Italians ready to fight for race wins at last
t’s been a hard few years for Ducati since Casey Stoner left at the end of 2010, furious at his treatment by the Borgo Panigale factory after a season beleaguered with illness.
And things only got worse from there. A disastrous spell with Valentino Rossi, fighting to manage a bike plagued with chronic understeer, never brought the fairy-tale ending that so many prayed for.
Recent years haven’t improved their lot much either, as Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Dovizioso, and Nicky Hayden all tried to come to terms with the Desmosedici and failed; it’s now six long years since Ducati’s last premier class win - Stoner’s final Phillip Island victory back in 2010.
However, the 2015 season at long last showed that there might be light at the end of the tunnel. Starting the season impressively, the pairing of Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone managed six podiums between them in the opening six races as the GP15 machine finally started to find its form.
And building on that progress, Ducati may well be in their best position in years to finally return to challenging for race wins, as they roll out the all-new GP16 machine.
The first bike built in its entirety since Gigi Dall’igna’s takeover of Ducati Corse’s operations, it seems from the positive feedback of the squad’s riders that those chronic problems are gone, leaving the pair unconcerned for the first time about managing the issues and instead concentrating on set-up, as Dovizioso told MCN.
“It is nice to not mention understeer! When we tested it alongside the GP15, we immediately
Idecided to use the new bike. But the change is so big, that we need to work to improve the feeling with the bike. We’ve found the base setting now though, which means we can continue to improve on the bike.”
And according to team-mate Iannone, feeling is the buzzword that Ducati are continuing to chase. Working to find something that clicks with the Michelin tyres, he admits that while they’re not yet showing their full potential, that potential is much greater than it ever was with the old GP15 machine.
“At the moment, we’re not at 100% - but I’m really happy with where we are at. We work really well together, and we’re making big steps every time we go out on track. I think it’s been a surprise for the riders - the development has gone in a very good direction.
“It’s been important in the tests to understand the feeling of the new bike – because it’s completely different; it really feels like a completely new bike. When you change a lot, you expect it to feel differently, so now we need to understand the new bike.”
And once that feeling comes, as it seems likely to, with Dall’igna’s hand on the tiller, 2016 could hold big things in store for Ducati. Looking to replicate their 2015 season start – something that looks more than possible, considering Honda’s continuing difficulties – Dovizioso admits that wins are the target for both riders as the year progresses.
“We can start in a similar situation to last year, very strong, but this year we can improve race by race. Last year, the feeling went away after the start of the year, as we found the limit of the bike - but not this year!”