TeamByTeam MotoGP Preview: Factory Ducati

2016 finally saw the Ducati team flourish, not just once, but twice. Andrea Iannone – after causing much controversy in the first half of the year – redeemed himself when he won the Austrian Grand Prix, ending Ducati’s six year win drought. Teammate Andrea Dovizioso repeated the feat in Malaysia, making it the first time both factory Ducati riders had won a race each since 2007 with Casey Stoner and Loris Capirossi. But in 2017, Jorge Lorenzo joins the team and they’ll definitely want more than just the odd win.

Jorge Lorenzo makes the dramatic switch from Yamaha to Ducati for 2017, leaving the team which he has been part of for nine seasons, which also brought him three world championships. This new adventure with Ducati is one that has been met with conflicting ideas amongst fans. Some say Lorenzo could be a huge shock in 2017 and that some people are simply underestimating his ability on two-wheels. Whereas others are more sceptical of whether or not he can win on the Ducati in the first season of being there. At first, I thought the Spaniard’s riding style would be far too smooth for the Italian outfit, and that maybe more aggressive riders would succeed. But, Lorenzo has been in truly great form in testing, so come Qatar – a track he has three premier class victories at – he could be a bit of a dark horse. Whether he can sustain the pace throughout the year is another question.

Andrea Dovizioso remains at Ducati for the fifth consecutive season. One of nine different winners last season, Dovi will be searching for more than just the flash in the pan performance he had in Malaysia. Always starting the season off strongly, Dovizioso has has a tendency to fade off in the mid-season, often costing him a run at the championship. One thing you’ll be guaranteed of with Andrea however, is consistency. Despite being wiped out of the front positions in Argentina and the USA, Dovi had a relatively faultless season last year, in terms of finishing. Two weird crashes at Le Mans and Assen were the only blots on his copy book. Now in his 10th year in MotoGP, Dovi knows that this year, he must take it to Marquez, Rossi and Vinales if he is to prove to us all that he can string a title challenging season together.

The Ducati itself will be missing one of its main features for the 2017 championship. The ban of winglets has by far effected Ducati the most, after hours of development and testing were spent on enhancing the wings on the front of the bike. However, Ducati have a ‘resolution’ to this – but it isn’t pretty. Two enormous ‘wings within fairing’ style holes are situated either side of the intake, making the bike look very much like a box from front view. But, what does that matter if it goes quickly? It is without doubt the fastest bike in the championship and I genuinely expect speeds to surpass 220mph at Mugello.

In terms of form, Ducati have always got their season off to solid starts. For the past two seasons, one of their bikes has got onto the podium in Qatar – both did in 2015. Austin has also proved to be a decent circuit, with a podium there every season since 2014. Mugello is one of their favourites, especially in qualifying so expect an upset there, especially seeing as Jorge Lorenzo has won the past two races there and also the fact that Michele Pirro will more than likely show up. Their favourite circuit after last year must surely be the Red Bull Ring though. A 1-2 finish in 2016 will give them not only the confidence to do well there again but the base setting too. One of their least favourite circuits based on results is Misano (the manufacturer’s home track), where there last podium was with Valentino Rossi in 2012 and their last win was 2007 with Casey Stoner.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

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