until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Why Rossi’s team won’t get what it wants from Ducati for 2024

by Valentin Khorounzhiy, Simon Patterson
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

A factory-spec 2024 Ducati Desmosedici being made available to VR46 for Marco Bezzecchi next year is the strong preference of both the Valentino Rossi owned team itself and, going by what he’d said earlier this year, Bezzecchi.

In a certain sense, it could also represent the path of least resistance for Ducati, in keeping a top prospect in Bezzecchi happy without having to let go of Johann Zarco – who is both a valuable current asset in MotoGP and a potential future focal point of its World Superbike programme.

If Bezzecchi needs to move to Pramac to get a 2024-spec Ducati, Zarco would make way – and he already has an offer from LCR Honda.

And having a fifth latest-spec bike would also be something that Ducati has already done in the recent past.

But that last point seems to be exactly why Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti repeatedly emphasised on Friday at Silverstone that doing it again in 2024 was a non-starter.

Ducati had originally expanded to four works-spec machines in 2020, when it needed to keep hold of Jack Miller at Pramac while having already contractually guaranteed a GP20 to his team-mate Pecco Bagnaia. That paid off big time as Miller was arguably Ducati’s best rider in 2020 and Bagnaia developed into the MotoGP juggernaut he currently is.


Then when Ducati’s presence on the grid grew from six full-time bikes to eight with the arrival of Gresini in 2022, a fifth up-to-spec Desmosedici was made available for Luca Marini’s sophomore season at VR46.

This didn’t really pay dividends. The GP22 had a messy pre-season, to the point where different engine specs were homologated across the factory, Pramac and VR46 garages, and Marini struggled badly to begin with on the unrefined package.


He did find much better form by the end of the season, but Enea Bastianini’s superb results on a GP21 at Gresini all throughout the campaign suggested the spec upgrade for VR46 hadn’t really been worth the hassle. VR46 therefore stuck with the now sorted 2022 spec Ducatis for both Marini and Bezzecchi in 2023.


But team boss Uccio Salucci says that having learned from last year, VR46 could handle getting a latest-spec machine again next season and therefore wants one for Bezzecchi – which would allow the now multiple race winner to get a 2024 bike without Ducati having to shuffle its line-up.

“We have a good team. I don’t know if we are like Pramac or not, but we are ready to manage the factory bike in our team,” Salucci told The Race at Silverstone.


“Last year, we were maybe too young and when we managed the factory bike for Marini, for sure we did some mistakes.

“But now we have one year more of experience and we are ready to manage a factory bike.

“We will see what will happen, but for sure Ducati knows our request and the [VR46] Academy knows our situation. I’m here, and I’m waiting in the middle – but I’m very tranquillo!”



Yet while Salucci has been holding out hope that Ducati may give VR46 a GP24, Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti’s stance makes it sound a logical impossibility.

Pramac, he says, is contractually guaranteed a full range of works-spec bikes – something it obviously wouldn’t turn down – and building a fifth 2024 bike (effectively a ninth and 10th bike given every rider has two) in addition to the two factory entries and the two at Pramac is “out of the question”.

“We just cannot manage it,” Ciabatti told The Race.

“We tried last year, it was really too complicated.

“We just don’t want to do it anymore because it’s slowing down the things we have to do for the factory team, so we don’t want that.”

VR46’s “different approach”


It seems likely, however, that even without Pramac’s contractual position Ducati would prefer to concentrate its other factory-spec machines there alone.

Pramac is a long-standing close partner, while VR46 – though no less effective, as evidenced by the fact it and Pramac are currently fighting tooth and nail for the top spot in the teams’ standings – has been positioned as more independent by design.

“I see that VR46 has a different approach from the other Ducati-supported teams or independent teams,” said Ciabatti.

“Normally we have the crew chief and the electronic engineer as Ducati men in a satellite team.

“Their decision [at VR46], which was maybe to try to be more independent at that time and be able to move to a different manufacturer in the future, with the self-standing structure, was to go with Matteo [Flamigni, a long-time Valentino Rossi data engineer before becoming Bezzecchi’s crew chief] and David Munoz [Rossi’s crew chief before switching to Marini] and their own electronic engineers.

“And the support from Ducati is technical coordinator, electronic coordinator and warehouse manager.

“Having said that, the integration has been perfect. Because apart from maybe the first few weeks trying to understand the Ducati working method, I think both Matteo Flamigni and David Munoz are working as well as our engineers. Very well-integrated.

“But obviously it is a kind of self-standing team under this respect.

“But results speak for themselves, they are doing a great job with Bezzecchi and with Marini. So… credit to Valentino, Uccio and their decision to create such a structure.”

If Bezzecchi moves on


From Salucci’s side, if Bezzecchi heads to Pramac to get the factory bike there – as now seems likely – it will be an understandable outcome.

“Sincerely, when we decided to do this team, to create this team, we did it to work to put our riders into factory teams, not to move to [other] satellites like us, and I don’t like this,” he said.

“But I can understand with Marco, because for sure the Pramac team is good, with factory support, with a contract directly with Ducati, blah blah blah.”

Franco Morbidelli, discarded by Yamaha, will slot into the VR46 set-up if Bezzecchi switches to Pramac. This seems an entirely desirable outcome for Ducati, with Ciabatti having admitted to MotoGP.com that there was an interest from the factory to have the three-time grand prix winner as part of the set-up.

As for the other VR46 ride, which is not yet formally confirmed for 2024, Marini is “very close to signing, more or less”, according to Salucci.

“We need to fix some things in the contract because now the MotoGP contracts are not easy, but from my side and also the side of the Academy, the management of Luca, we are very close,” he said.

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