until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Ducati makes major MotoGP team management change

by Simon Patterson
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The launch of Ducati's new motocross project for 2024 will have a major impact on its MotoGP team, with the departure of veteran Ducati Corse sporting director Paolo Ciabatti to take on a new role as general manager of the new off-road division.

Ducati will contest the Italian motocross championship next year before taking on the premier MXGP series in 2025.

Ciabatti has been one of the factory’s triumvirate management structure since 2014 to become sporting director, working closely alongside both chief engineer and Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna (a 2014 arrival from Aprilia) and long-time Ducati racer and employee Davide Tardozzi, who will remain as team manager.

Ciabatti has been a Ducati employee on and off for nearly three decades, first joining the factory in 1997 before taking control of the World Superbike project a year later.

Spending 10 years in that role, he took a brief break to head up the production bike racing series as sporting director for then-owner Infront before returning to Ducati in 2013 first as MotoGP project director and then as the overall sporting director.

One of the key figures in the firm's return to competitiveness in the premier class since then, his tenure began with the team develop its bike into a title contender again with Andrea Dovizioso as its lead rider before Ciabatti brought in now-double world champion Pecco Bagnaia and expanded Ducati's grid presence to an unheard-of eight bikes.

While it marks a sensible move to use the 66-year-old to spearhead the launch of a whole new division of Ducati's racing interests - especially given Ciabatti’s love of off-road racing - it will be a significant adjustment in how the MotoGP race team will operate next season.

He will be replaced by current marketing and sponsorship director Mauro Grassilli, who will add the role of sporting director to his title for 2024.

Grassilli will likely make his first appearance in front of the media alongside Ciabatti’s first big announcement in his new role too, when Ducati unveils its 2024 racing efforts at the Campioni in Pista event on January 21-22 at Italian ski resort Madonna di Campiglio.

Ciabatti will not fully leave the world of circuit racing behind, and will also retain responsibility for coordinating Ducati's sporting activities in the main national production racing championships in America, the UK, Japan, Australia and Italy.

The news is unlikely to significantly disrupt Ducati's plans to defend Bagnaia's MotoGP crown in 2024, given the structure it's built in previous years.

Ciabatti's role in recent years has largely been preparing the team for going racing rather than taking an active role in managing it on a day-to-day basis, and while he's likely to be most missed when it comes to negotiating new contracts for 2025 and beyond, the fact that he will remain a key part of Ducati's racing efforts means that Grassilli is likely to have a willing mentor on hand to smooth the process.

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