Explained: Casey Stoner’s tactical role in Ducati and Bagnaia’s glory

Ducati turned to their last man to win a MotoGP championship in a bid to lend his wisdom to their riders last season - and it worked.
Casey Stoner, Valencia MotoGP tests, November
Casey Stoner, Valencia MotoGP tests, November

Casey Stoner’s 2007 championship with the famous Italian brand was not repeated for 15 long, agonising years until Francesco Bagnaia matched the feat last season.

The retired Stoner acted as a rider coach for Bagnaia and then-teammate Jack Miller, an ace in the pack for Ducati who finally arrested their slump and returned to the top of MotoGP.

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Stoner explained his role to BT Sport: “The first session I noticed that when they exited, the bike was very aggressive coming out of one of the turns. They couldn’t stop the bike pumping.

“But then it works well on the rest of the track.

“So you don’t want to change your set-up trying to make it work for one part of the track, when it works well everywhere else. It was something simple.

“I believe these bikes, how modern they are, how much control there is these days, they struggle to learn how to deal with issues outside of electronics.

“It’s no fault of their own. It’s just how MotoGP is, right now.

Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

“I basically explained to them short shift. Go up another gear earlier, so it’s on a softer part of the power curve. Then it drives out a little bit smoother.

“Rather than coming out on a bigger part of the power range, where it wants to buck and weave, where it’s very difficult to be smooth.

“It’s all to do with chain forces. Going up a gear changes the chain forces. It changes how the bike reacts. You can drive out a lot smoother.

“So rather than change the set-up, it’s just a small tactic.

“From then, it was just bits and pieces that I saw in comparison to other riders. I felt other riders were carrying more mid-turn speed and gaining more time. Then entered the corner faster, exited faster, they were making more time in the middle of the corner.”

Bagnaia had five DNFs in the first half of 2022 before finally putting everything together in the latter part of the season to come back from a 91-point deficit, the largest ever, to pip Fabio Quartararo on the final day.

The Desmosedici eventually emerged as clearly the best machinery on the MotoGP grid and, ahead of the 2023 season-opener at the Portuguese MotoGP this weekend, Ducati’s bike is expected to still be the most-envied.

Stoner, Qatar MotoGP tests, 2010. Photo courtesy of
Stoner, Qatar MotoGP tests, 2010. Photo courtesy of

Stoner said about his bond with the team: “A lot of good friends of mine still work at Ducati so I’m there for the weekend. It’s good to catch up. I have a bit of spare time so I go out, have a watch.

“Fortunately I was able to see a couple of things. Having an extra pair of eyes is always handy.

“I helped out where I could.

“Of course, Pecco’s engineer Christian Gabbarini is one of my best friends. Jack, I’ve known him a long time.

“If I can give them a little bit to give them a slight advantage? Then, all the better.”

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