In his first public appearance since being announced as a 2017 Ducati MotoGP rider, reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo admitted Gigi Dall'Igna had been a 'big influence' on his decision, describing the Ducati Corse general manager as 'a genius'.

The pair previously worked together early in Lorenzo's grand prix career, culminating in a pair of 250cc titles before the Spaniard moved to the premier-class with Yamaha - where he has remained ever since, winning 41 races and three world titles.

Dall'Igna meanwhile joined Ducati from Aprilia in 2014, playing a key role in reviving the factory's fortunes to the point where it has been able to attract a rider of Lorenzo's calibre once again.

"With Gigi I always have a good relationship," Lorenzo said. "From the time with Derbi in 2004 to 2007 and my second world title. For me Gigi has always been a genius as an engineer, always very successful in whatever category or factory he has been with.

"Now we have a new challenge, that is to try to win in MotoGP. The evolution of the [Ducati] every year has been always forwards and upwards. So [Gigi] for sure had a big, big influence on my decision. It's a risky decision, but a calculate risk."

Speaking in the Jerez paddock on Thursday evening, Dall'Igna was asked about Lorenzo's comments.

"First of all I would like to say thank you to Jorge for his words, but for sure I don't think I'm a genius," he replied. "I'm convinced that I'm able to help all the people that work with me to give their best. Probably I'm surrounded by geniuses because I'm convinced all the Ducati people have a very, very high level.

"So I think that the job that we did in the last two-three years is not only me but because we are a real group that works together, with a target to achieve, and this is the main reason why we are able to evolve the bike in the right direction."

Dall'Igna also repaid Lorenzo's compliment, saying the Spanish rider is a 'real genius'.

"Jorge is for sure one of the best riders in the world. He has some special characteristics and I know very well these characteristics because I worked with him for a long time.

"I think that the bike at the moment can give what Jorge needs to be fast on the race track and for sure we will have to adapt a little bit the bike for his riding style, but also I'm sure that he can ride the bike in the proper way. Because he is a real genius."

Pressed on how he will try and make the Ducati best suited to the Spaniard, Dall'Igna added:

"At the moment I think that our bike is quite good for him. I mean I think that we have in mind some evolution to do during this season for next year. And I think that as soon as possible, after the Valencia race, we will provide to him the 2017 bike. That we are working on now in Ducati.

"I'm quite convinced that we don't have to introduce too many evolutions just for Jorge."

Lorenzo had also hinted that, while he never wanted preferential status at Yamaha, he may have a greater influence on development at Ducati: "Probably more power to create the bike I want to ride, or they will hear me with more focus".

But Dall'Igna made clear his style is to treat both factory riders the same - until one does consistently better than the other.

"In all my career, I don't want to give the opportunities to only one rider to win the championship. For me I have to think, above all at the beginning of the season, [to give] the best possible material to both of my riders," he declared.

"For sure after, if one of them is able to reach the best results in comparison with the other, I have to help him to reach the target. But for sure at the beginning and first part of the season I don't want to give any best things to some of our riders."

And will Lorenzo's arrival put Ducati under even more intense pressure to perform?

"I don't think so. I have not a special pressure because Jorge works with us. I'm really happy with that. It's simple: I don't want any excuse. I have a target to achieve and I don't want any excuse not to achieve this target.

"Sometimes I read in the newspaper the journalist say that Ducati cannot win the race because of the riders. I don't think so, but anyway I don't want this excuse. I'm here to win the championship. It's simple."

Casey Stoner claimed Ducati's only world title in 2007, and its most recent race win in 2010.

Present riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone have been in podium contention at all three rounds so far this season, although they have only stood on the rostrum once each due to incidents and accidents.

By Peter McLaren

 

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