Subscriber Interview: Gigi Dall'Igna On R&D Transfer From MotoGP To Production

Why do manufacturers go racing? That is a question which has intrigued me for years, and to which I have spent many years trying to get a straight answer. All of my attempts to get factory bosses to quantify exactly what the returns are, and in what areas, have fallen on barren ground.

The simple answer, of course, is that there are three reasons why manufacturers go racing. In no particular order, they are: as a platform for engineering research and development; as a platform for marketing and brand positioning; and as a training ground for engineers. The relative value for each of these remains a mystery, which the factories are either unwilling, or unable to specify.

At the launch of Ducati's Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine, presented to the media at the Misano round of MotoGP, I got a chance to ask Gigi Dall'Igna, the boss of Ducati Corse about the value of MotoGP in developing engines for the street. Much was made by Ducati of the Stradale's heritage, as a direct descendant of the Desmosedici GP15 bike. The engine shares a layout with the GP15, as well as the same bore. (The stroke is longer, to give the engine more torque at lower revs, and make it more ridable.)

Dall'Igna was frank about the transfer of engineering knowledge from the MotoGP bike to the road bike. Yes, there were definitely lessons which had been learned, and could be applied to production engines, but the constraints of production engineering did severely limit what would find its way into road bikes.

One of the biggest constraints on MotoGP in recent years has been the introduction of engine limits, restricting the number of engines a rider can use in a season. Where once, a MotoGP engine would be stripped and rebuilt every 500km (or in the most extreme cases, such as Honda's 2007 RC212V, 300km), now engines have to last around 1800km. Had the lessons learned making MotoGP engines more durable been used to improve reliability for Ducati's Stradale V4 engine?

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Well, talking about being frank on the transfer of engineering knowledge: Gigi Dall'Igna has definately transferred engineering knowledge from Aprilia to Ducati, which has finally gotten Ducati on the right track again after many years of struggling. Nothing illegal there of course, but something that hardly ever seems to be mentioned when talking about the recent rise in success of Ducati.