Ducati Heading Undercover
by staff
Monday, August 13, 2012

There's no question that losing Valentino Rossi after two fruitless seasons can be seen as nothing but a PR failure for Ducati. It won't help the team economically, either, as Rossi far and away remains the biggest commercial lure in worldwide motorcycle racing.

But losing Rossi could end up being a positive in the development of the GP13 for the 2013 MotoGP season.

Rossi arrived at Ducati in 2011 as the clear No. 1 despite having two years' less seniority at Borgo Panigale than teammate Nicky Hayden. Ducati technical bosses initially hung on Rossi's every word as he tried to adjust to the polar differences between the traditional frames he rode for the first 11 seasons of his premier-class career at Honda and Yamaha and the carbon-fiber frame used by Ducati since the GP9 was unveiled in 2009.

But the difference was so great that even a rider with the skill and experience of Rossi couldn't wrap his head around his new world order. There were times last season when he appeared lost, a gaunt, ghostly figure who wondered what the hell he had done by joining Ducati Corse.

Ducati still kept changing the bike, trying to help Rossi find his coveted front-end feel. It changed forks. It added aluminum pieces to the front end. It started to develop a traditional alloy frame for the GP12. Exploration soon devolved into technical panic as Rossi's funk got deeper and deeper.

These mechanical misadventures were multiplied because Rossi attracts more media and fan attention than nearly every other rider in the World Championship combined. He sucks all the available oxygen, which left the Ducati technical team gasping at air and straws.

But with Rossi gone, Hayden can continue to pound out his usual punishing diet of testing and practice miles, delivering steady feedback without histrionics or occasional bouts of Latin bile. Remember, Rossi turned to Hayden's setups earlier this spring to find more speed.

The rumored addition of Andrea Dovizioso as a Ducati factory rider for 2013 and 2014 also could help the team make gains outside of the media telescope. Like Hayden, Dovi is known as an experienced, capable rider who can develop a bike.

Of course, Ducati can't simply disappear like Jimmy Hoffa or Amelia Earhart, especially in Italy. But Hayden and Dovizioso might be the ideal riders to quietly and calmly help the Boys from Bologna correct their course.


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