Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo represented the beating heart of Ducati at the Milan Show last night as they unwrapped the new Panigale V4 but the ghost of this weekend’s Valencia GP was lingering throughout the whole evening and got stronger when test rider Casey Stoner brought on the special version of which only 1500 will be made.
“We will all be in Valencia to support Dovizioso,” declared Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali on the stage, calling the attention that this is the first time since 2007 when the Aussie brought the MotoGP world title to Borgo Panigale, that Ducati has a chance to clinch the title.
“It has been a wonderful season,” echoes the racing boss Gigi Dall’Igna. “But we cannot finish the season with a ‘but’, it has been a wonderful season, but…”, alluding that in the end, they may not clinch the title. “We know that it’s very difficult, almost impossible, but we head to Valencia with this hope and this target in mind. We cannot do in a different way,” continued the Italian engineer.
“This year we have raised the level arriving as the only title contender in the championship fight and second in the world standing with the final round to be disputed. Next year we will start again from where we left this season. Is this an ambitious project? Ducati races in MotoGP to win the world title. We are not afraid of this ultimate challenge”.
As we are speaking with Dall’Igna, Dovizioso is surrounded by the fans. Busy with the selfies, he smiles, enjoying every single moment of being the number one rider in the Ducati Team and the only man who on Sunday will challenge the reigning champion and world leader Marc Marquez.
For Lorenzo, fresh from his Sepang podium, it was the first time on the stage with the Ducati colours in Milan and also the occasion to see the new Panigale V4. “I was very curious to take part to this event. The whole range of new models is impressive, especially the new Panigale V4”. Arrived in Ducati as favoured rider and favourite for the title chase, Lorenzo remains confident despite the difficult debut season with Ducati.
“I feel strong after the last races. As a result I think I can try to fight for the podium, even if our bike is not the favourite at the Valencia track”. Looking back to ten days ago, the second place finish at Sepang definitely served to boost his confidence. “In Malaysia, we did a big step forward in terms of setup. My confidence together with the improvement of the bike will be very important especially in perspective of 2018. I think that we come to Valencia in our best moment of the season.
“It’s one of those circuits where I’ve had strong results, in fact I won in the last two races and scored four wins in MotoGP. This time is more difficult with the Ducati, but I’m confident.”
In the last two seasons, it was Lorenzo on a Yamaha fighting against the Honda ace Marc Marquez. On Sunday, there will be a Ducati to challenge a Honda, but it’s not the #99. It’s team-mate Dovizioso, who surprised everyone clinching six wins this year and heading to Valencia in second position, 21 points behind the leader.
“Andrea (Dovizioso) knows exactly what to do. He is a smart rider, he knows the bike really well and I’m convinced that he will do all he can to be competitive and try to win,” said Lorenzo.
Pressure managemebt will also play a key role. “I think Marc is under more pressure right now, ” continued the Spaniard. “Only Marquez can lose the championship. If Dovi makes a mistake, nothing changes.”
The championship is over for Lorenzo, but he aims at returning a true title contender next year. On Tuesday at Valencia, the new season kicks off with two days of testing, followed by another test session at Jerez at the end of the month.
“The future is always an unknown, considered how hard we worked this year and the progress we made, I’ll definitely be faster.” In the development of the 2018 bike, Lorenzo and Dovizioso will be supported by the test riders Michele Pirro and Stoner, who were also present at the Ducati Premiere in Milan, responsible for bringing the Panigale V4 out on stage. “I really would like Casey Stoner to test more,” he added. “Unfortunately there are not many days available, but his feedback always proves very useful. He is a world champion after all.”