SportMotoGPWhy the presence of eight Ducati threatens the balance...

Why the presence of eight Ducati threatens the balance of MotoGP

That Ducati competes with eight prototypes in the MotoGP World Championship is nothing new, because it has already done so in previous seasons (from 2016 to 2018). What will change in 2022 will be the involvement and coverage of the house of Borgo Panigale in its alliances, much greater than in the past. A deployment that threatens to unbalance the queen category.

Ducati appeared in the World Championship in 2003, with Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss as a couple. In 2006 it expanded its presence to four units, with D’Antin Pramac as a client. In 2009 a fifth appeared, which was at the hands of Sete Gibernau and the Francisco Hernando Group. In 2011, with the signing of Valentino Rossi, the figure rose to six: the two officers, the two from Pramac, one from Aspar and the other from Cardion AB. In 2016 there were eight, with Pramac as a satellite structure, and Aspar and Avintia as clients.

The formula used in the distribution was very simple. Depending on the company’s budget and manufacturing capacity, the formations that invested the most and whose bond was the closest received more advanced prototypes. Those who invested less had to settle for bikes from one or even two previous seasons.

In 2018, Ducati went a step further and offered Danilo Petrucci, then a Pramac rider, a Desmosedici identical to those owned by Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. A contingent that he maintained in 2019, despite losing two units and staying at six. That year, the Bolognese brand also took on the contracts of Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia, who was making his debut in the heavy bike category, as the Australian’s partner in Pramac.

In 2020 those six Ducati remained on the grid, but those considered ‘factory’ rose to four, awarded to Dovi, Petrucci, Miller and Bagnaia . Gigi Dall’Igna recruited Johann Zarco and looked for a place for him in Avintia, assuming the mother house part of the expense that the Frenchman’s salary and mount, which was from 2019, entailed.

The season that ended last month, Bagnaia, Miller, Zarco and Jorge Martín had the last Demosedici and direct contracts with Bologna. Enea Bastianini also benefited from the latter, who, yes, had to settle for a 2019 Avintia motorcycle that improved throughout the year. Luca Marini, with a 2020 prototype, raced under contract with VR46, who paid for it.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

From 2018 to 2021, Ducati has gone from earning two million euros for each prototype from the previous year – one million if the unit was two years old – to taking over the cost of the motorcycles and the contracts of almost all the riders who they run with their material. And with this maneuver, in addition, it has served to balance economic balances that had skyrocketed. In 2017 and 2018, the salaries of Lorenzo and Dovizioso alone reached 20 million euros. This year, between Miller, Bagnaia, Zarco, Martín and Bastianini they are around three, plus another three that have been paid in bonuses linked to results. The money now is not for the riders, but is injected into the bikes and their development.

This new policy imposed by the house of Borgo Panigale has begun to bear fruit, and despite not winning the championship this year, the Desmosedici has become, according to the majority of the paddock, the most balanced and sharp tool of all the Grill. In fact, with seven wins, it is the bike that has accumulated the most in 2021, even ahead of Yamaha (six), the champion with Fabio Quartararo.

“I think the 2022 Ducati will be a dominant bike,” said Jack Miller at the end of the Jerez test in mid-November. “With the GP21 the problems of the GP20 have been solved. At the end of this season we were able to dominate. Steps forward are being taken with clear improvements”, deepened the man from Townsville, who won twice last year (Jerez and Le Mans).

Bagnaia , his neighbor, winner of four grand prix (Aragón, Misano, Algarve and Valencia), went even further: “The previous bike (GP21) was already perfect and we are improving it. This means that Ducati has done a great work, because optimizing an already fantastic bike is not easy”.

Herein lies the big difference. In the past there have already been eight Ducati in MotoGP. But they weren’t mainstream bikes, nor were they mostly factory. Politics at the time had a more business-oriented focus, but did not respond to a global interest. In 2022 there will be five ‘full factory’ bikes (Bagnaia, Miller, Martín, Zarco and Marini), in addition to three 2021 (Bastianini, Di Giannantonio and Bezzecchi), the great dominators of the last half of the course.

“The Ducati is the most competitive bike in the championship, and we all agree on that. All the riders are very fast with it,” admits Aleix Espargaró, who continues to hope that Aprilia will grow with a second pair of RS-GPs, something that It won’t happen for now. “From the point of view of romanticism, I would like each manufacturer to have four motorcycles. That was Dorna’s idea, but for one thing or another it has not happened and Ducati has kept that market share,” adds the rider from Granollers (Barcelona).

Who should be most concerned about the growth of the Italian brand is this year’s champion, Quartararo , who must defend the crown against an almighty army. “After the summer break [at Ducati] they took a big step forward. They gained a lot of confidence. In Valencia, a circuit that was not in their favor in theory, they achieved pole position and a triplet. I’m worried about next year, but Yamaha He is the one who should know what to do”, said the Frenchman after the last race.

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing

Lin Jarvis , Yamaha’s boss on the circuits, is intrigued to see how the Italian house will manage all that arsenal. “I’m curious how Ducati will take over MotoE [from 2023] and eight MotoGP bikes, because from my point of view it’s a lot of work,” the Briton told Motorsport.com .

2020 Suzuki champion Joan Mir considers eight to be a lot of bikes to contend with, not least because of its tremendous potential. “That’s only good for Ducati. Honestly, I think there are too many,” he said in a recent interview with this medium, also acknowledging that the competition can be adulterated. “If someone plays for a title with Ducati and they have eight bikes to play for, that’s outrageous. There’s always a Ducati in front and that shows the potential they have,” continues the Spaniard.

Pol Espargaró takes a position along the same lines, analyzing it based on his own interests. “It’s very negative. I’m not talking about the championship, but about myself, about my interests. The Ducati work very well, and if they are able to evolve as well as this year, that will be bad for us. Throughout the year there have been many Ducati fighting to win, and next year there are two more”, argues the Honda in a talk with who writes these lines.

“With so many Ducati on the track, it’s going to look like a one-make championship,” says Raúl Fernández, who will debut with KTM in MotoGP next year. “I think four bikes per make would be the most decent,” he explained to Motorsport.com.

More pragmatic is Iker Lecuona, a position of his that is surely influenced by the fact that the Valencian will not have to face the legion of Borgo Panigale in 2022, when making his debut, with Honda, in WorldSBK. “The only certain thing is that if Ducati puts eight bikes on the grid it is because they are the only ones who have wanted or been able to do so. Suzuki and Aprilia only have two, so if they had wanted those places, they would have been theirs. If those eight Ducati condition the championship is because the others will have allowed it”, emphasizes Lecuona.

Ramón Forcada , the technical chief of Andrea Dovizioso in the refounded WithU Yamaha RNF, also spoke about the subject.

“Yes, it is something that can condition, but of all those Ducati that will be on the grid, only one can win. In the end there will be only one champion, who can be from Ducati or from another brand. This year the Ducati have been strong and there are six, but the champion has gone with a Yamaha”, recalls Forcada.

In the same vein Alberto Puig , the boss of Honda, expressed himself in a recent interview with Motorsport.com : “You don’t have to anticipate, you have to see who wins and how much they win. Ducati has a bike that everyone says is fantastic , but he hasn’t won a World Cup since Stoner, that was a long time ago.” Fourteen years, to be exact.

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