Gigi Dall’Igna has a new Panigale V4R under his command in 2019, as he and Ducati Corse attempt to break the domination of four-time champions Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki in the first year with the new desmo weapon.
At Jerez for the final tests before the off season starts, and with Alvaro Bautista making a strong arrival in the WorldSBK paddock, Dall’Igna gave his thoughts on what now and what next for one time WorldSBK emperors Ducati.
BSN: How close is the bike you have here to the one you will have when the season starts in Australia at the end of February?
GD: It is difficult to give you this number. But we are quite happy about the first day of the Jerez test, and for sure we have a lot of things to test to be ready for the first race. The project is completely new and is honestly quite young. There are some issues to solve and there are some spaces to improve in some areas. If I can give a number it is maybe 80%.
We heard that in the development programme you were either testing regularly, many times, or that you were not testing like you would imagine with the real V4R Superbike version. What is the reality of that development?
The reality is that we have improved the bike quite a lot with the test riders, like Zanetti and Pirro. Both of them tested the bike during this year. Now it is time to change from the test riders to the official riders, and we just started.
Has the feedback, from Chaz in particular, been similar to what Zanetti has said?
Honestly, yes. We have some small problems to solve and all the riders complain about this problem when they tested the bike, so we have some clear idea where we have to improve the bike. In some other points it is the rider. Chaz asked for something different but this is normal. But 80% of the small problems that we have, everybody complains about. We have a clear idea about the problems to solve.
And when Laverty and Rinaldi get on the bike, how important will that be just for getting more data?
The problem at the moment is that we do not have a lot of bikes. The production has not started to it takes time to produce the parts. Laverty, because the team took the decision to come with us in a short time, it takes time to prepare everything.
You can still make some reasonably big changes because you have not made the homologation for WorldSBK use yet? You still have freedom?
We do not have any freedom now because the production has to start in January and so everything is more or less defined. Some small changes but nothing in particular, nothing big.
What about clutches, are you going to run a wet or dry clutch?
We are running here with dry clutches so I suppose that we have to use this.
Why the switch from V-twin to V-four? Was it because of the MotoGP experience or to be more competitive in WorldSBK?
This is the best possible bike for the Superbike. Honestly, with these rules and I am happy about this change. The Ducati engine I think… the vee-four, honestly, is the Ducati engine. Because of the desmodromics, because of some things. I am a race engineer so I speak only for racing and not for production.
Would you have liked to see a perimeter frame on the V4, not the Panigale’s separate frame sections? Or is that not a decision you can make?
I am quite happy about this solution. At the moment I did not see any real problems with the development tests we did and I am confident we will not have any problems with this configuration.
Do you think the 1200cc V-twin concept, no matter who makes one, is just not enough in WorldSBK now?
It is really difficult to be competitive with a vee-twin at this moment in Superbike. For anybody.
So the results with the V-twin at the end where the maximum that could be achieved against the opposition?
Honestly the Panigale was in the final stage of development. So it was not possible to improve more. I think that this is the maximum that we can achieve.
In an ideal world would you have liked to make the V4 one year earlier for Superbike?
Yes, could be, but we cannot change the past.
What about the pressure that Ducati are under now because there is an expectation that with this new bike it should suddenly win races from the start of the year?
I think we have this pressure with every project that we do. It is not a real problem because Ducati has to win. Honestly, the pressure that everybody has put on me is nothing in comparison with the pressure that I put on myself! It is not a problem.
In 2019 we will see a factory BMW again, a factory Honda again. Good for the championship even if it makes life more difficult for you?
For sure and it is important to have a lot of manufacturers, even of the Superbike now became a team championship and not a manufacturer championship. It is important that some manufacturers give a good support to the teams.
There is a lot of talk about the rev that the new Panigale V4 can make and it looks like some other manufacturers would like to see a lot of revs taken away. Would that be a problem for Ducati?
I do not think it is fair to start to think about reducing the RPM before the start of the season. Kawasaki won the last four or five championships – I do not remember because it is too much! After we win four championships in a row maybe it could be time to think about reducing the rpm, not now!
Are you testing with the your peak RPM plus 3%, as the rulebook says now, in the expectation that you will be allowed to run with this calculation and no interference from the organisers?
Now with the V4, is World Endurance going to be a plan for the future?
It is something that could be important and we will do the things step-by-step. First we are working on the Superbike but the future could also be Endurance.
You have a customer team now with GoEleven. In the past you had many more and this was an income stream for Ducati Corse. This must be in your thoughts, to have six or seven Ducatis, so you can re-invest inside Superbike?
Go Eleven and Barni, it is a private team. Honestly speaking, it is like it is in MotoGP. We would like to have more bikes. It is not only for the income that we can have but also in the information you can achieve with different riders and different teams. It is important to develop, to speed-up the development process of the bikes.
How did you see Alvaro’s performance on day one at the tests? Everybody thinks it was very strong?
We know that Alvaro is a strong rider. I know him very well because I won with his a 125GP championship, in 2006. He is a good rider and this is the reality.
We know you have also worked well in the past with Eugene Laverty. Will he be useful for you in development?
Eugene is more than a rider he is a friend, for me. So I am really happy to see him on the Ducati. He has a contract with the team, not Ducati Corse. The level of support for GoEleven is under definition; it is not a clear situation. For sure they will use a Ducati bike but the negotiation between how we can do it and what the team has to do is in progress.
Is the ideal situation that there would be a Ducati engineer looking after that team?
It is quite late to have an engineer on that team, so this is the main problem that I have at the moment. I would like to try to solve that, but it is not easy.
In general it seems like Ducati is taking WorldSBK more seriously than before. Has there been a real change inside Ducati Corse to say, OK we need to allocate a bigger percentage of the entire budget into Superbike - if we want to win?
Honestly, I think Ducati is the only manufacturer that supports both championships. MotoGP for sure, but also Superbike. Nobody else was doing it like Ducati in the past. For sure this bike is completely new and we have to put some more effort because when the bike is new you have to follow the evolution at the beginning. It costs more than in the normal evolution when the bike is ready. So this why we go in this direction. A lot of people work for both the championships.
Does it make it easier that you have a WorldSBK engine derived from MotoGP now?
Yes, it is for sure easier.
Can you win the WorldSBK championship this first year?
There is only one - we win. It is really difficult if we can or not, but if we will win or not, but for sure we would like to fight for the championship.
Do you have more chance to win the title in 2019 than you did this year?
I think so.
Can you win both MotoGP and WorldSBK?
This is the ideal solution!
How much support will the BSB teams get?
BSB is still one of the most important championships. We have a good rider there, a good team there, and we would like to do well.
Gigi, thank you.
No, no, thank you…