The MotoGP season is months away but that hasn’t stopped Ducati from presenting its 2018 Desmosedici GP racebikes and returning riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo.
Lorenzo, Dovizioso and Ducati test rider Michele Pirro debuted the team’s new livery which switches from the traditional red and white to a new red and gray color scheme. The new paint job is a more vertical design than last year’s look, with a large swath of red for the front, followed by a thin band of dark gray and a larger field of a lighter gray before returning to red for the tail. The blue band for sponsor Flex-Box moves from the side panels to the front alongside the numbers, leaving a blank space around the Ducati logo that will likely be filled by another sponsor at some point.
Much of the bike will continue to be a work in progress through the season, so we hesitate at pointing out any significant details. The aerodynamic wings, for example, will likely see a few iterations.
Ducati appears to be keeping the black box under the Desmosedici’s tail. First shown during pre-season testing last year, the box creates a rather bulkier profile than the sharp tails we typically expect to see. While Ducati is mum on the details, the box is likely a storage space for various electronics components.
Continuing a rule introduced midway through the 2017 season, teams will be allowed to relay messages to riders through their bikes’ instrumentation. The system was initially developed as a way for race direction to give information, such as when various flags are in effect or if a rider is required to perform a ride-through of the pits.
“When you come close to winning the title, like last year, it’s easy to lose direction in the development of the bike, and so all the innovations that we will introduce on the new Desmosedici GP will be characterized by evolution, not revolution,” says Luigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager.
Dovizioso returns for his sixth season with Ducati. Dovizioso had a banner year in 2017, finishing second to Marc Marquez while setting career records in points (261) and wins (6) and podiums (8).
“Last year was a superb and very successful one, and we also learnt a lot of things on which we can continue to work this year. Our bike still had certain characteristics that made life difficult on several tracks and for 2018, we have focussed on improving these aspects because we must always be in a position to fight for the podium, at every circuit,” says Dovizioso. “After finishing runner-up with six wins in 2017, naturally our objective can be nothing less than fight to win the championship, but we must remain with our feet firmly on the ground because we know that each year brings with it something different. In any case we are starting off with the competitive level of last year and we must only remain focussed 100% like last year, when me and my team worked really well together.”
For Lorenzo, 2017 was a season of career lows in position (7th), points (137) and podiums (3) and he was held off the top step of the podium for the first time since entering the MotoGP class in 2008. Now that he’s more familiar with the team and the Desmosedici, Lorenzo says he hopes to be more competitive this season.
“2017 was quite a difficult year for me, because I didn’t even win one race and at the start of the championship I wasn’t able to fight for the podium, but I was patient and never gave up, and in the last few races we finally scored some quite good results,” says Lorenzo. “The work of the team was very important and Ducati helped me a lot to adapt the bike to my riding style, and so I think that in 2018 we’ll be starting with a much more competitive base.”
The team will soon head to Malaysia for the first pre-season test of 2018 at Sepang, Jan. 28-30. The second test takes place Feb. 16-18 at the Thailand’s Chang International Circuit, the newest addition to the circuit, with a third test taking place March 1-3 at Losail International Circuit i Qatar. The 2018 MotoGP season begins March 18 at Losail.