Under Gigi Dall’Igna's leadership, Ducati has introduced more (visible) technical innovations than any other MotoGP manufacturer.

Winglets, wheel covers, a holeshot device, swingarm 'tyre cooler', brake torque bar, not to mention the mysterious 'salad box' have all appeared on the Desmosedici since Dall’Igna's arrival at the factory in late 2013.

There are almost certainly many other innovations concealed under the bodywork or inside the engine, while other – perhaps even more radical - ideas were dropped before reaching the race team.

Ducati's consistent track record of breaking new technical ground despite ever-tightening technical rules and standardised parts can't be a coincidence. But how do their ideas normally emerge?

Does Dall’Igna pace around his office deep in thought, pausing to make sketches on a whiteboard until he has a breakthrough? Or perhaps he wakes up in the middle of the night with a 'eureka' moment and scribbles a new concept on a notepad by his bed?

In reality, innovation is a carefully crafted process, with Dall’Igna acting as a kind of conductor for the technical department 'orchestra'.

"The ideas always come from a team of people," smiled Dall’Igna, when the 'eureka' analogy was put to him, during an exclusive interview with Crash.net.

"I don’t think that all the ideas have to come from one single man. It's important to create a co-operation between people. It's important to push people to find new ideas, to explain new ideas. And so this is the typical working process in Ducati.

"Sometimes we have long meetings, with a lot of people, just in order to develop new ideas, or to find new ideas."

Danilo Petrucci activates the Ducati holeshot device.

Like all manufacturers, Ducati also keeps a close eye on what its rivals are doing.

"We are studying the other manufacturers quite a lot. We don't copy but sometimes I catch some inspiration from them," he admitted.

"But it's quite difficult to tell you 'this was from Honda, this from Yamaha'. We constantly try to understand the evolutions that they have done and try to take some ideas from that. It's a constant process."

Whatever the source of inspiration, once a list of feasible ideas has been drawn up, it's down to Dall’Igna to decide which of them to pursue.

"Sometimes from the technical point of view it's quite easy to find out which is the best idea and which to 'bet' on. Other times, it's not easy, not so clear," he said. "And so for sure at the end I have to take a decision about which ones we have to follow."

What percentage of ideas never make it as far as the track? "That's a difficult question and, honestly, I don’t have an answer for that."

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While the stream of technical innovations have helped Ducati win 15 races since Dall’Igna's arrival, with Andrea Dovizioso also finishing title runner-up to Marc Marquez for the past three seasons, the Desmosedici's long-held engine advantage came under threat from Honda in 2019.

"For sure the priority is not the engine [for 2020]. But it's true that, above all Honda, did a good step during this year," Dall’Igna said.

Was he surprised that Honda had made such progress?

"Honestly, no. If I was the Honda technical director, for sure I would like to develop the engine because I have to be at the same level as the other competitors, at least.

"So I'm not surprised about the Honda's engine evolution. But at the same time, I would like to make another step [with the Ducati engine] in order to maintain the gap that we have over the others at the moment.

"Because for sure the other engineers will also work during the winter tests and if we would like to stay where we are, we have to improve. Otherwise we will fall back. So it's not our priority, but it's important."

Ducati's top priority for 2020 is well known; to improve turning, work on which will continue when testing gets underway at Sepang in February - when rivals, fans and media will also be keeping their eyes peeled for the latest technical innovations…

 

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