Ducati Superbike Boss Ernesto Marinelli To Leave Ducati At End Of 2017

A major surprise out of Borgo Panigale this afternoon. Ernesto Marinelli, the man behind so much of Ducati's World Superbike success, is to leave the company at the end of 2017 for pastures new.

Marinelli has been a lynchpin in Ducati's WSBK operation, working with the company for 22 years. He started as a track engineer, working with both Carl Fogarty and Neil Hodgson, but soon took on a major role in Ducati's racing operations. The Italian led Ducati's AMA racing program at the end of last century, working with such legendary riders as Troy Bayliss, Ben Bostron, Anthony Gobert, and John Kocinski. After returning to Europe, he took over the role of technical director, then project manager of Ducati's WorldSBK project.

Marinelli leaves big boots to fill. At the moment, it is not known either where he is headed to for next year, nor who will take on the role once he departs. But it does allow his replacement a year of breathing space, as 2018 will be the last year of the Ducati 1199 Panigale V twin, before the Italian factory switches over to the V4 bike to be launched at the end of this year.

Below is the Ducati press release announcing Marinelli's departure:

Ducati Corse Superbike Project Leader Ernesto Marinelli to leave the Bologna company at the end of this year

Ducati wishes to announce that Ernesto Marinelli, Superbike Project Leader, has decided to leave the company at the end of 2017. Ever since he joined Ducati in 1995, Marinelli has always been involved in Superbike racing for the Bologna-based manufacturer. In 1997 he worked as track engineer in the factory team with Carl Fogarty and Neil Hodgson in the production-based world championship and then from 1998 to 2000 he was head of Ducati’s AMA Superbike programme in the USA with riders Anthony Gobert, Ben Bostrom, Troy Bayliss and John Kocinski.

On his return to Europe in 2001 Ernesto Marinelli was Ben Bostrom’s track engineer for two years in the Superbike World Championship before taking on the role of SBK Technical Director in 2003 and then Ducati SBK Project Manager starting in 2010.

During his career in Ducati Ernesto Marinelli has contributed to the conquest of numerous world titles and in particular, under his technical direction, the Italian manufacturer won five Riders’ world titles (Hodgson in 2003, Toseland in 2004, Bayliss in 2006 and 2008 and Checa in 2011) as well as six Manufacturers’ world titles (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011). In November 2006 Marinelli was also track engineer for Troy Bayliss in that fantastic MotoGP race at Valencia, which the Australian rider won in his only race that year as replacement for Sete Gibernau.

Claudio Domenicali (CEO of Ducati Motor Holding SpA): “I began to work with Ernesto back in 1995, the year he joined Ducati, and since then I’ve learnt to appreciate his qualities of expertise, commitment, perseverance and passion for racing. Together we have shared success and disappointment, sacrifice and satisfaction, but I have never seen him lose the enthusiasm that has always distinguished him in his work. Under his guidance, Ducati has obtained numerous successes in the Superbike championship and of course I’m very sorry that he has decided to leave our company at the end of this year. I’d like to wish him all the best for his new professional challenge and I am sure that in the future he will continue to follow and support Ducati with the affection he has always has.”

Ernesto Marinelli (Ducati Corse Superbike Project Leader): “After 22 years it’s not easy to say goodbye and turn over a new leaf and if you leave a company like Ducati, the decision becomes even more difficult. Nevertheless, for each and every one of us, the time comes to raise the bar and face up to further challenges. I’m leaving Ducati in the knowledge that I have lived numerous unforgettable and successful moments, sharing passion, dreams and satisfaction, as well as defeats, disappointments and difficulties. All of these have marked and shaped my professional career and they have helped me to understand that “never give up” is not just a saying but to all intents and purposes a style of life. For my future, I’ve decided to accept a new professional challenge and put myself to the test again, albeit with the awareness that everything I leave behind will always have an important place in my memories and my heart.

A big thanks to Ducati. Thank you to all the many fantastic people who have shared with me these years of hard work, travel and circuits all over the world. There are still four races to go before the end of my final season in SBK, and it will be an even more special and motivating reason for me to continue to fight and win together, before saying farewell to all my colleagues and the Ducatisti, with whom I’ll continue to share friendship and passion, and with whom I’ll still be supporting our red bikes from Borgo Panigale!”


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Ernie's a brilliant catch for any team. Presumably, he'd only leave Ducati after all these years and with the V4 in the offing for something very special. Could he be going to Aprilia to sort out their faltering WSB effort? Or has Suzuki tempted him away to lead their return to WSB, or even to help his compatriot, Davide Brivio, develop the flagging MotoGP team? Or is he heading somewhere else completely? Come on Kent Brockman, do tell. 

Or MV Augusta even? I bet Aprilia.
After all his success in the "Ducati era" I am seeing him either going back to a smaller project in a similar role with renewed vigor, or over to more of a general management position if he can move up elsewhere in a fashion not available to him at Ducati. Another track ought though, both of them stating "he has chosen" to take another position can also mean that this is the respectful delivery of something that was Ducati's idea as the V4 comes and they prefer a fresh project manager to go forward with. They did so well to shake up the MotoGP structure not long ago so...

He says "There are still four races to go before the end of my final season in SBK", indicating that he's moving to a project outside of SBK.  If we can presume he's staying in motorcycle racing (?), and that you do not leave Ducati after a couple of decades to take any sort of backwards step, then you'd have to guess he's going to take up a leading role within another manufacturer in MotoGP.  Although then, he also says he'll "still be supporting our red bikes from Borgo Panigale".... which seems an odd thing to say if going to Suzuki or Aprilia, which seem the most likely Motogp candidates.

Curious, it'll be interesting to see where he ends up.

That last line about "still supporting our red bikes from Borgo Panigale" would indicate he is not going to join any other motorcycle factory. Otherwise my bet would have been on MV Agusta, because of the potential they are showing in Superbikes and because that too is an Italian brand loaded with tradition, racing pedigree and style. I can imagine it would be a nice challenge to bring them further forward.

Of course it would be an interesting move if he went to Aprilia, after Ducati poached Gigi Dall'Igna from them. But again, then that last sentence does not make sense.

More likely is that he is moving somewhere at Audi or Volkswagen; the connection is already there.

Reply to self: rumour is that he is going to work for Termignoni, and reason being that he wants to travel less. Now that would make it easy to keep cheering on the red bikes. Sounds very plausible. Also he apparently has said that he can't go and work for a competitor motorcycle brand.

This will make it all a lot less interesting for us racing fans of course. No intriguing brand switches and transfer of knowledge to cause any change in fortunes for racing teams. Oh well.