One of big questions heading into this weekend’s MotoGP’s opening round in Qatar - besides who is going to win and if Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and even Cal Crutchlow are going to end up in a dog fight for a podium finish - will be if Ducati has actually managed to cut the gap with Honda and Yamaha.
During the last pre-season test at Jerez, three Ducati riders, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Nicky Hayden saw significant improvements in lap times using modified versions of last year’s Desmosedici - but Jerez is also Ducati’s test track - so it will be interesting to see if the partial solutions they found at the Spanish circuit will work at Losail and if track temperatures will affect the Ducati regarding tire wear which Andrea Dovizioso believes could be an issue since he has not done a race simulation during the pre-season tests.
“Losail is a good track for me, as I’ve always had good races there, and I think that the Ducati’s strengths can work in Qatar. We head to this race determined to do well. We know that our pace isn’t so far from the others’ on new tyres, so we should certainly be able to fight for a good grid position, but we have a significant gap to make up in race configuration. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do a race simulation in the tests, so tyre wear is a question mark for me,” commented Dovizioso.
This will be Nicky Hayden’s fifth season with Ducati and he’s already seen it all and has the patience of Job, as this year will be a ‘building year’ for the team … again.
“I’m very much looking forward to starting another season. Of course I wish we were going into it with more speed and consistency, but I feel like we’ve made progress at every pre-season test. The team has used the dry track time we’ve had very well, and we were able to get more out of the recent Jerez test than I thought we would, considering I’d just had wrist surgery. The Qatar track is smooth, which should suit our bike well, and racing under the lights at the first round is always very unique,” said Hayden.
Last year Hayden finished 6th in the night race and his best lap during the race was in 1.56.881, while his qualifying lap that put him in 5th on the starting grid was 1′55.637.