Gigi Dall'Igna was the guest of a really nice Live streaming broadcast on our usual channels, in the company of Paolo Scalera and Matteo Aglio of GPOne. We were able to talk about 2020 which saw a Constructors' title win for Ducati in MotoGP, but which also saw the end of the very long relationship with Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci. Obviously, Ducati have not stopped working in view of the future and also the choice of riders seems aimed at guaranteeing a future characterized by young generation, with three rookies ready to make their MotoGP debut on the Desmosedici in 2021. This is the first part of the interview with Dall'Igna.
First, congratulations on the Constructors’ title…
"Thank you, it was a great satisfaction. This is my first world championship title I’ve won in Ducati and it gave me particular satisfaction"
Too bad you didn't also win the Riders’ one. How much do you think the new Michelin influenced your performance?
"The new Michelin was an important change and the fact of not having tested it enough and finding the right set-up then influenced how the championship went."
Dall'Igna: "Ducati didn't ask Michelin for anything, we just have to work well"
But is it true that you are pushing for a new front tyre from Michelin as soon as possible?
"That's not true, we haven't asked Michelin for anything. The rear tyre this season has brought more grip to the rear, which in itself is an advantage. But there are bikes that can already benefit from it more than others. In certain situations , we were no longer able to exploit the advantage we had before by sliding the rear when braking. Other bikes that tended to brake more from straight up had an already important improvement. From the point of view of corner exit, the advantage was similar for everyone. We lost the advantage in braking that we had before with the bike at angle. I must say that in reality Ducati did not have that many ups and downs. We did well everywhere, except at Aragon and Valencia 1, where we found special conditions. The cold penalized us a lot on these tracks. For 2021 we must intervene to allow the riders to find confidence when it's cold and there is little grip.”
Now everything will change in the garage, with two young riders. Are you happy with the decisions made with the hiring of Miller and Bagnaia?
"Honestly, I am happy with the two riders we have chosen for 2021. Jack had an impressive finish, with two incredible races. In Valencia he could have won, in Portimao it was right his 2nd place behind Oliveira. Jack this year did two zeros that were not his fault but Ducati's. Once he broke an engine, another time the bike sucked a tear off from the airbox. At Le Mans he could have won or finish second, at Misano I don't know where he could have finished, but certainly the two zeros were not his fault. Pecco did a wonderful early and central part of the season. At Misano 1 he was superb and at Misano 2 when he was in the lead, he made all the difference. The slide there ... let's say it was a mistake. I think that together with the two of them we can obtain some great satisfaction in 2021"
Dall'Igna: "We are focussing on young riders, we have monopolized a generation of talents"
You will also debut three rookies. Whatever happens, one of your riders will win the rookie of the year title…
"I believe that we had reached the end of a cycle and we had to start again with something fresher. We have monopolized a generation of talents. That's right, we wanted to invest a lot in young riders, we have also been helped by the satellite teams that in recent years have contributed to the growth and development of the talents of riders who later became official Ducati riders. It was possible to bring them to the factory team, and now I hope to obtain satisfaction with them ".
But as an engineer, do you look for something in data or in telemetry to identify a talent?
"This was easier when I was responsible for 125 and 250 in Aprilia, because I had the telemetry at hand and I experienced the riders in first person in the box. Now it's more complicated, I don't have the telemetry of the others obviously. On the other hand, I can get a lot of help from other people who have a talent to discover promising riders, they have a talent for identifying talent, which is a play on words. I'm referring to Tardozzi and Ciabatti, who have an important role in defining the teams that we will race with. Choosing a rider is the most complicated phase in managing a team. You're never sure what you choose until you bring him home, it's one of the most complicated and difficult operations to do. "
Dall'Igna: "In mid-2019 I realized that the Dovizioso’s and Ducati’s paths would have separated"
But now can you tell us how it really went with Dovizioso, what happened?
"There is nothing classified. During an important season for us and for Andrea it was reasonable not to find a way to make controversies between us, the situation was already complicated without other troubles. In the meantime it must be said that I don't think I ever have had a long history with a rider like with Andrea. Everything can be said, but we have been together for a long time and we have all done wonderful things together. Then, as always, it is difficult to continue a story that did not reach the goal that all of us as Ducati fans wanted, which was to win the Riders’ championship. "
Le cose sono peggiorate gradualmente?
"Via via i rapporti si sono deteriorati, io credo che la decisione reale sia stata presa a metà del 2019 in una riunione fatta qui nel mio ufficio ed alla fine io ero convinto che nessuno dei due avrebbe voluto continuare il contratto. Tutto può cambiare, però da quella riunione era chiaro che difficilmente avremmo potuto trovare il modo di continuare il binomio Dovizioso Ducati. Sono successe tantissime cose e ci siamo ritrovati ad avere una squadra diversa per il futuro".
Did things gradually get worse?
"Gradually the relationship deteriorated, I believe that the real decision was made in mid-2019 in a meeting held here in my office and in the end I was convinced that neither of us would have wanted to continue the contract. Everything can change, but from that meeting it was clear that it would be difficult for us to find a way for the Dovizioso-Ducati duo to continue. A lot of things happened and we found ourselves having a different team for the future. "
You have worked with many riders and champions, even complicated ones. How did it go with Max Biaggi? Is it true that he once realized immediately that you had moved the engine in the Aprilia RSV4 a few millimetres?
"Max is one of the most sensitive riders I've ever worked with. This engine thing might be true, but I don't remember it now. He's certainly one of the most important talents in the sport. Despite having won a lot, I'm convinced that he won little compared to what his talent was. Let's say that working with Max was certainly a good school ".
Going back to talking about the future, but are you preparing any technological ‘bombshells’ for the Sepang tests? You have got us used to this sort of thing by now…
For Sepang we have less folkloristic ideas… let's call them that! They are things that we have been thinking about for a while and the goal is to limit the problems in conditions like those of Aragon where we suffered too much, the idea is to find a cure for those situations and make sure that even when it's cold the rider is able to find confidence in order to get the tyres up to temperature and to push hard".
Dall'Igna: "The Suzuki’s simplicity paid off, but sometimes complications are needed"
Dovizioso praised the Suzuki's simplicity this season. What do you think about that?
"Simplicity is an added value because it allows you to make fewer mistakes, it allows you to find the best possible compromise early. On the other hand, there are things that cannot be done simply. You have to work as much as possible to make things simple, but when you need the creative flicker you need that something different that complicates things in some way ".
What path would you recommend to take for engineers who have the desire to join Ducati?
"Joining Ducati is easy and difficult at the same time. You need to have an important history from the point of view of academic results, I speak as an engineer. It also takes the right opportunity to be able to get your CV in at the right time and place and then in this even a little luck helps. There are a lot of people who present their curriculum to me even during the races, outside the garage or things like that ".
But you, in addition to designing the MotoGP and SBK bikes, do you have a bike in the garage? Which is your favourite Ducati?
"Actually, I think I'll disappoint a lot of people, but I'm a tourist on a motorbike. I like to do a lot of kilometres, I'm a quiet type on a motorbike. I've only fallen off once and I've been a long way. The Multistrada is the bike that I like the most. It is closer to what I like to do on a motorcycle. I have always enjoyed travelling with my wife and it would be difficult to get her on a Panigale V4! ".