until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Ducati may have short-term fix for its embarrassment of riches

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

When rookie MotoGP racer and reigning Moto2 world champion Enea Bastianini took an impressive maiden premier-class podium at his home track in Misano a few weeks ago, it surprised more than a few fans.

But while it might not have come as a huge shock to the sage talent spotters at Ducati, it highlighted the issue that the Italian factory has awaiting it in the near future as it works out where best to fit all its riders.

There are worse problems for a manufacturer to have than a surplus of talent; just ask KTM, which has fought its own internal battles of late to try and ensure that the cream of its crop rises to the top, albeit with a few casualties like rookie MotoGP (Ducati) race winner Jorge Martin along the way.

And in theory, it should be less of an issue for Ducati than it is for its Austrian rivals, given that it’s got exactly double the number of machines on the grid next year as the Gresini squad moves from Aprilia and becomes Desmodedicis number seven and eight. But right now, the problem at Ducati is less to do with the number of spaces it has and more to do with the support it can give each of those bikes.

Enea Bastianini Avintia Ducati Misano MotoGP

What makes Bastianini’s podium at Misano even more impressive than the way he hunted down and dispatched factory Ducati rider Jack Miller before even pondering a chase after race winner and title contender Pecco Bagnaia before deferring to common sense and backing off to bring it home safely was the spec of machinery he did it on.

One of only two Ducati riders (alongside quasi-team-mate Luca Marini) to field older machinery, Bastianini on a bike that’s not one but two years old thanks to both Ducati’s resources and the COVID pandemic limiting development.

Despite this, Bastianini is now on a run of three successive top-six finishes – but he’s still slated not to start 2022 on factory-spec bikes, but instead to inherit the factory team’s current machinery and remain a year out of sync.

That’s potentially a problem for Ducati, although it’s one that it told The Race after Misano it can’t quite fix. Marini, who has had a rather lacklustre debut season, will get new 2022 machines, but his to-be-announced team-mate Marco Bezzecchi and both Bastianini and his new team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio will not – something Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti says simply can’t be avoided.

“Honestly, it’s not possible,” admitted the veteran team boss when asked about the chance of adding another factory bike to the order books for Bastianini.

“For us to make more than five 2022 bikes is almost impossible. Not only for cost reasons but for organisational and logistical reasons. It’s all new parts, and sometimes the new parts might have some reliability problems. It’s just not possible.”

However, that could change in the coming weeks, with speculation already filtering out of the paddock that Ducati will do whatever is possible to find a way to build (and, more importantly, support) another GP22 for Bastianini – possibly because it knows that without factory support, it’s limiting its chances of keeping a hot young Italian talent on the staff in the future.

Francesco Bagnaia Enea Bastianini Ducati MotoGP

That’s where Ducati’s stacked talent further up the pecking order comes into play though – because it’s not entirely clear that there is a place elsewhere for him in one of Ducati’s other teams even beyond the current cycle of MotoGP contracts ends next season.

It’s hard to imagine that Pecco Bagnaia, for example, is going anywhere. The young Italian’s star potential has emerged this year, as he’s racked up race wins and become the only person to take the title fight to Fabio Quartararo, albeit maybe a little too late to change the outcome.

And it would be a surprise if there’s anyone else but Martin on the other side of the factory garage for him in 2023. Already making his mark on the series by winning in his first season – something that took Bagnaia two and a half years, let’s not forget – the Spaniard very publicly aligned his future with Ducati when he ditched KTM’s talent structure for the Pramac Racing team this year.

But while he might be destined for the factory team, it’s entirely possible that Ducati won’t feel ready to cut adrift the current occupant of that seat, Jack Miller. Showing in recent weeks how much of a team player he is as he’s supported Bagnaia’s title efforts, and still Ducati’s leader in development, he can continue to play that role back in the Pramac squad.

Enea Bastianini Jack Miller Ducati MotoGP

With Valentino Rossi’s new team essentially a closed door to anyone but members of his VR46 Academy, that potentially leaves just one seat open for Bastianini should the factory team wish to promote him, replacing Johann Zarco at Pramac. The Frenchman will be 33 at the start of the 2023 season – ancient in MotoGP terms – and there are already whispers that perhaps a factory Ducati WSB seat would be the perfect fit for him at that point.

But there’ll also be other manufacturers looking on with interest at what Bastianini is up to in 2022 – and that could put the pressure on Ducati to ensure that he doesn’t feel like he’s at a mechanical disadvantage to the likes of Marini.

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