Ducati’s priority for the 2020 Desmosedici MotoGP machine is the chassis, as they try and tackle long-standing turning difficulties.
But the Italian factory’s engine department has also prepared its response to Honda’s top speed challenge.
For many years Ducati ruled the MotoGP main straights, providing its riders with ‘risk-free’ tenths of a second as well as a potent aid for overtaking.
However, Honda fought back in 2019 and, although Ducati set another top speed record at Mugello (356.7km/h, 221.6mph), the leading RCV was a mere 2km/h slower.
That meant the Honda riders could now slipstream the Ducatis and no longer needed to rely on banzai braking moves to claw back time lost on the straight.
“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,” said Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna.
“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 race track.”
While Ducati introduced both chassis and engine updates at last November’s post-season tests, the full power of the 2020 engine will only be unleashed at the forthcoming Sepang test.
“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,” said Dall’Igna, before revealing:
“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.”
Dall’Igna refused to be drawn on how much horsepower the new engine will produce (the official Ducati line is “over 250hp”) saying only that he is “happy about the numbers we achieved… I think that the power of the engine is a tool that you can use to win races.”
“It’s important to have the power in the pocket,” Dall’Igna explained to Motomatters.com. “When you have it in the pocket you can make the decision if you want to use it or not.
“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.
“So for sure it’s important to have more horsepower than your competitors.”
Of course, Honda is also likely to make a further engine step during the winter, meaning Ducati can no longer dodge the turning issue.
Regarding the latest chassis updates, Dall’Igna gave a frank assessment of the progress so far.
“At Valencia the differences between the two chassis [old and new] was quite important. In Jerez, honestly speaking, the difference was less than Valencia but anyway I think we have a good base to start the new season,” he said
“For sure we didn’t finish the comparison in the 2019 tests so we have some jobs to do in the next test in order to evaluate better the different configuration of the evolutions.
“But we are quite happy with what we did in the  tests, on the chassis and engine point of view.”
In terms of aerodynamics, the bike presented in 2020 colours on Thursday was still fitted with last year’s fairing design.
“We will test the new fairing in Qatar or probably the last day at Sepang,” Dall’Igna declared.
“The difference between the 2019 and 2020 fairing will not be huge because the rules at the moment are rigid, so it’s really difficult to find something more from the aerodynamic point of view. So the new fairing will be an evolution of the last version that we used in 2019.
“In the Qatar test we will also try a different swingarm, so I think we can close everything before the final test and be ready for the start of the new season in Qatar in the beginning of March.”
Last season saw Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso finish runner-up to Honda’s Marc Marquez for the third year in succession, albeit 151 points adrift and with only two race wins.
Ducati was however the only factory team to win races with both of its riders, Danilo Petrucci claiming an emotional debut victory in his and the team’s home Mugello round.
Although Petrucci later slipped down the rankings, sixth overall was still his best yet in MotoGP and he remains alongside Dovizioso for 2020.
“From the rider point of view, we have exactly the same team as last year and honestly speaking I’m really happy about that because last year the first part of the season was really good and I think we have the possibility to continue in this way and have a complete season like the first part of 2019” Dall’Igna said.
“The target will be exactly the same as the last two years; fighting for the world championship and if possible achieve the result to win the world championship. It’s not easy, like usual we have a lot of riders that can fight for the final result.
“For sure our most important competitor will be Marquez and Honda but in the last part of the season also some other riders improved quite a lot, so I expect that fighting for the 2020 championship will be really difficult, more difficult than in 2019.”
The Sepang test takes place from February 7-9.