Cycle World - - The Leader - By KEVIN CAMERON / Pho­tog­ra­phy by DU­CATI

Dur­ing his 26 years at Du­cati, Clau­dio Domeni­cali—who re­ceived his me­chan­i­cal-en­gi­neer­ing de­gree from the Univer­sity of Bologna— has risen from project leader on the Su­per­mono in 1991 to lead the com­pany today as CEO.

In 1994, he was made Du­cati de­sign de­part­ment man­ager, and in 1997, deputy tech­ni­cal man­ager. By 1999, his abil­ity to man­age com­plex projects and the peo­ple in­volved in them was rec­og­nized by mak­ing him man­ager of Du­cati Corse—the rac­ing de­part­ment, which has em­ployed as much as 25 per­cent of to­tal Du­cati staff.

In 2005 he was made R&D direc­tor, and it was dur­ing de­vel­op­ment of the 1098R that he made his mem­o­rable dec­la­ra­tion: “For ev­ery part, you must think about its weight and its per­for­mance— no com­pro­mises!”

In 2009, his abil­i­ties be­yond en­gi­neer­ing were rec­og­nized by mak­ing him gen­eral man­ager of op­er­a­tions and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. Three years later, he joined the board of di­rec­tors; in 2013, he be­came CEO.

That year he spoke dur­ing the Mi­lan Show at the grand Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tec­nolo­gia Leonardo da Vinci. Cy­cle World col­league Matthew Miles and I schemed to get a mo­ment’s con­ver­sa­tion with him af­ter­ward, but all we could man­age was a glimpse of him slid­ing into a big black Audi A8 to be spir­ited away with other man­age­ment to his next venue. It was a very pres­i­den­tial de­par­ture.

Re­mem­ber this: There is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween know­ing en­gi­neer­ing and mak­ing it hap­pen within a hu­man or­ga­ni­za­tion—if pos­si­ble, on time and on bud­get. Many engi­neers have ideas, but those ideas have value only if ac­tion is suc­cess­fully or­ga­nized be­hind them.

I first en­coun­tered Domeni­cali in the early 1990s at a So­ci­ety of Au­to­mo­tive Engi­neers small-en­gine meet­ing in Michi­gan. When I vis­ited him in his of­fice in 2003, he pointed to a framed photo on the wall—of a Porsche 911.

“That is the af­ford­able ex­otic, which is what our prod­uct must aim to be.”

Be­cause Du­cati has so deftly han­dled com­bus­tion prob­lems as its Su­per­bike twins have evolved, I asked him how the com­pany has avoided the com­bus­tion prob­lems suf­fered by other man­u­fac­tur­ers as bores were made larger and strokes smaller.

“Ob­vi­ously I can­not speak for the Ja­panese, but in our own case, we work with two ba­sic vari­ables to cre­ate the tur­bu­lence re­quired for good com­bus­tion: in­take-port di­am­e­ter and down­draft an­gle.”

Visiting him again a few years later, his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties had ex­panded from en­gi­neer­ing to man­age­ment, mak­ing him short of time and quite se­ri­ous. When at my next visit I found him more re­laxed and open, I com­pli­mented him on the change.

“I have now ac­cepted the fact that not ev­ery prob­lem can be solved today, and that some might not be solved at all. And I have learned the value of leav­ing those prob­lems here”—he placed a hand on his desk—“when I go home at night to my fam­ily.”

When World Su­per­bike man­dated 1,000cc for both twins and fours, it was Domeni­cali who suc­cess­fully lobbied for a 1,200cc limit for the lower-revving twins. He also de­ter­mined that Du­cati pro­duc­tion bikes must equal or ex­ceed the per­for­mance of the com­pe­ti­tion.

The fas­ci­nat­ing con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had with him over the years have fo­cused on en­gi­neer­ing mat­ters, but his abil­ity to suc­cess­fully direct ever-larger projects—doing many things at once—is what has made him Du­cati’s CEO. It is he who must make sure Du­cati’s many cus­tomers look to the com­pany as the def­i­ni­tion of mo­tor­cy­cling’s lead­ing edge.

Domeni­cali’s sim­ple re­quest when he rode the Pani­gale V-4 with us: Don’t pass him on the out­side. “I am an en­gi­neer,” he said, “but I still have some pride.”

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