Paolo Ciabatti is the Sporting Director for Ducati Corse, the racing division of the Italian motorcycle powerhouse. A legend in his own right, he’s watched the evolution of racing over the past 24 years. And at the dawn of MotoGP’s most race-packed season, and second with Lenovo as Ducati’s Title Partner, the transformation continues. We sat down with Ciabatti to talk about the three main Ts – Tech, Team, and Timing – and Ducati’s plans for a triple crown sweep this year.
The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What can we expect from Ducati this season? How is that different from recent years?
2021 was really a positive year for Ducati and for the Ducati Lenovo Team. Together we won the Manufacturer’s and Team’s world titles. Our riders scored 6 race wins and many podium finishes, with [Francesco] Pecco Bagnaia finishing runner-up in the riders’ standings. So expectations for the 2022 season are very high: as usual, our target is to add the third crown, the rider’s title, while still maintaining the other two.
In 2020, the championship was very unusual. We started late and we had races back-to-back, with very little time to make any changes. We were racing on circuits in a different season —normally we would go to Jerez de la Frontera in May, but the last time we raced there in early August when the temperature was scorching. The solutions we found gave us a lot of information to analyze which helped us bring a more competitive bike to the racetrack last year.
How will MotoGP change in 5 years?
Well, I think MotoGP will always be the most exciting motorsport show in the world, but for sure, we have to keep an eye on sustainability. So, for example, from 2024 all the bikes in this championship will use 40% non-fossil fuels, and from 2027 fuels will be 100% non-fossil. This is an important step for the future.
How are Ducati’s innovations shaping the evolution of MotoGP?
In Bologna, over the years, we have been always able to innovate. I think the most evident innovation you see today in MotoGP is aerodynamics. We also brought some other new ideas like the rear-wheel deflector – if you look at the bikes today, all of them use the deflector on the swing arm in front of the rear wheel in some races, and this is something Ducati started.
Our engineers are young, but they have a lot of smart ideas. This is something that stays within our company and one day will be eventually transferred to the production bikes.
How does Lenovo technology help you workshop those new ideas?
Data is one of the most important things for us. Through the sensors, we process so much information, so we need very powerful hardware. And we manage everything through the servers.
We are now able to process data not only with the people who are with us at the circuit but also with the engineers who work from the racing department in Bologna. This has given us extra strength, we’re able to use more workforce in an efficient manner. All this is possible thanks to Lenovo technology solutions and the support we get from you.
Does it help the team if the riders are technologically savvy?
It matters more and more.
Both our factory riders are quite young (Pecco is 25 and Jack 27 years old), fast, very talented, and, like all the new generation racing riders, they are really interested in analyzing data with the engineers after each session to better understand the performance of the bike and improve their lap times. Having powerful tools available for our team makes this process even more efficient since we can now provide Pecco and Jack with the requested information in real-time.
What is your favorite Lenovo device? What aspect of the technology makes your life easier as the Sporting Director of the team?
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has been my loyal travel companion since the beginning of our partnership. Thanks to its robust construction and powerful processor, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is always there, ready for all my needs.
How do the lessons learned from each season help you prepare for the next?
The outcome of a race is the result of our work during the weekend and, more than that, it’s the result of our work during the year, trying to develop a better performing bike.
Nowadays, it’s about being connected. You know, we are away from home, we need to be connected, we need to be able to communicate. Our engineers need to be able to work directly with the engineers in the Bologna workshop. Therefore, technology is a key solution, a key element for us to be able to be efficient, and thanks to Lenovo, we are able to achieve that.
It’s more than just a sponsorship, it’s a real partnership on the track and it’s a technological partnership not just with Ducati Corse but also with Ducati Motor on future products.