During our visit to Italy for 2023’s instalment of EICMA, the world’s largest motorcycle show, we caught up with Andrea Ferraresi (AF) who, as Ducati’s Design Director, is responsible for some of the most exotic two-wheeled machines on the planet.
Immediately after Ferraresi and Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali whipped the covers off the limited edition Panigale V4 SP2 30° Anniversario 916, which celebrates 30 years of the original 916, we sat down with him to get under the skin of what it’s like to play such a key role the future of such an iconic brand… and how he tries to stay ahead of the competition.
How important would you say the 916 has been in Ducati’s history?
AF: The 916 is a pillar for our design history. We have two pillars, the 916 and the Monster. The current Ducati line-up can be split into two parts – all the naked bikes, like the Diavel, X Diavel, and Monster come from the original Monster, and all the other bikes, like the Panigale V4 and V2, the Super Sport, Multistrada and Hypermotard have their design DNA from the 916. It really is fundamental to our history.
Ducati is one of, if not the, benchmark motorcycle brands. How difficult is it to maintain that when there’s so much competition today?
AF: It’s not easy! It’s difficult to stay ahead in terms of technology, in terms of performance, and in terms of style. Our competition is very, very tough, so we try to maintain the leading position, at least in terms of design, by continuing to evolve our design, but gradually and avoiding big steps.
We have small evolutions, keeping the most important key feature, like a double headlight or a horizontal one, or the style of the tank and so on, which must remain the same, or change slightly and not in a dramatic way.
This is more or less the approach that Porsche has for their cars, and we think this is the recipe for staying up the front, especially when it comes to design.
Ducati has always built fantastic road bikes. With the launch of the new Desert X Rally, V4 Rally and a new motocross bike, what’s the reason behind the shift to more off-road focused machines?
AF: When we developed the Multistrada Enduro, then the Multistrada Rally, and the Desert X Rally, we decided to enter into this off-road world. Now we have announced that we will enter the proper world of hard off-road, first with racing then developing a whole family of motorcycles. First of all, to complete the model range, (but) wherever there is competition and where there is adrenaline, we must be there. And for sure, in off-road, there is a lot of adrenaline.
Talking about the off-road project, this is one of the pillars of our strategy, to acquire and gather the interest of younger audience, as off-road is very appealing to younger people, we want to be there in that game.
On the flip side to that, are there any motorcycles you could never see Ducati building?
AF: Never say never, because things change. But yes, for instance I think it would be quite difficult to see Ducati building a scooter, or to see a Ducati that is a huge touring bike. Not to say these aren’t interesting, they’re interesting segments for sure, but it’s quite far from our DNA. Our DNA is to be sporty, small, fast with a focus on performance. So, it would be quite difficult to realise that type of motorcycle.
It’s been Ducati’s first season as MotoE bike supplier. Does that mean we’ll be seeing a fully electric Ducati in the near future?
AF: Well, when we decided to enter into the MotoE World Championship, we decided to do it to gain experience in this totally new world which is electric. We think that if the regulations will change in some countries around the world where officials choose to ban the internal combustion engine, we want to be ready, and to develop a motorcycle people can use on the road.
But this all depends on the technology. At the moment, we think that the battery technology is not ready to make a viable product. So, if you want to realise a new motorcycle now with the right amount of range and battery power, the weight would be too high for a Ducati. But sure, when the technology allows and the policies dictate, we will have an electric motorcycle.
Has being part of Audi Group impacted the design process of new Ducatis? Is there shared resource across the group?
AF: They are not influencing us, they are not forcing us to do something, so we are free to develop our design the way we want. But, we are sharing experience, and I am super good friends with Mitja Borkert, the Head of Design at Lamborghini.
He is a Ducatisti, he loves motorcycles and I love cars, I love Lamborghinis, so we meet and exchange opinions and ideas maybe once per month, and we are cooperating with the brand inside the group to realise new special editions. We have already built two special editions, the Diavel 1260 Lamborghini and the Streetfighter V4 Lamborghini.
So, this way being part of the Audi Group is super useful, and we take advantage of it.
Finally, what does it take to be a designer at Ducati?
AF: You have to be very passionate about the brand, and you have to be in Bologna. We don’t have any freelance designers, because you really need to understand the brand and you really need to breathe the air of Borgo Panigale, and be close to Ducati Corse and the engineers.
We don’t just have Italian designers, we have people from Bulgaria, France, India, New Zealand and so on. So, it’s not important where you come from, but it’s important to stay in Bologna and to understand our way of life, and our way of conceiving the brand.