Silly Season's Key Figure: Gigi Dall'Igna, The Man Making Ducati And Aprilia Wait

For the past month or so, Nicky Hayden has been telling the press that an announcement on his future should come in the next couple of days. On race weekends, the press asks on Thursday whether there's any news, and then again on Sunday, and get the same reply: No, not yet, but it shouldn't be long.

We know who Hayden will be signing with - Hayden has been spotted going in and out of the Aspar team's truck that you start to suspect he's already been given a spare key - and up until recently, we though we knew what he would be riding, a heavily modified version of the Aprilia ART machine, with a new engine with pneumatic valves and a seamless gearbox, and a new chassis to put it in. But it appears that that bike has been put on hold, as the most important contract negotiations for 2014 are starting to reach a climax.

The man in the eye of the storm is Gigi Dall'Igna, currently head of Aprilia's racing department, and responsible for many of the successes which the Italian factory has enjoyed over the years, including a World Superbike title with Max Biaggi. Reports that Ducati have been trying to tempt Dall'Igna away from Aprilia had emerged before the summer, but Dall'Igna appeared to have rejected Ducati's offer. Dall'Igna had decided to stay with Aprilia, after receiving assurances that the MotoGP program would be expanded, to include the new ART machine incorporating more pure race technology. 

Now, it appears, Dall'Igna's situation is up in the air again. Several sources are now reporting that Dall'Igna could be on the verge of a switch to Ducati, after finding himself under budget constraints at Aprilia, and having received guarantees of a free hand at Ducati. With Aspar seriously considering a switch to the Honda production racer - with backing from HRC and American Honda, who are keen to see Nicky Hayden back on a Honda, US publication Sport Rider is reporting - and Karel Abraham's Cardion AB team already having switched to Honda, there are few options left in MotoGP for Aprilia.

What could be even more decisive is the power which Dall'Igna is being offered at Ducati Corse. Although he will report to Bernhard Gobmeier, who is currently head of Ducati Corse, Ducati is believed to have offered Dall'Igna a free hand in reorganizing and clearing out a number of engineers from Ducati Corse. This is one of the most urgent priorities, according to Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso. At Aragon, he told reporters '[The engineers] who work in the bike didn't fix the problem. So it means the people who tried to fix the problem, are not fixing the problem.'

The problem was also caused by the removal of Filippo Preziosi as head of Ducati Corse after the purchase of Ducati by Audi. Nicky Hayden told reporters at Aragon that he felt that Preziosi's departure had left a big hole in the racing department. Preziosi was a clear leader, and that appeared to have been missing since he was gone, Hayden said. Having a man like Gigi Dall'Igna take the place of Preziosi - technically reporting to Gobmeier, but with a free hand to do as he pleases - would mean the return of strong leadership and a clear direction to Ducati.

Dall'Igna may not be the only name in the running at Ducati Corse. MotoMatters has learned that Ducati have also been looking to Japan for engineering expertise. There has been no evidence that the persistent paddock rumor naming former Yamaha boss Masao Furusawa as the man Ducati are interested in has any foundation in fact, that suggestion probably arising from the contact last year between Furusawa and Filippo Preziosi. But given the seriousness with which Ducati is approaching their MotoGP project for 2014 and beyond, it cannot be discounted.

Ducati have no choice but to make their MotoGP project a success. Although Philip Morris has signed up again for another year backing the project, the patience of the tobacco giant is wearing very thin. Ducati have gone backwards since winning the title in 2007, with development never keeping up with their rivals. If Ducati don't bring in someone with the engineering brilliance and the leadership skills to stop the rot, their time in MotoGP will be very brief indeed. The list of individuals qualified to take on such a role is really rather short.

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I really hope Aprilia will keep Dall'Igna and move on with their GP plans. They can have such a great package next year if they push on with this project and have Hayden as a rider.

It would be a loss for the class if Aprilia would pull back or decrease their efforts, I feel. Just the fact that Ducati tries to lure Dall'Igna away, should be enough reason for Aprilia to keep him.

Oh and by the way, it's two Superbike World titles with Biaggi, in 2010 and 2012.

I saw this story on Sport Rider's site a few days ago but was waiting for some other outlets (like this one), to run with it before I would give it too much creedence. Unfortnately, it seems it's a real possibility.

Dall'lgna hand picked Hayden, so we can understand Nicky's apprehension and why there's now a scramble to at least set up a back-up plan with Honda. Imagine the guy who just hired you, the guy who's the impetus and lifeblood of the entire MotoGP program, ups and leaves for a different factory. Without Dall'Igna. there may not be a program, much less an expanded one as he envisioned. Aspar and Hayden must be feeling a bit shafted right now.

But here's the most ironic potential outcome, if somewhat unlikely: Sport Rider also reported that G.D. asked Aspar and Hayden not to make any decisions until he made his own. But not only because he doesn't want them lost to the Aprilia project should he decide to stay, but also because he's keen to have them both at Ducati should he leave.

Hayden is not likely to favor that option, particularly since it looks like Ducati will be starting from nearly scratch, but you never know. Especially, with the twists this story is taking.

I really hope Aprilia keep him as I want to see them in GP giving it a real shot. Moto GP needs more manufactures!

Of course MotoGP needs more manufacturers, but it's not in Honda's interest to encourage such disrespect of corporate power, preferring to make the world championship a test of financial muscle. Aprillia should stay well away from MotoGP, and Ducati, Suzuki, Yamaha should also focus on World SBK until common sense returns. Honda can play with their twiddly bits in a private playpen for spoiled kids until they get bored with impressing themselves.
The grotesque expense of MotoGP has become a turn-off, in addition to inhibiting competition. Most weekends it's now a tedious processional circus, much like F1 and its farcical open wheels, which no serious mechanic would ever put on a modern car.
World SBK is the best hope for exciting racing, but it's probably doomed to be starved of attention. The 'glamor' of MotoGP will condemn it to being perceived as a second rate series, despite Troy Bayliss' 2006 MotoGP victory on the Ducati demonstrating the riders are just as good on competitive machinery.
It's almost depressing enough to make one watch NASCAR.

nothing will EVER make me watch the left hand turn parade lmao !!! I would rather stock up on MotoGP season reviews and reminisce about the glory days !!!

Considering what we've seen on track from Aleix and the ART this last two years, this will be a very surprising development and a shame to see hardly any of them on the grid.

What have the powers that be got against Aprilia in GPs? Given that the criticism often levelled at their Superbike is that it's a MotoGP machine running in the Superbike class, some folk don't seem to want them anywhere!

Ducati need an Italian at the head of their MotoGP project. Take a look inside any Ducati shop and there's more than the bikes ...Italian culture! It would be a sad day for Ducati enthusiasts if the race bikes were influenced by a non national. If Luigi leaves Aprilia, lets hope they can also be successful in MotoGP

Well, Yes. Ducati. is an italian "soulmachine". But Ferrari just might be even bigger piece of italian motorsport identity. And no one, I think not a single Italian was upset after Brawn-Todt-Schumacher took over the F1 world. Scuderia was 100% Italian no more, but it was wining oh so much.

I hope that Gigi stays at Aprilia. I dont think that one man can make huge diference. And He looks better in black.

So I watched Faster and Fasted yesterday morning. And I remember Rossi stating he wanted to end his career on a Yamaha. There is also speculation that he wants to end healthy. Now with Marquez in the mix, Rossi has to know that a championship is no longer realistic. The thought of Rossi retiring after this season and Hayden getting an offer to Yamaha would be superb.

Another Rossi championship seems increasingly unlikely, but not yet impossible. Many people thought he was done after 2007.
The destinies of several recent titles have been heavily influenced by injuries or illness. MM was extremely fortunate at Mugello, and will be overdue for his mandatory broken collar bone next year. The fate of empires can hang on a loose TC wire.

the "people said Rossi was done after 2006/2007" revisionist history lie is right up there with the "Yamaha was the worst bike on the grid before Rossi got there" lie. Neither are true or was said until years later by posters on the internet.

I was present at several conversations during the 2007 season when people said the VR46 era might be over. Personally I sat on the fence - but never expected him to come storming back like he did. I did think he had missed the unique opportunity to win the world title on the machinery of three different manufacturers - which turned out to be accurate.

Rossi also stated a few times that he wants to remain on the grid in MotoGP for 1 more 2-year contract with Yamaha. Then maybe he will consider going to WSB if he's not more involved with his Moto team. Nicky hasn't signed a deal yet... he's waiting to see where GiGi is going because he already gave him a verbal agreement. If GiGi leaves Aprilia, Hayden hopefully has an offer from HRC/American Honda waiting in the WINGS! lol. Couldn't help myself with that line. Doesn't LCR still have room for another bike in the garage area??? So there's the Aspar-team and the LCR-team that have provisions to take on the new proddy-bikes still!

From what I read, LCR was very interested in adding Hayden, but they needed American Honda to come up with the budget. Apparently, there were talks with Came, but they ended up pulling out of MotoGP altogether. So, no deal. But given the current situation, I wouldn't rule anything out.

Odds are, no matter which bike he ends up on, it'll probably be with Aspar, though. Hayden seems to like them a lot.

According to the Sport Rider article, if Gigi goes to Ducati, he wants Hayden and Aspar to go with him. Nick, understanably, is not thrilled by that prospect. But weird things are afoot.

So who is buying these Aprilia bikes that are supporting this dream, here in California I just don't see it.

Probably Honda are bribing Dall'Igna to leave Aprilia for Ducati, where he is less likely to do harm, so that they can sell their third-tier bike to Aspar and do away with that annoying little Italian factory that also ruthlessly stole so many 125- and 250cc world titles from them. Not to mention all those Superbike wins.

OK, just kidding, but Honda does seem to think they rule GP racing. Or maybe they do.
For sure the ever more restrictive rules make it more and more difficult for other factories to enter. You cannot use your preferred tyres, not your preferred ECU and soon not even your own programming, plus of course you have to make do with too little fuel.
Most of hese restrictions make it very difficult to exploit your own specific strengths and also force you to part with long-time technical partners. Which is also bad for costs.

I so wish they would at least stick to 21 litres and your own choice of electronics next year (and beyond) and bring back free tyre choice, so you can create some strong points for yourself. That would surely bring in Aprilia as a full works effort next year and also bring Suzuki back sooner. I can imagine the fuel and electronics thing is a major issue in the development of Aprilia's plans for next year.

People complained that the grids were too small and that bikes were too expensive. So Honda steps up and builds what appears to be a pretty bitchin', relatively inexpensive production racer, and teams are buying them.

This is a problem how?

Every year it gets trotted out that HRC are the ones killing bike racing in all forms. Now, I'm NOT repeat NOT defending them blindly here. But haven't Honda introduced the Moto3 bike of theirs with the specific plan of selling them to the domestic markets and thus bringing through MORE riders? Making racing more affordable. How much is a Moto 3 spec KTM? 40,000 euros?

The KTM is a pure trick bike. The Honda is more aimed at the up and coming domestic leagues. I'd agree that there has been an argument in the past for saying Honda are pricing everyone else out. But, as I've said on here before, that was Dornas fault for giving the MSMA free reign. Of course they were going to spend money. you'd be daft not to. Now that Dorna have seen what it does to the playing field, they're on a massive back track, and making themselves look stupid whilst doing it.

Anyway, as morbidelli17 has pointed out, 2 years ago everyone was bemoaning the dwindling Moto GP grid. Then the CRT project came along and people moaned about that "it's not proper prototype racing" etc etc Now Honda AND Yamaha are trying to do something about it apparently that's not good enough either because it'll scare Aprilia off!!!! I'm starting to wonder if it'll ever be "good enough"

How's about:

A) Honda and Yamaha carry on with what they're planning to do
B) Ducati, Aprilia (and any other manufacturer) up their game and take these 2 one.

Before anyone says it's not possible due to money. I didn't see Ducati whinging about abject poverty the year they took the world title.

Sorry for the ranty post, but it seems there's a whole load of "can't" coming from all angles and not a lot of "how about if we tried".

"I didn't see Ducati whinging about abject poverty the year they took the world title."
No, they didn't - I can remember the press release the day Stoner won the title. They took justifiable pride in being a modest race program located in a medium-size European city that had defeated two Japanese industrial behemoths with far larger budgets.
Their triumph was probably down to a unique combination of circumstances - Stoner's brilliance, desmodromic valves, the 800cc transition, Yamaha's chatter, Honda's internal conflicts etc. Somehow Ducati remained at the sharp end for the next two years - which is more than Suzuki and Kawasaki managed.
As for CRTs - I could care less if they're on the grid. Unless they're competitive, they're devaluing the whole show. The TV cameras never bother to follow them, except for crashes and the consolation coverage near the end - and that should tell you something.
Unless MotoGP finds a way to reduce costs and attract the other manufacturers, we probably won't see another underdog victory like 2007 ever again. Perhaps you'd enjoy that, but I wouldn't - and I'll carry on whinging.

Honda will spend the money. Yamaha will probably spend the money. And even they have boards of directors, executives and shareholders who have to be convinced to spend the money. I can assure you that there are lots of people in those companies who think the money is better spent in more efficient, more measurable ways.

Ducati is only around by the grace of Marlboro. That relationship is most likely tenuous at best. Will Audi spend the money on its own? I wouldn't bet on it.

Every other team on the grid requires big sums of money from sponsors. And being somebody who works in marketing and advertising, I can tell you for certain that that money is getting harder and harder to get--especially for something like motorcycle racing.

If you think that MotoGP can continue to be exhorbitantly and increasingly expensive and have more than 8 bikes on the grid, I'd like to know how.

I can only speak for myself and say that I'm not unhappy that Honda has supplied a production bike, but I don't want to see six of them on the grid and no Aprilias. Because as long as there are still pure prototypes, those production bikes won't get very close to the front. No way Honda is going to produce a production bike that can undermine its protoype efforts (and I can't blame them).

But Aprilia can.

Just so I understand correctly:

1. Currently no one is the "head engineer" at Ducati, i.e. no current Preziosi.
2. This GiGi guy will likely end up at Ducati.
3. Gobmeier has promised "revolution, not eveolution" for next year.
4. The end of the current season is about a month away.
5. At that time, every other manufacturer will trot out their 2014 bike for testing.
6. Meanwhile at Ducati they haven't even hired the guy who's job it will be to envision this "revolution" for next year's bike.
7. Whoever they do hire, his first job will be to get rid of all the guys who currently work on the bike, then assumedly hire a brand new staff that then has to get familiar with the bike, Ducati's processes, etc.
8. Actually design and build this "revolution".

So as far as I can see by the time everyone else is rolling out their versions of their 2014 MotoGP bike, Ducati may have hired the guy who will be responsible for designing their 2014 bike. He might not even be able to start working for Ducati until the first of next year, contract depending.

Maybe I'm wrong, but shouldn't all of this have been taken care of a long time ago?

How are they going to pull this all off by 2014? That must a potentially huge blank check that Ducati's waving in front of Gigi. But even money doesn't seem likely to buy them enough time.

These highly respected blokes. Well,all the best to all of them. Audi apparently can't put much more injection into DucatiGP than Burgess/Rossi could and a host of others. Marlboro/Stoner and who cares,a marriage made in mud.Marlboro could not see the wood NOR the trees. Personal opinion. Gigi needs to stay out of this shamozzle. Judging by the Chinese buyouts and their business acumen in the western hemisphere. Watch this space.
Last I heard China had re-invented Volvo,got London taxi's back on production et al. All the Chinese need to do is wake up to the potential profitability of MGP and seize it. Oh Yeah,lest ye all forget,Jaguar is Indian. Back to Ducati. Go East young man.
Off topic, but food for thought. The Noale outfit will be well served by considering partnership with Chinese and Indian productive efficiency. Ducati,likewise,oops VW/Audi. 0000.

well, another really good artical by david emmett,...i have been coming to this website for a couple years now, and i was finally able to give them my 40 bucks, i had always wanted to but was finally able to do it. they deserve my money cause they all are so good at what they are doing. thanks

"Yeah, we are working to do something next year, but I cannot promise you that for sure the next year we will be here." What does that MEAN?

I think he was referring to not being sure that next year they will be present in the AMA series even though they have interest and contacts. That's what the previous question was about.


uh right- guess I went down some other thought path- Thanx!

Gigi Dall ' Igna may have done wonderful things at Aprilia in World Superbikes. But I suspect MotoGP is slightly different. After Kawasaki (the one manufacturer who never showed any kind of consistent commitment to GP racing) Aprilia is the other one. I know that I will be reminded of the fact that the 125cc and 250cc grids were full of Aprilias or Aprilias branded as Derbi or Gilera, I would still say that any success evaded them in the highest class. Their experiments with a lighter two stroke with a smaller cubic capacity than 500cc and with one cylinder less which started with Doriano Romboni ended as a disaster. Honda (I am no fan of them) on the other had produced V twin 500cc GP racers which could race well with the V4 500s on tight and twisty circuits. I cannot be sure of this but I seem to recall that both Tadayuki Okada and Sete Gibernau managed to get themselves on to the podium a couple of times on the V twin Hondas.

What Dall'Igna can do at Aprilia when the factory is not showing any serious commitment to MotoGP and when the WSBK series is being dumbed down, is a question worth asking. If he really is this brilliant engineer (and I have no reason to believe that he is not) he should not be with Aprilia but go to another manufacturer. Ducati maybe a good fit, the factory being Italian. I do not know how a person like Masao Furusawa will fit into the Italian work culture but I am sure Dall ' Igna will be able to fit in comfortably. It is questionable if he can turn Ducati into a race winning machine anytime soon, but he may get the budget and the freedom required to forge ahead with new ideas. It is sad that Filippo Preziosi was made a scapegoat and shunted out but I am sure by now Ducati have learnt some lessons. So it will be interesting to see what Gigi Dall 'Igna can do there. It seems pretty obvious that he cannot do too much in the racing division of Aprilia when the company is dithering about MotoGP and still wants to come in through the backdoor as ART rather than come in through the front door with its own name.

I think they are going about it in a very smart way. First off, they interpreted the rulebook for CRT/factory involvement as close as they could. Secondly, they don't have the face saving concerns that keep the Japanese up at night and Suzuki away for another year and Kawasaki in hibernation. They got 2 years of tire and fuel consumption data at a minimal expense. Gigi's been in the pits most of the time so their head of race development is integral to the project. They have major updates planned for next year and have signed a top rider. Hopefully Gigi is using Ducati interest to leverage for more resources for the Aprilia GP project! If Ducati is still headhunting for a head of engineering and Dall'Igna falls through (hey Vittoriano, I'm available!) then its a good bet that the ARTs will be ahead of all the Ducs next year and picking off a Honda or Yam every now and then, more incentive for Noale to spend some more.

One thing, if they want to come in with a seamless transmission they may have to be a factory option team. Maybe that is what Gigi wants and Aprilia is resisting the resources needed. I think it unlikely to be possible to do a seamless trans using both the spec hardware and spec software. Honda's got their torqueometer or whatever and who knows what Yamaha and Ducati are doing but it undoubtedly involves a lot of custom programming that I don't think Dorna will have in their spec software.


Totally agree, Chris. Every time Gigi is asked about the Cube project, in which he had some involment in its later stages, he bristles and says something about how it wasn't done the right way. One could see the current effort as the antithesis of the Cube. It just so happens that the CRT rules gave Aprilia the unique opportunity take an efficient and measured approach. So far they've played it nicely.

The question now is how committed is Aprilia to it in the event they lose its leader? How much of this was Gigi's initiative? It's entirely possible that he's using this for more leverage at Aprilia, although one insider said that he essentially has no boss runs his own show now. But I guess there's always someone above who signs the checks. Guess we'll see where this all goes soon.

*sounds like the move is a done deal...mind you, you never know until it's announced. I sincerely hope that something can be done to put Ducati back up the front.

As many makes of bike as possible makes for great racing.

So does the possibility exist that Gigi will go to Ducati, and Aspar along with him, and Aspar gets Ducati's "customer" bikes, which were purported to be simply the 2013 bikes with the spec software? Then Nicky signs with Aspar as he's waited so long that nothing else is available and rides literally the exact same bikes he's on right now? I love Nicky and hope for the best for him, but damn that would be funny.

That's exactly what I was reading into this, this is, if the rumours are in fact true. Quite ironic.
If so, I hope the best for Nicky.
Personally, I would like to see what he could do in the "factory" Aprilias if they received the big injection of upgrades, such as pneumatic valves, seamless shifting, and other further development (chassis, aerodinamics, etc), all possibilities mentioned a month or so ago.
Getting a bit uncertain now....

"Then Nicky signs with Aspar as he's waited so long that nothing else is available and rides literally the exact same bikes he's on right now? I love Nicky and hope for the best for him, but damn that would be funny."

No s**t. That's a very real possibility, and one example of the reason I don't even try to write fiction. I'd suspect that Roger Lee is on the phone with the Honda folks now. "Hey guys? Um, so, about that Nicky guy ..."

Personally, I blame Dorna for these Frankenrules that put Aprilia in the place where if they wanted to keep using one of their best-performing assets - their own software - they have to go full factory, five engine, 20-liters, which is something the company doesn't want to do, so their best option might be to hit the exit.

I got a really crazy idea: One set of rules for everyone. I dunno, it might just work ...

If H & Y want to race with only 20lt and 5 engines, let them do that voluntarily. If they succeed they can advertise that they beat the opposition with one hand tied behind their back => great PR. If they lose they get to eat some humble pie.
Meanwhile we have at least 2 more manufacturers back in. They most likely won't win anyway, but it makes it more interesting.

Why is it so good for the sport that Ducati get their GP act together and return to competitiveness in MotoGp than Aprilia to become a competitive in their own right?

Aprilia has a FAR longer, richer and more successful history in GP racing than Ducati. For their troubles they've been treated like dirt in my opinion. I was hoping the ART would take another step up next year and as the pure prototypes were wound back Aprilia would really become a contender. Likewise NH would find himself #1 factory rider and brand ambassador into his twilight years, hopefully with some pretty decent results under his belt.
I'll be quite sad if the rumours are true and GDI has defected to Ducati (along with Aspar). As noted already it's surely too late to have anything useful happening in time for 2014, and NH wil find himself what? THIRD tier rider for a brand at the beginning of a long road back to competitiveness?
Furthermore - didn't Ducati just sack a high profile engineer who wanted to do everything his way? Preziosi was another to have been treated very shabbily IMHO and was the real victim of Rossi's misadventure with Ducati. It now sounds like they're falling over themselves to hire another.

This could turn out to be a brand/PR nightmare for Aprilia. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

It will be very interesting to find out what actually happened behind the scenes. Aprilia just convinced Aspar to stay with them only about a month ago with assurances of an improved bike and expanded involvement. If Gigi just got an offer he'd be crazy to refuse, fair play to him. If this chain of events was reignited because some beancounter put the vice on the budget after the fact, someone needs to be fired.

David has got some long days and nights ahead. Good luck, man.