As an engineer, would it be a dream for Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna to work with MotoGP champion Marc Marquez?

The wily Italian may have dodged a 'yes/no' answer, but in doing so made crystal clear his own level of ambition to win the premier-class title and therefore indicated he would jump at the chance.

Dall’Igna oversaw world championship victories in the smaller grand prix classes, plus World Superbike, while leading the technical department at Piaggio brands Derbi and Aprilia. But a 'MotoGP-sized' space still remains on his otherwise illustrious CV.

Signed by a struggling Ducati factory in 2014, the Dall’Igna versions of the Desmosedici have since taken 18 race wins and finished title runner-up to Marquez and Honda for the past three seasons with Andrea Dovizioso.

"You know, I have only one target in my life," Dall’Igna replied to the Marquez question. "I won championships in 125, in 250, in Superbike. But we didn’t win any championship in MotoGP.

"So this is my clear target; win the championship in MotoGP. So I think that I answered the question…"

The 53-year-old is no stranger to big rider signings, having clinched the signature of triple MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo from Yamaha to Ducati in 2017.

But it would be a major shock if Dall’Igna could tempt Marquez away from Honda during the current round of 2021 contract talks, especially following the MotoGP opportunity HRC has given to younger brother Alex.

Nonetheless, Dall’Igna's clear MotoGP title ambitions mean that, if he can't get Marc Marquez, he needs a rider that - in partnership with the Desmosedici – he thinks can beat him.

Paddock gossip had placed Maverick Vinales as top of the rumoured Ducati target list for 2021.

However, the Spaniard has now removed himself from the equation by becoming the first factory MotoGP signing for next season, via a two-year extension of his Yamaha contract.

"For sure the rider market for 2021 will start sooner or later and maybe somebody has to do the first step," Dall’Igna had said, shortly before the Vinales announcement was made. "Maybe somebody did [already], we don’t know. But we have to start 2020 and after that we will see."

Renowned for keeping his cards close to his chest, and while openly stating he was keen not to talk about 2021 when the 2020 season hasn't started, Dall’Igna did at least give an insight into his preferred rider contract scenario.

"When I signed Danilo [Petrucci], I signed only for one year [at a time] because I’d like to have a two-year contract but [split into] one-plus-one," Dall’Igna said, referring to Ducati having had the option to take up the second season.

"So this has to be the target for the future, although I don’t know if I could reach this target.

"But for sure, I prefer to only have one rider to discuss [contracts] with, per year."

One contract decision per season would also mean Dall’Igna avoids changing both riders at the same time, considered unsettling in terms of bike development.

Does that therefore suggest at least one of the current Dovizioso-Petrucci pairing already has an excellent chance of staying on for 2021?

Not necessarily.

Dall’Igna has given himself plenty of rider continuity options by having Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia waiting in the wings for promotion from the Pramac team, and now Johann Zarco at Avintia.

Assuming Dall’Igna does want to look outside the current Ducati box for a Marquez beater, who might it be now Vinales is out of the picture?

Apart from Marquez (12) and Vinales (2), Ducati already has two of the other three riders to win MotoGP races last season: Dovizioso (2), Suzuki's Alex Rins (2) and Petrucci (1).

If current winners are in short supply, there was one other rider that battled Marc Marquez for victory on the final lap twice last season… as a rookie, on a satellite (Yamaha) bike.

That was of course Fabio Quartararo, who at just 20-years-old is also significantly younger (in racing terms) than the likes of Marquez (26) and Vinales (25), and over a decade younger than the present average of the factory Ducati line-up.

There would be risks for both sides, underlined by Lorenzo's switch to Honda and Zarco's short-lived career at KTM.

But if Dall’Igna's burning desire remains winning the MotoGP title - and assuming Marquez, like Vinales, is unavailable - it would be a shock if Ducati and the deep wallet of Philip Morris don't make a serious pitch for the French youngster. Ducati's chances of success will also depend heavily on whether Yamaha can offer Quartararo Valentino Rossi's factory M1 seat.

"Sometimes it’s better to sign the agreement as soon as you can. Sometimes it’s better to wait a little bit… I don’t think we will sign both [2021] riders too soon," Dall’Igna had said a week ago.

But with Vinales and Yamaha having made the first move, Dall’Igna may be forced to bring forward his negotiation timeline…

 

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