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WSBK Q&A: Ernesto Marinelli (Ducati)

“It's just the way, I believe, you were born... Put them on the bike, in a car, a bicycle – it's just their attitude and their natural talent that makes them unique.”
For Ernesto Marinelli, a man who joined Ducati at the tail end of 1995, the 2013 World Superbike season was hard to stomach.

A new bike and a succession of injuries contributed to both of Ducati's riders finishing outside the championship top ten for the first time in World Superbike history.

However a winter of internal reorganisation has given the new 'Ducati Superbike Team' some much needed momentum for 2014. Recent testing results and the pace shown at both the Phillip Island and Aragon rounds by new riders Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano has led Marinelli to believe Ducati will be back at the front in the not too distant future.

Crash.net sat down with Marinelli - now Ducati's SBK Project Director - to speak about his career, changes at Ducati through preseason and maintaining his winning mentality...

Crash.net:
How did you initially get into racing?

Ernesto Marinelli:
I did my final work at university for Ducati simulating intake and exhaust ports. I guess they were quite pleased with the work I've done there so they hired me and then I started my career there at the end of 1995. I stayed in the department for a couple of years until 1997 when I did my first world championship. Then I moved to America in '98 until 2000 as a project manager for the AMA racing [team]. But in 2001 I worked with Ben Bostrom and the L&M team and since 2003 I was the technical director for all of the Superbike. In 2010 I became the director of the project.

Crash.net:
As an Italian engineer is working for Ducati the pinnacle of your field?

Ernesto Marinelli:
Well of course! In Italy I think there are two icons. If you are born with a bit of fuel in your blood there are only two things that matter and they are both red [laughs]: Ducati and Ferrari. I was very happy when I started working in Italy for Ducati and I think it's one of the most fantastic companies that you can work with. It really gets into your DNA so it's definitely a dream come true because when you work and enjoy your work it means you're very lucky!

Crash.net:
Did you grow up close to Bologna?

Ernesto Marinelli:
Yeah, I was born in Modena and always lived around there. Since the final year of university I've been going up and down between Modena and Bologna every day. But it's only 40 kilometres so it's manageable.

Crash.net:
You already mentioned that you are currently working as Superbike project director. What do your day-to-day responsibilities include?

Ernesto Marinelli:
Normally everything that goes through the Superbike world. So normally the technical side and the management of the project means I need to support the team and all the related activities. Like Superstock or all the major championships that involve production bikes. So a bit of A-Z of racing.

Crash.net:
There has been a lot going on behind the scenes at Ducati during the off-season. How has Gigi Dall'Igna's arrival as the new Ducati Corse general manager affected the World Superbike side of the operation?

Ernesto Marinelli:
Well I have to say that I'm really pleased at how things have been changed for this year. I think unfortunately we had many problems that were related a bit to the organisation. We've settled everything, let's say, on the right path. We used to be successful. Of course we did a big effort because we're back in the Superbikes with a structure [that] had been working for us for many years in the past. We achieved really excellent results so that was the first break, to manage how we used to do.

The arrival of Gigi [from Aprilia] helped to give a big push to all this other reorganisation. As I've said I have only positive things to say since his arrival. Things have been improving constantly but also a lot of know-how that comes from another company, another path, that he can share. Every time we go back on track we are one step ahead of where we've been at the last test and this is the positive trend that you must keep.

Crash.net:
Dall'Igna said there was a certain disconnect in communication between what went on at the racetrack and what went on at the factory in Bologna. Did you feel the same way?

Ernesto Marinelli:
I feel that this was the problem of recent things. Since 2010 – which was a particularly strange year when we had all sorts of problems – but after 2009 the communication was really well. Everything was working quite fine and it was always there [the communication]. We won the championship in 2011; it was a great year even if we weren't full factory assisted team. Since 2012 things have been growing a bit more difficult for many reasons. Obviously we were done not having the factory team but in racing there are many things that can affect the result. Unfortunately we have been not so much lucky in those years.

Crash.net:
2013 must have been a particularly difficult time for Ducati. Was it a case of everything that could go wrong did?

Ernesto Marinelli:
2013 was one of those years that fortunately is rare. Everything that could go wrong did so in every aspect. We had the injured rider, the bit of disconnection [in communication] that was created by the lack of results. Instead of positivity everything kind of fell apart. But I always thought that you can learn a lot more from the bad years than from the good ones so as soon as you switch to this mentality and try to learn from what went wrong, analysing what the weak point was, and resolve it then it will make you much more structured if you have the problem again in the future.

Crash.net:
What is Gigi like to work with?

Ernesto Marinelli:
I can only say positive things. I've been enjoying working with him and I think it's moving good. Everything is positive.

Crash.net:
You have a new rider line up for 2014. What persuaded you to go with Giugliano and Davies?

Ernesto Marinelli:
Honestly speaking, Chaz and Davide were the two riders that I loved the most. Actually I tried really hard to get them both and I was really happy when we reached an agreement on both sides to sign them. The main reason that I mainly like them is that they are young, they are really hungry for results and concentrated and they are the same height. On one side having a team with two fast riders – young and that want to succeed – is very difficult because of course your team-mate is normally your first enemy as a rider. Our job is to try and keep this competition positive and to not make it into a fight, but a constructive way to work.

Even if their style is slightly different I'm pleased to see if one technical aspect is working for one then it's working for the other. Up to now we've been able to split the work in two and organise the weekend or test to try double things. You know if we try with one and the other, you have the result to decide what did work; you can then cross [off] the things that worked. So this is another reason that makes us progress us quite quickly at the recent test.

Crash.net:
When you see Davide riding he is always very aggressive but off the bike he seems very calm. How has he adapted to his new surroundings?

Ernesto Marinelli:
I started to [get to] know Davide in 2011 when he first rode for us for Althea in the Superstock. I always liked him; he's a great guy. I know that in the past he has been accused of strange behaviour or being aggressive but actually I never see that. He's an angry guy that wants to succeed; he's really pissed with himself when things are not coming normally. But it's very easy to talk to him, have a sit down and talk about stuff. You are sure he's always giving 100 percent and he's a good person.

I think he's been growing his talent quite constantly since 2011 and this year I would have to say that he's as strong as I have seen. Mentally he's less impulsive – the bike is doing more what he wants – and his style is less on the limit than before. I saw his race in Australia and I was very pleased with how he paced the race. He wasn't stupid, he just rode on his pace, stayed there and tried to keep the pace until the last of the race. It was very smart, constant and cool behaviour. In the past he was more like 'I want to go!' and on the limit all the time. It is easy to go slower when you're older!

Crash.net:
What about Chaz...

Ernesto Marinelli:
With Chaz he's working a bit different to Davide. He is more calm and actually he never gives 110 percent until he's close to the race and he's happy with the bike. He always builds his way and it's a common thing at the last test, even if you see him slightly behind, it's just because he's thinking and he's working, and sometimes that is the problem [laughs]! But if you look at what he's done in the past he's also constant.

Crash.net:
Both riders set very fast times at the unofficial test at Jerez before Aragon. I heard Davide and Chaz mentioning the electronics had improved...

Ernesto Marinelli:
These electronics are the biggest step from last year to this year. There was no one thing as the core is pretty much the same. There is a more powerful for the ECU with the strategy a bit more detailed. The screen and the idle control is working a bit better. Of course they didn't do the comparison as they [already] started with the new electronics but when we tested at the end of last year we saw that we were all on the good step forward.

Crash.net:
You have worked with some incredible names throughout the years. Having worked alongside the likes of Bayliss, Hodgson and Checa what sets those riders apart from the rest?

Ernesto Marinelli:
Well just their names [laughs]. I mean riders are really unique. I had been working with a lot of good riders in the past, you know like [John] Kocinski and [Anthony] Gobert when I was working in America. Of course coming back with Neil [Hodgson] and Troy [Bayliss]. Riders like that have so much talent, not just how to ride the motorcycle, but their attitude on the racetrack is just unique. I have so many memories that can make people say 'oh, it's impossible', things that they've done that have been close to humanly impossible. It's just the way, I believe, you were born. Nothing's changing when you put them on the bike, in a car, a bicycle – it's just their attitude and their natural talent that makes them unique.

Crash.net:
If you had to choose one that stood out in particular...

Ernesto Marinelli:
For sure the one that I had the most great memories with was Troy. Actually I still miss him [laughs]! The bond between me and him was really nice. Still now one of the best years that I had [is when] I started working with him in America in 2000 because he was there for the first two races and Carl [Fogarty] got injured and he was called to World Superbike. I started to work with him back in 2006.

Crash.net:
I read a few years ago that Troy's single MotoGP win in Valencia in 2006 was the highlight of your career. Do you still feel that way?

Ernesto Marinelli:
I think it's still the hardest race of my life [laughs]! It was one of those unique things that doesn't happen often.

Crash.net:
I'm interested to know about your time in America with Anthony Gobert. He was known as the 'wild child' of the paddock when he raced in World Superbikes. How was it working with him?

Ernesto Marinelli:
Never easy [laughs]! But I have to admit Anthony was one of the most talented riders that I know. I think his riding style at that time was really so far ahead compared to everyone else racing there. He could have had a great career but unfortunately sometimes things don't go as planned. It was really a pity that he disappeared so quickly. But we still had the years in the AMA with Vance and Hines and there were some track records where he was faster than World Superbikes at that time that lasted for two or three years.

Crash.net:
There are going to be some major rule changes in World Superbikes for 2015. Do Ducati have an idea which direction they are going in?

Ernesto Marinelli:
What I can say is that in principle we agree on the decision that the organisers have given for the future in order to bring the cost down. It's under the eye of everybody that the sales of motorcycles are going down in Europe. Every year is more difficult to get sponsorship so the cost is always increasing and this is a great danger for the racing.

If you don't try to direct the regulations to bring the cost down you will not have teams and riders to do the races. I think that, with this kind of problem on the table, it's difficult not to agree. So to bring the bike a bit more close to the production bike, we don't see any trouble in it. Actually maybe the racing will be more close which is what the people want to see. In the end if the motorcycle is a bit less tuned but the races are good people don't really care.

If you take a Superstock race it could be really exciting. In the end the colours on the bike are the same, the riders doing the show are the same, even if the bike is a bit less tuned, ok the lap time is a bit slower. What counts is the show on track, not the numbers that come up.

Crash.net:
When you have a year like 2013 does that alter your aims for the following year? Would seeing a solid improvement this year satisfy you or is it all about winning?

Ernesto Marinelli:
I think if you do racing winning must be your target. So you cannot be satisfied until you win. Of course you try to do the best you can and with years like last year, which was a disaster, the important thing is always to learn from the problems and not just give up. I think this is a strength we have in Ducati. We're always working all day, every day without any questions in order to get back the results. As soon as we have this mentality and you keep the people motivated the result must come soon.

Crash.net:
And finally from what you have seen so far do you think Davide and Chaz will be challenging at the front very soon?

Ernesto Marinelli:
Yes.

Crash.net:
Thanks for your time Ernesto.

Ernesto Marinelli:
You're more than welcome.


Tagged as: Ducati , marinelli

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Bayliss, Marinelli, Australia WSBK 2008
Kyle Smith, Mercado and Savadori, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Kyle Smith, Mercado and Savadori, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Kyle Smith, Mercado and Savadori, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Kyle Smith, Mercado and Savadori, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Kyle Smith, Mercado and Savadori, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Kyle Smith, Mercado and Savadori, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Kyle Smith, Jerez SSTK1000 Race 2014
Kyle Smith, Mercado and Savadori, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Mercado, Jerez SSTK1000 Race 2014
Mercado, Jerez SSTK1000 Race 2014
Race start, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Jezek, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Kyle Smith, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Massei, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Mercado, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Mercado, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2014
Savadori, Jerez SSTK1000 race 2 2014

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TalentFan

April 24, 2014 9:43 PM

Marinelli being pragmatic and talking total sense with no dramatics about what if really means to cut costs and provide good racing. And if EM is saying this with his red shirt on.. it means Ducati understand it too.. perhaps demonstrated by their support of Open Class and open software. I hope Dorna have the same good sense and actually apply the same things to MotoGP as well to cut costs and remove the OTT electronics that is sterilising the racing and creating paper champions who dont have to race rivals with half a chance to get their trophy. Quite a few Crash posters could do with reading EMs words carefully too... its not all about the lap time, its about the competition, and true competition where the rider achieves without a computer program doing most if the stuff the rider talent ought to be doing. If cutting costs means more equality, more bikes on grids and a damn sight less electrickery then I'm all for it.

MotoMarc

April 24, 2014 8:25 PM

Nice Q&A by Crash with Marinelli. Ducati especially on the WSB side appears to be moving in the right direction and I think that Dall'agna has done a great job in moving Ducati forward. I liked what he did at Aprilia so I'm not surprised he's impacting Ducati in a positive way. I also agree with Marinelli about Troy as he's one of my all time favorite riders. The guy rode with passion and fire all the time it was sad to see him retire as I hoping he'd stick it out a couple more seasons.



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