Ducati Brings Nine-Times World Champion Out of Retirement

A nine-times World Champion motorcycle racer is set to come out of retirement to race for Ducati later this month. But not that one

Ducati motocross
Ducati motocross

Ducati is bringing a nine-times World Champion out of retirement to race in an Italian Championship race later this month, although it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of.

Sure, Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Racing Team runs Ducati machinery in MotoGP and seems in prime position to pick up at least one of the factory Desmosedici machines left behind when Pramac makes its apparently impending switch to Yamaha, but the 45-year-old is not nearly as embedded in Ducati Corse as another Italian champion.

Tony Cairoli, 2023 MXGP. - Ray Archer/KTM
Tony Cairoli, 2023 MXGP. - Ray Archer/KTM

Credit: Ray Archer/KTM

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That is, of course, Antonio Cairoli, who amassed a world title count equal to that of Rossi in a World Championship motocross career that lasted from 2004 until 2021.

Cairoli’s career began with Yamaha, but he switched to KTM in 2010. He became one of the icons of the Austrian manufacturer thanks to his premier class titles with them in 2010-2014, and then again in 2017. When he retired at the end of 2021, he signed to continue with Red Bull KTM as team manager from 2023, and in his first year in that role KTM won the MX2 World Championship with Andrea Adamo.

However, deciding that he wanted more riding opportunities, Cairoli ended his long relationship with KTM at the end of last year and joined Ducati to become a test rider for its new Desmo450 MX motocross bike.

The bike has been campaigned so far in the Italian Motocross Prestige MX1 series by Alessandro Lupino, who rode alongside Cairoli for the victorious Team Italy at the 2021 Motocross of Nations.


Cairoli will join Lupino — who won on the Demso450 MX’s debut at Mantova back in March — on the gate at the upcoming Ponte a Egola round, the fourth of the 2024 Italian Championship, on 22-23 June. It will be Cairoli’s first time lining up since the 2022 Motocross of Nations at RedBud and his first race for Ducati, as well as being the first time the Ducati ‘crosser has been ridden competitively by a rider with the kind of competitive record possessed by 94-times Grand Prix winner Cairoli.


It’s expected that the Demso450 MX will debut in the MXGP World Championship on a full-time basis next year, with a possible unveiling of the team at this year’s Motocross of Nations at Matterley Basin.

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