And new team structure to Le Mans
The constantly evolving 2009 MotoGP World Championship continues this weekend, with the Le Mans circuit set to host a fourth round that will see each practice session return to a 60-minute format, as opposed to the 45-minute rule imposed
at the start of the season.
There is constant evolution behind the scenes too, specifically in Bologna and at Mugello, where Ducati test rider Vittoriano Guareschi is preparing to be joined tomorrow by Troy Bayliss for the start of a three-day test focused on using the data from the opening three rounds of the season to further develop the GP9.
Since the last round at Jerez, where Casey Stoner scored his best ever result but team-mate Nicky Hayden and the satellite Ducati riders were unable to match their form from tests at the Spanish track in November and March, the factory's engineers have spent time closely analysing their current approach to the set-up of the electronics and have decided to take a slightly different route, targeted at improving the consistency of the bike and facilitating the process of the riders' adaptation to it.
Meanwhile, the structure of the Ducati Marlboro Team has been boosted with the addition of Juan Martinez as Crew Chief to Nicky Hayden, allowing DMT Track Engineer Cristhian Pupulin, who has doubled up as Crew Chief to Loris Capirossi, Marco Melandri and Hayden since 2006, to spend more time purely on analysing the data collected by all of the Ducati riders, in a way that will allow him to compare their lap times in real time at the circuit.
“After the race at Jerez, which was fantastic for Casey but very difficult for Nicky, we had a few meetings to analyse our technical and organisational structure, with the goal of improving the all-round performances of our riders. We came to the conclusion that after starting the season with not all of the Ducati riders able to match their positive form in winter testing, maybe this is the right time to introduce some new technical ideas in terms of the electronics as well as boosting our track presence in order to provide all of the Ducati riders with better support”, explained Livio Suppo. “The GP9 is still a very young machine and for the first time in MotoGP we have five bikes on the grid. For these two reasons we have decided that we need to concentrate more on co-ordinating all the data that we gather at each race in order to provide more direction for development. As well as changing the structure of the team we have some electronic updates and Cristhian Pupulin will be able to completely dedicate his time to the important role of co-ordination, which we need to continue to develop the GP9. It is a welcome return for Juan (Martinez), who worked with us in 2006 and we are sure he can quickly settle back in to life at Ducati Marlboro Team”
“Le Mans couldn't get here soon enough after Jerez because I just want to get back on the bike and get back amongst the team trying to sort out our problems”, commented Nicky Hayden.
“The French track should be a little bit better for me, the bike is certainly stable under hard braking, acceleration is good and it's good in a straight line and Le Mans has a lot of that. Having a bit more time in practice and qualifying is going to help everybody and maybe it can help me more than the rest. Also for Le Mans, we have a bit of new electronic management and team structure that I think should help me and all the Ducati riders. I believe that with Cristhian more freed up from some of the normal work as crew chief he can use his expertise more and focus on really working on the issues I am having with the bike and help give us a better direction and give more info to the factory. So to fill his spot we will bring in Juan (Martnez), who has put up some solid results in MotoGP. He has already worked in Ducati and speaks good English and Italian so he was a good match. I can't say I don't have enough good manpower behind me and it has been encouraging to see Ducati trying everything and working so hard to help get me in a situation to deliver. The team is very important in our sport but it is really up to the rider to do his part and make the difference, so I hope I can step up and do my part soon!”
“We're on the back of two races that have really put us to the test but we've come out of them with decent results”, said Stoner. “Both Motegi and Jerez have characteristics that give us a few problems, especially the tight corners where our bike isn't as reactive as usual. Even Le Mans is like that in a couple of places, it is not a fast and flowing track – on the contrary, it's the classic stop and go layout that requires good braking, although you can take some nice, fun and fast lines on the way out of the turns. We'll see what we're capable of when we get there and how many points we're able to bring home. It is going to be a long, open season – we've seen that with three winners and three championship leaders from the first three races and the fact that there are four of us within just a few points at the top. There is no point making predictions, the important thing is to continue working well and make sure we pick up as many points as possible in these races where we know it will be tough to come away with the ideal result.”