Michele Pirro To Give Ducati's 'Laboratory Bike' Its Debut At Jerez

MotoGP fans will get a small glimpse of Ducati's future at Jerez this weekend. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro is due to make his first wildcard appearance of the season at the Spanish track. Most significantly, Pirro is to ride Ducati's so-called lab bike at Jerez, which contains a number of major updates to the Desmosedici GP13.

Though it is unclear exactly what Pirro will be riding - in the Ducati press release, Vitto Guareschi says only that Pirro's Ducati "will have some new development parts that will help us to focus on the development for the rest of the championship" - it seems likely that he will be racing the bike he has been busy testing. This machine, first seen at the Sepang test, was also the bike Pirro spent a lot of time testing at Jerez.

The most obvious differences from the GP13 currently being raced by the factory duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden are the chassis and exhaust layout. In the photos shown below (poorly taken by me on a camera phone) the main changes are clear: the exhaust from the front cylinder pair has been relocated from the left side of the bike to underneath the fairing; and the chassis has been modified, moving the cross member to which the rear suspension is fixed further forward, and altering the chassis, presumably to modify the stiffness. Dark tape has been applied to the main chassis beam, hiding details from prying eyes, but again, the suggestion here is that the frame construction has been altered to modify frame stiffness.

All of the changes seem to be aimed at a single goal, modifying the weight distribution of the bike in an attempt to fix the understeer which continues to plague the Desmosedici. During the test at Jerez, Pirro posted some very respectable times, keeping pace - within a few tenths - of both the factory and satellite Ducati riders. How that translates to race pace is difficult to judge, given Pirro's different role at the test, being sent out to work purely on development.

At Jerez, Pirro will be able to drop his focus on development, and turn his hand to racing. This will give a much clearer idea of where Ducati's lab bike is in terms of competitiveness, and where it still needs work. The changes currently being worked on by Pirro are due to be incorporated into the new version of the GP13 which is set to be tested by the factory riders at Barcelona in June. Though the bike Pirro rides at Jerez is unlikely to be the definitive version handed over to the factory riders, it at least offers a glimpse into Ducati's thinking for the future.

The bottom of Pirro's Ducati, as spotted at Jerez. Note the exhaust underneath the engine

Pirro's bike being worked on at the Jerez test

A (sadly rather out of focus) photo of the biggest changes to the Desmosedici: relocated exhaust, modified suspension cross member on the chassis, taped frame.

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They try to disguise some parts of the bike with tape? Why?

I really doubt that HRC and Yamaha would want to copy ANYTHING on the turnip truck. But the two factories WOULD like to see what Ducati is trying so they know what won't work.....

Now that they've gotten rid of the 80 second crew chief wonder, and replaced him with Stoner's old Ducati crew chief , Cristian Gabbarini, maybe, just maybe progress will be made.

If memory serves Ducati tried moving the weight further fwd in Stoners last year at Ducati and it worked to some degree. I think he won three of the last four races that year after doing this weight distribution" thing"

The problem never was the carbon, period.

Speaking as someone whose friends have written master's degrees theses on vibrational analyses of carbon versus several exotic alloys I can say that the carbon could very well have been causing numbness in the bike.

who has personally ridden cf road & mountain bikes for almost 15 years...

Numbness has never, to my knowledge, been used to describe Ducati's handling problem. Since neither your highly educated friend, nor myself, is privy to any of Ducati's data...neither my bicycling experiences nor your friend's theses really amount to much.

Further, since Ducati's handling ills have remained steadfastly consistent troughout numerous iterations of carbon & the current "exotic alloy" anyone using scientific methodology would be lead to logically conclude that if you get the same results from 2 dissimilar materials..

it aint the material...

who understands the concept of time....

It was obvious to see that the CF frames took exponentially longer to make than the Aluminum frames. Even though many experts on here all provided information on how fast carbon fiber can be cured, that didn't stop Ducati from taking an entire season to produce one new one when that was the chassis of choice. Since the switch the aluminum beam frame, Ducati has been rolling out more test chassis' than ever before.

An exponential is a function, which is defined by the fact it increases at a rate proportional to its value. It makes no sense to say "exponentially longer". May I suggest "much" or perhaps even "implausibly" as alternatives?

I'm affraid you can't relate mountainbike experience to a MotoGP bike. Numbness is exactly the problem... all the riders complain of a lack of front end feel, they don't know what its doing, they cant feel it i.e. its numb.

As said above the biggest thing wrong with the carbon fibre was the time limitations on making new parts.

None of us (Ducati included) know what the problem is. The numbness attributable to cf is NOT what the riders have described.

Cf structures have the ability to damp vibrations...ie. make road bicycles ride smoother. MotoGP bikes that don't steer aren't numb from lack of vibration reaching the rider.

The fact that both aluminum & cf chassis have exhibited the same inability to respond to the rider's inputs satisfactorly; conclusively demonstrates material choice isn't the problem.

In Ducati's defense. They are not proud or stuborn fools holding onto some immutable "traditional" design that come hell or high water they won't change. There are many variables in play, & the fact they are off by 1% doesn't demonstrate their ignorance...they just haven't found the right recipe.

Well it's all about resonance, a different material with different resonance will require a different chassis design to produce the same characteristics as another material.

And as an example, a CF crash helmet is noisier than a traditional composite crash helmet because of the resonance of CF.

I think this is becoming a case of symantics, vague front end, numbness, lack of feeling, poor feedback; call it what you will it all amounts to the same thing. Although I have to admit that the term used the most when talking about their problem recently is understeer which isn't exactly the same as previous complaints of lack of feeling.

But I do agree that material choice is not the source of Ducati's problem, that remains alusive.

"In Ducati's defense. They are not proud or stuborn fools holding onto some immutable "traditional" design that come hell or high water they won't change. "

actually they are. Hate to say it, but it's true.

watch the interview with Rossi:


Rossi - "For sure I retire.." When given the option to continue with Ducati absent the factory Yamaha seat.

pay close attention to what he says about Italian engineer's and their lack of humility.

Has also been well explained in comments by Oscar, that quite possibly the design layout was so constricted due to marketing/branding philosophies that no major positive changes could actually be made.

There hasn't been a carbon frame on the Desmo for what, almost 2 years now? A year and a half at least. The same problem is there, also reported by Dovi, who never threw a leg over a carbon-framed Desmo. Nicky has had the same issues across all iterations of the bike for going on 5 years. The idea that the frame material was the cause of the lack of front end feel has long been discarded.

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Ducati probably don't want every to see that they've ditched the frameless idea altogether. WSBk is showing that it's Bimota-esque, ie differenciation for sake of and not because it affords a performance advantage which should be the only reason for it.... As to the guy on about Casey winning 3 races at the end of 2010 and therefore proof he'd fixed it...
The fact is, Casey performed a similar feat in 2009(no other ducati did) and yet in 2010 was out of the title hunt by only the 3rd race with huge handling issues, I think Nicky was still ahead of him by half through the season, though would have to double check.... In short more a case of those tracks working for Casey and the bike. There is an avalanche of evidence to suggest 2011 would have started even worse than 2010 despite the 'fix'...

Good points. And keep in mind that while Casey did win a couple of races and you can't take away anything from a win......

Jorge was cruising in safe mode to secure his first GP title.
Rossi was riding from multiple injuries.
Dani was injured (stuck throttle).

Some often make a huge deal out of 2010 and the Ducati and Stoner without these facts being given.

Panigale is not doing so great in WSBK. Checa is not even close to the Aprilias, hell even Johnny Rea's old Fireblade is flogging the Panigale in WSBK.

If they really want to test this thing in a real sense, why not give it to someone like Spies or Dovi ? I don't see Pirro as being on the same level as those guys.

No offense meant to Pirro in any way, but if the characteristics of a MotoGP bike (especially the Ducati) really do change in the space between the absolute edge of performance and a couple tenths slower, how could Pirro really know for sure if it's better? Why isn't this bike given to Hayden or Dovi to test? What is there to lose?

It's probably due to one of the plethora of dumb rules introduced since grand prix racing lost the plot around 2006. If a new chassis or repackaging of components requires any sort of difference to the engine in order to fit, then the engine limits prevent you from trying it out before your current engine allocation is stuffed. Rossi basically copped a voluntary penalty in 2011 for the same reason - wanting to run an evolved bike before the next season. This year with only 5 engines it's even worse. Basically what you start the season with has to do you for the year, the regular Duc runners will not change much till next year. Even then their bore and stroke are locked in till (??), so if they are running a short-stroke sub-1000cc engine and realise it was a crap idea afterall, they can't change it AFAIK.
Too many rules. If the Big Two want all these "challenges" then let them do it voluntarily, they can proclaim "we beat everyone while using only 5 engines and 20 litres of fuel". Meanwhile let some other manufacturers get into the series and improve.

Interestingly, for all the shit we hang on Ducati (not unreasonably, I guess), their bikes seem to have extreme reliability. IIRC Gibernau having a failed gear sensor was the only issue they ever faced. Honda has had engine breakdowns, Yamaha have had multiple similar issues, and let's not even get into what the Suzukis did. I'm not sure I understand this particular phenomenon, especially given that their bikes have visibly inferior build quality in comparison to the Jap bikes and the high state of rev and tune which they run their bikes in.

So how much time is a Dovi or a Nicky worth over a Pirro? How close does he have to be to the factory boys to deem the changes worthwhile? If he can run with the factory boys that's obviously improvement, if he's .5 seconds back it's a marginal improvement, if he's a second back is it a wash?