Q&A: Vittoriano Guareschi (Ducati team manager)
23 February 2011
Vittoriano Guareschi holds a unique position in the MotoGP paddock, being both test rider and team manager for the Ducati Marlboro Team.
The transition from rider to team manager came at the end of 2009, when Livio Suppo moved to Honda, and Guareschi now has the pleasure - and pressure - of overseeing MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi's first season on a Desmosedici.
Giving the seven time MotoGP champion the bike he wants has been made harder by the Italian's shoulder surgery, and then sickness today, during day two of the second Sepang test.
But Ducati and Guareschi remain confident...
Vitto, first of all tell us about your riding career before becoming team manager?
I began racing in the 125cc Italian Championship in 1988. Many years ago! After ten years in Italian Championship, 125cc and 600, I started in Supersport and rode in the world championship in '97 and '98, when I finished second in the championship twice and won four times.
I rode in World Superbike in '99 and 2000 before coming back to Supersport in 2001, which is when I started my career with the Ducati factory, racing the 748.
Then in 2002 the MotoGP project began. Filippo [Preziosi] and many others asked me if I wanted to start testing the MotoGP bike. I took this opportunity so that I could stay close to Ducati, because it is such an important historical factory in Italy.
So I started this MotoGP testing job in 2002 and I haven't finished, because I still test now. Next month I will test the bike again.
What do you remember most about your time as a Ducati MotoGP test rider?
The most important moment was the first time that I rode the MotoGP bike. In June 2002.
Were you the very first person to ride the Desmosedici?
Yes! The first.
What did you think after the first lap on the bike?
I don't know if it was some luck or just because we have very, very good engineering, but the bike was immediately incredible. Very, very good. A lot of torque and power. It was a monster!
After that first test the bike developed a lot, engine firing order, many things. It was a really interesting time.
Then, at the group IRTA test 'time attack' session at Barcelona, when Loris [Capirossi] set the best lap time, I thought 'whoa, I did a good job!'
And now you're a team manager. What did you think when Ducati asked you to step up to management of the MotoGP team? Not many test riders get that kind of chance...
Yeah exactly. It was kind of like 2002, because it made me feel like I had done a good job.
And it was natural for me, because the Ducati pit box is like my home. Everyone is my friend. Working in the garage is easier for me, dealing with big management is more challenging. I like to be with the riders and mechanics. This is my natural habitat.
80-90 percent of my time is spent in the pit box. This is very good. I also think it is important for me to continue to ride the bike, because it is more easy for me to stay close with the riders, mechanics and engineers.
I understand what the rider means when he returns to the box and speaks to his chief mechanic. This is a big advantage I think. I want to continue to ride the bike so that I can stay close to the rider's head.
You were testing the bike before these Sepang tests, what improvements were you able to find?
We make a new anti-wheelie strategy. Two different set-ups. A different fairing. We worked a lot. Normally the test team will try ten different things, but maybe only two of them will make it to the race team.
The test team job is important because the rider doesn't lose time [testing developments that don't improve the bike].
How much has the bike changed since Valentino Rossi first rode it at Valencia?
After Valencia we made a different seat, different handlebars and footpegs, because the riding position is important. The work is not finished, but the position is now comfortable for Valentino.
We also produced one swingarm, one different frame, one different triple clamp - but at this moment he hasn't tried them. He only moves his position and the balance of the bike, but no other changes.
Just small changes?
Yes small changes. Only normal setup changes.
Looking forward, and given Valentino's shoulder and sickness today, what do you think is possible for the start of the season?
I think everything is possible. Valentino's shoulder is improving every day. The muscle and feeling is better. I think for the first race it is possible for Valentino to be 80-85% fit - and even with Valentino at 80% everything is possible.