Editor's Note: This continues a series counting down the top 15 stories in MotoGP in 2012, as determined by the Soup staff.Filippo Preziosi was more than just an engineer and leading brain at Ducati's racing efforts for nearly 20 yearshe almost became the face of the team.
Preziosi joined Ducati in 1994 and rode a red rocket to the top of the company's technical chain of command. He became technical director of Ducati Corse in 1999, responsible for development of the company's entries in World Superbike.
His resolve and workload only seemed to increase after he suffered paralysis in his lower body after a motorcycle accident during a trip to Africa in 2000. Preziosi became general manager of Ducati Corse in 2003, when the company entered MotoGP with its Desmosedici GP3. It took just four seasons for Ducati to reach the summit of the sport, winning the MotoGP World Championship in 2007 with Casey Stoner.
Preziosi was at the top of the world. But in November 2012, just five years later, the most familiar face in the Ducati garage for the last decade was removed from his position by new Ducati owners Audi after another disappointing MotoGP season.
It was a stunning fall from mechanical grace for Preziosi, especially since many believed that the intransigent commitment with which he developed the Ducati prototype the last few seasonsregardless of rider feedback - might be enough for him to keep his job. There was almost a sense of, "If he hasn't been canned by now, he just might survive."
The beginning to Preziosi's end can be traced to 2008. Preziosi and his staff decided to scrap a trellis-style frame for a carbon-fiber chassis, using the Desmosedici engine as a stressed member. The bike was tested in 2008 and introduced to MotoGP competition as the GP9 in 2009.
Stoner flattered the problems created by the carbon-fiber chassismost particularly front-end feelby winning four races in 2009 and three in 2010 before bolting for Repsol Honda in 2011.
Valentino Rossi left Yamaha after the 2010 season to join Ducati in 2011 on a two-year deal, forming an Italian dream team. Instead, the Nightmare on Borgo Panigale was born.
Rossi never could come to grips with the unpredictable front-end created by the stiff front end of the carbon-fiber GP11. He also had problems with rear traction. Rossi complained bitterly behind the scenes, all but begging Preziosi for major changes. Those requests were waved away early, with Preziosi finally relenting and making a major philosophical shift by moving to a more conventional alloy frame for the GP12 in 2012.
The change didn't work. Rossi and teammate Nicky Hayden flailed and struggled again in 2012, and Rossi decided late in the season to flee to Yamaha in 2013. The Doctor ended his two-year Ducati disaster with no victories and just three podium finishes, as Ducati slipped further and further behind its Japanese rivals Honda and Yamaha in the engineering race.
Preziosi's failure at Ducati was more than just mechanical. His almost Napoleonic self-belief in the team's engineering direction caused intense friction with Rossi for most of the last two years, resulting in combustion between the two behind the scenes.
|The beginning to Preziosi's end can be traced to 2008. Preziosi and his staff decided to scrap a trellis-style frame for a carbon-fiber chassis, using the Desmosedici engine as a stressed member. The bike was tested in 2008 and introduced to MotoGP competition as the GP9 in 2009.|
It all added up to Audi demoting Preziosi to a new role as Director of Research & Development for Ducati Motor Holding. Sounds an awful lot like the proverbial gold watch.