That Ducati GP18

There’s something about the Ducati GP18. I think it’s a rather unique achievement, if you consider the modus operandi adopted by all leading factories since, well, epoch maybe.

The strategy was always fairly simple:

  • Ensure good tires and even better tire conservation
  • Then maximize a single strength, whether it be corner speed or exit or entry, or pure horse power, etc
  • Accept at least one flip-side weakness
  • Last but not the least, bring on board the best rider who can exploit that strength to devastating effect while simultaneously riding around the inevitable weak spots

Consider the 2004 Yamaha which was highly effective going into corners but pretty much average at most other things, while being particularly behind in engine output. But they had Rossi.

Or the Honda RCV, later on. They worked hard for years to match the Yamaha’s corner entry, prepared to sacrifice a lot in the process. They succeeded on both counts; now they have a highly nervous, short wheel-base monster that’s notoriously hard to ride but devilishly effective going into corners. They also have Marquez.

Or, going back a bit in time, Suzuki’s RGV500 XR89 which won their last championship. The 2000 RGV stopped well and carried good corner speed, but was hopelessly decimated at corner exits and main/back straights. But they had Kenny Roberts Jr. (I can outbrake anyone on the suzuki, but not if I’m starting from 20 yards back, because of the power deficiency – as told to Alan Cathcart)

Or the GP7 Ducati. Sure they had a tire ‘advantage’ with Bridgestones, but that evil handling pig of a bike was unsurprisingly ill-used, despite it’s ferocious grunt, by every rider…except Casey Stoner.

Perhaps the first few iterations of the Honda RCV were exceptions. With practically no weaknesses (until the 2004 Yamaha reset the bar in terms of corner entry), you had a package that worked at most or all tracks, with most or all riders.

Now consider this: the GP18 seems to have upped that game.

  • Sure, the Ducati is probably never going to handle like a Yamaha. But the Michelins are never going to have the edge grip of Bridgetones either, an aspect which smooths over this particular liability
  • The GP18 still retains a clear advantage in grunt
  • Clearly ahead in the electronics department, thanks to their expertise/experience with Magneti-Marelli
  • They lead the class in terms of tire management
  • They lead the class in terms of aero and wing tech

If one has to nit-pick, the Ducati was  never a package that was effective at all tracks. But we don’t know that about the GP18. Not yet, anyway.

Which brings me to one final thought, which is more of a personal opinion.

Dovizioso is no Marquez, Stoner, Lorenzo, or Rossi. But he doesn’t need to be, because he’s on a piece of hardware that has no major weakness(es) for him to ride around.






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