How Ducati can pile pressure on Honda by re-establishing grip on power

Having lost its top speed disadvantage in 2019, Ducati team boss says it has worked hard to reassert its authority for 2020 in the hope Honda can't respond

Andrea Dovizioso - Ducati MotoGP

Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna says the company has been working hard behind the scenes to reassert the team’s authority through the speed traps ahead of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship after seeing its advantage all but eroded away by Honda.

With Ducati’s superiority in a straight line considered a major factor in Andrea Dovizioso being able to take the fight to Marc Marquez in 2017 and 2018, the Italian’s upper hand was almost eliminated in 2019 as Honda made sizeable strides in this area.

At the same time, Ducati suffered in terms of braking and turning in, allowing the Marquez-Honda to comfortably ease to the 2019 title with four rounds in hand.

Though Ducati has been focused on improving the GP20’s handling, it is in the power department that Dall’Igna says the company is eager to reassert itself too in order to get a relatively easy upper hand over its rivals.

“Last year Honda improved a lot from the engine and speed of the bike point of view and so we would like to regain the difference that we had in previous years," he told "The priority for sure is the chassis. But the people involved in the chassis development and on the engine development are different, so you can [do] both.

"For sure it’s easier to win races if you have the fastest bike on the racetrack. In the last two tests of 2019, the engine improved from the rideability point of view and all the riders that tested the [new] engine gave us more-or-less the same feedback.”

"We have just finished the last durability tests on the dyno so at the next test [Sepang] we will introduce something different in order to achieve more horsepower, without losing any rideability."

"[I’m] happy about the [power] numbers we achieved… I think that the power of the engine is a tool that you can use to win races.

"The first priority is to have the [lap time]. After that, if you don’t have the horsepower then you have to fight a lot more to win the race. It’s important to have more horsepower than your competitors."

Can another Ducati power step recover losses to Honda?

A firm known for pushing the speedo just that little bit further with every season, Ducati indeed went ahead and broke a new top speed record in 2019 at Mugello of 356.7km/h (221.6mph).

However, where others year Ducati had a clear enough advantage in a straight line to afford giving up time in the corners – making them tough to beat at tracks like Losail and the Red Bull Racing – Honda had almost closed that gap in one swoop in 2019, but (in Marquez’s hands) barely showed a compromise through corners.

Indeed, though Honda’s move to extract more power from the RC213V package caused subsequent issues for riders other than Marquez, the Spaniard made excellent use of a bike that was both quick in a straight line and agile through corners…

As a result, the Honda appeared to be on the edge and broaching the limit more than its rivals in 2019, which may explain why there were a greater proportion of sizeable Honda crashes last year.

With this in mind, if Ducati can indeed make another power gain over Honda, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Japanese firm is even able to consider trying to follow without going beyond the limitations of the chassis.

Either way, Yamaha might be a little concerned if it comes to test with the same top speed limitations as 2019.