After winning a Moto2 race in 2011, Pirro had stayed with the Gresini team for a move to MotoGP in 2012, riding an FTR chassis in the short-lived CRT class.

The Italian saved his best for last with a fifth place at the damp Valencia finale, but the usual gulf in performance compared to the full factory bikes saw Pirro accept the role of test and wild-card rider for Ducati.

Pirro’s arrival coincided with the exit of nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, who was retreating back to Yamaha after two winless years at Ducati.

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“When I tested it, I understood why Valentino had failed to be competitive with the Ducati,” Pirro told “It was a bike you entered corners with and didn’t know if you’d reach the exit.

“The front tyre didn’t give you confidence and normal riders - in the sense of those who ride with the front like Rossi - struggled, while Stoner, coming from dirt track, rode with the rear.

“Valentino wasn’t able to make a difference because you had to go beyond your instincts, but when you [pushed], you fell, So you took half a step forward and two backwards.

“When a rider lacks confidence, it’s over.”

Ducati’s MotoGP project then reached its nadir, in terms of results, with a podium-less 2013 campaign.

But the man who would eventually lead Ducati back to the top of MotoGP, Gigi Dall’Igna, arrived from Aprilia at the end of that year.

Due to the lead time in production, the GP15 was the first full Dall’Igna machine, taking nine podiums. Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso then claimed Ducati’s first MotoGP wins since Stoner the following year and the factory has been a constant title contender ever since.

Prior to 2015, Ducati had struggled with a chronic understeer problem that only the genius of Stoner could overcome. However, “I remember the debut of Gigi’s first bike in 2015, I rode it at Latina, an oval, I was having so much fun I didn’t want to stop,” Pirro revealed.

Pirro’s plan had been to use the Ducati test riding role as a springboard to a full-time MotoGP race seat, but Dall’Igna had other ideas.

“Up until five years ago I hated Gigi!” he joked. “I wanted to race and he said I would when the bike was competitive.

“When Stoner arrived as a test rider, I thought I was free, but he didn’t stay long! Then Gigi told me ‘I can find a racer, but not a test rider who does what you do’.

“Gigi had a goal and surrounded himself with the best people to achieve it.

“When you’re young it’s hard to accept [not racing] and I will always have doubts about what my level would have been had I raced a few complete seasons in MotoGP.

“However, I’ve been part of an important team and have been here even longer than Gigi!”

Explaining the main impact his test riding work has had over the past decade, Pirro said:

“It’s not easy to measure the rider’s feelings, you don’t see them in the data. It was a team effort to improve. Valentino had arrived in the worst moment, but Pecco, another Italian rider, succeeded in that feat.”

Pirro has made 45 MotoGP starts as a wild-card and replacement rider for Ducati, with a best finish of fourth at Valencia 2018.