"I'm Back" (cue ACDC), in Barcelona that is!
Got back to Barcelona from Bologna a few days ago and spent my time catching up on emails, checking documents, and poring over some of the data I picked up at the Ducati Factory. It was an enlightening and gratifying trip for so many reasons, and although I definitely picked up on a different vibe while I was there, it was great nonetheless.
I want to say thank you to Antonio Cangiano, Luigi Mitolo, and everyone else, including Lele, Sergio, Michele, Jose, Andrea, Fabiano, and Corrado, for their hard work in helping me to assemble the information and materials I'm going to need to help my team to the fullest of my abilities. Grazie a tutti!
Here's Lele, Sergio, Antonio, and I, hidden away in one of the secret supply warehouses of Ducati Corse. It doesn't look like much here (intentional), but this three level storeroom was filled with all manner of fantastic and historical things, from older Superbikes and all their pieces, to the latest gen Desmosedici's and equipment. It was a priviledge to be there, but as I had a bunch of things to take care of, I wasn't able to inspect everything as much as I would have liked to. Besides, Corse is pretty tight about stuff and they don't appreciate people poking around too much.
Overall, it was a lot of organizational tasks and you can see how weary we were after just a couple days in the Factory. The Marlboro Ducati factory team was also there, rebuilding their GP7's after the Jerez tests and checking out some new pieces that were made over the break. I saw some really trick paint on one of the D16's, and hopefully Ducati will do something special like they did at Mugello last year. If they do, I would expect it to be at Misano instead of Mugello, because it's closer to the Ducati shop. In case you forgot, here's a pic. Photo Credit: Ben, the Dunlop Guy.
The Marlboro guys were a little quiet this time around, and I wasn't sure why. Maybe it had something to do with the weather, which was cold and dreary, with constantly grey skies and moisture everywhere.
At least it wasn't snowing! Last time around, I felt more friendly with the factory team, going out to dinner with them and generally hanging out when I could. This time I felt a little bit of an edge, and maybe this is because they think that we're going to be a viable threat next season. Alex Barros pipped both Capirossi and Stoner on the time sheets at the most recent test in Jerez, and I'm sure that doesn't sit too well with some of the guys. My take on it? Bring it! There's nothing I want more than to get results on the track next year, and if we have to ruffle some feathers while doing it, that's racing.
Off-topic, the Vice Director of Ducati Corse, and former factory team director, Corrado Cecchinelli, and I had some neat talks about bikes, and I was suprised to hear that he rides an old tube frame fuel-injected Buell. There's a neat relation there, because the earliest production Buells ('95-'96) used parts that were also used on the Ducati Monster line, and also, the Buell frames were (and still are) made by Verlicchi, the frame manufacturer who produces the Ducati WSBK and GP frames. Which leads me to my next spin off of this trip.
One night after work, I hung out with Mark Elder, and he drove me to check out his friend's workshop, Pierobon! Turns out Massimo Pierobon is Mark's best friend in Italy, and they do all kinds of crazy stuff together like bombing up to Germany for Oktoberfest. Anyway, the facility was great, with three large benches and tons (literally) of custom frame jigs and whatnot for creating virtually anything out of steel or aluminum.
The right hand man, Ricardo, used to work with Verlicchi designing and fabricating frames for Ducati alongside Franco Farne, and he just finished a run of 20 vintage racing frames for a German spec series.
Massimo collects oddball fruit stickers from around the world.
Every wall is covered with incredible racing memorabilia, signed photos and letters from Ducati racers around the world, and more. It gets a little tricky to understand, but Pierobon used to work with Ducati Corse and took care of all the WSBK frames. Even when Corse contracted Verlicchi, frames were sent to Pierobon for straigtening and repair. Anyway, reading through some of the letters really makes you appreciate how much time and effort the Italians put in to go racing. Speaking of letters, here's a neat one at the Factory from Carl Fogarty, who writes, Thanks Franco for making such sweet engines for me all season, or something like that :) And speaking of Franco Farne, he and Stefano Caracchi (headman at Ducati NCR) dropped by the Ducati shop while I was there and I got a chance to say hi. You may recall I did a bit of work for Stefano earlier in 2006, and now he wants to sell me the 999R that Roby Rolfo raced in WSBK this past season. It's an ex-AMA bike. . . . but it's just not my style.
Damaged goods. . . .
Also got a chance to see the Junior bikes, which is a really neat idea on Ducati's part. They're basically supporting some young guns from Italy in hopes of grooming them for future successes with the Factory at the world level.
And you just know I had to throw in a shot of one of my new bikes. Alex Hofmann's brand new GP7!
Anyway, I sat through some informative meetings with Luis D'antin and the Ducati Corse guys so I could better understand my responsibilities and open up a better line of communication with the Factory, and I prepped our flight boxes filled with Spares and our four new GP7's. It's in the air. . . . and I can't wait to get the racing started. I ate a bunch of pasta for lunch, and pizza's for dinner, and overall the food was pretty good. Here's a shot of the Hotel del Borgo eating area, and I also found out it was 230 Euros per night! Yo! It costs roughly 45,000 Euros a year to transport and house a single team member, so that's something to think about when you consider that a two bike team will run approximately 25 people. Naturally, some of us get to travel a little bit more than others, but it's a small sacrifice to make to get to the races. I'm leaving BCN in less than a week to head to Sepang, and then to Australia, and I hope the weather co-operates with us. Personally, I think it's a bit odd to test at Sepang, because the Ducati/Bridgestone combination already goes well there, and I'd rather be testing at tracks where we have problems - like Laguna Seca!! I'll probably have a little bit of time this weekend to compile some of the Xmas escapades I was involved in a couple weeks ago, so check back often. Oh, and this year we've switched from Nissin to Brembo. This was at the request of Barros, who's well known to be an extremely capable late braker. Here's a video clip to see what I'm talking about.
About carbon brakes: Apparently all the pads and rotors are manufactured by Mitsubishi, because the process required to heat up and pressurize the carbon is extremely difficult to do. Nissin and Brembo then purchase the materials from them and make up the rest of the components. That's where it gets super tricky. It's really important to have good rider feel, and this is where Brembo is regarded as the best by a lot of world level riders. Soft as first, rather than an abrupt bite that causes the front end to dive and upset the chassis. Personally, I never really brake that hard on the street, and I've almost always used Nissin pumpers. I prefer all my slides to come on the gas!
Time to get back to some other things now, stay in touch everyone!
I leave you with this: Bolongna di Bologna!