Is Ducati's 2013 MotoGP Fate Sealed?

The first pre-season test in 2013 at Sepang is now over, and while some of the teams are smiling happily looking at what the tests have shown so far, others are rather impatient and look into a gloomy future. Ducati, unfortunately, is in the latter category, with their bikes' performance leaving rather little hope for this season.
Factory teams like Honda and Yamaha have reached the goals they had and are already thinking about the minute details to make that hundredth of a second gap to the rider behind bigger, whereas Ducati looks at them from a respectable distance down the results list.

After two frustrating years of having Rossi aboard, Ducati hoped the new bike they started building would be a smashing blow, and so did the fans. Some took a step further and blamed Rossi for simply not giving enough and failing to assess all the true capabilities of the GP bike, while the most extreme Ducati fans even accused him for holding the whole team back for two years.

However, they seemed to forget that Nicky Hayden, former MotoGP champion in 2006 and therefore accustomed to top-notch racing, was also riding a Ducati since 2009, with rather modest results. So maybe it wasn't because of the riders...

Now, the test in Malaysia is just a test: it does not set the track for the season, and we often happened to see the actual championship development differ from what the early riding showed. However, the three days in Sepang showed a fast Honda bike ridden by the experienced Pedrosa who didn't even seem to push extremely hard, and his rookie team mate Marquez showing real talent and bent on consistent riding.

In the Team Blue camp, Jorge Lorenzo followed Pedrosa as close as possible and was always coming in the second place, while Rossi's riding was consistent and steadily improving day by day: with the first two days in the 4th position, the final session saw Il Dottore switching places with Honda's Marquez.

All this time, Ducati kept on lagging behind and seemingly incapable of posing a real threat to the other two factory teams. With Hayden only being able to make the 10th best lap and Dovizioso even further behind, the 2013 bikes don't seem like they'll bring Ducati fans too much happiness.

Even worse than the positioning itself, it's the lap times which are the big issue: if a GP13 Ducati bike ridden as hard as possible by Hayden is 1.5-2 seconds slower a lap... what is going to happen in a 20-lap race? And what's going to happen after the first 10 races with pretty much the same scenario?

After the Sepang tests ended, both riders in the main team admitted the bike needs huge changes. We don't even want to know what were Nicky and Andrea thinking seeing that the very limits of the machines they rode kept them from lapping faster, but Hayden, Dovizioso and even the Team Manager Paolo Ciabatti agreed that the GP13 needs significant development work.

The fact that the whole team realizes their position at the moment is of course, a good thing, because nobody is building false hopes. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to make a change: Ciabatti admits such a change needs time, but looking at the 2013 MotoGP makes it clear that time is exactly the one ingredient Ducati is missing. Besides money.

There are two months left until the big opening Sunday in Qatar, and Ducati only has the 23-25 March tests in Jerez. Honda announced they intended to do some more practice in mid-March at the COPA circuit in Austin, Texas, even if it was only them, but Yamaha has just expressed their availability to do some testing on US ground, too. They looked at the budget, then looked at how fast Pedrosa and Marquez rode at Sepang and decided that Rossi and Lorenzo could really benefit from an extra round of racing.

Hayden and Dovizioso were also looking forward to further get acquainted with their GP13 machines, but Ciabatti had to turn them down, unfortunately, with the Ducati works team unable to spare €300,000 to €350,000 for the whole test logistics.

Hayden added, “The test at Austin right now are a ‘no,’ but the door is still open and I hope they change their mind. Without this test, we will not have a chance against Honda and Yamaha in the race. It would give us a good opportunity to learn the track and find a base set.”

Speaking about the GP13 machine, Dovizioso also mentioned “understanding the bike” and this rings a very familiar bell: we used to hear this complicated bike phrase quite a lot during 2012, so again, maybe it wasn't the riders' fault for the lack of good results...

With Ducati having already tested as much stuff as possible in Malaysia, we can only hope that they will be able to decide on what setup to use in Spain, and for this, they only have 5 weeks. After this, it looks like Ducati's 2013 MotoGP season will be a game of chance and the only ones they could rely on are the very riders, struggling to keep the “damage” at bay with their sheer talent.

We know Ducati has already declared that 2013 will be a “building year,” but is seems like they really have only a fragile base to build on. We still love them, no matter what, because one more bad year (following two similar seasons) can't wash away all the glory of the Borgo Panigale squad. But we'd really like to see them come back all guns blazing, but “guns blazing” means more than a slingshot unable to shoot straight.

Funny how some suggested (joke or not) that they could try the spec ECU...
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram Twitter

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories