To say that the Ducati Team will be the subject of intense scrutiny in the coming 2017 MotoGP season would be an understatement of tremendous proportions. The company (and team sponsor Phillip Morris) have spent enormous financial resources, both in retaining the services of three-time MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo and in developing the Desmosedici GP to a competitive form. Ducati Corse General Manager Luigi "Gigi" Dall'Igna was brought in to turn the program around, and he's succeeded in finally bringing a long-awaited return to the top of the podium last year. But now the next phase of his plan is in effect, and he will also be under pressure to produce results since with Lorenzo onboard there will be no room for excuses anymore.
We caught up to Dall'Igna during the team presentation to get his latest opinions on how the Valencia and Sepang tests went, and how it was working with Lorenzo again. As usual, the Italian was straightforward in his answers, and he reveals enough to spur even more curiosity when the Sepang test starts on Jan 30.
So you won’t be revealing the final Desmosedici GP design until Qatar.
Not really the final design, but for sure the bike will improve a lot during the winter test because we have something in our pocket. Nothing absolutely clear, but something that is our intention will improve the bike, so starting from the next week we will try to do this.
What everyone is most interested in is how you will solve the problem of not having winglets. Do you have solutions for this?
No one has a solution for this. Frankly speaking, for me the bike will take a step backwards without wings. That is absolutely clear. So everyone is now trying to find out the best compromise, but for sure it will not perform like it did with wings.
What percentage do you think will be…
It’s difficult because above all, it depends on the track. For me, in Qatar the difference will not be so huge, but at some other tracks, like Jerez for example, the situation will be a lot different than last year.
What did you learn after the test in Valencia? Before you had some clear ideas for the new bike, but after Lorenzo trying it maybe you have new inputs.
We have new inputs, and we worked a lot during the two months to improve the bike in that direction. Because he has a completely different feeling in comparison with a rider that has had problems. He can give us more inputs.
And what are these new inputs?
The first part of the gas is a problem, so we have to find something to solve or at least reduce this problem. Another is the turning the bike when releasing the brake completely. This is the area we mainly need to improve.
And you have ideas clear for that?
Clear? No. But we have some idea that we have to confirm during the winter test.
How is working with Jorge again?
I’m really happy. I know him, he is a man now, and he has positive [and negative] points but I think the positive points are more than the negative. So I’m really happy to work with him.
Now he’s a man, when you worked with him before he was a boy, a teenager (Dall'Igna was the lead engineer at Aprilia when Lorenzo won his 250cc GP world championships in 2006 and 2007)
Yes, and I was young too [laughs].
Gigi, what about the tire factor? This is something you don’t control.
I don’t think the tire factor is an issue anymore. Michelin improved quite a lot in the last part of the season. To produce tires for this kind of bike (MotoGP) is really difficult. And I think one year is the minimum you need to learn to make the [right] tire. So I think next season for Michelin will be easier and I think everyone understands the development path of Michelin.
Can you imagine a situation where Michelin works better for Honda, or for Yamaha, and works worse for other brands?
I don’t think this will be the case. For sure it is possible but I don’t think they will go this direction.
You don’t think the tire will be the key element in the race anymore?
Three riders will have GP17s this year, and Danilo Petrucci will also have one. What do you expect his role will be this year, will be like a Ducati test rider at some races?
We will have more data, and this is really important to develop the bike and also to set the bike up properly during the race weekend, because the time that you have during the race weekend is not enough to set up a bike properly. So you have to find a compromise and with more riders I think we can be close to the real limit of the bike.
Lorenzo’s strength was always his extreme corner speed and extreme lean angle, do you have ideas how you might need to change the bike to adapt to that or will Lorenzo have to change his style?
Frankly speaking I don’t think that we have to change the bike a lot for his style. We have to change the bike to improve it, yes, but not only for him, for Dovizioso as well, if I give [Dovi] a bike that is better in the middle of the corner, his performance will improve [too]. This is our target to improve the bike in the middle of the corner, and we have some ideas that we have to test during Sepang, Phillip Island and Qatar tests, and after that we will see.
Dovi also complained that the braking was a lot less with the new bike. He was so strong on the brakes he felt this was a disadvantage. Have you worked on braking?
I think also without the wings the bike will have less performance in braking, not only in the area of acceleration. I think that everyone [will suffer] with the performance of [their bikes] in the braking area.
Regarding Casey Stoner: what will his role be in the project?
Casey is important. When he speaks he can tell you what the bike…if you understand well what he is saying, you can understand the behavior of the bike on the track. He is one of the few riders who can explain the real problems of the bike. Maybe you can’t understand what he means sometimes but test after test you understand a little better, he sees from the beginning and gives you the real problems.
When will we see the final fairings of the bike? In Sepang or in Qatar or will you make all the modifications after testing?
No. The bike will improve at the next test but we will start in Qatar with something close to the fairing.
What are your impressions of Lorenzo’s new crew chief? (Cristian Gabarinni, former crew chief for Casey Stoner) How is his technical feedback and way of working?
I think that we have the right person to manage Jorge so I’m happy. Jorge is easier [to work with] than everyone thinks.