Subscriber Interview: Ducati Corse Boss Gigi Dall'Igna On The 2018 Desmosedici, Aerodynamics, Moto3, And Trellis Frames

At the launch of Ducati's MotoGP effort in Bologna last week, there was much talk of the riders, and of sponsors, but relatively little talk of the bike. Exactly what the Ducati Desmosedici GP18 will look like, and what has changed, was not immediately clear from the presentation.

But after the presentation was finished, I, along with MCN reporter Simon Patterson, managed to get a few minutes with Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, the man leading the technical team building the bike. We seized the opportunity to go into the few snippets revealed during the presentation in more depth.

In our conversation, we covered quite a lot of ground. We had the chance to ask Dall'Igna about the upgrades Ducati hopes to bring for 2018, and when they hope to have them. We asked about aerodynamics, and how the new rules have increased costs for the factory. We talked about the necessity of Ducati's Moto3 project, and when it might become reality. And we got to ask Dall'Igna about the steel trellis frame used by KTM, and whether he believes the Austrian factory will decided to drop the chassis concept, as Ducati did in the past.

Our first question was about horsepower. During the presentation, Dall'Igna had revealed that Ducati engineers had found "a couple more horsepower." On a bike that is already the most powerful on the grid, that didn't seem like the biggest priorty.

Q: Why did you look for more power? It's already very fast?

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Yonny Hernandez To Test For Tech 3 At Sepang - Decision On Full-Time Replacement To Follow After Sepang

The Colombian rider Yonny Hernandez is to replace Jonas Folger in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team at the Sepang test. The move had been widely anticipated, though officially denied. Hernandez has recent MotoGP experience, having spent five years in the class between 2012 and 2016, most of those years on a Ducati. He returned to Moto2 in 2017, and had decided to make the switch to WorldSBK for 2018.

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Jerez WorldSBK January Test Press Releases

Press releases from some of the WorldSBK teams after the Jerez test:


KRT Duo Light Up Jerez Tests

KRT’s official WorldSBK championship riders Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea played a leading part in a two day test session at Jerez in Spain, between 23rd and 24th January. Sykes set the fastest time of all with Rea just behind in the final rankings.

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Hervé Poncharal – "I Will Never Take Any Rider With A Contract"

It is hard to envision a worse time to lose a rider for the season. Jonas Folger's announcement that he was withdrawing from the 2018 MotoGP season to focus on his health was a hammer blow for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Just weeks before the start of testing for the new season, and long after riders good enough to race in MotoGP have signed contracts, Tech 3 team boss Hervé Poncharal is left looking for a replacement.

It is a massive task, especially as Poncharal is refusing to break any contracts to take a rider. "You would be amazed to hear how many phone calls I have had, and who from," told MotoMatters.com. "There were some interesting names, honestly, but priority for me, the basis for me is that I will never take or enter into any kind of discussion with someone who has a contract."

That attitude is born not just from a sense of what is right, but also from self interest. "At the end of the day, everybody is working hard, everybody is trying to finalize and make a plan," Poncharal said. "Finally you end up with a contract, and when both parties sign, this needs to have a value, because if a rider signs something thinking, 'OK, worst case scenario, this is what I have, but if there is a better opportunity, I'm going to take it...' then why do we sign a contract?"

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Jerez WorldSBK January Test, Tuesday Times: Sykes Quickest As Canepa, Camier Surprise

The second and final day of the first WorldSBK test saw a change at the top of the timesheets, with Tom Sykes setting the fastest time of the test, beating his Kawasaki teammate Jonathan Rea by over half a second. Sykes had used a qualifier to set his fastest time, though Rea had not bothered with one, and still ended up in second spot. 

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Maverick Viñales Signs New Two-Year Deal With Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team

The first domino has fallen in the 2018 Silly Season (or perhaps Silly Preseason). Maverick Viñales announced during the presentation of the Movistar Yamaha team in Madrid that he has signed a new two-year deal with Yamaha. At the launch, he said he felt very happy inside the team, and felt they shared his objectives.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “That’s how crazy KTM people are!”

In our final technical analysis of all six MotoGP factories we look at KTM, the Austrian brand that made excellent progress in its rookie season

When the 2018 MotoGP grid rides out of the Sepang pit lane on Sunday morning there will be no need to speculate which factory has made the biggest forward strides since last year’s first preseason tests.

It’s rookie MotoGP brand KTM, of course, because it’s much easier to move forward when you’re just starting out than when you’re trying to find that last tenth of a second.

During the first four dry races of 2017, KTM’s deficit to the race winner averaged out at over 40 seconds. During the last four dry races, the gap had shrunk to just over 20 seconds. If KTM can repeat that performance this year it will reduce the gap to 10 seconds. Then, if the company signs a MotoGP winner for 2019, it could fight for race victories.

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Jerez WorldSBK January Test, Tuesday Times: Rea Fastest As Ducati Panigale V4 Debuts

Jonathan Rea's WorldSBK reign continues, the triple world champion topping the timesheets on the first day of testing of 2018 at Jerez. The Kawasaki rider was fastest early, and was never challenged, none of the other riders able to get under the 1:40 mark.

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Silly Season Kicks Off: Petrucci To Leave Pramac - But Where To, And What About The Rest?

There were signs that the MotoGP Silly Season could be wrapped up early last week in Bologna, at the launch Ducati's MotoGP team. Ducati Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti said he expected to sign the riders for the factory team 'quite early'. "Quite early probably means the second half of February or the first half of March," he clarified. So before the lights have gone out for the first race of the 2018 MotoGP season, Ducati hope to have two factory riders wrapped up, and they are unlikely to be the only factory to have done so.

It is apparent that the riders have taken note of this, and are adjusting their strategy accordingly. After Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport ran a story suggesting that Ducati were about to sign Pecco Bagnaia to the Pramac team, Danilo Petrucci has told the same paper that 2018 will be his last year with Pramac. "[Team boss] Paolo Campinoti and I both know this. He pulled me out of the gutter, but we know this is our last year together. The cycle is complete."

Poetry aside, Petrucci's announcement is significant. The Italian has a contract with Ducati which promises him a seat in the factory team if one becomes available, in much the same way that Andrea Iannone did previously. But the question is, will there be a seat there for Petrucci to take?

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Motorcycle Racing Gets Nearer: Testing For WorldSBK And MotoGP Starts This Week

With the holiday season receding into the rear view mirror, that means that we are getting closer to seeing bikes on tracks. Testing starts this week for both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks, and before testing, the Movistar Yamaha team will present their 2018 livery later on this week as well.

The action starts on Tuesday in Jerez, where virtually the entire WorldSBK paddock is gathered for a two-day test. The Andalusian track will see the first real test of the 2018 WorldSBK machines, with the teams all having had the winter break to develop their bikes under the new technical regulations - new rev limits, and better access to cheaper parts.  

All eyes will once again be on triple and reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea, the man who dominated at Jerez in November. Rea was seemingly unaffected by the new rule changes, saying less top end merely made the bike easier for him to ride. Teammate Tom Sykes will be hoping to match Rea's pace, and adapt to the new character of the bike.

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Interviewing Suzuki's Bosses: Sahara and Kawauchi On Getting The Engine Wrong In 2017, And Fixing It For 2018

The following is an interview which leading Japanese MotoGP journalist and friend of MotoMatters.com Akira Nishimura conducted with the heads of Suzuki's MotoGP program, Shinichi Sahara and Ken Kawauchi. Nishimura conducted the interviews in Japanese, and translated them into impeccable English. I then edited them in English for style. Any inaccuracies or errors are therefore mine. - David Emmett

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR had a tough season in 2017. From the beginning, Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins faced severe difficulties and finished the year without getting a single podium. As a result, Suzuki will be granted concessions again for the 2018 season. On the other hand, Iannone and Rins showed their competitiveness at the final four races, which indicated Suzuki had found the light at the end of what proved to be a very long tunnel. Suzuki’s MotoGP project leader Shinichi Sahara and technical manager Ken Kawauchi talked frankly about their hard effort in the challenging year and expectations for the forthcoming 2018 season.

Q: Everything looked smooth in the preseason. At the season opener, Iannone took the second row of the grid in qualifying, and Rins started the race from 18th position and fought his way through to reach the checkered flag in 9th place. The opening round of the 2017 season was good for Suzuki. When did you come to think “something is wrong…”?

Kawauchi: It was very early. In Argentina, Alex complained, “I cannot stop the bike as I wanted and it’s difficult to hold the line.” Andrea had been saying something similar, and then Alex, who didn’t have enough experience in MotoGP, told us the same thing as Andrea. So, we had a suspicion that something should have been different from last year.

Q: From that time onwards, what did you do to improve the situation?

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 66: Reviewing The 2017 MotoGP Season

With testing due to kick off in Sepang in just over a week, the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast takes a look back at the highlights and lowlights of the 2017 MotoGP season. The PPP Posse™ - Steve English, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett - gathered at the Barcelona Superpresitigio to break down the year into five categories.

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Ducati MotoGP Launch Part 2: Dovizioso And Lorenzo On Distractions, Contracts, Money, And Life Lessons

The difference in perspective between team managers and riders is always fascinating. Team bosses always have an eye to the big picture, to the coming year and beyond. Riders are usually looking no further ahead than the next session or the next race. Anything beyond that is out of their control, and not worth wasting valuable energy worrying about. The future is a bridge they will cross when they come to it.

That difference was all too evident at the Ducati launch in Bologna on Monday. While the people in charge of Ducati – Paolo Ciabatti, Davide Tardozzi, and Gigi Dall'Igna – were already thinking of managing rider signings and sponsorship deals for 2019 and beyond, Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo were mostly concerned about the Sepang test and about being competitive in the 2018 season. New contracts for 2019 were on their horizons, but compared to their bosses, it was little more than a blip. First, there is a championship to win.

Andrea Dovizioso had spent the winter relaxing, and preparing for the new season. He starts the year as one of the title favorites, not a position he has been accustomed to. "A great sensation, and one I had lost in the last few years" is how the Italian described it. He did not feel the pressure of that sensation, but rather saw it as a challenge. Sure, he was one of the favorites, but there were a lot of competitive bikes with riders capable of winning. "The level of competitiveness has become very high in MotoGP in the last three years," he said. "There are many riders who can win races. It wasn't like this in the past."

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Jonas Folger Pulls Out Of Racing For 2018 To Focus On Recovery

The 2018 season starts off with a nasty surprise for the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. Today, the team announced that Jonas Folger will not be racing in 2018, leaving them without a second rider for the coming season.

The reason Folger gave for pulling out of racing is to focus on recovery from the health issues he suffered at the end of 2017. The German was forced to pull out of the three Asian flyaways, after health problems later diagnosed as Gilbert's Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the liver which causes chronic fatigue. Folger still does not feel at 100% fitness, and decided to take a year out of racing to focus fully on his recovery.

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