How To Improve Racing, Cut Costs

Henny Ray Abrams | January 14, 2009
MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, ITALY, JAN 14: MotoGP and motorcycling, like the rest of the world, are in a state of economic crisis, but Ducati Corse CEO Claudio Domenicali believes that with proper management both will not only survive, but thrive.

Domenicali addressed the economic crisis during his meeting with the media at the Ducati team intro in Madonna di Campiglio, high in the Italian Dolomites. The racing boss, who also runs product development for Ducati, sees clear value in racing and the partnerships the company has formed. And any rules changes have to be made in the best interest of all stakeholders if the series is to thrive.

“It is a sport and a show, which has many fans round the world and many fans love it, so it has to find a new dimension,” Domenicali said. “This is what the players who are involved are trying to do. Bike racing is a clean sport. This is a sport in which we do not speak about doping, financial scandals and espionage. This sport has some values. The man, despite all the discussions that are taking place, still makes the difference at the end.

“Consider for example how similar bikes are ridden by different riders. The riders have to integrate themselves in teams and if they have trust in themselves then they can make a huge difference and this is a topic that motorcycle fans like.

“ It is a difficult time but on the other hand we can present ourselves with a solid relationship with Marlboro and Shell. We have renewed some important agreements even in this difficult moment.”

He agrees that “Clearly some changes must be made and we all have to play our part. The manufacturers are working on this with the organizer. This is not a problem that only MotoGP has to tackle. But it can be overcome easier if we can highlight the positive characteristics of the sport we all love.”

Among the changes being considered is shortening the practice and qualifying sessions, “just by a small amount, but will remain the same number of events, so we have the Friday, the Saturday, and the Sunday. I think that because of what we have in front, some of us will have to give up a little bit. In this case, the guy who will be at the racetrack will have to give up just a little bit of laps, of the rider passing in front of him, but I don’t think this will be a big issue.”

A bigger issue is electronics, which he says should be limited. “In fact, we’re discussing a series of things that aren’t only on the bikes, so that they won’t expand—always to in some way limit the teams’ costs. On the other hand, everything that in one way or another is connected to increasing the competence of these manufacturers for the production bikes and that has an effect on safety—traction control, for example—are things that are quite difficult to think about removing from the championship, because in bikes, we have safety in this sport as a value to transmit. Motorcycling today in its maximum expression—the MotoGP championship—has important connections to safety: all of the work that’s been done on the circuits, the protective apparel, and also the evolution of the motorcycle controls gives us a championship that offers values from that point of view, and also a safer spectacle. I would be quite worried to remove anything that made the bikes more dangerous.”

So how will Ducati save money?

“The goal is very clear,” he said. “We have a state of recession so we must have very strict costs control to cut down costs it is easier to find the solution if we can all find an agreement together as manufacturers. We are close to an agreement on increasing the life of the engine. If one answer is to go to 17,000 rpm or changing to other components then this will be left likely to decisions taken by each manufacturer. The important thing is we guarantee the duration of the engine is going to be much longer. Right now it is free and you can change an engine when you want. This solution should allow us to cut down on the costs for the engine.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.