Ducati: Valentino Rossi MotoGP era of team “left a lot of wounds”


Francesco Bagnaia ended a 15-year wait for Ducati in last weekend’s season finale at Valencia, as he beat Fabio Quartararo to the MotoGP title by 17 points.

It marks a hard-fought turnaround in fortunes between its first title in 2007 and 2022, with Ducati hitting its nadir in 2011/2012 when it failed to find success with MotoGP legend Rossi – with the Italian scoring just three podiums across two seasons before returning to Yamaha.

Speaking exclusively to Autosport following Bagnaia’s title win, sporting director Ciabatti – who admits midway through 2013 having returned to the company that year that he wanted to quit due to the difficulties Ducati faced – says the Rossi era of the marque left it under “extreme pressure”.

“For me personally when I came to Ducati in 2013, it was a few months after Audi had acquired the company from the previous owners Investindustrial, there was some changes,” Ciabatti began when asked about the symbolic nature of Bagnaia’s title, the world champion being a product of Rossi’s VR46 Academy.

“The main change was Filippo Presziosi decided to leave after two difficult years with great expectation on Valentino/Ducati partnership that didn’t bring the results they expected.

“This left a lot of wounds in the organisation, at many levels.

“Normally when things go right, even personal problems between people can be managed, but when they go completely wrong and you are under extreme pressure from the press, from your partners and sponsors and you don’t make the results, easily there will be some people putting the blame on somebody else. And this destroys the team and the group.

“When I came back to Ducati this was the situation a little bit, so we had to let some people go at the end of 2013.”

Valentino Rossi, Ducati

Valentino Rossi, Ducati

Photo by: Kevin Wood / LAT

“If I look back at 2013 – if I’m honest – halfway through the season I wanted to quit.

“We were going nowhere. Ducati came out of two non-successful years with Valentino, and then we had [Andrea] Dovizioso and Nicky [Hayden] and still struggling so much, the media were very negative on us saying we were going nowhere, which was true to a certain point because we had no clear technical direction that year.

“But luckily, thanks to the support of our CEO Claudio Domenicali, who I know for over 20 years, I just spoke openly to him and said ‘this is a situation where we are going nowhere, and if it keeps like this it’s going to be so negative for the image of the company’.”

Ciabatti credited bringing in engineering genius Gigi Dall’Igna from Aprilia at the end of 2013 for beginning Ducati’s turnaround.

He added: “I said we must do something and it needs to be someone who is capable of managing a technically complex project like MotoGP.

“And he [Domenicali] managed to convince Gigi to leave Aprilia and since then things went much better.

“It was also difficult because Ducati is not as big as the Japanese, so we must rely on the sponsorship and partnership.

“And at that point it was very difficult to find people who wanted to invest in Ducati because Valentino they were really ready to support in order to get the best possible coverage.

“But we didn’t [succeed], and it was also difficult to rebuild this credibility and you can only build it out of results.

“You can promise, but if you come from a background of non-success [it’s hard to convince people].

“So, it was not easy and if you look at these past 10 years to be where we are no is really a great thing.”



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