MotoGP concessions allow rivals to make mistakes Ducati can’t make

On the 10th anniversary of his arrival at the Bolognese company, the engineer has been accumulating influence, in his team and in the championship, to the point of being seen by many as the Adrian Newey of the competition.

After breaking most records last season, Ducati will face 2024 in full strength and with the extra asset of Marc Marquez, who has given up the last year of the million-dollar contract that linked him to Honda, to ride one of Dall’Igna’s bikes.

Luigi Dall’Igna spoke to just a week before the start of the Ducati presentation events, which this year will compete for its third MotoGP title, the fourth in the history of the Borgo Panigale brand.

Q. Has this been the quietest Christmas of your life?

Luigi Dall’Igna: Actually, I am a person who, when I stop working, I switch off. When I am with friends, I close the shutters and enjoy them. It has been a quiet Christmas, but so was last year.

Q. Many people compare you to Adrian Newey, the head of Red Bull’s technical department in Formula 1, because of the influence you have in MotoGP. However, with your bikes it’s not just one rider who wins, but many. Does that put you on a higher plane?

LD: That’s impossible. Newey is a legend. Just the fact that someone compares me to him is enough to satisfy me. But cars and motorbikes are two completely different universes.

Q. Next year Marc Marquez, who many consider to be the Max Verstappen of MotoGP, arrives at Ducati. Don’t you think there is a risk that people will talk less about the bike and more about Marquez?

LD. My goal is to win, and I have to try to make Ducati do it for as long as possible. That is the goal in my job. I am not egocentric in that sense. I don’t see only Ducati winning, but winning together with the rider and the team. We are a team. I have never considered whether the rider or the bike is more important. The only thing that counts is that, at the end of the season, whoever wins the most important title will be on a Ducati.

Q. And wouldn’t it be easier if riders of the same brand followed a set of established orders?

LD: This is a sport, which means we have to act in a sporting way and we can’t play dirty. This is the basis of my philosophy. To play dirty would be to limit the performance of a bike to prevent a rider from winning. Jorge Martin had all the cards to fight for the title last year, right to the end. No strange moves. That’s playing fair, playing the sport correctly.

Gigi Dall'Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Gigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager

Q. Have you taken any ideas from F1 recently?

LD: Some time ago, I loved F1. Now I like it a bit less. I follow it and I’m interested in it, because there’s a lot of technology behind it, and I’m very curious. Let’s say I don’t watch every race anymore. There are a lot of aerodynamic engineers currently working in MotoGP who come from F1. After aeronautics, F1 is the ultimate expression of aerodynamics. MotoGP still has a long way to go before it is fully understood. I think there are still aspects of aerodynamics where there is a lot of room for improvement; we still don’t know all the aspects of aerodynamics that can influence the bike.

Q. Why did Ducati sign up for the introduction of the concession system, in favour of Yamaha and Honda, when it has clearly stated its opposition?

LD: We were not against it. In fact, we were always in favour of helping them. From my point of view, whenever a manufacturer is in trouble, it is always right to give them a hand to help them grow, to help them catch up with those who are winning. I am completely against giving concessions to Aprilia and KTM. The former won two races, and the latter was on the podium in almost every grand prix in the last part of the season. I don’t understand why we have to give them an easy ride.

Q. But the agreement was both ways, and Ducati signed it.

LD: We accepted the concessions because we thought it was more important to help Yamaha and Honda than our dissatisfaction with the advantages Aprilia and KTM get on the rebound. If Honda decided to leave the MotoGP World Championship, it would be a problem for everyone. To help Yamaha and Honda we had to accept concessions to the others, that’s what we signed up for. The more competitive the brands are, the better MotoGP will be.

Q. Concessions can be a great help, as long as you are aware of what you have to change. Do you think Yamaha and Honda know that?

LD: The big difference is that they have the possibility to make mistakes and fix them. For example, with the engine, which they can open and modify. We don’t. Those who have the concessions can go back with the engine if they have a problem. We have to finish the championship with the engine we homologated at the start. That’s why we have to be much more conservative. It’s not just a question of testing, it’s a question of being able to take a lot more risks. They, in terms of aerodynamics, have one more upgrade than us. If we get it wrong, we have a problem.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Q. Will the GP24 change a lot from what we saw in the Valencia test?

LD: That one was at the beginning of its development. There will be modifications that we will soon see.

Q. Were you surprised by the start system that KTM implemented in 2023?

LD: Probably yes, so much so that we started to think about a system to improve our starts. At that time, the KTMs started better than us, but we reacted to eliminate that disadvantage.

Q. Which brand do you see as the biggest threat in 2024?

LD: All the brands will try to correct what happened last year. I expect them to step up in 2024. I can’t give a name at this stage. But surely, between the concessions and the level that some of them showed in the final stretch of 2023, we will have it more complicated.

Q. What factors made you stay at Ducati and not accept the challenge Honda offered you?

LD: It has cost us a lot to get here. We didn’t win the world championship from one year to the next. It would have been completely stupid to give up on a situation as positive on a technical level as the one that surrounds me now at Ducati. The team I have around me is wonderful, both from a technical and human point of view. At Ducati it’s great. It’s a place where you can talk, discuss. It’s not easy to give up this sweet thing.

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