By: IOL Motoring Staff
Ingolstadt, Germany - As MotoGP revs up for the start of the 2014 season on 23 March in Qatar, Ducati Corse has revealed its Ducati Desmosedici GP14 at an Audi media conference - and thereby hangs a tale.
For 2014 motorcycle racing's premier category has been split into two categories - Factory, which is precisely what it says it is, a class for the works racing teams with their immense resources, and Open, for the privateer teams, with much smaller budgets and, crucially, fewer software engineers.
Because the big difference is that Factory teams are allowed to develop and run their own mapping software on the Magneti Marelli engine control unit that everybody has to use, no matter what bike they are running, whereas Open-class teams have to use the software that's on the computer when they get it.
When you consider that the factory teams have entire R&D departments developing specific software, not only for individual circuits but even for individual riders, the difference in terms of cost is enormous.
BUT ON THE OTHER HAND…
Each Open-class entrant is allowed 12 engines for the 18-race season (and they're allowed to develop the engines as the season goes on), plus 24 litres of fuel for each race, whereas Factory-class teams are allowed only nine engines and engine development is frozen (as in Formula One) before the first race of the season - and they are allowed only 20 litres of fuel for each race.
But, and this is a very big but, the standard software for the 2014 Open class ECU was developed by Magneti Marelli, partly using data supplied by Ducati (the buzz around the cybergarage is that Honda and Yamaha were asked to assist but declined) and it's ideally suited to the Ducati V4 engine.
So Ducati took a long, hard look at the 2014 regulations and entered its works GP14 machines in the Open class.
Unsurprisingly, the privateer runners complained bitterly to the organisers that this wasn't fair so, in a last-minute move, series promoters Dorna created a third category - Factory 2 - just for Ducati.
IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN
The Ducatis will start the season under the same rules as the Open-class bikes but, as in Touring Car racing, the more successful they are, the more they will be penalised.
If Ducati wins a Grand Prix, scores two second or three third places, the team's fuel allowance will be reduced from 24 litres to 22.5, and its engine allowance from 12 to nine.
However, given that the red bikes used only five engines per bike last year and were comfortably able to finish each Grand Prix on the 2013 allowance of 21 litres of fuel, that may not be enough to level the playing field.
On paper, then, Ducati will start the 2014 MotoGP with the all the allowances of the Open-class and most of the advantages of the Factory class rules - having ridden a Desmosedici-sized hole through the spirit, if not the letter, of the new regulations.
Whether it will be enough to win races, remains to be seen.
AND THE BIKE ITSELF…
The GP14 is an absolute stunner, tidy and elegant as only Italians could make it, in its matte-finish red and white livery. There are four on the MotoGP entry list, two for works riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow and two works-supported semi-privateer entries for Andrea Iannone and Yonny Hernandez.
It has a 1000cc, liquid-cooled 90-degree V4 engine with four desmodromic valves per cylinder, indirect Magneti Marelli fuel-injection through multiple injectors and a seamless transmission.
Suspension is by Ohlins, with 48mm inverted front forks and a Ducati-tuned monoshock, adjustable for preload, at the rear, running 16.5” Bridgestone tyres. Braking is entrusted to two 320mm carbon-ceramic front discs (340mm for Motegi) with Brembo four-piston monobloc callipers and a stainless rear disc with a dual-piston calliper.
The bike weighs 160kg dry (that's in the rules) but Ducati won't specify performance, saying only that it's good for 'more than 173kW' and 'in excess of 330km'.