We sat down and spoke to Ducati Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti
Passion. It seems Italians are born with an abundance of passion, for some it’s food or wine and for others it could be fashion and design. But for Paolo Ciabatti it’s speed and racing, more specifically, motorcycle racing. We had a chance to speak with the Ducati Corse Sporting Director and MotoGP Project Director about his career, his passion for motorcycles and where Ducati might be going next in the racing world.
Looking at your career, you’ve been involved with the automotive and motorcycle industry throughout most of it, what is it about motorcycles that brings out your passion?
As most teenagers in the 70s, my dream was to own a 50cc motocross bike that we could ride already at 14 years of age. I convinced my reluctant father to buy me one and I started to compete in the regional motocross championship. When the movie “On Any Sunday” arrived also in Italian theatres (“Il Rally dei Campioni” was the Italian title) I discovered a whole new world of motorcycle racing and became addicted to it. So, in 1974 I went to Imola for the 200 Miles race and could enter in the paddock thanks to a friend working for Michelin Italy, I saw Giacomo Agostini win the race ahead of Kenny Roberts and Teuvo Lansivuori. Since then, my passion for motorsport just kept growing; I raced car rallies, offshore powerboats and then began to work in the automotive industry and, in 1997, for Ducati.
Both factory Ducati MotoGP riders have won two races apiece this year.
Do you currently have any motorcycles of your own that you ride on a regular basis?
I still have in my garage at home in Turin a DKW 125 GS from 1973, a Montesa Cota 348 Trail from 1980 and a Harley Davidson MT500 (military version) from 1999. Naturally when at the office in Bologna, I can take a Ducati of my choice for a ride!
Have you noticed any differences in how Europeans appreciate motorcycle racing versus how North Americans appreciate it?
In my opinion European spectators are, in a way, more “technical oriented” and normally fans of a specific rider or team. In the USA I think spectators are more genuinely interested in the overall show and sport and ready to cheer for any rider or team that does well.
Over the years you’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddock, are there any riders that stand out from the rest?
I have had the privilege to work with many super talented riders, but one has a special place in my heart: Troy Bayliss. We are still good friends and, together, we achieved incredible results, including that fantastic race win in MotoGP in Valencia 2006.
Ducati has recently begun to get more involved in road racing in the USA, can you share what the future might hold for Ducati Corse in the US and how involved will you be with that?
Thanks to the efforts of Warhorse HSBK and the support from Ducati North America we have been able to build a professional team effort for 2021 in MotoAmerica with Loris Baz as a rider. We plan to continue with increased technical support to the team also next year and hope to be able to race a Panigale V2 at Daytona 200 and eventually also in MotoAmerica SuperSport 2022.
Ciabatti is a key member of Ducati Corse and has been pivotal to their success.
In your opinion, what will it take to make motorcycle road racing more popular in the United States?
I think that Wayne, Chuck and all the MotoAmerica guys have been doing an excellent job and managed to revamp the series after some difficult years. I could personally witness in Brainerd (Brainerd International Raceway) how spectators were positively responding to the show. It would be great if more manufacturers would come back with their own factory-supported teams, this would also help to grow young American talents that then could eventually move to the world championship. Garrett Gerloff and Cameron Beaubier already made it to WorldSBK and Moto2 coming from MotoAmerica but we need more US riders in those series.
I know you were a motocross fan as a younger man, is there any chance we might see a Ducati racing in a motocross event in the future?
The answer today is no, but never say never…
If I were to open your personal garage door at home, what would I find in there?
The bikes mentioned above, plus a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible from 1972, an American Motors M151 A2 military jeep from 1972, a Ford Focus RS (350 BHP) from 2010, a brand-new Toyota Yaris GR 4WD and, naturally, an Audi Q7.
When you want to get away from racing and the sport, what do you like to do?
In my free time I like to travel to exotic countries, do scuba diving, and alpine skiing in winter.
Any final thoughts?
Hope my answers are satisfactory.
Thank you, Paolo, for taking time to provide a small glimpse into what is an extraordinary life and passion for motorcycles and motorcycle racing. We’ll be following the exploits of Ducati across the racing spectrum for the rest of this season and beyond. And, yes, your answers were more than satisfactory.