The genius of Ducati wins everything. Interview with Gigi Dall'Igna
“Bagnaia and Bastianini are a pleasant problem. They are free, but they must respect each other”. The general director of Ducati Corse speaks
Gigi Dall'Igna has a Luciferian expression and Leonardo's intelligence. It can be evil and brilliant at the same time. The general director of Ducati Corse defines himself as an agitator of men and ideas like Enzo Ferrari, but at the same time he is also the Adrian Newey of motorcycles, a man who could even make a buggy win. If Ferrari had had a minimum of courage and imagination, it would have gone looking for him and not Fred Vasseur to run its racing department. Luckily for Ducati, the sirens of Formula 1 have not yet sounded at the Dall'Igna house ("In my life I have always looked for challenges, even important ones, and F1 could be a good challenge") and he is still here at enjoy the number 1 on the MotoGP and Superbike livery. A historic pairing that has a certain effect. “It's always nice to see your bikes with number 1 because it's the summary of last season. It had never happened to me, this is a first time and like the first times there is a bit of emotion and pride”. That number 1 on the hull is also a bit like a target. The Ducatis are in the sights. “Anyone in this paddock would like to take home the number 1 next year because it is in the nature of those who play sport in a competitive way”.
One week before the start of the World Championship which will start in Portugal next weekend, it is difficult not to point to Ducati as the big favorite again this year, even if, as Dall'Igna suggests, "racing engines are always delicate pieces". According to some, more than fearing the others, Ducati should look to itself. Dall'Igna, however, overturns the concept: “It's always useful to look at others because every now and then you learn something. The main opponents will be Aprilia and Marquez because as long as Marc stays in this championship he will always be by right one of the title contenders with any bike he has. And then Quartararo with the Yamaha”.
However, the real opponents seem to be different and play on the same team: Bagnaia and Bastianini. One is already world champion, the other has everything to become. They are refined goods, but also dangerous to handle. “I'm always positive, but in this case I'm even more so – Dall'Igna said instead – I think it's better to have two riders like this as friends, rather than having one of them as an enemy. Having them at home can only be positive because strong riders help in the development of the bike and are a stimulus for all those who ride Ducati".
Nice to have them, but not easy. “It's true there is a problem to manage, we saw it last year too, but it's a beautiful, pleasant problem, a problem that I think everyone would like to have”, Pecco and Enea are free, but up to what point? “They are free to try to win, then it is clear that they are two team mates and they must respect each other off the track and above all on the track. From them I expect extremely correct and sporty behavior without risking too much in hand-to-hand combat. Even last year when they had some tough fights, they had them fair and by a relative margin of safety. They have always respected each other. Pecco and Enea are two extremely loyal people who are a pleasure to work with and it doesn't always happen. They are two riders who can write the history of motorcycling. Bagnaia has already done it a bit because he has achieved the greatest comeback in the history of MotoGP. Bastianini from the point of view of talent and the desire to do well can take away a lot of satisfaction ".
Gigi Dall'Igna also resembles Enzo Ferrari in another respect. He prefers motorcycles to men. He prefers mechanical means to pilots. But he's not there. “I've always looked for the best riders – he replies – then sometimes, just because you're looking for the best, it can happen that you run into conflict with the rider you already have. He is part of the game and my job. I don't have to be good, but look after the interests of the team I manage." Never be good to a pilot. It's a universal rule in motorsport.
The Dall'Igna Ferrari version is certainly the one that generates ideas. “An idea generator is a person who stimulates the team to think. This is my role. The stimulation part is very important because even the most predisposed people have to be prodded to generate ideas”. Lately, however, it seems that you find them all coming from Borgo Panigale: “We were the ones who developed the most ideas and most of the solutions seen today in Moto Gp are Red Ideas if one can say so, but by now also the others have understood how important it is to be innovative”.
Today, in addition to intuition, there are algorithms and simulations. “The idea always comes from a starting point, from intuition – he explains – then there are things that are more easily reproducible and others in which the current simulation algorithms are not predictive enough to be able to evaluate the efficiency of a solution and in that case the intuition or sensitivity of the designers becomes useful. Simulations have become more and more important over the years and will become more and more in the future”.
Telling how to become Gigi Dall'Igna is difficult for him. Perhaps because Dall'Igna is born rather than made. But he gives us some advice: “Keeping it simple and staying modest is an important quality. Today in Ducati there is respect for all the people who work and contribute to the results, from the mechanics to the engineers, up to the marketing people, because they too are important in a reality like ours: without the money they can bring us, we would be forced to do less". When Dall'Igna's day isn't on the track, it doesn't seem as exciting as a Ducati that gets going. It seems like a normal day: “When I'm not on the track I'm on the computer. This is how we do all meetings now, because it is much more productive to do them this way even if there is no human contact which is important in all activities and somehow you have to recover it, I still spend almost all my time in meetings at the computer”.
Dall'Igna goes against the tide. In a world where everyone complains about the time lost in endless meetings, he has no doubts: “I don't think they are a waste of time, on the contrary they are an important aspect of my job. Honestly, I do many, a couple of times a month, even very large with many people, up to thirty, forty. Knowing what you are doing motivates people, it is important to distribute the culture among everyone and share the goals achieved. The technology and systems to be able to hold such large meetings were developed and became efficient during the lockdown. Before we tried, but today we succeed”.
This year the MotoGP changes format. Adds a sprint race to every grand prix. Half laps, fewer points, but no effect on the grid established by qualifying (unlike F1 where sprints rewrite the starting grid). “I believe that staying still in the format and staying still in general is never good – he comments – Even when things work, it is advisable to experiment, try new ways to improve the show and the attractiveness of this sport. I see sprint races well, then I don't know if doing them in all races is excessive or not, but it was right to try and look for alternatives to increase the visibility of this sport. I think doubling the races is convenient for everyone, riders, teams, sponsors and the public who will now have perhaps the most spectacular days on Saturday with qualifying and sprint races".
The other novelty of the Ducati season is related to the MotoE. This year it will be a single-make Ducati. “It is important to try to do something better that is already done well. The technology we have available does not allow us to make high-performance bikes that can run many laps. Either you make them very heavy or you make them that can only complete 7/8 laps. However, technology evolves and one day it will allow us to make real Ducatis also electric and this from MotoE is the best step we could take to put a foot in that technology with the spirit of the House, that is, starting from racing and creating emotions". Because one thing must be kept in mind. “A Ducati without emotions is not a Ducati”. Dall'Igna knows it well. And it's here to give us more.