Gigi Dall’Igna believes Ducati’s ability to challenge for the MotoGP title after a tough start to the year was the most pleasing element of 2017, and highlighted tests between the Spanish, French and Italian grand prix as key to Andrea Dovizioso's title push.

Ducati enjoyed its best season in grand prix racing since Casey Stoner’s world title ten years ago, as Dovizioso racked up six victories, 261 points and a sustained championship challenge that probed and pressed eventual winner Marc Marquez until six laps before the final chequered flag of the year.

That came in spite of the ’17 Desmosedici retaining the turning weakness that had befallen previous incarnations of this model. Dall’Igna, Ducati’s technical chief, had overseen a winter of subtle changes to the bike in a bid to cure these woes.

While the Desmosedici would go on to be arguably the most balanced bike on the grid from midseason onward, the lack of manoeuvrability when changing direction was a glaring deficit in the opening rounds. Indeed, Dovizioso voiced his frustrations at the factory’s working methods after a top six ride in Austin.

It was after the Spanish Grand Prix that Dovizioso and team-mate Jorge Lorenzo tested at Mugello. A further three-day outing at Montmeló followed the French Grand Prix, where Dall’Igna feels the team and riders "understood we have something that can be good."

“I’m really happy,” said Dall’Igna. “For sure [I’m] not [happy] about the final result, because in the end we are second, but I’m really happy for the improvement that we did until the end of the season. I’m really happy for the performance of our riders. And I’m really happy how the people in Ducati reacted in the first races from Qatar, where we had some trouble.

“It’s not easy to recover from these tough situations that we had in the beginning of the season. [It] Started from the test we had in Barcelona and Mugello, we improved quite a lot the performance of our bike.

“The riders, above all, Dovi, did a really great job starting from Mugello and we fought for the championship until the six final laps of the championship. So, you know, I’m really proud to be here after that season.”

Factory team boss Davide Tardozzi concurred: “We understood very well that Mugello and Barcelona changed our season. We found something after the Barcelona test. We understood that we have something in the end that can be good. It was confirmed in Mugello,” he said.

“In Barcelona it was reconfirmed. From there we have always been competitive. In those two weeks we understood that we could be there. From there, Dovi found his balance.”

While Ducati management were not keen to divulge the specifics of what they had improved at these tests, one technical change is apparent from Mugello: the change from a softer to harder Michelin front tyre construction.

Ironically, neither Dovizioso nor Lorenzo preferred this tyre when asked by Michelin to assess the two at a post-race outing at Jerez. Asked whether this had any influence on Ducati’s performance, Dall’Igna said, “Honestly speaking, we are the only ones against this front tyre [laughs].

"I don’t know what I have to tell. For sure I fight quite a lot with Michelin in Jerez because I don’t want to use that tyre. Everybody wanted to use that tyre during our home race in Mugello for the first time. I did not agree.

“But it’s true, starting from Mugello we did really good results. Anyway, I think, like I said before, we improved a lot in the Barcelona and Mugello tests, and we improved on the technical sides from those tests.”

And what of those age-old turning issues? Dall’Igna stated this will be Ducati’s main focus over the winter months.

“For sure, the bike has some real good points, some real strong points. And for sure, it has some other points like the middle of the corner, where we struggle a little bit. We have some ideas and we have to test here and in Jerez something that could reduce, at least, this problem.

“We will work in all the aspects of the bike: the engine; the electronics – even if there, we are quite strong. But our main focus will be the middle of the corner because we have to improve. Above all, I think in two races we struggled quite a lot with that problem. We would like to do something [to improve it].”


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