossi). In fact, I think it was much better than people remember it to be.
Just look at the data:
Yes, Capirossi outscored his teammates. But not by a country mile as Stoner did with Melandri in 2008.

Capirossi had five respectable seasons with Ducati: a race win in the first season in 2003, including five rostrums and three poles (4th overall). That same year, Bayliss got 6th overall with another 2 rostrums and Ducati was second in the manufacturers championship.

Granted, 2004 was not so great (9th in the WC standings). Bayliss was 14th.

In both the following years, Capirossi had massive crashes with consequent injuries (PI 05 and Catalunya 06). Still, he managed 6th and 3rd in the WC standings with several wins and rostrums in both seasons.

And still, Checa put that same bike on the podium two times in 2005, scoring 9th overall in the WC. Not super great, but not disastrous either.

And in 2006, Gibernau did not seem to be too comfortable on the Duc. Obviously, it was his first season on the bike and he was handicapped for a good part of the year because of that massive Catalunya crash. He got injured again in Estoril and missed Valencia because of that. We all know what happened then. But Gibernau still managed to score a pole on that Ducati.
And arguably, he was not at his best psychologically that season. Which is probably why he quit after that.

And in 2007, when Stoner crushed the field on the Duc, Capirex still had a respectable season with race wins and podium finishes (7th overall).

It was only after 2007, that Ducati seemed to go seriously downhill. Stoner's results got worse and worse, in part due to his lactose intolerance issue.
And Nicky Hayden never really got to grips with the bike.

I guess my point is just, that I remember the pre 2007 Ducati Marlboro Team sort of as the underdog, that was always good for a surprise race win. Something I never felt with the Ducati Team post 2010. But obviously tires had a lot to do with that, too.

There's no way you can say the 07 bike was great and just got worse. People talk about the engine advantage Ducati enjoyed especially in the early stages of 07, but to pass the leader on the straight you still had to be able to keep them in sight through the corners, and Stoner was the only guy that could do that. Capirossi struggled comparatively, he had the odd podium but his one win was a flukey wet dry race at Motegi where he gambled on changing his tyres at the right time (He qualified 8th for that race and was 17th in FP3, 12th in WUP). 7th in the title puts him behind not only Yamaha, but Honda and Suzuki which is nothing to write home about for Ducati with a guy that was a title contender the year previous.

Subsequent revisions of the 800cc bike including the carbon frame and big bang engine were definite improvements to the bike with Capirossi describing the screamer engine as too aggressive and other riders suggesting the trellis frame could feel very different track to track and even session to session. Ducati just took far too long to implement updates. Rival manaufacturers took two steps to Ducati's one every year.

It wasn't just Motegi 07. Capirex scored podium finishes in Turkey, Germany and PI (trailing Stoner) that year. That's more than any of Stoners later teammates could do on that bike. Points-wise, it was his 3rd best year with Ducati. And he did that, despite having had to retire in 4 races that season.
In fact, the first Ducati rider outscoring that result again (other than Stoner) was Rossi in 2012 (5th overall, still fewer points). But arguably, that was a VERY different bike. The first to outscore Capi in 07 points-wise, was Dovi last year.
Maybe Capirex was just that good. But in 2011 he couldn't do sh**t on the Pramac GP11.

What riders say about the bike is the best indication about how good or bad it is (compared to what other bikes they know). And I do remember that Stoner thought the carbon chassis was better than the trellis as well. But judging strictly and only from the results, there's no denying that from 2007 onwards, results got worse overall. So if the Duc actually improved from 07 to 10, then worsening conditions must be to blame. One after another, everybody went from Michelin to Bridgestone. So that advantage effectively vanished. Even more so, when the spec tire arrived.

What's not to like!
Fingers and toes crossed
Lets hope they stick a soft tyre on and kill the pole record!
As for No35 lmao. What a chump he must be feeling...........

If the GP15 is fast over racing distance, then the iron reign of the top 4 (HRC and Yamaha) could finally be over in favor of now 6 bikes, capable of winning races.
Now, if Suzuki manage to pull out a few more HP, that bike (in the hands of Aleix and Maverick) could very well turn the top 6 into the top 8.
Especially once the electronics play a much smaller role in 2016 (hopefully, that is).

What a glorious championship that would be, with four actual factory teams, all of them capable of winning on any given sunday.

Can't wait to see how it all pans out.

Agree agree. However, given the speed of the open Ducati, I wouldn't count on electronics taking a significant step backwards for 2016 and beyond. Too bad really.

Im cautiously optimistic. Fast over a few laps vs race distance is another world. Im hoping the Duc's can keep the rear to live over 20 laps. This season is looking goooood!

I wonder if Ducati would be happy to give up the soft tire option then - if they're running fast times on the medium tire, the Q boost the soft gives isn't needed, where the longevity of the hard option just may be necessary.

If people were to complain, I wonder how hard Ducati would fight that. Or, what they would ask for in return.

Ducati is still running with a bit of an advantage. I am really excited to see how they do over race distance. And if they are for real and they do score some wins, they will have their advantage taken away. What will they do then? Does Gigi have a contingency plan in place to deal with that eventuality? Marc said as much in an interview I read earlier this week. He acknowledges the speed of the Ducs, but he also knows that long term his real challengers are still the Yamahas, which seem to be getting caught up in the whole seamless gear box effort. Let's hope that distraction doesn't hurt over-all performance, as they have no room to give anything up to the HRC machines at all!

The other thing that I am finding exciting is that Suzuki are showing that they are on the right track in their development path and will come out of the gates much stronger than everyone expected. Finally, the satellite bikes are actually more competitive so far this season, which will make for great fighting in what I perceive to be a much larger second group. This season could be the most hotly contested ever!

Yes, one must remember that Ducati (as well as Suzuki and Aprilia) still run under Open-class like rules, which can give an advantage, all things considered.

- Open-class teams are allowed to use the softer-tyre option (can be a significant advantage for qualifying).
- Factory-class teams are not allowed to use that softer-tyre option.

- Open-class teams are allowed 12 engines for the whole season, plus they're also allowed to develop the engines as the season goes.
- Factory-class teams are not allowed to use more than 9 engines, and the engine development is completely frozen throughout the season.

- Open-class teams can use 24 liters of fuel for each race.
- Factory-class teams are allowed only 20 liters of fuel for each race.

I'm really happy to see Ducati finally showing visible progress (about time, took them years!). It's not progress that benefits only one of their riders, but actually both of the factory riders. Which means real, practical progress, for every other rider and team with that bike in the future.

The Ducatista in me wishes that this was achieved under the very same rules of the other factory teams, for pride related reasons. Like this, it looks like a bone thrown out of pitty (if that makes any sense).
But then if it serves to make Ducati and every other manufacturer (Suzuki, Aprilia and, who knows, KTM, BMW and Kawasaki next) to develop things faster and, therefore, level the competition field, by breaking the ever lasting Honda/Yamaha duopoly, I guess it is all for the (much) better.

You're right in that I got some of the facts a little generalized (and thanks for the links). Still, the real facts for the "open factory" (the "factory 2" class of Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia) are inline with the ones I pointed.

A manufacturer with an entry under the factory option that has not achieved a win in dry conditions in the previous year (like Ducati, or Suzuki, or Aprilia) have:

- 12 engines per rider per season with no design freeze.
- 24 liters of fuel.
- Same tires allocation (extra soft compound) as Open Class.
- Unlimited testing.

Subject to results, a series of success penalties for these entries will apply.
Fuel allocation will be reduced to 22 liters if the combined results of riders under such a team (for example, Dovizioso and Iannone for Ducati) reach one race win, two second places or three third-place finishes.
Three race wins by any combination of riders will also mean the loss of the extra soft tire option.

So, while Ducati is a factory entry -and able to use its own ECU software- it has the advantages of the open class until it triggers the success penalties.
Same applies to Suzuki and Aprilia, of course.

At this point the soft tire issue is null for this test as it has been shown that Ducati used the medium tires did they not? (yes I realize they didn't do race simulations, but their speed is still VERY promising).

Also, Ducati are already using 22 litres of fuel, so a penalty for winning races of reducing their fuel limit would be null. Does anyone know how a race win or multiple wins would effect the fuel limit for next season?

I think the article addressed these things (or maybe it was an earlier article).


Yeah, it seems it has been like that for this test, but to think that they'll "give up that ace in the sleeve" for qualifying sessions this season (in the form of the softer tyre) is unreasonable. That advantage is and will still be there.
We've all seen how qualifying is important for the race, and if the new bike is this fast on same (harder) tyres than the Honda and Yamaha factory entries....

I would think Ducati had already been working and prepare for a potential situation where the success-penalties are put in effect (if they do well enough to trigger that).
As said, the bike seems to go well with same (harder) tyres of factory entries and it has been said that they've been using 22 liters quite happily. So, there you go.

I'm not sure how one or multiple wins would effect these "advantages" for teams running (or not) under these special rules for this season, much less next season.
But, interestingly, and as our own host David Emmett wrote so well (and quoting):


"Given the depth of talent in MotoGP at the moment, winning three races will be tough. However, with the soft tire giving an advantage in qualifying, it is far from inconceivable that Ducati will dominate the front row. If Ducati take too many pole positions, then no doubt that Honda and Yamaha will start to kick up a fuss. The problem is, the soft tire allowance falls under the technical regulations, and as such are decided by the MSMA, the manufacturers' association. To change the rules requires unanimity among all five MSMA members, which includes Ducati. Persuading Ducati to give up the soft tire will require Honda and Yamaha either to present a very convincing case, or more likely, offer some serious concessions for 2016 and beyond. Next year, Ducati want to be able to use nine engines during the year, where Honda and Yamaha only want six. That looks like a bargaining position right there."

The rules with 5 engines and next to no fuel are oppressively tight, so much so that no new or struggling manufacturer can possibly enter and improve and become competitive. The "Ducati rules" - for want of a better description - recognise this and allow some latitude. As the less competitive companies improve they gradually lose their benefits. Aside perhaps from the tyre situation, I think it makes a lot of sense within the framework of technical regulations they have.

Anyhow, testing is testing and racing is racing. Remember this time last year and everyone thought AE was going to fly on the open Yam? He was only very occasionally and briefly in the same camera shot when the flag dropped. Hoping the Ducs fly this year though, but realistically it's probably going to be the normal 3+1 up front when the checkered flag flies.

If the secret to the new Ducati is the improved weight distribution due to the revised engine layout. What if they took the engine and put it in a version of the no-frame carbon airbox and junked the aluminium beam frame.

And then Rossi went and had another go...

I'd like to see it but can't see that happening. No adjustability for engine position with the carbon frame. Think we're stuck with an Italian Honda. Which isn't a bad thing.

The frameless or carbon framed Ducati was and remains a great idea, which was let down by the poor management structure at Ducati Corse at the time, and the large size of the engine block. Plus the pressure Ducati were under with Rossi being on the bike...

As was stated on here at the time, the carbon frame could be tuned to almost any desired level of stiffness depending how the carbon weave was put together. However, as Ducati didn't make the frames (IIRC), modifications were too slow to come through, because they couldn't just lay up and then bake another frame in Bologna.

It might not have worked in racing but it's a great idea, I think, and one that was worth a try. However, at this point in time Ducati need success, and their best option is to see what everyone else has got working...

And they aren't riding a Ducati.

"At the end of the day, it's clear that our rivals are the Yamaha riders and Dani [Pedrosa] - they are our rivals for the championship." - Marc Marquez


Of course some commenters above claim above that Ducati could be a contender this year, but with all due respect, Marquez has won a world championship and they have not.

Those winglets seem like a real problem to me if you DO get a wheelie at high speed. Then they will only make it worse immediately. I guess this kind of spoiler-type aerodynamics can only be used if you let the electronics cut any kind of wheelie short instantly.
I do see the point in being able to apply the brakes harder from the first touch of the brake, though.

Compared to the pocket around the radiator, and the area under the belly pan, I don't think these little winglets will cause much change when the front wheel is well off the ground.

Don't we need to see some lap times from different circuits before we get too excited about a completely competitive Ducati.
Ducati's have traditionally been fast in a straight line and also at Qatar. Stoner/Ducati won there three years running and my unchecked recollection is that he fell off in 2010 while leading clearly?