Ducati claims Valentino Rossi’s failure at the team led to Ducati’s resurgence

Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati’s sporting director, says the torrid 2011-12 years with Valentino Rossi sparked massive changes at the factory.


Ducati claims Valentino Rossi’s failure at the team led to Ducati’s resurgence

Valentino Rossi at Ducati (via wallpapers.net)

Valentino Rossi bid adieu to his Yamaha M1 at the end of 2010 and decided to join Ducati in 2011. The News appeared to be a blessing for everyone in Italy – An Italian Champion riding an Italian bike; the pairing seemed destined for Greatness. Remember, Rossi was at the height of his powers in 2010, having won nine World Championships and only losing out on the 2010 Title (to Jorge Lorenzo) because of a horror injury. Everyone expected the pairing to produce marvelous results, but the eventual seasons that followed were extremely anti-climactic.

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Rossi only managed three podiums in his two years at the Italian garage and failed to register a Grand Prix Victory. Ducati’s sporting director, Paolo Ciabatti, recounts what happened at the factory in 2012 (Rossi’s second year) [as reported by crash.net]. “Then halfway through 2012 two things happened – Audi bought Ducati and they wanted changes in the racing department.” Ducati’s woes were on full display while Rossi was on the team, and thus, the management decided that it was time for huge changes in the factory.

Ciabatti tells us the timeline of Ducati’s eventual resurgence following 2012. “Basically, we were 40 seconds from the winner. A few times in the first season I said ‘why did I do it?’” ( Ciabatti talks about 2013 – his first season as Sporting Director). In 2014, the engineer who would overturn Ducati’s fortunes was set to arrive. Ciabatti remembered, “Luckily we managed, thanks to our CEO Claudio Domenicali, to convince Gigi Dall’Igna to consider Ducati and to accept the challenge,”

Ciabatti talks about how 2015 was the turning point as the 2015 Ducati bike was developed under Gigi Dall’Igna’s leadership from the start, and a new engine was being developed at the factory (the famous V4). The Ducati man comically remarks how they almost won the 2015 season opener, “This bike, the GP15, was fantastic. We almost won the first grand prix if it was not for Valentino!” The bike continued to develop as Andrea Dovizioso finished runners-up behind Marc Marquez three years in a row (2017, 2018, 2019). Ducati finally clinched the World Title with Pecco Bagnaia in 2022 and has utterly dominated the 2023 season. The Italian partnership did hold some fruit for Ducati at long last.

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Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha comeback after the Dismal Ducati years

Rossi made the famous gamble to ride with Ducati because of Yamaha favoring the young bull – Jorge Lorenzo ahead of the veteran Italian. Ducati had won the title only once with the tenacious Casey Stoner. Rossi’s gamble didn’t pay off, and the 9-time World Champion was in dire need of a helping hand at the end of 2012.

Valentino Rossi at Assen 2013 (via ESPN)
Valentino Rossi at Assen 2013 (via ESPN)

The pundits at the time and multiple journalists were convinced that Rossi would retire at the end of 2012. He had been competing in the Premiere class for 12 years. Little did they know that the Italian would race nine more seasons in Moto GP. Yamaha decided to provide The Doctor with a helping hand at the start of 2013, but it came with a sting. Rossi was offered a number 2 role at Yamaha behind Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi decided to return to his beloved M1.

Many among the paddock and his own family counted the Italian out for a race win in Moto GP. At the time, no rider had gone win-less for two years and won a Grand Prix. Graziano Rossi, Valentino’s dad, commented how his son would require at least two seasons to recover his riding style to suit his M1 after the dismal Ducati years.

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Valentino Rossi finished P2 in the opening round of 2013, narrowly missing out on victory. Rossi returned to his winning ways in just seven races at Assen and finished P4 in the rider standings. This marked a stunning return to form, a feat yet unmanaged by any other rider in MotoGP.

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