In the Paddock column – Cycle News


Michael scott | November 24, 2021

Cycle news In the paddock

COLUMN

Is Ducati’s dominance too good?

Ducati taught Valencia a lesson: how to win, and win massively, when you have lost. The very first dominant lockout from the Bologna Bullets podium added the team’s title to that of the constructors. They then set the fastest time in the first tests of the 2022 season (where the last engines can be used) at Jerez later in the week.

Desmosedici ruled the world.

Ducati has won the constructors’ title for the second year in a row and the third in its history in MotoGP.

But when the story turns to 2020, Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo will be remembered.

It’s the rider (to use a popular expression from Valentino Rossi) who makes the difference.

Ducati fans might think this is a bit unfair. But Ducati has only themselves to blame. Too many strong riders, enabled by the best racing bike in the world. It’s a mouth-watering formula, but also a way to dilute your success.

The last GP of the year was an interesting case.

In 19 years in MotoGP, Ducati has won only twice in Valencia. Tight turns and no long straight was a recipe for the fast but consistently understeer bike. It took Troy Bayliss and Casey Stoner to overcome that – two exceptional talents taking advantage of the circumstances.

Most of the time, however, the race has gone to Honda, with ten wins to eight for Yamaha and one for Suzuki, since the track joined the calendar in 1999.

Ducati’s response to tight trails has changed dramatically over the past couple of years, however. So far, the main strength of the Duke has been acceleration and straight-line speed. Today, a combination of adventurous innovation and strong engineering strength has made it possible to create what Sunday winner Pecco Bagnaia called “a perfect bike”. It was his fourth victory in six races.

Ducati Lenovo factory teammate Jack Miller went further. The Australian had fallen to fourth in Valencia, then tweaked 2020 champion Joan Mir’s Suzuki to harass first leader and pole holder Jorge Martin at the line, the trio topped the flag in eight tenths of a second.

“With this bike we were all confident. We’ve found a great package that works wonderfully, and we don’t have to mess with it. I think that’s the thing; spending time on the same bike, like this for two years.

Highlighting this point, Martin Pramac Ducati’s teammate Johann Zarco finished sixth, less than two seconds behind the bewildered new champion Quartararo.

Only the manoeuvrable Suzuki had challenged. Alex Rins fell on the attempt, while Mir managed to threaten for a while in the third, only to fall back and lose contact, flabbergasted by their performance.

At the end of the season, Ducati dominated. Yet, in a way, it was a lost opportunity. Three different Ducati riders won seven of the 18 races. Yamaha riders have won six races. Most importantly, Quartararo won five. No Ducati rider has won more than four.

Diluting effort costs individual runners points, fighting against each other as well as the opposition.

Something similar happened in 2020. Three Yamaha riders won seven of the 13 races. But that meant taking points from each other. Joan Mir won the title by racking up the podiums on tracks suitable for the Suzuki, and not having to share the honors with other riders on the same bike. He only got one win, but he didn’t have to give any other valuable scores.

Ducati’s superiority was achieved through innovations – the first to use fenders, as well as squatting front and rear suspensions. Variable geometry which responded directly to the notorious reluctance of the machine to turn. This is a clearly targeted development. Strength maintained, weaknesses corrected.

Where Yamaha and Suzuki riders can enjoy well-balanced machines with a sophisticated blend of rounded performance, Ducatis offers special strengths that may be more jagged, but pay off when used in anger.

Stable braking makes them difficult to overtake in turns, formidable acceleration and a bouncy top speed do the same on the exit. The others could be smoother and even faster halfway … but then? They are stuck behind.

For next year, engine developments will be authorized. The others can try to catch up, but Ducati also has the opportunity to improve further. The same goes for the other aspects. Ducati is in the lead in all areas.

But another innovation could cost the riders dear: the acquisition of the Gresini team, together with the takeover by Rossi of the Esponsorama team, brings the number of Ducatis on the grid to eight. Against four Honda, Yamaha and KTM, and two Aprilia and Suzuki.

The quality of the riders lives up to the power figures: race winners Bagnaia, Miller and super-rookie Martin are backed by Zarco and the other 2021 super-rookie Enea Bastianini. In particular, they are mainly young riders, quick to adapt to changing technical requirements: witness to the general strength of the rookies this year against the decline of veteran Rossi.

Ducati has a dazzling array of talent for 2022.

Will this prove to be too much of a good thing? CN

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