Unwrapped in fine style from a glamorous team launch in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, there was plenty of fighting talk from Ducati as they aim to defend their hard-earned crown
It was a spectacular 2023 season launch for Ducati in the Italian Dolomites, as they pulled the covers off their challengers for the new year of racing, with reigning World Champion Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) sporting the #1. There was plenty said at the launch, and we caught up with some of the key figures in Ducati’s WorldSBK project, as well as both riders, and pulled out the best bits.
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “It’s like a personal challenge… I’m so proud to have this number”
Talking about his decision behind the #1, Bautista wasn’t 100% convinced at first: “I chose the #1 for 2023 because it’s like a personal challenge. When you have the #1 on the bike, the only result is to win. It’s a good motivation. I feel quite strong to defend the #1 on the bike and, in the end, my baby and I arrived at the same decision. We chose the #1 for this season. I’m so proud to have this number on my bike. It’s true that my memories, when I watched WorldSBK in the past, was to see Ducati with the #1. My first memory watching WorldSBK is the Ducati with the #1 so I’m so proud so have this number and I think it’s not more pressure, but more motivation. When you win, you need more motivation to keep fighting, to keep working and to never say relax and say, ‘I won and I can be quiet’. I think this is an extra motivation to have more pressure and try to defend the Championship with the #1.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “I saw that what I was doing wasn’t enough to try and fight for Championships”
With sights on a title challenge, Michael Ruben Rinaldi has the ambition to return to winning ways: “I saw that what I was doing wasn’t enough to try and fight for Championships, so I need to analyse my races, my Championship and make a change in my preparation. Now I’m doing different preparations for the new season. This is the biggest change for me. I think I will do more but, as we can see, the level of WorldSBK now is unbelievable so everybody is pushing a lot. I think I’ll be part of this fight and try my best to get it.”
Claudio Domenicali (CEO of Ducati Motor Holding): “When we lifted the cover off the bike, it’s a piece of history”
Ducati’s CEO Claudio Domenicali aims for more of the same, but highlighted the emotion of the team launch: “It’s very, very emotional. Actually, this is nothing you can buy, it’s all about hard work. We are super proud and we’re happy about doing it in Madonna di Campiglio which, actually, we present these two fantastic teams in a place that’s just wonderful. I’ve been working in the company for more than 30 years so I’ve grown up in the ‘Foggy era’ with the #1 on the bike. The bike is in the museum! I think that, today, when we lifted the cover off the bike, it’s a piece of history. The bike will be in the museum when it finishes racing. I think we can expect a lot of good racing and more of the same, I hope! We will always try to win and the Championship is very long, so we depend a lot on how much Alvaro and Michael can keep training properly, can be focused mentally… motorbike racing is a sport. A lot about technology but also, at least the same amount or even more, about rider confidence and focus.”
Paolo Ciabatti (Ducati Corse Sporting Director): “Toprak and Jonny will be Alvaro’s main rivals, Michael can make that little step!”
Paolo Ciabatti was delighted to have the #1 back, and has high hopes for 2023: “Having the #1 back on a Ducati in WorldSBK, and also in MotoGP™, is just a great feeling. The challenge is to keep the #1 on the fairing for next year. We have a new model homologated for this season. It’s an evolution of the V4 R which has been very competitive. On the other side, I think Alvaro is very confident and in full form. He knows very well that the usual suspects, Toprak and Jonny, will be his main rivals but we also have good expectations that Michael can make that little step. Honestly, there is always some pressure especially if you are the reigning World Champion and you’re coming into the next season. I see Alvaro in a way that’s very self-confident, very relaxed. I think he’s coming at a time in his career, he’s 38, but probably his best moment. He’s happy at home with the family and his daughters. I think he’s in a very positive mode and he will, for sure, feel some pressure, but I don’t see him really worried about what is expected of him. He’s ready to fight again as he did in 2022 and keep #1 on the fairing for 2023.”
Stefano Cecconi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati. Team Principal): “A few revolutions, not a revolution”
Team principal Stefano Cecconi detailed some of the changes on the new Ducati Panigale V4 R, and claimed it’s all about small changes, not a radical overhaul: “There are a few evolutions on the bike. It’s not a revolution, it’s not a completely new model. Still, Ducati worked a lot on the engine, on the torque of the engine. The exhaust is the most visible one but there are a few underneath the covers. We worked a lot to improve the acceleration, the first phase of acceleration, to get more traction and more torque in that area. A little bit more turning, the areas where we had to improve the most even if we are starting from a very good level. In the end, we are the reference now.”
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