Gigi Dall'Igna is in a certain way the man of hope for Ducati. The fact that on the track there is a phenomenon like Marquez together with all the other riders, forces the Ducati engineers and in particular Dall'Igna every year to pull an increasingly advanced and fast bike out of the hat, allowing Dovizioso, Petrucci and the men in red to try to fight on equal terms with the MotoGP star of this era.
This year the GP20 will again be full of surprises - like every year - as per tradition since Dall'Igna has been the head of Ducati Corse. Except that the real innovations at the moment are not visible, because even though it’s true that Ducati engineers have managed to find the way to exploit every single grey area in the regulations, it is also true that they will not show these innovations well in advance to their rivals. The first test is at Sepang, but to reveal some things that really could make a difference Ducati might decide to wait for Qatar, when it will be too late for their rivals to try and follow the direction traced by Dall'Igna and his team. Gigi obviously met up with journalists during the presentation of the Ducati MotoGP 2020 Team and these were his words:
Everyone is wondering what is new on this Ducati GP20…
"There are many innovations on the bike, and they concern every aspect, from the engine to the chassis and the aerodynamics. We have worked on the chassis and we will continue to do so to improve the frame, as well as the swingarm. As for the aerodynamics, that will certainly change as well if the regulations no longer allow you to bring any type of innovation. Let's say that we are perhaps a bit too much in a cage from that point of view. But we have certainly managed to improve things there too, from what results both on paper and in the simulations that we have made. We will only see if that’s the case in Sepang or Qatar, it depends on when we decide to try them on the track".
WE WANT TO RECLAIM THE ENGINE ADVANTAGE OVER HONDA
And what about the engine? Honda stunned you in 2019….
"On the engine side, too, we have certainly made some steps forward and that is the aspect in which Honda has improved the most and where it would be nice to regain the gap we had in past years. The problems related to too much power or poor handling are very different and must be resolved by different people. Therefore, working on the chassis does not prevent us from improving engine power".
How much do you think this bike has improved on a scale of one to ten?
"You never get an absolute improvement, you always have to think in relative terms, even considering what the others are doing. It is always difficult to imagine how much a new bike can really be improved, because you know how much you have improved, but you never know how much your rivals have improved ".
Dovizioso in the conference said that Marquez is so fast that there is no strategy to beat him.
"Andrea said Marquez was the fastest of all the others last year and when one has to fight with a rider like that, it is difficult to put into practice strategies that can somehow contain him. I think it is clear that Marquez is the benchmark from the point of view of riding method, he probably invented a different way of riding a MotoGP bike to what everyone had been used to before. Everyone is trying to imitate him and understand what to do to keep up. This seems clear enough for everyone. But the fact remains that everyone has to do their part. The rider has to improve his own abilities, but we for our part must always try to do more on the vehicle side, because Honda, like everyone else, has made important steps forward".
MARQUEZ IS SO FAST THAT NO STRATEGY CAN BE IMPLEMENTED
Have you asked your riders for anything different for this season?
"Talking to the riders is always complicated, but it is clear that it is part of my job. Not only mine, because obviously there are also Paolo and Davide who must support me in this. But you know, talking to the riders and making sure that they will listen to you is never easy. We hope we have succeeded".
What about the subject of contracts? They are all expiring in Ducati, do you think it will be fair to negotiate them in advance?
"If you listen to what the journalists say, the contracts should all be signed to put the rider in the best conditions and make him feel at ease. I am not convinced that this is always the right rule to use. Some riders certainly need something like that, while others, although I cannot be certain of course even though it has been my feeling several times, go better if they are under pressure".
You probably had the best bike around in 2018 and 2019. Does it bother you to know that you lost not through your fault, that you did your best?
"Blaming someone for a defeat is the worst thing anyone can do, both from the point of view of the rider and the engineer. In the end we win, and we lose all together. For us, coming second means losing because it means that someone was better than us. The point is that everyone has to do their utmost to achieve a common goal. So, to say we had the best bike in 2018, 2019 or whatever, doesn’t interest me. What interests me is win the world championship."
I WILL NEVER BLAME ANYONE. YOU WIN AND LOSE TOGETHER
You are a wizard in exploiting the regulations to the limit. Where did you look for that extra bit in 2020?
"Looking through the regulations is the job that every good engineer must do. Arriving at the limit of the regulations is the role of everyone who does this work and those who don’t do it, are doing something wrong. Only in that area can you get the best results and today that’s how we work, and we will continue to do so. Then clearly on quite stable regulations like those in MotoGP, it is always difficult to find new interpretations to carry forward. In other championships, like in cars where the regulations often change, it is certainly easier to leave space for people's imagination".
How did you convince Zarco to come to Ducati?
"I didn't convince Zarco, I only told him what I thought was right by also telling him what I think it would be possible to do with his contribution. He will make an important contribution, he is used to riding a different bike from ours, and therefore when one is like this and comes without prejudices, without preconceptions, this can help you understand certain limits. Both from the point of view of the rider's comments, but also from the point of view of the data because the rider will try to do things that maybe the bike cannot manage to do. So that’s the contribution I expect from Zarco, helping us develop the bike. Engineers want data, they work with data."
Winning in MotoGP seems almost impossible if you are not a Japanese manufacturer. Why?
"We are smaller than other non-European companies. This is an important barrier to achieving certain results and performance. From both the point of view of the rider retainer and the possibility of technical development. In the end it is always a matter of technique, and to get it you need money, otherwise you can't develop it."
MOTORCYCLES AND CARS ARE TOO DIFFERENT. WE HAVE NOT TAPPED INTO AUDI VERY MUCH
Have the ties with Audi brought you know-how?
"Collaborations with car manufacturers are difficult. Cars and motorbikes are completely different and only in the engine can you find synergies and perhaps in electronics. But the current MotoGP electronics prevent you from being able to make a serious development from that point of view. But at this moment the engines of motorcycles and those of racing cars are still very different. Just think of what they use at Le Mans, they are different from ours."
Do you feel comfortable before the start of the season, do you think you've done a good job?
"It is impossible to be calm at the beginning of a season. It is clear that you are very curious to see above all what the others have done and to measure yourself against everyone else. The first Sepang test will not be the litmus test to understand what the championship will be like, but it is the first moment in which we face each other so you can never be relaxed".
Audio recording by Paolo Scalera