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Since Casey Stoner left the Bologna factory team at the end of 2010, Ducati have had some more difficult seasons in the premier class of Grand Prix Racing. 2016 has seen years of blood, sweat and tears on the road back to the top begin to pay off, however, as the manufacturer has taken two wins and a host of podiums: Ducati are back.
Highlights: Delight for Dovizioso in Sepang classic
The only man who has yet won a title on the red bike is Casey Stoner. Defeating Valentino Rossi to the crown in 2007, Stoner put the legendary manufacturer square in the crosshairs of all those with aspirations to the crown. Winning races on the Ducati every season he rode it, Stoner then left for Honda at the end of 2010 - as both HRC and Yamaha were back on top as the manufacturers to beat.
After two difficult years despite the arrival of 9-time World Champion Rossi, in which the Italian legend took only three podiums, 2013 was another tough year for the Borgo Panigale factory - but it did see the arrival of Andrea Dovizioso, the rider who would go on to play a pivotal role in the reversal of Ducati's fortunes. The next puzzle piece came in 2014 - the year in which solid foundations for a return to the top began to appear, with the arrival of Luigi Dall'Igna to head the project. After three difficult seasons, the overhaul began in earnest.
2015 started well for the Bologna factory, with both Dovizioso and new teammate Andrea Iannone on the podium and fighting for the win first time out in Qatar. The victory remained elusive, however, despite eight podium finishes and two poles for the riders over the course of the season. But, the gap to the winner that had been a key concern of the factory was getting smaller and smaller, and the all-Italian line up were constant threats in the top five or for the podium.
Ducati at Qatar: They're back!
2016 has seen the stepping-stone of last season come to fruition. Despite a difficult first half of the year punctuated by bad luck and trouble, the Desmosedici GP16 was nevertheless a threat from the outset. With outright podium pace at many venues on the calendar, the history books looked set to get a rewrite after the paddock had their first taste of the new look Red Bull Ring in testing. The venue, playing to all of the Desmosedici GP16's strong points, seemed the perfect stage for Ducati to take that first win on the road to getting back in the hunt for World Championships. Iannone and Dovizioso did not disappoint on race day in a historic a 1-2 out front - with Iannone the man taking the Borgo Panigale factory's first win since 2010.
Highlights: Iannone takes Ducati’s first win since 2010
After missing out on that victory but another podium for Dovizioso in Motegi, the veteran Italian's journey with Ducati then came full circle at Sepang - as 'DesmoDovi' took a commanding win from pole position; becoming the ninth different victor of 2016. More than that, the victory confirmed once again that the red bike is becoming a serious contender, and the man there from the beginnings of Ducati’s rebirth penned another chapter in the journey.
Dall'Igna: "I'm really proud of the season"
Luigi Dall’Igna: “It’s a great day for us and a great day for Dovi. We’re very happy for him because he’s had some good results throughout the year but had a lot of bad luck. I’m really proud of this season. We can do better for sure, but we have two victories and we’ve fought a lot for the podium and sometimes for the victory. I’m happy about the results, the performance of the bike and the evolution we’ve seen during the season. The new bike will be ready for the post-race test in Valencia and I'm curious to see what will happen with Jorge."
With Casey Stoner back on board as test rider for 2016, 2017 and some more regulation changes now appear on the horizon - including a ban on aerodynamic winglets - and Dovizioso will remain with the factory and project that has seen his years of development work pay off with a second career victory. Joining him on the other side of the garage will be a man who arrives amid a whirlwind of expectation: Jorge Lorenzo.
The 3-time MotoGP™ World Champion moves to the outfit with one aim only: to do what only Stoner has yet managed on the Ducati - win the World Championship.
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