After three years without a single World Superbike victory, Ducati factory rider Chaz Davies brought home leading performances at Motorland Aragon last weekend, breaking the losing streak. Meanwhile, in MotoGP Andrea Dovizioso and teammate Andrea Iannone have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Ducati GP15 is at last a formidable competitor.
SBK, the defining racing series for the Italian manufacturer, has been an unhappy hunting ground since 2012 when the introduction of new rules and new competitors like factory BMW, Kawasaki and Aprilia teams changed the sport. In the period before 2012 Ducati had won 14 of the 24 SBK championships held, making their racing motorcycles the heavy favourites for official factory and privateer teams. The domination was so total that for several years Ducati was the only official manufacturer competing in the series.
It is worth noting that the rise of Ducati as a mainstream, well known brand is tied directly to the company’s racing ownership of SBK. Once an obscure, fading European boutique manufacturer, Ducati was able to leverage its SBK conquests into a compelling narrative that painted them as the tiny, passionate David against the lumbering Goliath of Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki. The very public beating that Ducati received in the SBK championships from 2012 on, in particular from rival Italian brand Aprilia, took a lot of luster away.
In MotoGP, the spectacle of Australian Casey Stoner’s aggressive style and storybook world championship win in 2007 became the capstone to Ducati’s brand laurels, by finally winning at the highest level of motorcycle racing. Subsequent failures, and the crushing disappointment of Valentino Rossi’s dismal years with Ducati only added to the blemish on the brand’s image.
At the MotoGP round and both SBK races this past weekend, it is clear just how strong Ducati is in both series today. On every straight, the GP15 of Andrea Dovizioso blasted past the Yamaha of Valentino Rossi almost like it had an extra gear, while Chaz Davies demonstrated precise control of the entire second race in Aragon, something you can only do if your hardware is reliably fast.
The Ducati racing renaissance may be a reflection of new found stability in the company itself, which a few years ago was acquired by Audi,the premium division of automotive giant VW. New management, new money and perhaps a re-energized workforce may be what it took to get David back on his feet.