Cast your mind back to last year, during the amazing 2016 MotoGP season, when a lot of speculation began to surround the 2015 MotoGP champion, Jorge Lorenzo. The Spanish rider was then riding for Movistar Yamaha but it seemed he had other things on his mind for the future. He was in talks with the factory Ducati team, and a few weeks later, after the rumour mill had churned out all-sorts, he finally made his announcement confirming he would be joining the Italian manufacturer for the 2017 season.
Whole lot of movement in the MotoGP paddock
His move then led to a whole host of movement in the paddock. Factory seats were available and riders, including those in the Moto2 class, were all keen to secure one. Lorenzo’s move to Ducati meant that one of the Italian riders, Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, had to go to make way for him. Lorenzo also needed replacing in the Yamaha camp.
Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales was chosen and decided to go to Yamaha to replace Lorenzo; the Spaniard was officially unveiled recently when they presented the 2017 livery. The Spaniard has a clear plan, to go on to win his first MotoGP champion with a team that are more than capable of doing it as they have proven in the past.
Lorenzo made unofficial Ducati debut in Valencia
Ducati decided that Iannone would be the one to go and Dovizioso would remain with his new teammate Lorenzo. The space that became available in Suzuki was soon filled by Iannone. All of the riders were permitted by their teams to participate in the first off-season test immediately after the season finale in Valencia at the Spanish circuit.
All eyes were on Lorenzo as they watched to see what how the Spaniard was going to take to the Italian machinery after it recently returned to its winning ways in the 2016 season that saw nine different winners. It was soon clear that he was very relaxed and content in the red camp, and although his replacement at Yamaha, Vinales, stole the show topping the timesheets on both days of testing on his Yamaha debut, it was clear that Lorenzo on the Ducati would make for an interesting season.
Ducati launch their new team and Desmosedici GP17 in Borgo Panigale
Friday 19th January saw the Ducati team launch the 2017 machine, livery and team at the Borgo Panigale factory in Italy. Claudio Domenicali (Ducati Motor Holding CEO) began proceedings, and present with him on stage came MotoGP Team Manager Davide Tardozzi, Paolo Ciabatti (Sporting Director) and Luigi Dall’Igna (General Manager of Ducati Corse). After their interviews, the bikes and riders were introduced in a dramatic and futuristic looking way. Test rider for Ducati, Michele Pirro, who made several appearances during the season, replacing injured riders, was also in attendance at the presentation. Casey Stoner, who also tests with the team, was not present.
Domenicali first to address the crowd present
Domenicali addressed the crowd about the “journey they will make together”; after thanking the local services and helpers to overcome the local disasters including earthquakes, snow fall and avalanches he went on to introduce the team. He gave a brief overview of the company and their recent success as a business in general before going on to speak about their history within the MotoGP championships and the financial background that surrounds their experience.
Dall’Igna talks about the improvements the Ducati team have made
After reflecting on the 2016 where he highlighted the achievements along with the “gaps” that they have to overcome, Dall’Igna spoke of how he felt that they are “better” as an organisation as they have “improved it a lot”. He explained how they have “managed to have the new bike up and running straight after Valencia”; they did this as a way to “make sure the new bike had no problem of issue” so that it was not “impossible to solve during the season”.
He went on to say, “Now we get underway with our test riders Michele Pirro and Casey Stoner” alongside their riders he described as “heroes”. Their plan is to “improve [their] bike from every perspective and in every detail” if they want to “keep the gap competitive between the other teams and riders”.
High hopes for their new addition
When talking about their new addition to the team, he reflected on Lorenzo being “five-time World Champion” and went on to say how they “only thing [they] have left to do is win the World Championship”. He said that they “don’t need excuses” and for this reason is why they have “hired Lorenzo”. He feels that there is “no reason why [they] can’t do this”. He mentioned how they have “changed [their] mind-set and [are] focused on doing what people want [them] to; winning the championship.”
He knows it “won’t be easy” as he is aware that their “competitors are so strong” especially in “terms of the bike” and the fact they have “very specific, top quality features in terms of their teams”, however they are “here to try”.
Speaking about Dovizioso and their fifth season with the Italian, he said that after “getting the victory”, his aim now is that he wants to “finish the job”. He mentioned how they have “been through some difficult and deep times together” however he feels that Dovizioso is a “great rider” and he is “sure” they can do as they planned. He said, “He is a great rider and I am sure he can get to our top target”.
Dall’Igna then went on to thank the staff in the factory, the Ducatisters, “who gave them to strength to go on” and for “encouraging them to put the bar higher”.
Ciabbatti and Tardozzi share their views on the past, present and future
Ciabbatti and Tardozzi next took to the stage to discuss the plans for the year, the bike, and their ‘heroes’ who they will be relying on to get the results. Speaking first, Ciabatti explained after being involved in this business for so many years they are constantly experiencing “new emotion” which he described as a “big lesson to learn”. He took the time to thank the partners and sponsors of the factory Ducati team and welcomed on board Seat who have joined the team.
Ciabatti full of praise for Lorenzo
Speaking about their new consignment Lorenzo he felt that the Spaniard was “experiencing this adventure with great emotion”. Talking about the former champion’s ‘first day’ in the factory, he described how they used it to “take advantage and show him the company and the plans”. He also described how there was “an incredible welcome” from the staff and everyone involved and said that he is “sure Jorge has immediately understood how conscious the racing is in the DNA of the company.”
He found Lorenzo to be “very motivated” and that he is aware that he has “just taken up an important challenge”; Ciabatti felt that he “has the willingness” but that he is also “very humble” and he hopes that they will be able to “work in the best possible way together with Andrea”.
Ciabatti discusses Dovizioso’s Ducati journey
Moving on to their “pillars” in Ducati’s MotoGP adventure, he reminisced about how Dovizioso started when he did back in 2013 which he described as a “very difficult year in terms of MotoGP”. He described how they “went through some hardships” however they “managed to stay very dedicated and focused” even though he revealed they found it “very difficult to keep believing”. Reflecting on the 2016 season he was happy that Dovizioso was able to “get the good results” praising him especially for Sepang and felt that they “were close to victory in many cases”.
Returning to the subject of their Sepang victory Ciabatti explained how it gave them “great, deep joy and so much energy”; he also felt that it helped their Italian rider’s confidence and know Dovizioso “knows that he can fight to get to the podium in every single race”. Ciabatti feels that Ducati now have “a very strong and very dedicated team” and he hopes to highlight this “on the track”.
Stoner to remain a part of the Ducati team in 2017
Ciabatti confirmed that again during the 2017 they will have former MotoGP champion Stoner on board again; he was last to lead them to their winning ways before their double victory in 2016, and was the last Ducati rider to win the championship for the manufacturer. The Australian will be back on track in Sepang for the test and describing him as a “unique and special talent” Ciabatti confirmed there will be “many more opportunities to see him on track”.
Tardozzi confirmed Ciabatti’s thoughts
Tardozzi reiterated Ciabatti’s feelings when he began by describing how they had finished 2016 “very happy thanks to the two victories” however he still felt that they “could have done much more and much better”, which is what their aim is to do in 2017. He mentioned how he felt they came very close in Austin and in Argentina, races where Dovizioso was brought out of contention by fellow competitors when he was set to finish on the podium. Tardozzi said, “We are aware we could have done so much better, and will do so much better in 2017.”
Talking about the official MotoGP test in Valencia, he revealed that they found that the results gave them “good indications” and he especially mentioned the “great harmony” and the “cooperation” between their “two heroes” and went on to describe that they have “an incredible teamwork spirit”, something he explained is “something you never see because this is a very high level”. He shared his opinion that “people become a little individualistic instead of managing problems with managers and partners” but confirmed that so far that that has not happened with their new riders, and that they have both worked on “improving and optimising their bikes”. He hopes that the next three test sessions will give them “the opportunity to do great in 2017”.
He described the new 2017 as “incredibly motivated” and that he is expecting “a fantastic season” from Dovizioso. He described their new pilot, Lorenzo, as “resolute and dedicated”, as he has proved his commitment by making contact every day since they met.
Tardozzi has sights sets on the championship title
Excited about 2017, and with high expectations from the former MotoGP champion even on his first year with Ducati, Tardozzi said, “Winning the world championship would be an incredible endeavour for us.” Talking about the fact they “have done it already” he spoke of how they “want to do it again as soon as possible”, and are counting on their “engineering, bikes and [their] two heroes”. He explained how both Lorenzo and Dovizioso are “showing how resolute and dedicated they are in their mental and physical training”. He said, “As far as I am concerned, 2017 will be the year of the protagonists.”
Pirro to continue testing or the factory team
Pirro joined them on stage ahead of what will be the start of his fifth year with what he described as a “very large and beautiful family”. He too reflected on the two victories “on wet and dry surfaces” in 2016 and was more optimistic now that they have Lorenzo, “a real number one” on board; he feels the two riders will give them “plenty of satisfactory results”. He feels that 2017 will be a “very important year” in which he feels they will be able to “show the fruits and all of the efforts deployed”.
As far as his contribution is concerned he hopes to “try and offer help and support”. He spoke of his awareness that there are “plenty of thing to learn”, and he mentioned how the five championship titles Lorenzo has gained will be “encouraging and energising” for him as well. Pirro hopes to be “one of the key protagonists of this project”, he spoke of how everyone is there because “the objective is to win as often as possible”. The Italian test rider said, “We want to win and we have to speed up as much as we can.”
When discussing the new bike he felt that after the test in Valencia they are ahead of themselves compared to other years. He revealed they “tried a basic model” in Valencia, and at the next official test in Sepang they plan to focus on testing the 2017 Desmosedici. He found the base to be “quite good” and said, “Of course we keep improving, optimisation is one of the key words we like to use.” He said that the GP17 is a “fast bike”, which is something he feels they have been able to show already, and he hopes to have this confirmed over the duration of the next three tests and the first race in Qatar.
It was time for the big unveil
The stage blacked out, a short video played, and the screens parted. Emerging from the smoke the two bikes travelled forwards on the stage followed by Lorenzo and Dovizioso fully kitted out in the race-wear. They posed for a moment, Lorenzo with his arms down, and Dovizioso with his crossed, and then they proceeded to climb on to the bikes for photograph opportunities.
For obvious reasons, attention was drawn to Lorenzo who was kitted head to toe in red; a big change from the red. When he rode for Yamaha, he opted to have one red leg on his leathers which was similar to that of his former teammate’s Valentino Rossi who has sported the yellow leg for many years. Lorenzo’s number '99' has also lost its crooked angel halo on one of the digits, and now instead both digits carry devil horns. Dovizioso has hints of blue throughout his kit; on his helmet, gloves and his boots which are predominantly white Alpinestars with the accents of blue on various parts.
No winglets on the Ducati Desmosedici GP17
The most significant change on the Desmosedici GP17 is the lack of winglets that were banned midway through the 2016 season as safety concerns grew. Ducati, whose wings were most extravagant in the most peculiar shape and the biggest quantity, will now have to focus their efforts on the control of the bike with the new aerodynamics. There was an occasion during the last season with Iannone where he came into contact with Yonny Hernandez and they snapped off and later on Iannone crashed as the effects of the winglet was clearly missed.
The Ducati Desmosedici GP 17, which weighs 157kg (346.1 lbs) is a liquid cooled 90 degree V4, four stroke, evo desmodromic DOHC (with four valves per cylinder), 1000cc machine built no an aluminim alloy evo twin-spar frame. It has a power output of over 250hp and can reach speeds of over 350km/h (218 mph). A characteristic of the Desmosedici is that it has indirect electronic injection, four throttle bodies with injectors above and below the butterfly valves. The throttle will be operated by the new EVO 2 Throttle Control and Feedback system.
The Desmosedici has a Ducati Seamless Transmission DST_EVO) and D.I.D chain final drive. They will be running with Shell V-Racing Power fuel, and Shell Advance Ultra 4 lubricant. Other additions include Akrapovic exhaust system, Ohlins inverted 48mm front fork and Ohlins rear shock absorber which is adjustable for preload; it has a new factory evolution damping system. It also has Brembo brakes made up of two 340mm carbon front sics with four piston callipers on the front, and a single stainless steel rear disc with two-piston caliper.
Dovizioso reminisces on his time at Ducati and his hopes for the 2017 season
Out of the two riders, Dovizioso was the first to speak; the Italian rider from Forli has been with the manufacturer since 2013 and is about to commence his tenth season in the elite class. He first reflected on the end of the 2016 where he became one of the nine different winners of the historical season when he emerged as the winner in Sepang. He felt that the season “ended very well” and with “lots of energy and passion” which led to him winning in Sepang. He found that this result was “very encouraging” and that it will help them to “start the season in the right way”.
He spoke of how it was his 10th year in MotoGP and his fifth with Ducati and already heading into 2017 he feels it is “a special year”. He mentioned how they have had “some difficulties in the earlier years” and that it was “needed” to get back where they are now.
When discussing the bike, he briefly mentioned testing in Valencia when he first got to grips of the Desmosedici GP17, however they are waiting until Sepang where there will be “more updates” and then they will “see how competitive we are”. The Italian said, “I’m so happy to share the team with Jorge and to work together with him.” Dovizioso reflected on the fact that he had known and worked with Lorenzo since 2001, a time when he revealed they used to cry when they did not claim the victory. He described him as a “great champion” and a "winner” and felt that it is an “honour” to work with him.
Finally, Lorenzo was able to talk about becoming a Ducati rider
Lorenzo then got his first chance to speak officially as a Ducati rider. The Spaniard was under constraints up until now as although he was allowed to test with Ducati in Valencia, he was still under contract with Yamaha which prevented him from discussing anything with the media. Lorenzo looks to be settled; he is regularly seen with a big smile on his face and praising the Italian team on how welcome he has been made to feel, and how happy he is to be there.
At the reveal he spoke of how he was “more nervous now than in races” on what he described as a “special day” for him. Speaking about the “great day” prior to the presentation he mentioned how he “didn’t expect all the passion and love the people here have shown” him when referring to the fans, Ducatisti and the employees. He said that people have said, “Welcome to the family”, a feeling that he said is “something you can only feel in this team”.
Lorenzo's first words about the Ducati Desmosedici
After being with “the same bike and team for many years” he talked about how “Valencia was a big shock” but that also he found it to be a “big, major, positive change”. Revealing his thoughts on the Ducati Desmosedici he said that the “stability is incredible and the ride-ability is unparalleled” and that he found it to be “so powerful”. He feels that it is “so easy to keep control” specifically “on the straights and in the corners”; he said, “It’s an incredible surprise!”
His thoughts then turned to his intentions. He said, “When you’ve been lucky enough to be World Champion, the only thing you want is to repeat the same thing.” He hopes to have the “talent, magi, fantasy and the methods necessary to get further, constant and steady improvements” as he knows that if he and the team are “strong in general” that he thinks they will be “able to get on the podium”. Lorenzo spoke of how he is “so proud” to “now belong to this family” and he went on to thank then all, not just for his welcome the day previous at the factory, but the messages he is receiving on social media.
All of this he said has given him, “so much energy to try and make this team stronger”. The Spanish former MotoGP champion said, “As a racer and rider, I’m sure there will be incredible emotion to come.”