Q&A: Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati Corse Sporting Director

Paolo Ciabatti Ducati

Another day, another track: Ducati race boss Paolo Ciabatti has his finger on the pulse of two-wheel competition worldwide, from MotoGP to AMA Pro Flat Track.

Paolo Ciabatti knows how to juggle responsibilities. In his current role, Ciabatti spends his days dealing with the highest levels of international prototype and production competition—the MotoGP and Superbike World Championships—and he does so with confidence and style.

I spoke with Ciabatti on Sunday afternoon at the Ricardo Tormo circuit near Valencia, Spain, minutes before the start of MotoGP’s highly anticipated grand finale. In the race, factory rider Andrea Dovizioso finished seventh and his teammate, Andrea Iannone, crashed while running fourth.

Iannone completed the 2015 season fifth overall in points—far and away his best placing in the premier class—while Dovizioso was seventh, down two spots from 2014.

Over the years, Ducati has shown remarkable improvements in its racing engines. Is it easier to run a team when you have a more reliable motorcycle?

Yes, of course. Luckily, we have been working hard on improving the quality and reliability. In racing that is so important, especially now that you have a limited number of engines.

We wanted to work with the same number of engines that we will have next year. We could use 12, but we will finish this year using eight, 10 for one rider. We took advantage of the possibility to do development more than using 12 engines.

Next year, we are going to have one more satellite team, Aspar. This is a signal that what we have been doing the last two years is paying back and the Ducati is considered a competitive package. Our agreement with all of the teams is for three years.

Chaz Davies Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Former AMA racer Chaz Davies won pole position and both World Superbike races this past July at Mazda Raceway.

In qualifying, we saw four brands—Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, and Ducati—represented in the top seven. Do you see this as a positive sign for the future of MotoGP?

Definitely it is a good sign, and I hope with the changes that will be applied next year there will be even a little bit more of an equalizer between the manufacturers.

I think Suzuki has done a great job. We will soon see the new Aprilia, and KTM just made the first shakedown of its bike a couple of weeks ago with Alex Hoffman.

It looks very promising. Hopefully the software will be common and, with less possibilities in principle to fine-tune the strategies, make the championship even closer.

We’ve seen the new Scrambler, at least by name, competing in AMA Pro Flat Track. Do you expect Ducati to continue its participation in that discipline?

Obviously, the Scrambler is very popular. In a couple of weeks at EICMA in Milan, we will also introduce some new versions inspired by what we did in America with the Lloyd Brothers.

The Lloyd Brothers are very good at what they do, very passionate, and at a certain point, we gave a little bit of help. At the moment, we do not have a firm commitment on what kind of support we will be able to give that class. As always, it comes down to budget.

Michael Lock is officially the CEO of AMA Pro Racing, and Michael knows Ducati very well. At Ducati Corse, we would like to be more active in the States in terms of racing, road racing and/or flat track. There will also be some changes in Ducati North America, so we will see.

In the past, Ducati had a strong presence in AMA Superbike. Will we see an official factory effort in MotoAmerica next year?

We like the idea that there is an organization behind road racing in the States with a clear plan but we need to be able to fund this program through the US subsidiary and sponsors. We cannot pay everything from the headquarters.

We had a lot of conversations with Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland in Austin and Indianapolis. I don’t think anything major will happen next year. Maybe 2017 is more likely that Ducati will be back with some form of Superbike racing.

Ducati MotoGP 2015 Team Presentation

From left to right: Davide Tardozzi, Paolo Ciabatti, Gigi Dall’Igna, Michele Pirro, Andrea Iannone, Claudio Domenicali, and Andrea Dovizioso pose at the 2015 MotoGP team presentation.

Aprilia has shifted its focus from World Superbike to MotoGP. Do you foresee a similar change for Ducati?

No. We decided in 2014 to go back to full direct involvement in World Superbike. Since then, we have carried on incredible development work on the Panigale to the point that it became with Chaz Davies a winning machine. In the last five rounds, he was always fighting for the podium.

This doesn’t happen just because you snap your fingers. It was a lot of work. With Gigi Dall’Igna, the flow of information between and MotoGP and Superbike has improved dramatically. Also, the method to work on development has been streamlined.

We also made organization changes within the team to have a stronger group of people. Aligi Deganello will be the crew chief for Davide Giugliano. Paolo Blasio, who was working in Aprilia and crew chief for Max Biaggi in the wildcard, will be Davide’s electronic engineer. We will also add one more engineer under Ernesto Marinelli.

We know the bike is not perfect. The Kawasakis are very difficult to beat, especially in the hands of Johnny Rea, but we proved that we can beat them. So the commitment in Superbike will be the same, if not more.

Paolo Ciabatti Ducati

Another day, another track: Ducati race boss Paolo Ciabatti has his finger on the pulse of two-wheel competition worldwide, from MotoGP to AMA Pro Flat Track.

Paolo Ciabatti knows how to juggle responsibilities. In his current role, Ciabatti spends his days dealing with the highest levels of international prototype and production competition—the MotoGP and Superbike World Championships—and he does so with confidence and style.

I spoke with Ciabatti on Sunday afternoon at the Ricardo Tormo circuit near Valencia, Spain, minutes before the start of MotoGP’s highly anticipated grand finale. In the race, factory rider Andrea Dovizioso finished seventh and his teammate, Andrea Iannone, crashed while running fourth.

Iannone completed the 2015 season fifth overall in points—far and away his best placing in the premier class—while Dovizioso was seventh, down two spots from 2014.

Over the years, Ducati has shown remarkable improvements in its racing engines. Is it easier to run a team when you have a more reliable motorcycle?

Yes, of course. Luckily, we have been working hard on improving the quality and reliability. In racing that is so important, especially now that you have a limited number of engines.

We wanted to work with the same number of engines that we will have next year. We could use 12, but we will finish this year using eight, 10 for one rider. We took advantage of the possibility to do development more than using 12 engines.

Next year, we are going to have one more satellite team, Aspar. This is a signal that what we have been doing the last two years is paying back and the Ducati is considered a competitive package. Our agreement with all of the teams is for three years.

Chaz Davies Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Former AMA racer Chaz Davies won pole position and both World Superbike races this past July at Mazda Raceway.

In qualifying, we saw four brands—Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, and Ducati—represented in the top seven. Do you see this as a positive sign for the future of MotoGP?

Definitely it is a good sign, and I hope with the changes that will be applied next year there will be even a little bit more of an equalizer between the manufacturers.

I think Suzuki has done a great job. We will soon see the new Aprilia, and KTM just made the first shakedown of its bike a couple of weeks ago with Alex Hoffman.

It looks very promising. Hopefully the software will be common and, with less possibilities in principle to fine-tune the strategies, make the championship even closer.

We’ve seen the new Scrambler, at least by name, competing in AMA Pro Flat Track. Do you expect Ducati to continue its participation in that discipline?

Obviously, the Scrambler is very popular. In a couple of weeks at EICMA in Milan, we will also introduce some new versions inspired by what we did in America with the Lloyd Brothers.

The Lloyd Brothers are very good at what they do, very passionate, and at a certain point, we gave a little bit of help. At the moment, we do not have a firm commitment on what kind of support we will be able to give that class. As always, it comes down to budget.

Michael Lock is officially the CEO of AMA Pro Racing, and Michael knows Ducati very well. At Ducati Corse, we would like to be more active in the States in terms of racing, road racing and/or flat track. There will also be some changes in Ducati North America, so we will see.

In the past, Ducati had a strong presence in AMA Superbike. Will we see an official factory effort in MotoAmerica next year?

We like the idea that there is an organization behind road racing in the States with a clear plan but we need to be able to fund this program through the US subsidiary and sponsors. We cannot pay everything from the headquarters.

We had a lot of conversations with Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland in Austin and Indianapolis. I don’t think anything major will happen next year. Maybe 2017 is more likely that Ducati will be back with some form of Superbike racing.

Ducati MotoGP 2015 Team Presentation

From left to right: Davide Tardozzi, Paolo Ciabatti, Gigi Dall’Igna, Michele Pirro, Andrea Iannone, Claudio Domenicali, and Andrea Dovizioso pose at the 2015 MotoGP team presentation.

Aprilia has shifted its focus from World Superbike to MotoGP. Do you foresee a similar change for Ducati?

No. We decided in 2014 to go back to full direct involvement in World Superbike. Since then, we have carried on incredible development work on the Panigale to the point that it became with Chaz Davies a winning machine. In the last five rounds, he was always fighting for the podium.

This doesn’t happen just because you snap your fingers. It was a lot of work. With Gigi Dall’Igna, the flow of information between and MotoGP and Superbike has improved dramatically. Also, the method to work on development has been streamlined.

We also made organization changes within the team to have a stronger group of people. Aligi Deganello will be the crew chief for Davide Giugliano. Paolo Blasio, who was working in Aprilia and crew chief for Max Biaggi in the wildcard, will be Davide’s electronic engineer. We will also add one more engineer under Ernesto Marinelli.

We know the bike is not perfect. The Kawasakis are very difficult to beat, especially in the hands of Johnny Rea, but we proved that we can beat them. So the commitment in Superbike will be the same, if not more.