2006 MotoGP world champion Nick Hayden does not sound terribly surprised to find his name tenth-fastest on the timing sheets after day one of the Sepang MotoGP test. Ducati made it clear at their recent team introduction that they were not going to debut a new Ducati GP bike until they fully understood what the current one can and cannot do, its weak points and strong points all filtered through a new team structure. Thus Hayden is basically riding the same motorcycle today that he did in late 2012.
Ducati made aggressive changes to the Marlboro Ducati GP team's structure after the 2012 season, moving controversial lead designer Filippo Preziosi into a production motorcycle engineer role, and hiring a new manager for the racing department and also the MotoGP team. Before the changes were made to the management structure of the team, the Marlboro Ducati team outwardly seemed like a team paralyzed with the reality that even Italian hero Valentino Rossi could not push the team into competitiveness. They built the aluminum chassis that Rossi wanted, but when he was unable to use it to make the Ducati more competitive, their back up plan seemed to be to try and hire Cal Crutchlow. At times all the situation needed was a backdrop of opera music for it to be a true Italian tragedy.
With the hysteria of Rossi behind them, Ducati seems to be on a quest for factual information at this time. What works? What does not work? Seemingly the latter list is long.
"I would not say that we have a lot of new parts to test," Hayden said after today's testing session, "but we have options and ideas. There's always stuff to try when you're this far off." Acknowledging that the bike is two seconds off the pace, Hayden said, "Obviously you'd like to be closer but we knew what to expect here. The bike is the same, we knew that. the bike has more potential than we showed today and I hope to be within a second."
Hayden said that Sepang's fast, long corners cause the Ducati to have a chatter issue--"we're not alone there"--the major issues with the Ducati seem to be the front end and also how the engine applies power to the rear tire.
While there are new faces in the team's management, Hayden said that in his side of the garage he retained nearly the same crew members and crew chief as in 2012.