"This is the best Ducati I have ever had," Andrea Dovizioso said with a warm smile at the end of the MotoGP test in Thailand. "The base is good, and we are fast on all tracks. I'm very satisfied. We have been consistently fast, and we didn't push for a time attack as we had many new things to test. I did the fast time with the new chassis, so I'm happy."

"Andrea and Danilo [Petrucci] confirmed the GP18, but Jack Miller and Tito Rabat were fast on the GP17," Jorge Lorenzo countered. "I wanted to do a comparison, and I confirmed the GP17 still has some positive points—same for the GP18. In particular, the chassis has some characteristics that limit us. If we do a mix, I think we can make a step forward. We have turned the difficult situation of the first two days of testing into a possible positive future."

These are the two faces of the factory Ducati garage. On one side, there is Dovizioso’s confidence of riding a winning bike, a sort of extension of his arms and legs. On the other side, five-time world champion Lorenzo is struggling with the pressure of meeting his own expectations as well as those of the team and is fighting to once again find the confidence to ride as he knows he can.

In the middle, Ducati management is working to give its riders the best racebike and put them in the best physical and mental condition to showcase their skills.

“The GP18 worked well with Dovizioso, Lorenzo, and Petrucci at Sepang, while in Thailand Jorge struggled a bit more with the setup, but I’m confident,” Ducati Corse Director Gigi Dall’Igna said. “We had so many new items to test that the selection of the material was the priority and time-consuming rather than focusing on the setup of the bike. I think we will need one more day of testing in Qatar before focusing 100 percent on preparing the setup for the first race.”

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo went like gangbusters on the Ducati GP18 last month at Sepang, lapping under the circuit recordCourtesy of Ducati

Regarding the riders, Dall’Igna added, “Dovizioso started where he left the 2017 season. He is very confident on the bike, and this allows him to be fast and serene. It was important for Jorge to test the GP17 again because it’s crucial to eliminate every possible doubt from a rider’s head. We had the chance to make a further evaluation of the new chassis on two different tracks, and this was very important.”

The Ducati race boss also stated his confidence and trust in both riders and the GP18, essential prior to facing the final three days of testing in Qatar in 10 days before the opening round of the season at the Losail International Circuit.

“If the first race were tomorrow, Andrea and his factory Ducati would surely contend for victory,” said Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati general manager. “If we analyze the lap times of the test in Thailand, there were five riders [who lapped in the same conditions] in less than one-tenth of a second. We had many new things to test, like a different chassis and new aerodynamics.

“The fairing has three versions in one and from the traditional configuration can turn into a version with wings and a further step with bigger wings. It’s easier to make changes and switch from one solution to another. Dovizioso and Petrucci confirmed the positive aspects of the new chassis. Regarding the wings, Dovizioso tested the new aero, but as last year, he is not a big fan of the wings. Lorenzo, on the other hand, used the new aero.”

Jorge Lorenzo
Lorenzo and crew have plenty of homework to do before the final preseason test March 1-3 in Qatar.Courtesy of Ducati

But how it is possible Lorenzo left the Sepang winter test with the lap record and stating that, “The Ducati is a masterpiece,” and then lapped more than a second behind the leader in Thailand? “The Buriram circuit is a new track and has different characteristics,” Ciabatti replied. “Lorenzo struggled over the three days. He couldn’t brake hard, and he was not comfortable on the bike. Consequently, he couldn’t push as he wanted.”

The Qatar test will be crucial. This track suits Ducati well, and Lorenzo has also been strong there in the past. Ciabatti said the riders need to face reality at the first race. “In this moment, Honda is fast and Marc Márquez is still the man to beat,” he said. “Johann Zarco is strong, while the factory Yamaha riders are struggling. Alex Rins surprised with the Suzuki.”

Andrea Dovizioso
Wings or no wings? Andrea Dovizioso tested multiple aerodynamic options this past weekend in Thailand.Courtesy of Ducati

Results are also needed to negotiate contracts that expire at the end of the season. Maverick Viñales has already renewed and the future of Valentino Rossi can only be with Yamaha.

“Now that the situation in Yamaha is clear, there is not so much hurry,” Ciabatti said. “It’s very likely that Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa will remain in Honda, so we can take some time. The riders are in a different position, and Ducati can offer a winning bike.”