Grand prix

Luca Marini: Ducati situation was ‘critical, really difficult’ in MotoGP pre-season testing | MotoGP

After dominating the tail end of 2021, world championship runner-up Francesco Bagnaia had signed off for the winter break by leading the Jerez test and warning Ducati were set to ‘improve on perfection’ with the GP22:

“I said that the old bike [GP21] was already perfect and we are improving on this perfect bike. So that is incredible.”

But it proved premature.

The five GP22 riders then had a tough time adapting to the latest engine developments during pre-season testing at Sepang and Mandalika, culminating in the factory duo of Bagnaia and Jack Miller homologating a ‘hybrid’ 2021-2022 powerplant at round one in Qatar.

Pramac team-mates Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin plus VR46’s Luca Marini continued with the full 2022 engine, which Zarco took to a wet podium at round two in Mandalika.

But the only Ducati rider winning races during the opening five rounds was Gresini’s Enea Bastianini, on the 2021 machine.

“It was incredible the work [Ducati] has done, because in the winter tests the situation was critical, really difficult,” said Marini.

“Ducati put another step and from mid-season onwards and opened up a huge gap over the other manufacturers.

“The Ducati is now the strongest bike on track for sure. The results say this and also our feeling, every Ducati rider is really happy. The bike is so powerful and easy to ride, really strong.

“Congratulations to them, this year they achieved the best results possible and I hope they continue like this.”

Bagnaia took the GP22’s first victory at Jerez and, while incidents and mistakes cost him heavily in three of the following four rounds, outright performance was no longer an issue.

While Bagnaia stood on the podium in all but one of the races he finished following Jerez, on his way to the factory’s first world title since 2007, the Spanish round – or specifically the post-race test – also signalled a turning point for Marini.

Without a top ten prior to the Jerez test, Marini took ninth at Le Mans, then began a string of top-six finishes during his home grand prix at Mugello.

“Immediately after the GP in Jerez we had a day of testing and, for the first time since the winter tests, we were able to work on all the aspects that we didn’t have time to deal with during the race weekends,” Marini said.

“We found a very good base in terms of the settings and the feeling started to be really good.

“The second half of the championship, in terms of results, was incredible.”

Marini’s results peaked with back-to-back fourth places at the Red Bull Ring and Misano, as he climbed from 19th in the world championship after Jerez to 12th overall (and just two points behind Maverick Vinales) by Valencia.

“2022 marked a turning point in the MotoGP era because we have never seen so many riders so close in every race,” Marini said.

“Many times, I was close to the podium, sometimes it seemed really within reach. What went wrong? There are only three places on the podium!

“Sometimes more luck could help, or we just missed something in qualifying.

“There’s no real reason to explain [missing the podium], we’ve often been among the fastest on the track, but it’s not easy to be one of those three at the end.

“I feel really positive for 2023 because this season we have learned, we have grown and for next year we must fight for the win and achieve even better results.”

Ducati will reduce its factory support to four GP23 riders next season, at the official team and Pramac, with Marini remaining on the GP22.

Rookie team-mate Marco Bezzecchi, who took a podium on his way to 14th in the world championship, will also race the year-old bike.

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