NOYES: Ducati Seeks Agility and Maximum Power with New 800cc GP7
Ducati Seeks Agility and Maximum Power with New 800cc GP7
Written by: Dennis Noyes
Madrid, Spain – 8/23/2006 Loris Capirossi at speed on the Ducati 800cc GP7 (Photo: Ducati Corse)
A quick look at the new Ducati Desmosedici GP7 and a talk with the Ducati engineers reveal the basics of the new 800cc V4. The bike was ridden in anger for the first time by Loris Capirossi at Brno on the Monday following his runaway win in the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic the day before. Yamaha were also there giving us a first look at their new 800, which Rossi rode briefly. Ducati, however, were first the break cover with their GP7. Tester Vittoriano Guarechi rode it first at Mugello on May 2nd.
The 800, being prepared for the 2007 season when MotoGP’s maximum capacity will be reduced from 990cc to 800cc, seems derived from the same general concept as the Desmosedici 990cc, which has now won five MotoGP races over three seasons with Italian Loris Capirossi on board.
The engine is noticeably smaller and more compact and has shed 3 kilos (6.6 pounds) of rotating mass by lightening the crankshaft, camshafts, rods and pistons. More weight is saved by the smaller valves and smaller wristpins. The new clutch no longer requires a pin to be placed and then removed by hand when the engine is started via the rear wheel (by remote starter motor), but the basic configuration of the engine and clutch are the same.
A significant change is apparent to the ear when the 800cc four is running. Ducati has abandoned the ‘Twin Pulse’ or ‘big bang’ firing order and gone back to their original and conventional 360 degree V4 with symmetrical firing order...’screamer’ style. This allows the exhaust waves from the front and back twin banks to share a two-into-one exhaust system with the two rear cylinders also working together through a second two-into-one system. Originally the Desmosedici 990 was made in two versions: the Twin Pulse version firing as a double big bang and the more powerful and smoother running screamer-type motor with evenly-spaced firing. The screamer made more power but the power delivery was too fierce, causing Ducati to turn back to the softer Twin Pulse.
Now, however, with almost a 20% decrease in capacity, Ducati is again looking for maximum power and counting on traction control and mapping from the Magneti Marelli Marvel IV electronics package to civilize this smaller engine. Another indication of this search for peak horse power is the elimination of the reverse cone ‘megaphone’ type exhausts which knocked off a bit of power and softened the power delivery. Now the exhaust pipes terminate in automotive-type cylindrical outlets.
There was some speculation that Ducati might adopt the twin spar aluminium frame (the now ubiquitous ‘Cobas’ frame used by the Japanese big four and based on the concept introduced in the eighties by the late Spanish engineer Antonio Cobas), but ‘Ducatisti’ traditionalists will be glad to know that the Ducati 800 has a scaled down version of the multi-tubular, steel frame with two triangular sections supporting the steering head. The rear of the frame is higher and anchored to the upper part of the rear cylinder heads. The swing-arm pivot passes through the rear of the crankcases.
One of the main problems that riders complain about with the 990 is flexing in the rear of the frame… even the supports for the footrests are said to flex. This has been addressed by enlarging and strengthening the carbon fiber section that forms the seat and extends downward to the swing arm pivot. This gives the rider a more rigid seat and a more firm and stable feel from the riding position.
Pepe Burgaleta, director of Spain’s La Moto magazine, believes that the objective they seem to have achieved is to make the bike more agile and, to use the word Ducati applies, more ‘reactive,’ making direction change easier without the rider having to concentrate so hard on positioning himself to be able to get the bike in and out of a chicane. “With the current 999,” Pepe explains, “the rider has to be thinking, before he tips into the first part of a chicane, how he is going to have to change his position to leverage the bike into the second part of the chicane… too much concentration spent on doing something that should be more spontaneous and flowing.”
Capirossi agrees that getting the bike to change direction quickly in a sequence of corners is a tiring problem with the big bike. He said all the right things about the GP7 and seemed to mean them. He lapped on race tires in 1 minute 59.6 compared to his best Monday time of 1 minute 58.5 on the Desmosedici 990. (Rossi was fastest on the day riding the 990cc M1 in a time of 1 minute 57.3.)
Only Capirossi rode the GP7, but testers Guarechi and Shinichi Ito were on hand to watch, joined by Sete Gibernau. Sete, recovering from a second collarbone operation (a consequence of his the big crash at the GP of Catalunya), was there at the specific request of team director Livio Suppo, a clear indication that Ducati want to keep the Spanaird, especially since Capirossi is said to be asking for 4.5 million Euros, up by 2 million from his present contract.
Loris is flirting with the Gresini Honda team, but it is expected that Ducati and Capirossi will reach a compromise agreement… with Ducati and Philip Morris going more than half way if the little Italian continues his current form (when Capirossi was injured at Barcelona on the first lap of round seven he was tied with Nicky Hayden for the points lead. After missing one race and scoring only 28 points, while recovering from his injuries, in his next five starts he dropped 68 points back of the American. After his win in Brno he is fifth and 50 points adrift with five races to go and 125 points in play).
Rossi worked less with the 800cc Yamaha, preferring to concentrate on the 990 as he tries to overcome Nicky Hayden’s 38-point lead over the final five races. While Ducati and Yamaha are already showing their 800s, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Honda have yet to show their new 800cc bikes… though many observers, including this journalist, believe that the RC211V ‘Evolution’ that Hayden was “strongly encouraged” to ride (instead of the factory RC211V that teammate Dani Pedrosa enjoys) contains key elements destined to be part of the eventual Honda 800cc that is being developed secretly in Japan by HRC.
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