Marco Melandri: "I Had The Same Problems As Valentino"

Great things were expected of Marco Melandri when he switched to Ducati's MotoGP team for the 2008 season. The Italian has been a rising star on the Gresini Honda, finishing 2nd to Valentino Rossi in 2005, and scoring three victories in 2006. In the first year of the 800s, 2007, Melandri had struggled along with the rest of the Honda riders, after HRC, like the other Japanese factories, realized they had got their 800cc bikes completely wrong when faced with the raw power of the Ducati. If Casey Stoner could win so convincingly on the bike, the reasoning went, then Melandri would surely clean up completely once he got on the bike.

Rarely has a manufacturer switch turned into such a disaster. Melandri's time at Ducati was a nightmare almost from day one, the low point coming after a series of crashes at Jerez. Melandri failed completely to get to grips with the Desmosedici, despite his teammate racking up 6 victories on the machine. The Italian ended the season in 17th, and terminated his contract a year early, leaving the Ducati seat to Nicky Hayden.

Speaking to the website of the Italian magazine Motosprint, Melandri said he recognized his own experience in the decidedly mediocre times of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, when he took the 2011 version of Ducati's Desmosedici MotoGP bike out for his first outing aboard the machine. Rossi could manage only the 10th fastest time on the first day of the test, and was 15th fastest on day two, ending just a couple of hundredths ahead of rookie Karel Abraham on the same bike. Rossi was clearly uncomfortable on the bike, partly a result of the continuing pain from his injured shoulder.

"It's a movie I've seen before," Melandri told Motosprint, when asked about Rossi's debut on the Ducati. Melandri said that he'd had exactly the same problems with the Ducati that Rossi had had during the Valencia test, but Ducati had not listened to his feedback. He had asked for changes to be made to the bike, Melandri told Motosprint, but Ducati merely replied that their bike had won a world title, and he would have to adapt his style. The difference now, Melandri believed, is that Valentino Rossi has a lot more political power than Melandri did back in 2008. Where Ducati sent Melandri to a psychologist to try and deal with the problem, they are more likely to listen to Rossi's suggestions.

Whether that would be successful is another matter altogether, Melandri noted. "I don't know whether he will manage to change the situation," Melandri told Motosprint, "but he has the means to do it. I'm not convinced that he will succeed, however."

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Difference between Rossi and Abraham is the former was working while the latter was having a joy ride.

Difference between Rossi and Melandri is when worse comes to worst, Rossi will adapt his riding to the bike.

Melandri had to adapt because he was only rider number 2 while rider number one collected victories.
Now that Stoner is gone, Rossi came to take the number 1 rider role, Hayden is good on it but not "that" good, so obviously they will listen much more to Vale.
Plus they value Vale (talent AND salary) much more than Melandri or Stoner for that matter.

Melandri came into Ducati on a reputed salary of something like EU$3m, while Stoner was in the second year of a very low base salary (again, reputedly something like several hundred EU$K plus performance bonus). You'd have surely to think that Ducati saw Melandri as No. 1 rider right up to the point he started to ride the damn thing.

I suggest that Stoner in '07 was perhaps the best 'bang for the buck' rider - in terms of wins/$ salary, probably ever in motoGp - while Melandri in '08 is possibly the worst performing. Melandri and the Duc was a marriage made in hell - what he managed on the Kawa/Hayate in '09 shows how good, even brilliant, he can be.

Casey Stoner was always #2 even when he won the championship.

Ducati had Chuck Yeager and they let him go after four years of treating him like a redheaded rental mule.

I have immense respect for Marco. It is more than obvious that everyone, even Casey, has struggled on the Duc.

Like I have said before, Vale has his work cut out for him in getting the Duc up to par (handling wise). He doesn’t have a lot of time to do it and the competition is a lot greater than in years past. But, if anyone can do it Vale can.

If Vale doesn’t finish in the top three next year Ducati will suffer because everyone will know that even the GORT (greatest of recent times) couldn’t get it to work.


Whether Rossi can or cannot adapt his riding style has yet to be seen. He is a great rider indeed, but this is a foreign problem. Let's take it page by page.


I am holding my breath on the "couldnt get it to work" category. It is much more likely that Ducati will forward a great deal of this work to the 2012 bike.

This just makes Casey look more and more like the one true alien.

I'm sure that Ducati - with Vale and Jerry Burgess- will find a new setup that will make it work for him long term.

I think there's a belief in the paddock that Casey can't provide the sort of feedback to develop a bike to a high level. That may or may not be true (and I personally don't think it is), but what has become obvious is that Casey has the talent and more importantly the sheer determination to "unlock" any bike he rides.

The Ducati reminds me of the screamer NSR500 Mick Doohan rode- he chose the faster, more tempestuous setup and just learnt to ride it.

If anything the Ducati has revealed the difference between European riders and Australian/US riders. The Euros (like Vale and Melandri) have a road riding pedigree that goes all the way back to mini moto. While some train on dirt, none have the dirt track pedigree of a Casey Stoner ( 40+ Aus titles) or Nicky Hayden (Grand National champ) who have learnt "don't worry about the bike's attitude, worry about your own". Watching Casey and Nicky manhandle the GP09/10 while it shakes like an angry stallion show that that's the way this bike needs to be ridden.

Changing it to a Euro spec will be the biggest challenge Ducati face.


Reminds me of the poor coaches that great players make (I am thinking of the NBA only). People like Michael Jordan for instance. They can ball so well that they don't see the problems that the majority of the players see.

Casey can ride the thing so well that the little things that are major problems for other great riders don't phase him so he doesn't push to have them corrected in development.

Just my thoughts, not saying that is the way things are.

I think Marco's lips move faster then his bike.

It will be interesting to see how he goes (or doesn't) on the wsbk yamaha. This bike is reported to be a bit difficult as well. I predict it will be like a movie we've all seen before.

But on the day after the MotoGP test, he was less than 2 tenths behind Rossi's time.

Rossi was discovering the GP11, Melandri was discovering a new bike, new tires and a whole new category.

Just 3 tenths of Crutchlow superpole on his very first time on a superbike, not too bad Marco, not too bad. Just shut it up and stay focused ;-)

People forget his disastrous 2004 season with Tech 3 and recovery in 2005. This article is a great description of the amazing job that his crew did back then to renew his confidence. They may not be licensed but it was some well used psychology that helped him go fast after his poor experience with the M1.

It's just a good read in general.

What are people's feelings on the carbon chassis of the Duc? I am just an armchair expert, but it seems to me that this lack of feel that many riders complain of is only evident on the only bike that does not have a metal-based chassis.
Fair enough in 07 Casey had a power advantage but he never had any front end problems that I recall, they have progressively arrived since the swap to Carbon chassis.

My outsider's impression is that Ducati are in love with the carbon chassis technology/bling/prestige/sex appeal, even though the overwhelming feedback is that it is no good. Stoner just rode through all the bikes inherent problems like nobody else could, so the engineers at Duc considered themselves vindicated. It was this "engineering focus" that was one of the main reasons Rossi sited for not being interested in Ducati in 2003. It seems Rossi has changed, but Ducati hasn't.

I'm curious to see whether the 2011 bike rolls out with a tube steel chassis, or whether Ducati are either a) brilliant enough engineers to understand the behaviour of the carbon chassis and inject enough flex into it to make it work, or b) so proud that they will stick to their guns claiming the engineering is correct and that it is the riders problem to use it.

Somehow I don't see the latter happening with VR at the tiller.

Marco's switch from 1000s to 800s has been a disaster except at Hayate. How can he be sure what problems Rossi is having with the Duc. In testing it is important to understand the bike and evaluate any weakness to provide information to the engineers. Rossi was doing all this whilst dealing with a severly damaged shoulder.

Gresini's work with Marco in 2005 taught him to understand the bike first instead of chasing lap times, something he wanted to do. Rossi is experiemced enough to know this thats y on second day he did a lot of laps without pushing.

I hope Marco does well and beats Max in 2011, but i believe he should just shut up and let his riding speak for itself, HE TALKS TO MUCH.

If Casey is not great at development (a big if), then we have to assume he will benefit enormously in 2011 from being in a 4 rider honda factory team (including Simoncelli). He will have the development benefit of 3 other top or near top grade riders to provide good data to HRC. I don't think he had the same at Ducati as the calibre of riders, Hayden excepted, was not as good. Also HRC have much more money and engineering to throw at the bike than Ducati.

I think the theory that "Casey can't develop a bike" can be quickly squashed by examining his results. For being a poor development rider, he sure has won a lot of races (the most in the 800cc era, still). I think the analysts may be giving too much credit to his mystical ability to jump on any unbroken stallion of a bike and ride it hard; the guy is a great rider, but to stay competitive throughout a season against monsters like Yamaha and Honda, you must do development work and it must be successful. I know Casey has complained that Ducati finishes the season with the bike it began with (meaning that they don't do much bike development), but his results also make that sound false: he has won a lot of races at the end of the season, especially at the end of his most challenging seasons (2009 and 2010).

Because it isn't the carbon fiber. It might be the chassis design, but not the material.

The 1st official test of the CF framed GP9 at Catalunya after the 2008 season finale had CS setting the fastest time of the day. CS stated..."We were quickly into some decent times using the SAME setup as the (steel framed) GP8. We barely changed anything to adapt it (GP9 CF frame)..& I immediately felt improvement..." Melandri was 2.8 seconds slower & the rest we know.

CF can be designed to give as much or as little "feedback" as steel, aluminum or titanium; it is all in the material resin, fiber type & orientation. If you wanted to copy the feeling of a twin-spar aluminum frame you could (& nullify the advantages of CF).

CF bicycles give FAR greater feedback than steel frames & make aluminum frames seem like recycled soda cans.

The Ducati has ALWAYS been difficult & it has demonstrated the same idiosyncrasies before & after the move to carbon fiber. If they (mistakenly) abandon the CF & duplicate the same geometry in a steel trellis or worse, mimic the twin-spar aluminum paradigm...VR will soon be playing in JT's band.

Melandri might not be wrong, but I think his thoughts are to early.

I dont think the test is the be all barometer. You have to give the guy some discovery. His shoulder injury or lesion as the doctor said was substantial. I did not know he fully dislocated his shoulder. Totally affected his suprspinatus and any one here who has had a shoulder impingement knows how debilitating they are. It prevented from me getting through Law Enforcement PFQ tests. I was a pro athlete and it wasnt the most catastrophic, but the most debilitating. I had no dislocation just severe inflamation and I was in and out of a sling, the stiff neck, crappy sleeping. It svcked.

If you told me I had to take my 145rwhp R1 out on the track like that, I tell ya to get stuffed. Add another near 100hp, 130mph avg track speeds. Hahaha no thanks.

In that riding position being loaded, having to push/counter steer the bike through corners, then the ridiculous braking. Respect to him.

Ill put more judgement on him and his bike after the second and later tests.

This all makes it remarkable how Stoner waxed everyone like he did on a the Honda. The guy is a beast!

I would not disregard Rossi's 15th place that fast either. I'm not a GP nor a SBK rider but I think, in testing, you have to push the bike to the limit to discover problems and true potential. If this notion holds true, than Rossi did try to push the bike at some point during the test and was well down on the timesheets. The Duc, as it is right now, does not suit Rossi. Saying it's just a test is masking the problems. If Ducati doesn't change some aspects of the bike, Rossi may also have to go see a psychologist.


Redesigning anything is hard - I use the analogy of the spider's web.
You can't just move one point to where you want it as all the others points move as well, often to places that you didn't want them to go.
I can't see that it is as easy as wrapping a new frame around a GP11 motor and off you go. The Ducati appears to be designed as a cohesive unit (a bike for Ducati's future?) that includes cf frame elements replacing Ducati's traditional trellis. The cf provides a technological and marketing differentiation from Ducati's rivals and appears to be an integral part of the overall design.
The fact that another Ducati tradition is 90deg vee motors has always influenced their chassis design as they have struggled to give their bikes agility with relatively long motors.
I can see huge problems in trying to change the basic concept of the bike before Sepang. For example the engine case design is probably heavily influenced by the chassis layout.


For the vast majority of the season. O.K he was a little lost with his front end 'folds' for a wee while, but got his mojo back with the old forks and then again with the set up change. Hayden whilst a step behind the fab four has also posted good times on the GP10 throughout the year. So the machine cannot be that bad. Main problem getting the optimum heat into the tyres. Melandri seemed less inclined to adapt his style to suit the Duke.

It certainly appears VR was somewhat shocked by the nature of the front on the Duke. Will the factory re-engineer it to replicate the Yamaha or subtly tweak it as JB suggests and have Rossi adapt a little on his part too?

Anyone saying that 9 time WC Rossi is over the hill or not capable of this challenge is off their rocker. To my mind he will win races 2011. The question is how long before Rossi and crew get the thing where they want it? Time is the enemy and time waits for no man. You just know the other 'Aliens' will be out of the blocks mighty fast once the season commences.

Marco's comments on Rossi's slow times are premature. Since Rossi did not race the bike, nor was he in good health, I do not believe that Marco has "seen this movie before". All we've seen is the first teaser-trailer on how the next season will go. We'll never know how well Marco could have done if Ducati had listened to his sage advice. Perhaps both Marco and Casey would have been back-markers? Yes, I am tired of reading Melandrama's excuses for his lack of results.

The movie that matters will be in Qatar many months from now.

The Ducati GP project scince its inception and entry in 2003 has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Innovation above convention. Starting with the engine. L-4 D16.
Not conventional. Two straight lines intersecting at 90 degrees makes an L, NOT a V in any manner. Hence Ducati themselve's correctly refer to their L configurations. Hence it cannot be made as compact or adjustable within the chassis as a sub 90 degree V or transverse 4 configuration. Finding a balance with this layout to suit every circuit is a nightmare. As one who has spent his entire biking life on these L-twins, I can tell you, one of the problems was cooling of the horizontal cylinder. Always ran considerably hotter than the vertical one. Lack of frontal area to the draught. Obviously liquid cooling nullifies this effect to some extent,however,I guess it's still an issue and probably the front needs more cooling/more bulk over the horizontal cylinder thus lowering frontal C of G. So,why then the front end 'tucks' with more mass over the front.
Always happens in the tight stuff,tends to 'flop' to the side you're leaned into.
On the other hand,great when flowing at high speed.Temperature optimum coupled to front 'side' grip.To compromise,you have to almost 'dirt track' on the tar in tight stuff. Bring the back around whilst holding the front up.
I don't believe suspension nor chassis material will provide an escape hatch.
Have to play to the inherent weaknesses and strengths of the layout or reconfigure the engine.Back in 2003,the 990 D16 was a brute,but a selectively winning brute. They made it infinitely addjustable for 2004. Nett gain...disastrous.
Little by little the 2005 bike was okay,the 2006 bike was Ist place material.
Don't knock Marco,he looked as shell shocked testing post 2007 as Valentino did in 2010 Valencia.
Should Ducati bend over backwards to accomodate Rossi during the winter and come up with an 800 version of the 2004/990, Hayden will be laughing.
Unless Ducati change to a V configuration,Rossi's move to Ducati will be as disastrous as Marco's. Let battle within Marlboro/Ducati/Rossi/AMG commence.
Rossi should have tried to win his title back from Lorenzo and stuck with what he knew. The Desmosedici also put Gibernau out of the game. Granted,not via MX.
Shoulder issues,post Catalunya 2006. In any form,any rider will have to muscle the things front vs rear nature and get the balance right. Stoner just wrang its neck and nevermind the consequence. Capirossi went about it little by little from 2005 to 2006. Rossi/Burgess/Fellipo should go the same way.
Problem for them is that HRC and Yamaha are already a country mile ahead.
Probably already relishing 1000cc 2012. Waiting in the wings BMW,Aprilia I suspect.

As one who has almost exclusively spent his racing career (20 yrs on and off) on air cooled Duke 900-1000cc twins I cannot for the life of me see any inherent performance parallels between my extremely basic bikes and the factory's series of GP wonders as you mention.

They'll get the bike to his liking. He's wayyyyyyy too much of an investment for Ducati to just let him fail. VR/JR and the crew will put together a package, I just hope Nicky doesn't suffer from it.

The only movie I've seen before is people doubting Rossi. He was riding as well as he ever has before the shoulder injury.

Fundamentally in the same boat Nostradamus and fundamentally it's still an L.
Law of gravity sucks.My take.Rossi will have to,as David and Prezziosi subtly pointed out,do the Chuck Yaeger thing and risk getting pulled down to earth.
Boom or bust.

I think too much is being made out of the Valencia timesheet.

It is simply a test, not Free practice, qualifying or a race. Even then, we often see huge changes of pace from friday to sunday as riders fine-tune the bikes

There were two riders on the grid who could not afford to crash on the test. Vale and Pedrosa.
So I think it is safe to assume that they had at least another second in them simply from how much harder they could push.

Knowing the temperamental nature of the Duke's front end, I don't think any rider would have pushed any bit harder than was absolutely necessary. Vale rode the bike to understand its behavior and to give as much feedback as possible to the engineers. Thats it.

I will not be at all suprised if he flies in Qatar and Sepang, goth tracks he likes (unlike Valencia) once he gets his strength back.

More complex bike than he had before? Sure. Tough competitors? Definitely. A lot of work to do? You bet, but I think he will be s lot closer come march than the test imes would have you believe.

@ ricky

The problem with your analysis and the issue with the test is that to get any useful data from a race bike test, the bike (from production to MotoGP) has to be ridden to within approximately 1/2 a second of it's maximum potential lap time to actually find what it is going to do wrong. Up until that point most race bikes handle impeccably.

So either the GP10 is such a basket case that the bike was already a handful at 1.5 seconds off the pace or Vale was so "lost at sea" with it that this was as fast as he could go.

Whatever the reason, Ducati have been racing long enough to know that from that test they are more or less "developing in the dark"

Considering the commitment and the sacrifices they have made for next year, they must be sh*ting their pants

@ k_the_c

1/2 a second was a figure we ended up with at the track. Obviously the length of the lap changes this figure(the tracks we were using averaged about a 1.30sec lap)

"the last 1/2 second" is a common racing term in Australia and it doesn't seem to matter what style of bike it is, TZ250, proddy bike, superbike, 600 supersport, they all go from being "set up to within an inch of it's life" to doing weird stuff in that last half second. What we did find was the more "pure" racebikes (e.g. TZ250's) could get closer to their absolute maximum before turning into mush

When someone you believe to be fast jumps in a new vehicle at a known track, what is a reasonable expectation?

@ k_the_c

What would be expected is the fast rider to be at least within a 1/2 second of the fastest RACE lap the same bike has done on the same track in roughly the same conditions.
The engineers, mechanics and designers then know the bike is being worked hard and the new riders input will (hopefully) make a difference

Spies was 1.5s from Rossi in FP1, reduced to 0.8s in FP2 and 0.6s in qualifications, in front of Lorenzo and 0.4s from Rossi during warm-up.
This is with a total seat time on the Yamaha of 3h20, much less that what Rossi has had at Jerez on the Ducati during the 2 days test. And from a rider with infinitely less experience in MotoGP.

Or for a fair comparison during the Valencia 2010 test, just look at Stoner's performance who was in the same situation as Rossi (yeah right, he already rode a Honda...satellite bike, 990cc, Michelin tires, 4 years ago).

For all we know, Rossi was stuck in "Friday practice" mode throughout the 2 days of testing.

Stoner being fast on the Honda could be easily attributed to that bike being better sorted than the Ducati. How did the satellite Hondas perform relative to the satellite Ducatis this past season?

Why do you think the factories employ test riders that are 4 seconds off the pace? The engineers don't need fast riders, they need riders that give consistent feedback. Most racers are notorious for giving inconsistent feedback. Send them out on the same settings different times, and you'll likely get different response each time.

As I've said before, look who the tire engineers go to. It's not a coincidence that's it's usually Rossi or Edwards. It just so happens Rossi is the best, and Edwards is still fast enough in race conditions. Otherwise, the engineers will just go to their slow factory test riders. So even though Abraham's times were close to Rossi's, chances are the engineers would not get anything useful out of Abraham. That is to say, Rossi was working and Abraham was having a joy ride.

It'll be interesting to see how the M1 development goes under Lorenzo and Spies and who the Yamaha engineers ultimately use to develop the bike. I kind of get the feeling that Lorenzo is like Stoner in that they'll figure out how to ride whatever they're given. As far as making it better? Why bother when you're at the front, eh?

I don't agree on the Lorenzo comment, many times this season he would outpace Vale, and he looked as if on rails, while Vale complained of poor setup and lack of rear grip. Lorenzo's crew (and therefore he providing feedback) seemed to just do a better job in this area this year, which to me was one of the biggest surprises this year.

Stoner just flies around with the back and front taking turns to lead, and the faster Nicky went, his bike would do the same dance, eventually losing the front end. All Ducati riders were in the same boat, with only one being able to put it on the top of the box.

I think Vale will for the most part have to reinvent himself for the final 800 year, then the 1000 should likely be built around his wish list. Whether the results come or it will be a lost year will remain to be seen.

Another strange part of this year for me was Dovi outpacing Pedrosa on the same bike, while it was handling like a dog. When they got is sorted out, Pedrosa won and Dovi went backwards. Lends some credo to Preziosi's comments on experienced riders vs people who have less expectations.

Agree with you Monster, the same rule of thumb applies in 4 wheel racing too,all the way to...witness any F1 weekend.
I'll grant Valentino 1.7 seconds at Valencia testing,due to shoulder impairment.
However,Sepang will be the tale of tape.Should he not be consistently within .5 of the top rider,the stage is set for a Ducati disaster re-Valentino.Even that may not be good enough given that Randy also had an operation to the damaged leg post Valencia.
Poignant words from Preziosi the other day.Very diplomatic as ever,but subtly mentioned that Stoner is Ducati's nemesis on track next year.Great bond between them and was sad to see him leave the garage.Says it all.
When GP steps up to accomodate 1000cc,the issue will be exascerbated.
Probably suit Hayden better than Rossi.
Might be interesting to reflect on the past and see what sort of BHP was at a 990 rider's disposal back in 2006 and what was available with a 2010 800.
Not much,I guess.

@ Pit Bull

The straight line speed will be an interesting talking point in 2012

Working on the premise that the 990's had the same frontal area and virtually the same corner speed as the last of the 500's, most people concluded that with 330km/h+ top speeds they would have to be putting out about 260 bhp

In the last couple years the 800's have reached these speeds but this is more to do with far higher corner speeds coming onto the straights than with equalling the 990's horsepower

The unknown facter will be that the engine manufactures in 2012 are limited to an 81mm bore size, this is only 2mm bigger than the current R1 and way smaller than the old GP6 which had a bore of over 90mm. I reckon they'll struggle to get a "6 race" long stroke engine to rev more than about 16,000rpm.

They'll get 260 bhp without a problem, but getting the bikes to "turn in" quickly with such a heavy crank (also such a long stroke crank will also have far more gyroscopic force than the old 990 one's) will be the main issue

I can't wait to see the 2012 Ducati.
Will it be a desmo 90deg vee twin with cf frame with the motor as a stressed element?
Ducati has invested a lot of capital, (financial, intellectual and marketing) in their bikes being different from the Japanese opposition.
Desmo is the obvious differentiation that has succeeded, even in the face of their competitors moving away from valve springs to match Ducati's horsepower.
For me Ducati have to retain their individuality which might restrict the development of the GP12