Not long after Ducati announced that Valentino Rossi would be joining the team in 2011 in a 2 year deal, Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio and team manager Vittoriano Guareschi held a Q & A session to go into more detail on the announcement and took questions from the world’s press.
Read the full transcript below:
Gabriele del Torchio: Once again welcome here. You have seen recently our press statement, we are very happy and glad to announce that next year, for the coming two seasons, 2011 and 2012, Valentino Rossi will join our team and will ride the Ducati bike in the MotoGP championship. We are very proud of that, we believe this is a very important accomplishment. I am personally glad of the choice that Valentino has made, and I believe that his decision is due to the fact of the excellent relations between Rossi and [Ducati Corse general manager] Filippo Preziosi. They worked well together and they established a very good relationship, very solid relationship. Those are the solid pillars on which we will build our new racing season for next year.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Alessandro Cicognani [director of Ducati's MotoGP project], because Alessandro played a very important role in the negotiations.
Q: Can you say whether Valentino be released from his contract with Yamaha in time to start testing with you in Valencia in November?
GdT: This decision is not in our hands. Obviously we expect Yamaha to release him by the end of the year or at least by Valencia to test. It is their decision not ours. The only thing that I can say is that we have released Casey Stoner. He will be allowed to test the Honda bike after the final race at Valencia. So I am expecting that they revert something to us. We are still talking but there is no final decision.
Q: When did you start talking about this deal for the first time with Valentino?
GdT: It is quite a long history. Obviously we have had contact since a few months ago. Basically we decided to work together in July but the contract was finalized only a few days ago, in the month ago. It was a very recent decision and this is the reason why we announced it in Brno.
Q: Do you feel extra pressure now that you have Valentino Rossi riding a Ducati?
GdT: You feel the challenge. We are challenged by this decision and I believe that by working together, our team, our engineers in Borgo Panigale, under the leadership of Filippo Preziosi, and with the recommendations and suggestions that I am sure Valentino will give us next year, it will be an ideal combination. For sure it is very important, very challenging. Now all of us are concentrating on the last eight races that remain this year, but next year is another history.
Q: Will Valentino have the leading role in the development of next year’s bike?
GdT: Valentino will operate with us mainly for the 2012 bike, because the 2011 bike will be ready by the end of the season. But I am confident that he will work actively together with Filippo and his team to give us his recommendations, opinion and advice.
Q: Will he be the team leader?
GdT: We will treat our team members equally. There will be a second rider and we are in conversation with Nicky Hayden and I am confident we will achieve an agreement with him even if we have not yet signed anything.
Q: Is Rossi going to bring his entire crew over from Yamaha, which is led by Jerry Burgess?
GdT: It is too early to say. At the moment we have finalised an agreement with him. Wait and see.
Q: Is it your intention to try to hire them?
GdT: It is mainly a decision that we will leave to Valentino.
Q: Can you imagine the excitement in Italy if Ducati won the title with Rossi? Does this add extra pressure?
GdT: First of all I cross my fingers because it is too early to say that our objective is to win the title. So we will see what will happen. I believe that by combining two Italian icons, and Valentino is for sure an icon in motorsports, we are also an icon in the motorcycle industry, it will have a tremendous effect not only in Italy, but all over the world.
Q: The Ducati MotoGP bike has reputation for being difficult to ride, the opposite of the Yamaha. Will it be difficult for Valentino to adapt to that? And will you be willing to change the bike around completely to help him?
GdT: There is a saying in America that perception is reality. In this case I believe that perception is not reality. We have duly demonstrated with Nicky Hayden that the bike is easy to ride and the improvements that we have achieved this year and noticeable for all of us.
Q: Do you make any claim that the main goal is to win the championship with Rossi?
GdT: Obviously this is our dream.
Q: How long will it take?
GdT: There is no forecast for that. We will see.
Q: Did you consider it a risk that if you win it will be perceived as a victory for Rossi rather than Ducati?
GdT: My answer is that we will share the destiny. So if we win, it will be together and if we lose, we will lose together. But I believe that the second option is not contemplated at the moment! [Laughter]
Q: Do you have an option with Rossi beyond the next two years?
GdT: We don’t have fixed plans over the next two years. Obviously it really depends what happens over the next two years. It is quite normal in this sport to sign a contract for two years, so we will see what will happen. Two years is a quite a long period to define if we work well together.
Q: How did you finance the deal?
GdT: I have to say that I am very glad for the help that we received from our shareholder. Ducati is now fully owned by an Italian private equity firm Investindustrial which is controlled by the Bonomi family, which is one of the most prominent Italian families, but in the meantime I am glad for the support we got from Phillip Morris and from the other sponsors, Generali, Enel, TIM, all the others.
Q: Can you reveal anything about the salary you will pay Rossi?
GdT: Salary is not important. We are not in a position to disclose the amount of compensation that we will pay him. Our main decision was not related to money, but based on the confidence we have in Valentino, and in his ability to support us in developing the bike. And by the fact that combining two Italian icons we will achieve a very important visibility for this sport, MotoGP and Ducati.
Q: Will Ducati allocate extra money to the sporting department for this program?
GdT: We will put all the money that is necessary for it to be successful. We don’t disclose this number, but obviously we are aware that the challenge is so important that we will be in a condition to invest more money than in the past.
Q: Do you have more sponsors interested because of this deal, the marriage of two Italian icons?
GdT: It is too early to say. Frankly speaking our sponsors have long term agreements. As you know, Philip Morris, Generali, Enel, they were with us for many years, so we will stay with them.
Q: What about FIAT?
GdT: They have not disclosed their position – I believe they will do so within the coming weeks.
Q: to Vittoriano Guareschi (Ducati team manager): What is your personal opinion of Rossi’s ability to develop the bike, given your own experiences as a test rider in the past?
Vittoriano Guareschi: I think Rossi has so much experience with Honda and Yamaha and for sure this is important for Ducati to have a rider like this. Sure the bike will improve with Valentino and we want to push in this direction because it is necessary for us to work a lot I think.
Q: Are you a little bit behind with the 2011 bike, are you worried about that?
VG: I don’t know about this. We have many parts and many technical minds in Ducati. We have Filippo Preziosi and he is an incredible technical man and I’m sure that the bike development… we want to have a good bike for next year and for 2012.
GdT: Our engineers have been working for many months to define next year’s bike so they are fully active in designing the bike for next year.
Q: Vito will you have the same position as team manager next year and if so do you intend to make any changes in your crew?
VG: Yes. And, in this moment, no.
Q: What about Jerry Burgess?
VG: At this moment we don’t know what will happen.
Q: Because of all the work that has gone on in MotoGP, will Ducati continue with World Superbikes next year?
GdT: World Superbike remains one of our main interests. We have a long history in World Superbikes, so you will see Ducati bikes in the next year and the coming years in that series. The two divisions are under the control of Filippo Preziosi but we have separate departments looking after MotoGP and World Superbikes.
Q: Did you start working with Rossi after you got the news that Stoner was leaving or before?
GdT: There is the story of the hen, and the egg…
Q: Would you like Rossi to make some races for Ducati in World Superbikes?
GdT: It depends on him, obviously we would be very happy to have him on our Superbike, but obviously he should remain concentrated on MotoGP.
Q: How can you imagine the Madonna di Campiglio pre-season event with Fernando Alonso and Valentino Rossi together?
GdT: [Laughter] That’s an interesting question. A lot of crowds, many journalists and very exciting.
Q: Will Rossi switch to Formula 1 after this?
GdT: Valentino has signed with us for the coming two years what will happen after that… Before that he will stay with us.
Q: How much promotional activity will Valentino Rossi have to do for Ducati, he doesn’t like to do too many days?
GdT: This is a very sensitive question and obviously we will find a good compromise with him. So he is happy and we are happy and then for very selected events we will enjoy the presence of Valentino in the next year. A good compromise.
Q: Is this the biggest deal ever done in Italian sporting history and is he now the best paid Italian sportsman?
GdT: That’s difficult for me to give you an answer. You are the sports journalists, you should know better than me the amount of money involved in the other sports. I cannot answer.
Q: When Valentino decided to leave Honda, he looked at Ducati but decided to go to Yamaha instead. What changed between now and 2003 for Rossi to change his mind about Ducati?
GdT: That’s another interesting question, better to ask him than to ask us. But I believe that the main reason is down to the relationship he has established with Filippo Preziosi. I believe this was the key factor. It is not a question of money. Obviously it is my opinion that Valentino will be proud to ride and race with an Italian bike but in the meantime the relationship with Filippo played a very important role.
Q: Who made the first move?
GdT: Simultaneously! [Laughter] We sent some messages, he sent some messages, and you know there was a kind of …[asks for translation from Italian] … the stars aligned.
Q: He is not allowed to sit at the table with you now because he is under contract?
Q: Does signing Valentino make you feel superior to other brands?
What do you mean by superior? This is not exactly our way of doing things. We are not superior, we are competitive. We believe in sport, we are in sport to compete, we are in the business to compete. We are a small company. You should understand that we are many many hundred of times than some other players in the motorcycle industry. We are a small Italian company in Borgo Panigale, close to Ferrari, close to Maserati, close to Lamborghini, we share the same spirit with them. It’s not a question of superiority, it’s a question of will and of passion. If you want the true word for Ducati it is passion, not superiority.
Q: Will you be asking for the number of tests to be extended during the season?
VG: It’s under discussion at this time. It’s not Ducati’s decision or the rider’s decision. Before this it is important to know the new calendar, and then after I think Dorna will keep the decision for the winter testing.
Q: Will you give Rossi the opportunity to carry special colour schemes?
GdT: For sure he will have something special: the #46! This remains… All the remaining things are still in discussion with him, but we will not give up the red colour of Ducati obviously.
Q: When you started talking to Rossi, was the main objective to have him within the team or in Ducati? Within the factory team or maybe for him to set up his own team like he did when he came to Honda?
GdT: We have only one preferred course and that is to have him inside the official Marlboro Ducati team, we never contemplated the other option.
Q: Will we see Rossi testing a Ducati at Valencia in November?
GdT: As I said before we hope that, but it is not yet decided. Yamaha has to decide.
Q: How do you think the Ducati fans will react to the news?
GdT: I’m very interested to see the reaction to that tomorrow morning on the various blogs and so on. We already have seen some comments and what I have seen they are all positive.
Q: Have you thought about how the change will affect your sales for next year?
GdT: We will see what will happen. Frankly speaking, I believe that Valentino will help us to grow the brand reputation, and the brand reputation is not measured in terms of sales immediately. So it’s too difficult for me to give an answer. We have decided to have him because we believe in motorsport, we believe it was the right time for us to join forces together with Valentino, and try to establish a new chapter in the history of MotoGP.
Q: If Valentino has stayed with Yamaha, would you have taken Lorenzo instead?
GdT: Valentino is not staying with Yamaha. So we took Valentino!
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