Keith Huewen: ‘World domination for Ducati then?’

Ducati’s perfect start to its WorldSBK title defence and eight bikes in MotoGP are among a wide variety of topics on this week’s MotoGP podcast featuring Keith Huewen.
Alvaro Bautista, race 2 Australian WorldSBK, 27 February
Alvaro Bautista, race 2 Australian WorldSBK, 27 February

Having won both the MotoGP and World Superbike crowns last year, with Francesco Bagnaia and Alvaro Bautista, last season, the Italian factory began its WorldSBK title defence with a clean sweep for Bautista at Phillip Island on the weekend.

Not only did Bautista win comfortably in both wet and dry conditions, but he was backed up by second for team-mate Michael Rinaldi in both dry races, the last of which ended with four Ducatis in the top five.

Meanwhile, fellow world champions Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Yamaha) are already 31 and 39 points behind, respectively.

“World domination for Ducati then? That's what they're aiming for at the moment, no doubt about that,” said former grand prix rider and British champion Keith Huewen.

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“The Ducati’s a faster motorbike and Bautista's a lightweight guy. He also knows Phillip Island like the back of his hand and always gets good results there.

“But it’s blatantly a rocket ship compared with everybody else, so there might be a tweaking of the balancing rules somewhere along the line.

“They've certainly got too much of an advantage now, in my view, in World Superbike. But I'm sure that will get addressed as the year goes on and maybe Kawasaki will get their 500 revs back.”

Ducati also got its 2023 MotoGP preparations off to a strong start with four riders in the top five at last month’s Sepang test.

In answer to a listener's question on whether Ducati can maintain their current eight-bike investment in MotoGP, and if it is good for the sport, Huewen replied:

“I think Ducati has filled a gap. Let's face it, you've got 22 bikes on the grid, which is not very many, and if Ducati could only run four bikes that’d be down to 18.

“It's a double-edged sword, isn't it? Ducati do have an advantage because of data and all those things they can get by having more motorbikes on track, but they also have to make the extra investment to support all those bikes.

“How will that investment pan out over the next few years? Well, can you imagine Ferrari spending less money in Formula One without a cost cap? It wouldn't happen. They are all about racing and I think Ducati are the same.

“They’ve worked hard to get back to the level where they are winning championships in both WorldSBK and MotoGP.”

Luca Marini, Franco Morbidelli, Francesco Bagnaia, Sepang MotoGP test 10-12 February
Luca Marini, Franco Morbidelli, Francesco Bagnaia, Sepang MotoGP test 10… MotoGP editor Pete McLaren said: “And winning all those championships helps with keeping that investment going into the racing projects, because you are delivering results.

“As far as the number of Ducati satellite teams, it's a free market. The satellite teams could go to another manufacturer if they want. But the reality is all of those Ducati satellite teams have got a good chance of a podium this year, even the ones on year-old bikes.

“There’s talk of VR46 going to Yamaha in the near future, but just in terms of bike performance, Luca Marini was fastest at the Sepang test on a year-old Ducati and Fabio Quartararo was 19th on a factory Yamaha, so would you want to change bikes right now?”

“Maybe that choice should be taken away from them,” said Huewen. “Maybe there is a situation, later on, to legislate for that… Yamaha at the moment are the ones with the least bikes on track and it'll be very interesting to see how that evolves.”

“It should sort of even itself out, shouldn't it? Because if Yamaha wants a satellite team, they’ll need to offer better machinery or a better package to tempt a team away from Ducati.

“For example, maybe Yamaha will need to offer full factory bikes for both satellite riders in future, which didn’t happen before.”

Podcast host Harry Benjamin then raised the contentious issue of whether the likes of MotoGP and F1 should race in the middle east, plus more listener questions.

Download Episode 78 at the following links...

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