Claudio Domenicali is a massive motorcycle enthusiast, even before being the CEO of Ducati. On the other hand, we are talking about a company that bases its DNA on pure passion for motorcycles, so the man who is in charge puts his money where his mouth is by getting into his leathers and heading out onto the track to try out the bikes produced in Borgo Panigale whenever he has the opportunity.
In this role he took advantage of the press presentation of the new Ducati Supersport 950 to try his hand between the curbs of Vallelunga, proving that he is also a dab hand at this game. First we had fun scrapping on the track with him and then we took advantage of his kindness to talk about the two days spent in Jerez by the six guys who will race in MotoGP with the Ducati GP bikes in 2021 and who during the training session with the Panigale V4s were able to stop the clock just over two seconds off the times set by Michele Pirro on the Desmosedici.
"It was a nice surprise for us too - the Ducati CEO told us - because they actually did not ride very much, just one afternoon. Both the MotoGP bikes and our guys who had their Panigale V4s they were training with. They should have ridden two days, but then it rained so the times were not that important. The MotoGP bike also lapped slower than it could have done, because the track was wet. But there was Michele, then there was Bradl with Honda. Of course it wasn't a world championship race, so the times are not at that level, but they were all in the same conditions. Our guys were there to train, but then they kicked ass because at the end of the day they might have been training, but then when they all started lapping together and upping the ante, they lapped two seconds off the MotoGP times".
What does it feel like being the head of a company capable of creating and selling a bike that laps two seconds from a MotoGP bike?
"There is a lot of pride. It is a bike that you can easily buy from the dealer. We are talking about an expensive bike, but not that expensive if you think that it costs less than thirty thousand euros while a MotoGP bike costs several hundred thousand euros. On the Panigale V4s to make those times you can buy the racing exhaust that is regularly on sale, maybe a track fairing kit. Just think that there was Zarco who had the original fairings with the headlights mounted. Two seconds is not very much and we are happy with the work that the development guys have done on the production bike by transferring all the know-how of MotoGP. Of course you need someone who can also ride it that way, like the six guys who used it. These are not times within everyone's reach, but knowing that our bike can do them is a great feeling ".
In 2021 everything changes in MotoGP, with the arrival of four new riders out of six and Bagnaia and Miller promoted to the factory team. Ducati has moved on. The climate in the team was magnificent in the Jerez session…
"For us it is an important change. Of course we are in winter, it was a bit as if we were in a training camp so it is easy for the climate between the riders to be so relaxed now. For sure we are making a lot of effort as a company to look after the relations with the riders very carefully and really closely. The guys are young, they are helping us a lot. There is great commitment on both sides, I think we are trying to look after not only the two guys in our factory team, Jack and Pecco, but also the other four. From Zarco to the promising youngsters from Moto2 as world champion and runner-up. The whole first day it rained in Jerez and they were together in the garage talking and getting to know each other, in a very positive atmosphere. However, we are only in February, so I think that from 28 March in Qatar things will be slightly different, in the meantime we are sowing well. Davide Tardozzi, Paolo Ciabatti and Gigi Dall'Igna are somehow very oriented towards this direction, so we’ll see. One step at a time".
How did you react to the words of your former riders who have criticized Ducati's way of treating the riders, did that bother you?
"I believe that when things do not go well in a sports team in general, whether it is MotoGP or football or Formula 1, everything becomes more complicated. Maintaining a harmonious and positive atmosphere is very difficult, especially when there are situations in which paths separate. It’s the same in a marriage, when it ends it is very difficult to maintain an excellent relationship. In some cases it is possible, in other cases it is more difficult. Sometimes then things are also reported that do not fully correspond to reality, things are written and in this the media in my opinion have not helped in some cases. I think that some of the ways we dealt with the riders have not been well interpreted, maybe we didn’t even explain ourselves well. I think it is not worth commenting on these things right now. We are starting 2021 with great attention to the bike and equally to the team. Just like and more than before. Maybe some things have even made us reflect. I would like to focus on trying to work well, perhaps even in silence, just like some politicians who have appeared on the scene have shown us, the ones who are thinking of bringing home the results ".
Bagnaia and Martin have both declared several times that they have had a deep bond with Ducati since childhood. What effect does that have on the guys in MotoGP who grew up with the legend of Ducati?
"I think each one of Ducati’s employees feels a little bit at the service of the company. Ducati is a very strong, proud company. Almost noble from a certain point of view, it has a great history. It has produced several bikes like the 916, the Monster, which are icons of the motorcycle scene. So let's say it is unlikely that there is one enthusiast in the world of motorcycles who has not had anything to do with Ducati in one way or another. Everyone who has worked in this company has contributed to making it great, from the successes in SBK to MotoGP. Let's not forget that Ducati is the only non-Japanese manufacturer to have won a world championship in MotoGP. This is very nice, but it also represents a great responsibility. Our fans are very demanding, they expect there to be results. What we can say is that we are careful as a team to listen to the feedback we will have and there is a great commitment, including on an economic level, to carry on the technological development of MotoGP, which for us is particularly relevant so we can transfer this technology to production bikes. We talked about how close the production Panigale bikes are to the MotoGP bikes, but all the software on the stock Panigale is in fact proprietary software developed over the years in MotoGP over the last fifteen years. This I think is extremely important. So I would say that we feel good, we are happy to have these riders who are so passionate, but also very committed and we feel the responsibility, but on the other hand when you work for a manufacturer like Ducati that’s normal. "