What a colossal exit means for Pramac Ducati's MotoGP future - The Race
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What a colossal exit means for Pramac Ducati’s MotoGP future

Nov 30 2021
By Simon Patterson

The past few seasons have seen a complete transformation for the Pramac Ducati MotoGP team as it has gone from occasional top-10 finishers to race winners and independent team champions in 2021.

But how much of that is down was down to the leadership of Francesco Guidotti, the team boss who is departing for KTM in place of the ousted Mike Leitner?

And just how much will it impact the team’s ambitions of continuing its upward momentum?

It’s not hard to see the changes that the Pramac Racing team have undergone during Guidotti’s time in charge.

Guidotti’s first seasons in command of the unusually-structured team ran as a subsidiary of Italian generator manufacturer Pramac rather than a separate team, and it never quite made it into the top leagues of MotoGP despite riders like Scott Redding, Andrea Iannone and Danilo Petrucci (pictured below).

The team was often capable of strong results on occasion, with seven podiums in a four-year period, and its best position in the riders’ championship was eighth on repeated occasions but the big prize always managed to escape it: the chance to claim Ducati’s first-ever satellite victory.

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The first signs of change came in 2019, when Jack Miller stepped up as a consistent podium finisher, alongside rookie team-mate Pecco Bagnaia – and it was a big vote of confidence in Pramac’s abilities and Ducati’s trust in the team when the pair were both moved to factory seats for 2021, replacing Petrucci and the long-serving Andrea Dovizioso.

Yet it was the departure of that duo that really heralded the start of Pramac’s most successful year by a long way in 2021, with Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco smashing all pre-season targets by delivering an exceptional season.

Multiple podiums, four pole positions and its first-ever victory thanks to Martin were the highlights, but fifth in the championship overall for Zarco, a rookie of the year award for Martin, the independent teams’ title and a considerable contribution to Ducati’s constructors’ win will be what’s remembered in the history books for the team.

But while that incredible transformation might have happened under Guidotti’s leadership, it’s hard to give all the credit to the job done by the Italian – at least directly.

His time at the team has coincided with a new era in MotoGP, one that has seen satellite teams disregarded as mere customers of old bikes and instead made partners in the project, with the new status bringing a whole new role not just as junior teams for developing talent but also for developing bikes.

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A model developed by Ducati and Pramac, its lead rider has for years taken on something of a racing tester role for the Bologna brand, with first Petrucci and then Miller becoming the first to receive new parts, all the better to evaluate them in anger for the factory squad.

The 2021 season is probably the ultimate expression of that process, too, with two former Pramac riders winning races for the factory team, in part thanks to Ducati’s revolutionary holeshot device – a part first trialled by Miller on the satellite bike.

Of course, while that might have significantly aided Pramac Racing’s ride to success in 2021, it’s impossible to discount the role played by Guidotti (pictured below) in it all; after all, he’s the man who convinced Ducati that his team was up to the challenge. But, with the hard work done and that new structure set to continue into the future, it’s one area where his departure will have a lesser impact.

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And with Pramac still at heart remaining a satellite squad, it’s unlikely that his absence will cause technical hiccups in the same way that Davide Brivio’s similarly unexpected move from the factory Suzuki team did 12 months ago.

Rather, where Guidotti will be most missed is in the garage, where his role as mentor and father figure not just to the riders but to the whole team has been apparent from the outside looking in.

He’s a fantastic people manager who has retained the family feeling inside Pramac – a feeling that Martin recently singled out as one of the key strengths of his rookie season – and it’s going to be a tough job for team owner Paolo Campinoti to find someone who brings the same strengths to the box ahead of the start of the 2022 season.

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