Ducati Corse General Manager Gigi Dall'Igna has reason to be pleased with what he described Monday—one day after factory rider Andrea Dovizioso won a dramatic, two-part MotoGP season finale on a wet Ricardo Tormo circuit—as "improvements" made during the past 12 months to the Desmosedici GP18 prototype.

Dovizioso had seven front-row starts, including two poles, nine podiums, four race wins, and finished second in the championship to Repsol Honda’s Marc Márquez. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo sat on pole three times and had four podiums and three race wins, completing the season ninth overall in the point standings having missed five of the 19 races due to injury.

In his annual press conference conducted in both English and Italian inside the Ducati hospitality tent at the still-damp Valencia racetrack, Dall'Igna didn't disclose any specifics whatsoever about those improvements. Rather, he spoke in broad terms about the bike, the riders, and the future of the Italian manufacturer's now-highly touted premier-class project.

Andrea Dovizioso MotoGP Valencia
“I don’t want to speak too much about Andrea Dovizioso because he is the continuity for us,” Ducati Corse General Manager Gigi Dall’Igna said. “He is the rider who has won a lot in the past; he started to win with us in 2016. He is the rider we think can win the championship, and we will try to do our best to achieve this target.”Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

“We won more races than last year and improved quite a lot in the tracks where normally we are struggling,” Dall’Igna said, specifically naming Phillip Island, MotorLand Aragón, and Sachsenring, “where last year I think we lost the championship. This year, we were able to fight for the victory until the end of the race.

“We struggled quite a lot in the first year”

“We closed the gap in terms of speed in the middle of the corner,” he added. “We were struggling quite a lot in that area. And now, for sure, we have reduced the gap not only with Honda but we didn’t lose anything in any other riding phase. But I think we still have to push to improve in that area.

“Another reason we are happy is because we won with both riders, Dovizioso and Lorenzo, which, for a manufacturer, is important. If you can achieve the results with two completely different riding styles, means the bike is quite well-balanced. Because of the results this year, it is important to not do any strange things to the bike.”

MotoGP Valencia Spain
Asked if he thought Marc Márquez or Honda beat Ducati this past season, Dall’Igna responded, saying, “I think Honda and Márquez beat Dovizioso and Ducati. This is the reality. I think we have in front of us two difficult things, Márquez and Honda, and we have to improve a lot if we would like to win.”Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Like other manufacturers and private teams participating in the world championship, Ducati will begin its 2019 preseason testing program at Valencia on Tuesday, continuing through Wednesday and concluding the year at another relatively short Spanish track, the Circuit of Jerez, on the 28th and 29th of this month.

“The main target for tomorrow morning will be to have the 2019 bike similar to the ’18, and after that start to put on the bike the improvements and understand if these are real improvements. We have in mind a lot of tests to do here and in Jerez before we order new parts for the Sepang test.” Shakedown runs begin February 1 at the Malaysian track.

MotoGP Valencia Spain
Searching for the next Jorge Lorenzo: Will Ducati soon join Honda and KTM in the Moto3 class? “I think this is an important class, the most important class to develop and to understand the potential of the rider,” Dall’Igna said. “I am still convinced for Ducati to join that class is important, but first we have to complete the job in MotoGP.”Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

With five-time world champion Lorenzo moving to Repsol Honda and longtime satellite Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci taking the Spaniard’s place on the factory team, Dall’Igna aims to shortcut, if not eliminate, the transitional period in which Lorenzo went without a single victory for 18 months, the lengthiest winless drought in his 11-year MotoGP career.

“We struggled quite a lot in the first year,” Dall’Igna admitted. “The second year was completely different. Starting from Mugello, we started to win races. I’m not completely happy about these two years because our idea mainly was to fight for the championship also with Lorenzo. Anyway, Lorenzo helped us a lot in the developing of the bike.

“Danilo has a lot of history with us. This is his fourth year with Ducati, so we know perfectly the potential of the rider. This year, he was struggling in the final part of the season, but we are sure he can improve and fight for the victory and podium positions next season. Another important rider joining us is [Francesco] Bagnaia, the Moto2 world champion.

Danilo Petrucci MotoGP Valencia Spain
After four seasons with Pramac Racing, Danilo Petrucci will step next year into to the slot vacated by Lorenzo on the factory Ducati team. “Danilo did some very exciting races in the past, so I think the potential of the rider is really high,” Dall’Igna said. “For sure, we have to tune better his physical and mind to do the final step that I think he can do.”Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

“I would like to underline that we approach the new riders in a different way compared with the other manufacturers. We rotate the technicians between Pramac and the factory team in order to have continuity for the riders. We did this with Danilo and we will do the same with Bagnaia, who will have in his team the chief and electronic engineers of Lorenzo.”

“It’s difficult to understand what happens with the tires sometimes”

Dall’Igna also addressed a topic once again making its way around the paddock, that MotoGP should adapt a combined minimum weight for the rider and the bike, standards for which already exist in the smaller Moto2 (474 pounds) and Moto3 (335 pounds) classes. The current minimum weight for a MotoGP bike alone is 346 pounds.

“In the past, it was quite difficult to speak about that because [Dani] Pedrosa was in the championship,” Dall’Igna said. “Maybe it is time to rethink the situation. Sometimes the weight is not so important, but now in MotoGP with these tires I think weight is one of the problems that in some cases you have to fight with. I think this would be a fair rule.”

Dall’Igna responded to Dovizioso’s early season claims that Michelin had changed some aspect of its manufacturing process, ultimately resulting in different tire performance. To compensate, Dovizioso and Lorenzo began employing different race strategies, including altering the pace at the front of the pack, which LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow referred to as “yo-yoing.”

“It’s difficult to understand what happens with the tires sometimes,” Dall’Igna admitted. “You don’t know if it is the track conditions or the tire that has changed. But in some racetracks, the differences between 2018 and 2017 seemed to be quite big. For that reason, we thought the difference was not only the racetrack condition but also the tire.

“After the first two or three races, we started to manage the tire in a different way, and this helped us to be faster until the end of the race. For the next season, if something changes, we know better how to manage different situations. We’ll be more ready to prepare the things that we need.” For some riders and teams, preseason testing can’t begin soon enough.