An Exclusive visit to Ducati Corse's Top Secret Race Shop
Story and Photos
by Jim Gianatsis
Bologna, Italy, May 18th 2004 - It was a trip fo a lifetime. I was off to Italy on a 10 day paid dream vacation for any sportbike enthusiast, hidden behind the guise of "work". We started our weekend off at the nearby Monza World Superbike round on May 16th at the legendary and beautiful 101 year old circuit, then drove our rent-a-racer some 150 miles down the Autostrada to the Adriatic seaside town of Rimini for the Ducati produced World Ducati Week 2004 may 17-24th which proved to be one of the world's biggest manufacturer produced enthusiast events ever (only topped by Harley-Davidson with their anniversary gatherings in Milwaukee), and certainly THE BIGGEST for sportbike enhusiasts!
Our ultimate sportbike trip to Italy for a World Superbike race and World Ducati Week wouldn't be complete without a visit Meca, or in this instance the Ducati Factory and Museum in Bologna, situated on the Autostrada hald way between Monza/ Milan and Rimini. But we couldn't stop there. Could we get a visit to the top secret Ducati Corse racing shop, home of the World Championship winning Superbikes and race winning MotoGP machines? The Corse race shop is normally closed to everyone from regular visitors on the factory tour, to Ducati dealers, Ducati world wide distributors, employees and the press.
But it was time to call in a few favors to our buddies, Ducati Cose Team Manager Paolo Ciabatti and Superbike Press Officier JulianThomas. The fact that FastDates.com is the biggest sportbike website in the world helped us get our foot in the door, but my providing our beautiful SBK World Superbike Fast Dates calendar girls to be the offical Ducati Corse umbrella at Laguna Seca each year probably had more to getting me in than anything else!
Below: This Corse
engine technician is suspicious - Is that a camera in our pocket or
are we just happy to see him?
Corse Superbike Team moving to new facility
On the particular day of our visit to the Corse Race Shop the MotoGP race team mechanics, bikes and the big 80-foot Corse race transporter were on their way back from a Monday test session at LeMans, France, the day after the LeMans MotoGP race weekend. Still, there was a fairly large crew of technicians in the Corse race shop building new and rebuilding used Desmosedici engines and MotoGP bikes.
Later in the week both the Corse factory Superbike and MotoGP race teams and transorters with the rides and bikes would be set up and on display at the Misanotrack for WDW2004 where fans could meet the riders, mechanics and see the race bikes in person. With the riders also firing up the bikes and taking them to the track for demonstartion rides that had the fans cheering in approval.
MotoGP bikes being rebuilt and assembled for both the factory Corse Marlboro team of Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss with the new Generation Two chassis and motor, and the Breil satelite team of Ruben Xaus and Neil Hodgsen with last year's Generation One bike and chassis. In 2 years these will be available for the street....
The Corse Race Shop area which is now devoted exclusively to MotoGP is about the size of 2 large high school auditoriums or basket ball courts, and uses a warehouse style modular steel upper floor level for additional parts storage. There is an engine building area separated by parts shelving, a bike building area, a large enclosed dyno room, and then a warehouse parts area with four levels of additional parts.
What we didn't get to see on this day due to the time constraints of also visiting the Ducati Motorcycle Factory, the Museum, and having lunch in the factory Cafeteria was the Corse Race Design Department which is all CadCam computer design aided. Or the areas in the factory where main components like the engine cases might be sand cast and CNC machined, and frames are fabricated. As is typical in many racing operations, many main components like carbon fibre bodywork, exhaust systems, swingarms and such are farmed out to subcontractors outside the factory.
Race Team Budget
"Obviously we don't sell enough motorcycles to justify our huge expenditure for racing," explained Julian. "Around 3/4s of our racing budget comes from our major sponsors like Marlboro and Fila.
"Ducati will always be involved in World Superbike because we believe first and foremost in racing the bikes which we sell to the public and that means Superbike. We are involved in MotoGP to elevate the name and image of Ducati in the world motorcycle market as an industry leader. And I believe this is what we are doing very well."
If 3/4s of Ducatis $32 million dollar race budget comes from its sponsors, then the remaining $8 million dollars comes from the 40,000 bikes per year sold to customers which works out to just $200 per bike. A pretty good deal to own a pretty cool bike with the latest technology from a World Championship winning manufacturer.
and Ruben get down to the real nitty gritty
So Claudio, why isn't the Ducati MotoGP bike a front runner this year, like last, we asked.? "We designed an all new chassis and engine this season which is much better then last year's bike. But we really didn't have much time to test the new bike's setup before the racing season began, and what threw everything off was the changes to smaller 16.5 inch tires and wheels. Last week we tested all day with Loris and Troy at LeMans and really got the bike dialed in where it should be. Troy matched the track lap record easily and said 'I wish I had this bike setup for the start of the season'. We expect to see much better results beginning at the next race."
Story of WDW2004
than just a consuming passion, the Ducati passion is one that pulls
in numbers too. Attendance was estimated at over 45,000. 19,000 tickets
were sold, and nearly half of these were weekly passes, purchased by
those (countless) individuals who could not think of missing even one
of the events that Ducati organised for its fans to animate this great
international event that inspires the entire motorcycling community.
Ducati.com also made a major contribution to the success of the event by managing the website dedicated to WDW2004 and providing an incredible amount of information before, during and after the meeting, exponentially increasing the event’s exposure to the many members of the Ducati public who for one reason or another were unable to take part directly. Thanks to Ducati.com these fans were at least able to take part virtually. The figures speak for themselves: during the week from 17th to 23rd of May more than 350.000 visits were made to the WDW2004 website!
Of the many activities organised for participants at WDW 2004, those promoted by the Ducati website proved a particular success. The top scorer was the “I WAS THERE. WERE YOU?” event that attracted hundreds of enthusiasts during the WDW weekend (21st-23rd May). Ducati.com staff took snaps of the people or situations they considered interesting. The resulting photos were published (starting from the 26th May) on the www.wdw2004.com web site. All those immortalised in this way and all others who simply want to keep a memento of this unforgettable experience, can download the shots they want, vote for their favourites, send e-cards with their own photo or even, thanks to sterling cooperation by E-shirt, order a print of their chosen photo on their selected T-shirt design. More than 1,300 images are available. In the first 30 minutes of going online were recorded approximately 35,000 visits.
And let’s not forget the Ducati Garage Challenge, the competition to find the best special that began before WDW with the selection of the 30 best bikes from those entered on the Challenge site. It continued at Misano, leading up to the announcement of the three category winners and their prizes, including awards from the official Ducati team riders.
But what firmly placed this fourth edition of WDW in the annals of history was the announcement made by the CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, Federico Minoli. On Saturday evening Minoli personally announced the official birth of the Desmosedici Racing Replica engine to the Ducati world. The announcement was the official beginning of the road-going Desmosedici development process. This limited edition machine is destined for a lucky few Ducati enthusiasts who will enjoy the maximum expression of Ducati Racing technology as well as the unique professional competence of Borgo Panigale’s R&D department. Another two years will have to pass before the first machine becomes available, so all you can do for the moment is book one and wait for WDW2006 when the very first bikes will be handed over on the very same stage from which the announcement was made this time around.
“This has been the best, most entertaining and most successful WDW in our history,” commented Minoli at the end of the spectacular parade of thousands of motorcycles from Misano to Rimini. “The level of involvement has been tremendous, and the participants have been the event’s real protagonists. The Ducati tribe has again shown its passion for motorcycling and for the legendary Ducati name. We are a great family, united and strengthened by our passion for riding. It’s a pity we’ll have to wait two years before the next WDW, but we’ll start organising it tomorrow! Let’s hope we can put together another week just as great, just as entertaining and just as passionate as this one. I’ll see you all at WDW2006!”
Italian Air Force