7 Aug 2012

Ducati without Rossi - 2013 and beyond

Now that it is all but confirmed that Valentino Rossi will leave Ducati at the end of the 2012 and join Yamaha for 2013 we ask what next for Ducati in MotoGP.

Some of the information below comes from an anonymous source inside Ducati who describes himself as a data engineer/statistical analyst at the team.  He posts on twitter anonymously to hide his identity and describes his tweets as being his own opinion rather than of the team.  I cannot verify his identity but his information seems to be accurate and I have seen it used by other journalists who write for national publications.

Nicky Hayden has already signed for 2013.  That leaves one seat in the factory team.  But in recent days Alessandro Cicognani, Project Director of the Ducati MotoGP team has talked about changing Ducati's attitude to it's satellite outfits.  Whereas previously they leased out lower spec bikes to the satellite teams, Ducati is thinking of adopting a more controlling attitude to the satellite bikes where the bikes are factory spec and they get to control the riders.  Much like Yamaha does with Tech 3.

This will enable Ducati to mould the GP13 into a bike capable of being ridden by any top level rider who's name isn't Casey Stoner.

Which leads us on to the question of riders.  One factory seat and potentially two seats just below factory level are available.  Currently Karel Abraham and Hector Barbera ride for Ducati satellite teams.

The popular frontrunners for the Ducati seat are Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, both of Tech 3.  Ducati have recently tested Danilo Petrucci, Andrea Iannone and Scott Redding.  The insider has seen the data and told me that Petrucci did 20 laps and was"great", Iannone was "crazy Joe" but Redding was "awesome" and "beautiful".

Of these riders it seems that Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Redding stand a chance of the full factory seat although Dovizioso has not been too kind about the Ducati team - saying that he only wanted to go there "when they are winning".  Meanwhile there are no shortage of riders for the potential second tier factory team.  If, though, either Cal or Andrea was not offered the main factory seat they would be unlikely to accept a second tier seat.

Therefore the 'satellite' outfit can probably choose from Redding, Petrucci, Iannone, Abraham and Barbera.

On to Audi's influence.  Here, the insiders information is key.  In the short term the Audi takeover will change little.  He told me the biggest immediate affect is that components that are sitting on Ducati drawing boards that would normally take six months to produce can be accelerated with Audi money and production capacity.  Particularly this means that alloy and carbon bits and pieces can be made and bolted to the bike much quicker than they normally would.

The next influence will be in organisation.  Ducati are looking forward to tapping into Audi's racing knowledge (remember Audi have won Le Mans 11 times in the past 13 years).  Management, processes, manufacturing and overall structure will be discussed and improved upon.

Ducati have a"huge" R&D meeting this week.  It is a wide ranging meeting that will discuss how to develop the GP12 for this year and GP13 for next.  A lot of the feedback will come from the rider - and therefore the bike tends to be tailored to the riders needs.  Ducati will need to make their rider selection pretty soon.

They have some continuity in the form of Nicky Hayden but they will be losing Rossi's Australian team - led by Jerry Burgess.

On the one hand Ducati have lost the best rider of modern times.  On the other the takeover by Audi means that, as long as they select the correct rider, they will have the money, the resources and the team to build themselves up into a winning team once again.  And hopefully they will come up with a bike that can be ridden by more than just one man.

The final quote goes to the Ducati insider, "...good times, they will return.  Its in us to win here!"