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If you know even the vaguest amount when it comes to MotoGP, you probably at the very least are aware of the "match made in heaven" that so many have been waiting for -- Valentino Rossi together with Ducati -- the Italian dream team. Their first season together has so far provided poor results, especially if you're a 9-time world champion like Rossi and used to being competitive at the pointy end of most races. The poor results are not due to lack of effort by anyone involved, both Rossi along with his trusted team of mechanics led by Jerry Burgess and Ducati have been toiling away trying to get the one team member up to scratch that's so far been letting them down -- the GP11.
The GP11 is by no means an inadequate motorcycle. In fact, it's entirely drool worthy and utilizes some of the most cutting edge technology in the world of motorcycling today. But, there's a big problem... none of the current riders can come to grips with the bike, mainly as it's too rigid and lacks the "feel" required to push it around a race track competitively with the other manufacturers. Yes, Casey Stoner found a way to tame the beast - but he's been the only one so far and it certainly wasn't always easy for him.
Ducati's current MotoGP machine is built around the engine-frame concept, which means that unlike the Japanese factories who have an aluminum frame, the Ducati utilizes carbon fibre components strapped to their V4 engine as the "frame". MotoGP veteran Loris Capirossi, who has called for the current Desmo engine-frame concept to be ditched in favour of a traditional aluminum frame says:
"The problem with the Ducati is the rigidity... The most important part is the middle of the frame and this is the engine and you can't change rigidity. You can work a little bit with the front and rear but you can do nothing with the engine. There is no flex in the middle part of the bike."
So what's Ducati to do? They have already been playing with some drastic changes this season, including adapting the GP12 (next years bike) to work within the current regulations. So far, nothing has shown the potential to help turn their fortunes around. Most people agree, it's time for a big change. But this will mean scrapping their current concept and this means not only changes to the chassis (where the trouble lies), but also the engine.
They've got a clear goal with Rossi and that's to win the title together. It's looking like in order to do this, they will have to be brave and step off of their current development path and onto a new one. This new path might just be the tried and true one laid out by the Japanese manufacturers, but that's a tough pill to swallow for Ducati. Regardless, they need to do something and they need to do it now.