Ducati’s opening day of action at the Aragon Grand Prix was blown off course by high winds, with Esponsorama pair Johann Zarco and Tito Rabat – both on 2019 machinery – the fastest of its six bikes, down in 11th and 12th.
Andrea Dovizioso was the best of the 2020-spec machines behind the two Esponsorama Racing bikes in 13th – and said that the high winds blowing across the remote track was in large part the reason why the Ducati riders were all a similar amount off the pace.
Located on a barren plain in Spain’s Monegros Desert and at an altitude of nearly 500 metres, the Motorland Aragon circuit is one of MotoGP’s most remote and stunning locations – but it means that extreme weather like today’s 30km/h gusts and cold track temperatures can dramatically upset bike set-up.
MotoGP delayed its first practice session this morning by 30 minutes thanks to sub-10ºC asphalt temperatures.
That all conspired to make for less than ideal conditions for Ducati in particular, with Dovizioso conceding that it had been a tough day.
“For sure we struggle a lot with the wind – you can’t know how much is the difference compared to the other bikes, so if you see all the Ducatis with a very similar pace, it means there is something for everybody,” he said.
“For sure the wind, but also the temperature on the tyre – I don’t know why, but we couldn’t get the temperature, we couldn’t put the right temperature on the front and rear tyres, we couldn’t push, we couldn’t put the intensity, especially on the right corners,
“On the left corners I wasn’t too bad compared to last year, but the right corners are the points where I was losing compared to last year.
“So, I’m a bit worried about tomorrow morning because the wind will be maybe OK, but it will be difficult to improve the laptime.”
Things were even worse on the other side of the factory Ducati garage with Danilo Petrucci. One of MotoGP’s taller and bigger racers, he admitted that he was having all the same problems as his team-mate – plus an added disadvantage.
“The wind has been the most difficult thing to fight today, because alongside the cold temperature which didn’t help the front end feeling of the bike wasn’t good – it was very light,” said last week’s race winner.
“There’s only one right corner where you’re braking – the rest are on the throttle and the front is light.
“There was a strong wind in that area too and it made it difficult to manage the bike. It was hard to get the right temperature into the tyres and it made a difficult situation. I hope the wind stops tomorrow because that would be a big help.
“I take a lot of air, and sometimes that’s an advantage, but today my maximum speed was very low.
“That’s a problem because that’s the area where you attack and defend, and we’re moving my position on the bike to try and be more aerodynamic.”
The problem isn’t one Ducati is going to be able to fix easily unless the wind goes down, according to Pramac Racing rider Jack Miller.
Adamant that it’s just a consequence of Ducati’s long-standing issues with mid-corner turning combined with a fairing that sports the most extreme aerodynamic devices of the grid, the Australian says it’s something to work around.
“It’s just the way the bike works,” Miller told The Race. “For sure the big front fairing doesn’t help, but the biggest thing you need in the wind is a bike that turns.
“We’re still struggling with that on a perfect day, so the problem is amplified when you’re trying to do it into the wind.”
But the Ducatis might have caught a minor break for tomorrow morning, with Saturday morning’s FP3 session, the final chance to qualify directly for a Q2 spot, moved to an hour later after a Safety Commission meeting and a meeting between team managers.