That is an inside-story told by Michele Pirro, their test rider for the past decade, who has played an understated role in the famous Italian brand morphing from underachievers to dominant.

Stoner was the last MotoGP champion riding for Ducati, in 2007, until finally last year Francesco Bagnaia ended the barren years.

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Pirro told Speedweek that Bagnaia’s victory was a relief: "That was important for me because I came after Rossi failed. 

“It was said at the time: 'With this motorcycle, only Stoner can be fast.' 

“I've always thought I'm a normal rider who, like Valentino and many other riders, needs the feeling to the front. I worked hard to convey to the engineers what the driver feels. And that led to the bike getting better and better." 

Although Rossi’s two dreadful seasons at Ducati are a stain on his otherwise immense career, he played a part in restoring them to the summit of MotoGP again last season - Bagnaia was a product of his VR46 Academy.

For Pirro, years of testing a sub-par bike have left stark memories: "The engineers always look for answers in the lines they read on the computer screen, but there are riders on the bike.

“It was difficult at the beginning because they were only interested in the numbers, but it was important to get them to think about what the drivers are saying. This has led to better and better work. 

“For my part, I have always tried to do my best. And I had the opportunity to work with great riders – like Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey, with whom I worked for six months, Andrea Iannone.

"They tried to sign Jorge Lorenzo, a rider who was supposed to make the difference, but he had problems. After that, they invested in the boys – and it worked.”

Bagnaia will be paired with Enea Bastianini, another young and ambitious Italian, who has progressed through the system via Gresini Racing. This year, Bastianini may emerge as the biggest threat to his teammate’s championship.

It took 15 years after Stoner for Ducati to return to the top, but Pirro insists it could have been sooner.

"I think we could have won 2017 with Dovi,” he said. “If he had done a little better at Phillip Island, he could have won that year. But the championship that 'hurts' me the most is 2020, when Joan Mir won. Also in 2021, if Pecco hadn't crashed at Misano, the situation would have changed.

"I think we could have won two more titles in addition to last season. In the year with Dovi, maybe it was because he himself didn't believe it was possible. It would have been enough to finish two races a little better, and the final result would have been different. The 2017 bike was superior to the rest.”

Dovizioso finished second in the MotoGP standings for three years consecutively, a sign that Ducati were regaining a foothold.

Gigi Dall’Igna’s arrival as general manager is often cited as a major reason for the team’s turnaround - even if his first decision was bad news for Pirro.

“I had signed with Ducati to race,” he said. “But then Gigi Dall'Igna came along and everything changed.

"As a racer, it annoys me that I never got the chance to contest a full world championship season, but I'm happy because I think I've done a lot to bring Ducati to this top level and win with many different riders in the Superbike World Championship and MotoGP."

Pirro’s unique value to Ducati also came in the shape of acting as the Superbike team’s test rider, as Alvaro Bautista won the title.