Valentino Rossi revealed that a gearbox problem was the reason for his mysterious fall to the back of the field in Sunday's Indianapolis Grand Prix. The Ducati rider was making decent progress after starting 14th but fell back to 17th on lap nine.
Initially, it looked as though he changed his mind on a potential stop for new tyres but Rossi confirmed that he was forced to take to the escape rode as the GP11.1 became stuck in neutral.
“A number of things happened this weekend that contributed to making this a particularly difficult race: the crash yesterday in qualifying, which robbed some confidence and was part of the reason we had to start so far back on the grid, and today there was a problem with the gearbox. The bike stuck in neutral six or seven times, and the first two caused me to go straight and lose time. I found myself in last place, but I decided to do what I could to at least get some points. In this morning's warm-up, we had made a small change that let us improve the pace a little, but the race was really difficult. We know that we have to work hard. Ducati is doing that, and my team and I are as well, because we must try to not let up and to get the bike ready while we wait for technical updates.”
Teammate Nicky Hayden's decision to run the softer front tyre backfired as he finished down in 14th at his home Grand Prix. The tyre was starting to cause problems early on before wearing so badly that he was forced to pit.
“It was a really tough day. We thought the soft front tyre could be a good option for the race, but unfortunately it only worked for seven or eight laps. Then I began to steadily lose ground until it even began shaking on the straightaways, and I had to come in. Since you've got to finish to get points, I went back out, and it was actually worth getting two points. I got a good start and was up front the first few laps, and that was the first time I put up a real fight in the dry all season. My bike felt fast in a straight line, and with this new gearbox, I could get out of that last corner and keep guys in the draft early on. We're on our first race with this bike, and maybe we don't know enough about what it needs. Sorry to all my U.S. fans and the Ducati fans here who came to support us, but we'll try again next week.”
Team Manager Vittoriano Guareschi was disappointed to see the momentum from Brno disappear but assures all Ducati fans that they will work hard to recover at Misano.
“Today was very challenging for our team and riders, and despite their typical great efforts, we struggled to bring home a few points. After the positive performance at Brno, we expected to find a good rhythm here at Indianapolis as well. We didn't manage it, although it's also true that we suffered a few setbacks. For example, Nicky chose a soft front tyre that proved not to be the best, but his race pace in the early laps was very good, while Valentino had a transmission problem that had never shown up during the four practice sessions. Anyway, we know that we have to improve, and no one at Ducati or in the team is holding back as we work toward that goal.”