Ducati Boss Cicognani Explains "Junior Team" Strategy: "A Different Approach Compared To The Past"

Ducati is on the verge of a large-scale overhaul of a major part of its MotoGP strategy. In 2013, its approach to satellite teams is set to change radically, with its satellite structure set to receive factory-spec Desmosedicis and have a much closer relationship with the Borgo Panigale factory, Ducati boss Alessandro Cicognani told MotoMatters.com. "The main goal is to have a more competitive bike," Cicognani said, speaking to us after the race at Mugello. "In this scenario, we are thinking that the satellite team could be a help to achieve more effective results more quickly for the factory team."

The idea is to take a leaf out of Yamaha's book, Cicognani explained. "The strategy we are thinking about is like a Tech 3 but with factory-spec bikes, something like that," he said, while emphasizing that the plans had yet to be finalized. "We are thinking about it. We have some ideas."

Part of the goal would be to help speed up development of the factory bikes. The satellite team or teams - talks are still ongoing with both the Marc VDS team and with Pramac about racing as a satellite team - would also be used to help test new ideas and see if they are worth pursuing further, without placing an extra burden on the factory team. The satellite team could be used to see if those ideas worked in a racing environment, instead of relying on just the test team and the factory team, Cicognani explained, though much would depend on the choice of rider and the strategy.

The choice of a rider would be key, Cicognani explained. Where in previous years, Ducati has simply leased out the bikes to satellite teams and left it up to the teams to find riders, instead, the rider and the structure around it would come first. "It's a different approach to what we have had in the past," the Ducati boss said. "The goal will be two things: to find the rider, and to put the rider on a Ducati. These two things have to be on the same side. If you don't have the riders that are able to perform at a certain level, maybe this is not helpful, this strategy would not work."

With Scott Redding and Andrea Iannone testing at Mugello this week, it is clear which direction Ducati is looking in. But Cicognani would not be drawn on names for the riders, saying only "if you look at Moto2, and you look at the stronger riders, the names are obvious." Ducati is more interested in youth than experience, though, he said. "We want a young rider. Maybe not a rider who is already a top rider, but a young rider who still has to prove his capability, his potential. A rider that would in the future be a good step for the factory team."

The structure will be as important as the rider, however. "We want to find the right rider, find the right structure, and put it close to the factory in terms of material," Cicognani told MotoMatters.com. Their previous strategy had been a hindrance in terms of development, he added. "We don't want to have two different bikes, because in the end, this doesn't help for the development of the bike." To that extent, it would also make more sense for Ducati to support a single, two-rider team rather than two separate teams with one rider, but the economic realities may not make this possible. "I would say the ideal situation would be to have one team with two riders, because it's easier in terms of logistics, and would be better. But again, we have to face up to the fact that the general economic situation of the world is not very good, so we may have to have a mixed situation." The practical implementation was less important than the concept, however. "The most important thing is to maintain the idea we have. Maybe we have to adjust a few things, but the idea is the most important, the main pillar of the idea is stable."

The two candidates to run Ducati's satellite teams - the term Junior team is being bandied about, though Cicognani refrained from using it himself - are Marc VDS Racing, currently fielding Scott Redding in Moto2, and Pramac, who are racing a satellite Ducati with Hector Barbera this season. The Pramac team has a long history with Ducati, but the collapse of their parent company - the Italian generator supplier of the same name - has placed financial constraints on the squad. Ducati has strong interest in both; the Bologna factory has been interested in Scott Redding for quite some time, and has a long relationship with Pramac.

The financial realities are such that neither squad could field a two-man team unless supported financially by Ducati. Marc VDS Racing principal Michael Bartholemy said that operating as a Ducati junior team would only be possible if funded by the Bologna factory. "We would be interested, but only if they are interested in us," Bartholemy told MotoMatters.com. "If someone believes in us, then we can do this, but not if we have to pay." Alessandro Cicognani had told MotoMatters.com previously that the factory was looking at radically dropping its prices, after news that Cardion AB would not be racing a Ducati again in 2013.

The financial package is only part of the deal. Involvement in the development process is much more key to Marc VDS Racing's plans. The prospect of a satellite Ducati is currently unappealing - "It is better to win in Moto2 than to be uncompetitive in MotoGP," Bartholemy said - unless there was an added incentive to take part in the project. Having access to a factory-spec bike will help, but having input into the development process is much more significant. Sources close to the team emphasized that being involved in improving the bike and understanding the development process were key to any decision to move up to MotoGP. It was not about the money, they affirmed, it was about the development.

To get an idea of the depth of Ducati's commitment to the idea of running a junior team, team owner Marc van de Straten was present at Mugello for Scott Redding's test on board the Ducati MotoGP bike. Redding had been impressive on the Desmosedici, lapping comfortably inside the 1'50 mark at the iconic Italian circuit, with a second and a half of Valentino Rossi's fastest race lap, despite higher temperatures and a much dirtier track than during the race. The team was hoping to receive a proposal from the Bologna factory, but nothing concrete had appeared by the end of Redding's test. Marc VDS are hoping to move up to MotoGP with Scott Redding, keeping much of their current structure intact, including key garage staff, but such a move requires a solid commitment from Ducati. So far, though, there are no concrete signs of any such commitment coming from the Bologna factory.

Ducati's problem is that their plans appear to be currently on hold, as they await the decision of Valentino Rossi on whether he will stay with the Italian factory or whether he will leave to return to Yamaha. Once that decision has been made, more of the factory's efforts can be redirected at completing their plans for their satellite teams for 2013. Whether Scott Redding and Andrea Iannone - the other Moto2 rider currently testing the Desmosedici at Mugello - move up to MotoGP for next season will be dependent on the outcome of those deliberations. A decision was expected soon, Cicognani had said at Mugello, before the end of the summer break.

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.....wonder where this idea is coming from? Audi, Fuji, or a combo? As has been said numerous times on this site, Ducati was lulled into a false sense of engineering security when 'Super Alien', aka Casey Stoner, won on their POS! Now that reality has hit them squarely in the face, a different approach has been brought up.....a bike that can be ridden fast by several riders. Wonder where they got that idea from?

... but so many more question abound:

  • Is this a "suggestion" from Audi, or an opportunity to show the new bosses a willingness to embrace change?
  • What were they waiting for?  It seems like a great idea that could have been activated at any point in the recent years.
  • What do they think happens over at Tech 3?  It's not commonly understood that Poncharal's team is privy to development updates.
  • Would this structure change the Abrahams' feelings about walking away from Ducati?
  • It seems to go without saying that Rossi's willingness to stay - and perhaps offering him an incentive in the junior team - are critical to the plan.  Where would funding come from, if not with the prospect of Rossi's visibility?
  • Who knew "green energy" was not a profitable marketing platform?  Would Ducati have to take ownership of that team, too?

To the extent they can do this, good on them.  And, remarkably bold of Cicognani to take this public so far in advance.  I hope it works.

Double edges sword me thinks. We all want to see different riders coming through but how much help in speeding up development can a young rider give if he's never been on MotoGP machine? On the flip side, maybe it will be good for Ducati to have a rider that doesn't have previous experience on other bikes and they learn to ride the Ducati.

This is sorely needed as the present test rider and regimen has, for quite a while, not worked. This probably came to a head after the race where Ducati's test rider subbed and did so poorly. It also sounds more like a post Rossi solution rather than bait to keep him at Panigale Borga. Rossi wants new solutions and hardware(including software) He can test.
Best of luck to Cicognani, a new direction is long, long overdue.

This whole idea is clouded over by the stupid limit on prototypes. Ducati could've just added an extra in house team and covered the cost with the leasebikes. In stead they have to gobble up sattelite teams.

Ducati are good at talking about everything but their bike. The more They talk the less convinced I become that they have any faith in their own motogp project. Sounds like they are trying to avoid the embarrassment of dropping to two bikes next year as teams do anything they can to get off ducatis bike.. Must be nigh on impossible to convince sponsors if you have a Ducati for next year... even a factory one I suspect... Marlboro have zero options..the money Ducati get would be better spent on yam and Honda providing another couple of bikes each , do wonders for the sport and up and coming riders.I fear yet again Ducati will be the place prospects go to die..

This actually sounds like more of a long term plan for Ducati, they may keep the bikes closer to the factory specs than at Tech3, but Yamaha has done a very good job using Tech3 to keep/get good riders.

The GP0 plan this year has some pretty big drawbacks in that only two riders are using the GP12 and providing feedback, and one of them (Rossi) isn't very impressed with it.

I get the feeling Ducati are holding of any major financial investment, such as a "junior" team, pending Rossis decision.
This doesn't bode well for Ducati as a whole. If Rossi does leave, will they lose Marlboro in the process? Will Ducati scale back their MotoGP program? Will they leave all together in a year or two?

That Ezpeleta, Arrivabene and Rossi have had a meeting supposedly about Marlboro sponsoring Yamaha(or Rossi directly?). This may be what funds his move to Yamaha, since they are unwilling to offer him the kind of salary he's used to. Also he has a large crew that costs a lot of money to fly around the world.
Anyhow, this might mean Ducati will lose a large part of their current funding. Cause lets face it, when Stoner left they lost a winner. And when Rossi now leaves they lose a popular figure. They have nothing left going for them, so why would Marlboro still be interested in investing as heavily as they have?

Again, Dorna's dumb rule to limit the factories to just 4 prototypes pops up. This "junior" team sounds like a great idea for Ducati and their development process for the bike and new riders to the premier class. Too bad Dorna wants to push this CRT nonsense and severely limit options for up and coming riders. I have no doubt that Ianonne, Redding, Espargaro, and the like could move up and do what Bradl has done this year on a prototype, but there is nowhere to go.

I did a quick check of the Mugellos FP1 times from this year and if Scott did under 1:50 that would have put him around 11th place , and as he said that was without following anyone .

I really hope he gets a shot at MGP, hes a big lad and he gets screwed by the no combined rider/bike weight limit in Moto 2.

Iannone is just balls-out crazy so he would also be great fun to watch , could be a great move for Ducati if they can pull it off , the last time they took a gamble on a rider that worked was Stoner unfortunately

You can see the process after Audi's involvement.

1. Keep Vale, pay him what he asks for (but Vale is more keen on performance now than money, not so easily done anymore)

2. We want the Ducati product at the front, who's at the front now? Yamaha, and how do they do it? Well, buy/establish etc the same structure and start from there, what you're doing now DOES NOT WORK.

3. Fix the bike! Here's the number of our design team, call them NOW.

If Vale does not re-sign then I would expect that to be the catalyst of a huge shake up at Ducati, Vale is a marketers dream, and racing is about selling product. Vale walking away says 'I dont believe that Ducati have the capability to build a winning bike'.

Audi is calling the shots and it's their cheque book that is open, but you can bet its a 'milestone' based program, win the title Ducati by 2015 ,or you'll go back to making radios at Bologne..

I wonder what incoming moto2 riders will ride probably a CRT because the prototype field is full, not even a chance for dovi or dovi to get a factory ride.. unless its with the Ducati..wich neither want..
Marlboro should give us free cigarettes for rooting for Ducati.. When Ducati has their heads up their ass, they should have left the Ducati untouched from 07 same style same everything I would like to see Rossi on that one see if he doesn't win..

I wonder what incoming moto2 riders will ride probably a CRT because the prototype field is full, not even a chance for dovi or dovi to get a factory ride.. unless its with the Ducati..wich neither want..
Marlboro should give us free cigarettes for rooting for Ducati.. When Ducati has their heads up their ass, they should have left the Ducati untouched from 07 same style same everything I would like to see Rossi on that one see if he doesn't win..

If you look at Ducati's approach it has always been one rider centric. Initially it was Loris Capirossi, then Casey Stoner and later Valentino Rossi. The second rider has been an accessory as was the case with Melandri and now Hayden. The thing is that this kind of thinking worked with the brilliance of Casey Stoner and at that time Ducati probably thought they had a great bike out there. When Stoner decided to leave and when Rossi came in Ducati thought that Rossi would better Stoner, but that has not worked. Now if Ducati is thinking of a junior team they are finally doing the right thing. What is the point in four different riders riding four different configurations of the bike? One hopes that they choose their second tier team and riders wisely. And they should stop relying on Rossi. It would be dumb to think that a factory cannot do anything just because a rider leaves. Though Rossi has been vocal about riders making a difference, one look at Ducati's short history shows that it is Stoner who should probably be saying that. But that is besides the point. Ducati should take the Honda approach. Create a bike that a good rider can convert into a winner. In short become an engineering focussed company giving due importance to rider inputs. No point in saying just lets get the best rider by throwing tonnes of money and get him to win. That is not working. The money should go into R&D. Then the results will come. Like a percentages rider like Nicky Hayden winning a World Championship on a Honda. That is why Honda is so arrogant.

And we begin to see the influence of the company's new owners. If ever there was a factory team lacking vision or a clear plan for the future then Ducati seems to have been that team. It can't be done on emotion and wishful thinking, or by one man alone, as VR is finding out. And Audi already know. This is why 46 will be racing elsewhere next season and why Audi have given up on keeping him. They both know the bike will take at least two more seasons to make competitive and that's outside VR's time frame in MotoGP. So, yes, I'm delighted to think there could be a junior Ducati team with promising young riders on proper factory bikes as part of a clear plan for the medium to long term. It's not a total solution but it's a start. I shall be watching out for further announcements on how Ducati will handle the post Rossi era.

The idea is great, we can only hope this time they will walk the walk. As Cloverleaf I am afraid it is too late to retain #46 which is a pity indeed (and as I advocated before I believe for Rossi logically would be better to stay put and add another dent in his career).

I do hope Ducati can finally turn the tables. The silly factory rule is already limiting WC candidates to 6, if 2 of them are out of the equation it goes down to 4. On top of that one is very unlucky (whatever the reason).... this is not good for the sport.

A junior Ducati team should bring some excitement and give more opportunity to young riders with the limited seats available.

So we will find someone who fits our suit and make him a star?

If it gets more talent on the grid, great. But it ignores the problem at hand.

It was painful to watch Vale try to turn that bike at Laguna. After he crashed he said the front tire looked new. I think he really wants to stay and win on Ducati or he would be gone by now. However, as one reporter put it, progress is glacial.

If the door wasn't wide open before it is now.

Why would you hire two inexperienced riders to speed up development of the bike?

It sounds more like they are looking for another Casey Stoner as a silver bullet solution so they can continue to avoid accepting that they have a fundamental design problem.

Abraham claims he was blown off by a CRT bike at Laguna on the straight and there was word that the team was talking of ditching the Duck for 2013 which might have prodded the whizzes at the factory to think maybe they should up grade the customer bikes. There hasn't been so much complaining about their ride ability this season.