When Ducati unveiled the GP15 at its Borgo Panigale headquarters back in February, Ducati Corse General Manager Luigi Dall’Igna said “Our aim this year is very ambitious, because we want to win at least one race.”
Ducati needs that win, considering the last time a Desmosedici finished on top of the podium was at Phillip Island in 2010. That year, 2007 MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner piloted the GP10 to victory three times. But that was it.
From there, even after signing nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi for the 2011-2012 season, progress halted; Ducati earned only seven podiums.
But Dall’Igna is out to change this, and his team is working nonstop at developing the GP15, which will be piloted in 2015 MotoGP by the the two Italian Andreas – Dovizioso and Iannone.
During the two Sepang preseason tests, Ducati Team primarily worked with the GP14.3, finishing over a half-second behind the overall leader in both tests, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez.
But when the GP15 debuted at last week’s Qatar tests held at night – the final preseason test ahead of round 1 at the same circuit March 29 – Ducati Team was quickest both days, even taking the 1-2 positions on the opening day. The third day of testing was canceled due to rain; MotoGP does not run during rain at Qatar due to glare from the floodlights.
When the testing wrapped up, Dovizioso was the only rider to break the 1:55 mark, the Alpinestars/SUOMY sponsored rider posting a 1:54.907. Dovi’s time was also quicker than the track record set by Casey Stoner (1:55.153, 2008, Ducati). During the testing, Ducati revived the “winglets”- fins designed to enhance aerodynamics – that were last used in 2010. Also, the team did not have a chance to use the softer-compound Bridgestone tires.
Speaking after the test, Dall’Igna said “It is a pity that we were unable to make the most out of today’s final day, because we had scheduled an intense work program with both of our riders, which also included an entire race simulation. The Desmosedici GP15 is still a brand-new bike, and so this last day of track action would have been very useful for us.
“However we are happy with the results that we obtained during the first two days and the overall reliability of the project. Both Dovizioso and Iannone constantly lapped in the leading positions, they were always able to set interesting times and this makes us optimistic for the future, even though we know that we still have a lot more work to do.”
On hard Bridgestone slicks, Dovi finished the Qatar test 0.184 of a second ahead of the defending MotoGP Champion Marquez, and 0.197 of a second ahead of Iannone. The next closest rider was Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo, who was 0.593 of a second off Dovi’s pace.
“We are very satisfied with the results obtained in the first two days of testing in Qatar, because we were always very quick both on new tires and used ones. It’s a pity that today we were unable to go out on track, because we had some important tests to do in view of the race and we wanted to gather some extra data, but the rain made it impossible,” Dovizioso says.
“In any case we start the season very satisfied over the work done with the new GP15, which immediately went well here in Qatar. I really think that we can have our say in the race, and for sure things are a lot more positive than last year. I want to thank my team and all the guys in Ducati Corse because they have worked really hard and very well!”
Ducati’s newest pilot Iannone, who led the opening day of Qatar preseason tests, was expressed his excitement with the GP15’s progress.
“I am happy with the way these two days of testing went, because they were undoubtedly very positive. We went really well and again managed to improve the feeling with the new GP15, even though I am very disappointed that we were unable to benefit from this final day of testing, which for us was important,” Iannone says.
“We had scheduled a specific work program in order to improve some small things and to do some more tests, but unfortunately the rain prevented everyone from going out on track. I am optimistic for the race weekend and can’t wait to get back on track here in ten days’ time.”
Rounding out the top 10 during the final preseason MotoGP test were Rossi (-0.674); Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa (-0.675); CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (-0.717); Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith (-0.741); Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro (-0.751); and AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham ((0.858).
As for Suzuki’s re-entry into MotoGP, Aleix Espargaro finished 12th, 0.888 of a second behind Dovi, and Maverick Vinales 14th, 0.903 of a second back. The new Aprilia Racing Team Gresini duo of Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri finished 24th and 26th, respectively. Bautista as 2.366 seconds off the pace, and Melandri 3.075 seconds behind.
Ducati Team Qatar Preseason MotoGP Photo Gallery: