Ducati’s el Doctor Returns to Prominence

    The 2011 season of MotoGp was poised to be Ducati’s resurgence after losing Casey Stoner to the Repsol Honda team.
    The swan song was supposed to be written to the tune of the insatiable el Doctor Valentino Rossi weaving his seven-time World Championship magic with Ducati; the quintessential Italian man riding the quintessential Italian mark.

    But things have not gone exactly to plan. Although Ducati and Rossi, along with American teammate Nicky Hayden, are sitting sixth and seventh respectively, they are behind Ducati’s former ace and winner of the 2007 MotoGP, Casey Stoner on the Repsol Honda RC211v as well as Rossi’s old teammate and rival from Yamaha, Jorge Lorenzo, who won in 2010. 

    Dragging behind these top dogs may seem like a failing on the part of the rider or his bike, but the truth of the matter is, Ducati is well on its way to a championship title next year. 

    This is due to the skill of Rossi and his crew to get bikes and manufacturer teams going in the right direction.

    The difference between a rider that has won seven championships—Rossi—and a rider that has won one (on his way to two, admittedly), Casey Stoner, is in the ability to convey effective changes in a bike’s handling and performance to the pit crew and chief. 

    Without this line of communication, riders and their teams fail to develop a bike that suits a particular rider. 

    Even a fast bike for one individual does not make it a fast bike for another racer.

    Rossi started the 2011 season after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder, making his testing and set up of the Desmosedici GP11 sub par as the season got under way. 

    However, after three races, he actually meddled at Le Mans in France, coming in third. 

    This development, along with further changes in the FIM rules on the displacement of the engines, showed glimpses of the Rossi brilliance that first became apparent back in 2003.

    The last year Rossi rode with Repsol Honda, 2003, the Yamaha team bike was notoriously hard to ride. The bike finished seventh overall, even in the hands of Carlos Checa, renowned two stroke rider from the 500cc era. 

    Rossi won the overall championship in 2003 on the infamously fast RC211v, and then took his entire pit crew and management to Yamaha. 

    Without changing the unruly bike much at all, Rossi changed his riding technique to suit the Yamaha, while other riders continued struggling with the bike, such as Checa, who finished seventh again in 2004.

    By changing his riding style and with the effective support of his pit crew’s quick changes, Rossi won it all in 2004 on the same bike that could barely keep its tail in line in 2003. 

    The bike did not change dramatically, it was not majorly redesigned and even the paint scheme remained unchanged. 

    Rossi’s skills did not improve dramatically, but he had such a good working communication with his engineers that he could request a change that would actually make the bike more violent, and thus easier to ride for him. 

    He developed the bike to suit a rider he was not, instead becoming a rider for whom the violent bike could work. 

    In 2004, the precision exhibited by Rossi’s Honda days were gone, replaced by the power of Yamaha had taken over. 

    For the next six years, Rossi won three more championships with Yamaha, refining his machine until once again, many began to attribute his success to his bike. 

    Moving to Ducati in 2011, the Desmosedici GP11 is notoriously hard to ride and bucks around much like the old Yamaha bike back in 2004. 

    Similar to that year, Rossi has taken his crew and chief with him to Ducati, and although the results have not shown this time around, next year will be an amazing year for Ducati, as this song has been sung before with Rossi.

    The GP11, the current Ducati race bike, will be changed next year to conform to the changing FIM rules on displacement. 

    So this year Rossi has been focusing on the GP12, the changed version, 

    This has limited his success in 2011 but makes 2012, with a superior set up that none of the other teams can match, almost a sure year for the Ducati.

    A win in the coming year would bump Rossi to number one in the number of MotoGP Championships titles, currently held by Giacomo Agostini who holds eight championship victories.

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