FIVE QUES­TIONS: CLAU­DIO DOMENICALI

Borgo Pani­gale’s head hon­cho on life, ge­og­ra­phy, and mo­tor­cy­cles

Motorcyclist - - Shift - BY ZACK COURTS

It was a small com­pany at that time—very, very small. The to­tal num­ber of engi­neers was three, in­clud­ing me.

IN 1991 THE SOVIET UNION DISBANDED, Ter­mi­na­tor 2 hit the­aters, and Clau­dio Domenicali be­gan work­ing at Du­cati with a freshly minted diploma in me­chan­i­cal engi­neer­ing from the nearby Univer­sity of Bologna. He first be­came prom­i­nent to race fans in 1999 when he was pro­moted to run Du­cati Corse, over­see­ing a flour­ish of suc­cess in World Su­per­bike—and even­tu­ally Mo­togp—that has come to de­fine the brand in the mod­ern era. He rose through the ranks and was named CEO in 2013, 22 years af­ter join­ing the com­pany.

When did you first be­come in­ter­ested in mo­tor­cy­cles?

1 I started as a kid. Ba­si­cally, I was in­ter­ested in me­chan­ics in gen­eral. Boats, go-karts, cars… And when you are 14 the only thing you can ride is a mo­tor­cy­cle. You can­not drive a car, and so I started with a mo­tor­cy­cle. I was more pas­sion­ate about build­ing them than just rid­ing. I al­ready had an in­ter­est in as­sem­bling, dis­as­sem­bling, and tun­ing. So I ended up with the idea of be­com­ing an en­gi­neer, based on that.

Why Du­cati?

2 Ac­tu­ally, I was study­ing me­chan­i­cal engi­neer­ing and I lived in Bologna al­ready. And so the main rea­son for Du­cati was it was a mo­tor­cy­cle com­pany and nearby my house. But at the time that I was first in­ter­ested in bikes Du­cati was in the mid-1980s and was not very good. The tech­nol­ogy of the bikes was very much lag­ging be­hind. When I en­tered the com­pany they al­ready made the wa­ter-cooled, eight-valve twin cylin­der for su­per­bike. That was a step, you know? Be­cause be­fore, the twin was just a bit old and lazy. It was very torquey, very good for a moun­tain road, but not for the race­track. It was a small com­pany at that time—very, very small. The to­tal num­ber of engi­neers was three, in­clud­ing me. Now, we have 300. So the com­pany was 100 times smaller in terms of engi­neer­ing.

Mo­togp is very ex­pen­sive, yes, but there is a very big re­turn in tech­nol­ogy.

The United States is a big mar­ket. Do you think Du­cati would go rac­ing in the US again, whether it’s su­per­bike or flat-track or any other dis­ci­pline?

3 We are will­ing to sup­port pri­vate teams that want to race in the na­tional cham­pi­onships, like in the UK for ex­am­ple. That is a pos­si­bil­ity in the US, for sure, and we would be very happy. As a direct fac­tory ef­fort, we want to con­cen­trate on Mo­togp and World Su­per­bike.

Mo­togp is very ex­pen­sive, yes, but there is a very big re­turn in tech­nol­ogy. The engine that we will in­tro­duce next year is a V-4. It’s very closely de­rived from every­thing we’ve done in the last 10 years in Mo­togp. And there are a num­ber of tricks in­side—like the pumps, the crank­shaft, the desmo sys­tem—that are very, very, very spe­cial. There is noth­ing sim­i­lar in pro­duc­tion.

What is it about Italy that pro­duces such charis­matic ma­chines?

4 I think it’s a mat­ter of what you call “dis­tricts”—an area in which there is some spe­cific ex­per­tise. And in Emilia-ro­magna, where Bologna is, you have Du­cati, Fer­rari, Lam­borgh­ini, Maserati, Dal­lara. It’s a district in which race tech­nol­ogy has a long his­tory. And so, it’s a kind of chicken and egg. The more you have com­pa­nies, the more you get peo­ple from out­side, the more uni­ver­si­ties there are. It’s like Sil­i­con Val­ley. Why is it there? It started there and then…you know. It’s a “district” as well.

If you could go any­where and ride any­thing, where would you go and what would you ride?

5 On track: I think that Mugello is some­thing al­most un­beat­able. It’s the up and down and the na­ture around. It’s in an in­cred­i­ble val­ley—there’s the smell, the per­fume of the moun­tains—and it’s very calm. There is no noise. And then in a mo­ment you fire up a mo­tor­cy­cle. It’s a big emo­tion. And there is noth­ing bet­ter than the Su­per­leg­gera. A Su­per­leg­gera there [at Mugello] is… I mean, it’s kind of like hav­ing sex with the mo­tor­cy­cle. It’s some­thing so strong, emo­tion­ally, so pow­er­ful.

Off track: I would go with a Mul­tistrada En­duro in South Amer­ica—in Chile or Ar­gentina—that’s a place where I think it would be very nice to go.

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