The world not just admires but also immortalizes a great story of resurgence, and we might just see tonight one such story unfold when the lights go off for the first race of the year. Ducati has had a forgettable run of extremely painful and torturous years in last few years, especially since 2010 when the last Moto GP win came for the Italian brand. Since Caey left for Honda in 2011 and Valentino came into fold, in what was, an absolute opposite of expectations, Ducati was found lost and wondering for answers in their quest to give Vale the bike he needed to save his honour and legacy.
When Vale left at the end of 2012 to find shelter under the Yamaha fold, and a takeover by Audi of Ducati back home arrived, an astronomical question mark was raised for the future of this little yet legendary Italian company. However, Audi knew the importance of racing for Ducati and showed its outmost commitment in making sure that Ducati returns to its honourable position in the paddock.
After a series of changes at the helm of the things, Ducati Corse got Gigi as the new commander in chief and on his shoulder lied an incredibly intense responsibility to turn fortuns of the ailing Ducati Corse racing effort. Gigi spent the whole of 2014 understanding the issues in depth and as the newer versions of the Ducati GP14 kept coming in, the world waited desperately to see what the successor of the GP 14 will be capable of. The bike was the GP15 the world waited for, a bike which we discussed in detail here.
After delays and then further delays, the Ducati GP15 finally arrived at Sepang 2 test last month at the end of Feb, 2015. Effectively just a month over the beginning of the 2015 season at Qatar, the Ducati Factory riders got their first ever opportunity to ride the mythical and an all important GP15. What happened at Sepang 2 and then the tests at Qatar had the world stand up and take notice of the incredible abilities that the GP15 showed in the hands of both the Andrea’s at the factory Ducati pit.
It brings us to last night, when Andrea Dovizioso took his Factory Ducati GP15 to a stunning first pole position of 2015 to set-up what promises to be an exhilarating start to the MotoGP World championship. What many would say was essentially caused by the allowance of having a softer tyre to do the qualifying run on by the rules that give the factories who haven’t won in recent times to become competitive again. However, looking closely, there is more than what meets the eye.
Whatever else that was happenening around the track during the qualifying, the Ducati Factory duo werestill trying to set up teirbikes for its first real outing. The Desmosedici GP15 is so new that the teams have barely set more than two or three laps on the soft tire. With just five days on the GP15 coming into the first race, the first priority of Ducati was to get the bike working in race trim. The concentration on finding a base set up, and ironing out the small niggles of a brand new bike was so much more than to make the bike as fast as possible on soft meaning the GP15 has spent next to no time on softer rubber. Neither Andrea Dovizioso nor Andrea Iannone had used the softer tire during the weekend until they rolled out of the pits at the start of Q2. "We had never used the soft tire before, and so we didn't know what to expect," said Andrea Iannone. "So the bike wasn't perfect for the fast lap, we had too much power and not the right set up to use it." All this means that the Ducati duo is still to reach the potential that the GP15 has and when they do, the Factory Ducati team is likely to start marking its territory in record books sooner than we previously imagined.
The Ducati Desmosedici GP15 is a completely different bike, it turns, it needs less effort to ride than its predecessor did, and it does not appear to chew up the rear tire like the old bike did. Both Dovizioso and Iannone spent lots of time on old tires, and they were still fast. There are still plenty of question marks, both Dovizioso and Iannone affirmed, as the bike has never done a complete race simulation, never having done more than 15 laps in a row. But things are much more optimistic The long-suffering Ducatisti could finally have something to cheer about.
You could see from the reaction of the Ducati team members that this was something different. This pole was celebrated with more passion, unlocked more joy than the one in Japan. The men and women at Ducati know this one means much more. Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna may deserve the lion's share of the credit, but his main achievement has not been a brilliant piece of individual engineering design, but rather an astonishing feat of organizational excellence.
There is a very real chance that Dovizioso could win the first race for Ducati since the departure of Casey Stoner back in 2010. The irony such a win would bring is frankly delicious: It was Stoner leaving Ducati to join Honda which resulted in Dovizioso getting the boot there. Dovizioso taking over where Stoner left off reeks of karmic justice.
Below is the timesheet showing the riders and their positions from which they will begin the race.