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Ducati in key development phase after difficult Laguna Seca

The Ducati Team had arrived at Laguna Seca with much optimism after the team’s good showing in Mugello, yet a tough race for Nicky Hayden and the season’s first DNF for Valentino Rossi have given the team a big challenge ahead of Indianapolis.

However there was some excellent news for the team just before the U.S. round, as it secured the services of Hayden for another year. Team manager VittorianoGuareschi was delighted with the announcement: “For Nicky I’m very happy we signed the new agreement for the next season.This is very good news for us, because we can focus fully on the race and on the bike.Nicky has been good in the last part of the first half of the season this year, especially the last two races, where we closed the gap a lot.”

In the next few weeks heading up to the Indianapolis round, there will also be much speculation about Rossi’s future with the team. Guareschi comments: “For Vale this is a very tough moment because we want to understand his future, and we want to keep going with him. And we want to improve the bike. This is important for motivation, but he is very concentrated, because he wants to keep trying for the best results with us.”

After some issues in testing at Mugello before the Laguna round, the riders were not greeted with the technical upgrades they had expected, yet Guareschi is confident that new parts will be available in time for the next round: “We have a new engine for the second part of the season. This new engine is not very different, but it’s ready for a new part. In Indianapolis we’ll introduce a new part to improve the driveability and improve the character a little bit. This is the main point for the next part of the season. This is a very important step for us to improve the feeling with the bike.”

Despite the tough race, Hayden, buoyed by his new contract, remains upbeat about the coming round: “I was fighting the bike and running wide in the turns, but I pushed until the end. It’s frustrating to struggle so much all weekend at Laguna, and it’s not the way I wanted to go into the two-week break, but I think we can put up a better fight at Indy.”

Rossi, who’s main issue was front-end feel, is hoping to improve after his first race crash this year: “I wasn’t fighting for the podium, but a crash like that at the end of the race is still disappointing because I had done the whole race like the first lap and my rhythm wasn’t fast at that moment. Still, I lost the front when I was approaching the Corkscrew, when the bike was vertical, right when I touched the brake, a bit like what happened at Silverstone. We have a real problem: again today, we had a hard time getting the front tyre to work, and it was like new after thirty laps. Fortunately I’m fine, although it was a pretty hard crash. It wasn’t a great weekend. Now we have a short break, two important weeks, and then we’ll see how it goes at Indy.”

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Hayden sixth at home race, crash for Rossi

Nicky Hayden took sixth place at the United States Grand Prix after putting in a determined and calculated performance, and despite being slowed a bit by an early encounter with Bautista.

 

Just off the start, the American and Spaniard touched lightly, causing Hayden to lose some ground, and despite riding at a pace similar to that of the group that was fighting over fourth place, he was only able to catch Bradl.

 

Valentino Rossi had a more difficult race, struggling with a setup with which he wasn’t able to ride quickly enough all weekend. Two laps from the end, a fall when braking for the Corkscrew prevented him from earning eighth-place points.

 

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) 6th

“The day got off to a rough start, as I crashed in the warm-up session when I didn’t have enough heat in the brakes. For the race, my bike was the best it’s been this weekend, and I got a good start, but then Bautista and I touched. I thought maybe I knocked my brake lever, so I was too careful in turns one and two. Then I got held up behind Bautista and lost a gap to that second group, which I spent most of the race trying to bridge. I got to Bradl, but the other guys were already gone, although I didn’t have the pace to run with them anyway. I was fighting the bike and running wide in the turns, but I pushed until the end. It’s frustrating to struggle so much all weekend at Laguna, and it’s not the way I wanted to go into the two-week break, but I think we can put up a better fight at Indy.”

 

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) DNF

“I wasn’t fighting for the podium, but a crash like that at the end of the race is still disappointing because I had done the whole race like the first lap and my rhythm wasn’t fast at that moment. Still, I lost the front when I was approaching the Corkscrew, when the bike was vertical, right when I touched the brake, a bit like happened at Silverstone. We have a real problem: again today, we had a hard time getting the front tyre to work, and it was like new after thirty laps. Fortunately I’m fine, although it was a pretty hard crash. It wasn’t a great weekend. Now we have a short break, two important weeks, and then we’ll see how it goes at Indy.”

 

Vittoriano Guareschi, Team Manager

“It’s a shame about Nicky’s start, as he and Bautista touched and he lost contact with the leaders. It took him a while to get by Alvaro, who was a bit slower, and then he rode at fourth-place pace, similar to Spies, Crutchlow and Dovi. But it’s obviously difficult when there’s a gap to close on strong riders who are pushing hard. Anyway, on a track where we had a hard time in practice, Nicky made a bit of progress in the race. As for Vale, unfortunately, we had a little more trouble, and we weren’t able to put him in a situation where he could interpret this track well. In particular, we didn’t find a good balance for the bike, as the rear was working too hard and the front not enough. We’ll have to take another look at the data and prepare well for Indianapolis.”

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Difficult qualifying session for Ducati Team at Laguna Seca

Laguna Seca’s thick, wet fog typically burns off relatively early in the morning, but it persisted for today’s final free-practice session for the United States Grand Prix, reducing the useful track time and prompting most riders to wait until the final ten minutes or so before leaving the garages.

 

The afternoon qualifying session took place in normal conditions, but Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi didn’t manage to find the best setup to ride the California circuit effectively. Tomorrow will see them starting from the third and fourth rows, respectively.

 

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) 8th (1:21.734)

“After the performance we had in the race at Mugello and then again in the test, we expected to be a lot closer to the front than this. It’s a bit frustrating to be over a second back, especially at a little track like this where even three or four tenths is a lot. Tonight we’ll decide if we want to make big changes for tomorrow or try to refine what we have, and the main priority will be to settle on a tyre. The morning warm-up might not be very useful if it’s foggy again, but we’ll see what tomorrow brings and give it our best shot.”

 

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) 10th (1:22.544)

“As long as we ride at our race pace, we’re close to the two or three other riders in the second group. Unfortunately though, just like at the last race, when we try to do a fast time, we’re not able to improve enough. When I put on the soft tyre, it creates more problems, which are always the same, really: to avoid having the tyres start sliding too much after a few laps, we must load the rear a lot, and that causes us to lose feeling with the front. As long as I ride at a 1:22 pace, I’m able to be pretty consistent, but when I have to push harder, the front starts to close. The bike moves a lot and I go wide. Anyway, we’ll see. I’m tenth, but my rhythm is a bit better. Obviously, I’m expecting a difficult race tomorrow.”

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Ducati prepare for “The Corkscrew”

The Ducati Team heads to the Red Bull US Grand Prix in Laguna Seca this weekend off the back of a promising dry performance at Mugello, yet will face a whole new task at the short and winding Californian circuit.

Juan Martínez, Nicky Hayden’s crew chief outlines some of the challenges the team and riders will face at the track: “Laguna Seca race track is a circuit where you are not using the engine very much, so it’s quite difficult to completely use all its power. There are some quite typical zones, one of which is The Corkscrew, where you have to set the bike up to be very stable under braking going into it. It should be quite easy [for the rider] to change direction, because you need to be quite fast and must be able to go downhill quick enough to set a good lap time.”

So far this season, since the MotoGP grid has increased its engine capacity, lap times have been dropping at most circuits, however Martínez doesn’t believe the more powerful engine will give a tremendous benefit. He also sums up the key to a successful weekend: “It’s more the driveability of the engine. With the 1000s I don’t think we can gain that much time. Let’s see how the tyres are performing with the new 1000cc engine here.”

Ducati will be lining up on the grid after a four day test after the Mugello race, during which it was testing new engine components it hopes will aid its podium quest at Laguna Seca. And Martínez is relishing the challenge, in particular as it’s his rider’s home Grand Prix: “For us it’s quite special because Nicky is an American rider, and for Ducati, America is very important, so we will try to set up the bike as good as we can.”

Hayden, who won at the track in 2005 and 2006 is rearing to go in front of his home support: “Of course I like Laguna, so I’m excited to go there and see my home crowd. We’ve been getting a little closer to the front lately, but now is no time to rest. We have to keep working, because now the gains will be more difficult. Laguna is certainly not easy, and I doubt the lap times will be much different with the 1000s than they were with the 800s. I’m not even sure we’ll use sixth gear, and as was the case at the Sachsenring, we’ll probably spend a lot of time working with the wheelie control and just trying to use that power when it’s available. The new tyres should work better at Laguna, especially in the colder mornings and on the right side. My goal is clear: go there, have fun, and try to get the best result of the season.”

2008 winner Valentino Rossi, who recorded his best dry result this season with Ducati last time out, is also feeling positive about the up coming race: “Laguna is a difficult track, with many bumps and a lot of elevation change, but at the same time it’s beautiful and fun, in part because it’s rather old-style. I really like the fans and the general feel. Although my last test at Mugello was ended early, we were able to begin working with some details, and we’ll probably be able to use some of them at Laguna, even if we’re talking about a small percentage of the package that they’re working on at Ducati. Last year we went okay at Laguna, so we’ll see what happens this weekend.”

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