Top 15 Stories of 2012. Number 8: Das Ducati
by staff
Friday, January 04, 2013

Editor's Note: This continues a series counting down the top 15 stories in MotoGP in 2012, as determined by the Soup staff.

Rossi may have streamlined his way out of Ducati one season too early with Audi on board now and ready to whip the race team into shape.
image thanks ducati corse

When German auto giant Audi announced plans in April 2012 to buy iconic Italian motorcycle marque Ducati, the big question was: Why?

Why would a taciturn, Teutonic firm steeped in four-wheeled production and competition want to spend $1.12 billion to buy a motorcycle company rooted in passione rosso?

What could translate from Audi's success in endurance auto racing--an Audi has won 11 of the last 13 24 Hours of Le Mans races--to the short, intense bursts of Grand Prix motorcycle racing?

And how long would it take for "the Audi effect" to turn around the flagging engineering and results of Ducati, which is winless in MotoGP since 2010?

So many questions, all with one answer. Audi didn't buy Ducati because it wanted to inject its company with Italian fervor and style. It didn't buy Ducati because it wanted to dominate MotoGP the way it has Le Mans over the last decade.

Audi bought Ducati because it can take a company that produced 42,000 street motorcycles in 2011 and make it more prolific and profitable.

Volkswagen, which owns Ducati, knows the blueprint of acquiring an iconic Italian vehicle company and spinning gold. It traveled down this road in 1998, buying Lamborghini for $110 million. Since then, Lambos have been resurrected from cranky objects of lust to reliable objects of lust, with an expanded product lineup and increased production and profitability numbers for the company.

Still, there already has been trickle-down effects from Audi's purchase of Ducati on the marque's MotoGP program. Audi couldn't convince Valentino Rossi to stay at Borgo Panigale for the next two years, so it instead doubled-down on the acceleration of development of its Desmosedici Grand Prix bikes by adding a "junior" team in 2013 for riders Ben Spies and Andrea Iannone. All four Ducati riders next season - factory stars Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso, and Spies and Iannone - will ride factory GP13 machines, a departure from the previous paradigm of two factory bikes and two satellite bikes.

Audi also wasted little time to put a Germanic stamp on the management of Ducati's race team once the 2012 season ended.

Former BMW World Superbike boss Bernhard Gobmeier was named general manager of Ducati Corse on Nov. 20, nine days after the season finale at Valencia. Gobmeier replaced Filippo Preziosi, who was demoted to a research-and-design position with a fancy title after leading the team since its return to MotoGP in 2003.

Audi also lured Paolo Ciabatti back to Bologna to work as Ducati MotoGP project director. Ciabatti worked as the head of the Ducati World Superbike program from 1997-2007.

The pieces are starting to click into place for at least the next few years in Germanic precision. Now the real work starts.


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