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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New engine 'not ready', ECU fall - Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi's Monday test at Mugello proved something of a frustrating experience, as the Ducati star finally got his hands on some much-anticipated upgrades for the Ducati GP12 - only to miss out on valuable track time due to a technical glitch.

Updates 'to the chassis, in an effort to balance the weight distribution; to the engine, to improve rideability; and to the electronics' were all on offer.

However the full engine upgrade is not yet available and Rossi described Monday's developments as an 'intermediate step', centered around the engine management system, whilst awaiting the completion of 'substantial' changes.

“They had some things to try today, but it was mainly with an eye toward the future, as the substantial changes they're working on at Ducati for the engine's power delivery weren't ready yet,” explained Rossi.

“So this was an intermediate step, an interim engine management system through a new ECU. We started testing it this morning, and the first feelings were good, as I immediately did a good time with a used tyre.”

But the new ECU also caused the bike to stall at 4.00pm, resulting in a small fall. With the exact fault unclear, the decision was taken to end Rossi's test on safety grounds.

Rossi had completed just 23 laps, the best of which put him tenth on the timesheets, 1.130s behind Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo.

“When I started again after the break, the bike stalled at the Correntaio and I fell,” recalled Rossi, fifth and one-second from the podium after a strong finish to Sunday's race.

“Fortunately, I was leaned over quite far at that point so I just tipped over, and nothing bad happened. In the interest of safety, we decided to stop because the engineers have to analyse the data to understand what happened.

“We also had some different parts for the chassis, but we weren't able to work with them much since we finished early. In the end, it wasn't a particularly productive day, although the first impression with this change was pretty good.”

It is not clear if Rossi will run the new ECU/engine management package at the forthcoming Laguna Seca round, later this month.

Ducati Corse technical director Filippo Preziosi indicated that the long-awaited new 'smoother' engine, initially thought likely for Laguna Seca, should be ready for testing after September's Misano race.

“This morning, with Vale, we started to try some changes to the chassis, work aimed at concentrating the mass and balancing the weight,” he began. “Unfortunately, in the afternoon we had a problem with a hardware component, which we'll have to check now.

“Given that safety is the most important thing, we stopped his test. Therefore, we only have his first impression, but based on that, we'll continue with our schedule in order to bring some additional updates to the Misano test.”

Should the Misano test prove positive, the new Ducati engine could theoretically make its grand prix debut at the following Aragon event (round 14 of 18).

Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden - who recently warned that no major upgrades were expected for the US GP - was the top Ducati rider on Monday, in fourth and just 0.311s from Lorenzo, after completing 54 laps.

“We didn't really have anything major to try today, but it was important in the sense that it's the last time we'll test before my two home races,” said Hayden. “We tried some things with the settings, and Ohlins had a couple of ideas that we tested.

“We lost a pretty significant amount of time after Valentino had his problem because the guys wanted to check everything on my bike to make sure it was okay. At the end of the day I put in a soft tyre to see how fast I could go, but then I had a problem with the fuel pump.

“We ran out of time, but still, my best lap was about the same as my qualifying time, which is okay. At this level, as we get closer to the front, it gets harder to make big improvements, but we leave here encouraged.”

Ducati's development team will now remain at Mugello for further testing.

“With Nicky we didn't have the same [ECU] problem, and we were able continue the work,” said Preziosi. “In the next few days, our test team will go forward with the work started by the factory riders.”


World Superbikes winner MSMW2012