Interview: Alessandro Lupino discusses the Ducati project in Motocross

Main image: MXGP/Infront Moto Racing | Interview: Andy McKinstry

It’s an exciting time for Motocross with Triumph entering the MXGP paddock this year to contest the MX2 World Championship before entering MXGP in 2025. Ducati who are the kings of MotoGP have also decided to enter the Motocross world. This year the Italian brand are focused on developing the bike. They’ve hired Antonio Cairoli and Alessandro Lupino to assist with the bike development with the latter also racing the Italian Championship. We might even see both race an MXGP round or two later in the season which would be exciting.

We caught up with Alessandro Lupino at Arco di Trento to discuss the Ducati project.

GateDrop: You know, here we are at Arco di Trento GP, but big news last year, Ducati are entering the motocross world and you’ve landed a development role. It must feel amazing to work with the new brand in motocross?

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Lupino: Yeah, it’s something really good, I mean, I’ve been 17 years a professional rider and now I get this opportunity. I’m really proud and it’s something really new, because around the motocross paddock, I think there is nobody at the moment that can work with such a professional and such a way of work, different way of work. So that for me, it’s a lot to understand, this group also, but it’s something nice to work and when we plan testing, when we end the day and we make what was in the plan, that means that something could be better than that, so that’s the most nice thing as well.

GateDrop: You obviously rode a lot of 450’s, you’ve developed a lot of bikes such as Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Beta, you name it. When you first got on the Ducati, how did it feel compared to the other bikes, something unique?

Lupino: Yeah, it is, the engine is unique, I think no one has it. The first time I tried the bike, it was in December, and when I jumped on the bike, immediately I felt it was a bike underneath, I mean, it is still now a prototype, but the first time I jumped on it, I said, f**k, I can do whatever I want, it’s a race bike.

GateDrop: That was in December, we’re now in April, soon to be May, so you’ve obviously made a lot of improvements since then, so the bike is even better now?

Lupino: Yeah, from December to now we make a lot of steps, now the bike is really good, the engine, we have nothing to say, we never complain about it. But even the frame is something special that I never had that feeling with other bikes, so I think they make a good job.

GateDrop: You are working closely with Antonio Cairoli, you started your GP career as his team mate at de Carli Yamaha, what’s it been like to almost do full circle with him, and working closely with him to develop this new bike with Cairoli, who’s also a very close friend as well?

Lupino: Yeah, that’s true. I started my personal career as a team mate with him, we became friends and now we end the career together, which is a nice project. So it’s something really good, because when we do testing and training, it is work, but we are also friends, so that’s the key. We can make a nice group with the team, so we have a really good relationship, and that’s at the moment the key to a good result.

Image: MXGP/Infront Moto Racing

GateDrop: The first Italian championship at Montova where the bike made it’s debut, you had two very different races… the first one looked easy but then the second one… a bad start, but that’s good for the data guy, there’s lots of data to analyse…

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Lupino: Yeah, he was really happy about it, I was not. But the first moto was amazing, I mean, the guys at the beginning of the season, the performance at a high level, but it was, it was easy win in the first moto. The bike is still like a prototype so for Ducati it was something amazing. The second I made a mistake at the start, I was really in the back and then they needed data when I was behind somebody with the radiator full of mud or something like that. They were really happy at the end of the race, because they have all the temperature stuff what they need to see, so we make both of the things, so that’s the target together so we do Italian championship for that and to learn things.

GateDrop: In the Italian championship, I mean, you’ve won multiple MX1 titles, this year though, Isak Gifting, he’s had a strong start to the season, it must be nice to race somebody that’s top 10 in the GPs, because it gives you guys a good reference, and also for yourself, it’s not just easy going out and winning every week…

Lupino: There is a good level in Italian championship at the moment, so that’s good to see. The guys that are racing today (at Arco GP), for sure I know that if I would race in the GP I not would win. I think I would not do so bad, but it’s not our goal. Our target at the moment, we are here to bring the level of the bike higher, so the focus is that on that. When we have a good bike and we know that we need other kind of experience, it will be the time to try to take on a GP race.

GateDrop: Being here at Arco di Trento watching, I mean, wow, what a GP… Part of you must wish you were out there racing?

Lupino: Yeah, I was next to the track, with my head I would like to be inside, it was tough, but it’s nice to be here.

Image: FX Action

GateDrop: When realistically do you think we’re going to see you racing a GP with the Ducati, maybe Maggiora?

Lupino: No, I don’t know, I don’t know, there’s nothing planned yet, so we don’t know yet when it will be.

GateDrop: I think there’s already development for the 250cc Ducati?

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Lupino: Yeah.

GateDrop: And how is it, what’s the 250 like at the moment?

Lupino: The 250cc is underway, it’s underway, they’re working on it, still it doesn’t touch the ground, but soon it will be. Next year we’ll be adding one, we’ll be focused on that one, this year the 450cc and next year the 250cc, so next year we’ll have both bikes running.

GateDrop: So next year in the Italian Championship, are you still going to be anMX1 guy, or could you maybe race the MX2 class to develop that bike?

Lupino: We don’t know yet, we don’t know yet, we think about it now and then we see.

GateDrop: Next year Ducati are probably going to have two MXGP riders, is there any chance you could do some MXGP next year as well?

Lupino: Everything is possible, I mean we are at the moment doing our program, but we don’t know. Everything can be possible, so we will see.

GateDrop: What’s it like with Marco Maddi, and Paolo Ciabatti as well, working with those guys? They’ve been very smart and hired you as well as Antonio Cairoli, two amazing guys to develop the bikes, and the bikes sound good, so it seems they are doing an amazing job so far…

Lupino: Yeah, Paolo I think is the key of the project, I mean for motocross to have such experience, such worldwide guys like him to have been there is good. He helps us a lot, so it’s good the team has such a lot of experience. Like I told you before, we have a nice group of people to work, and then the key is to have success also in motocross. That’s the target what we have now, and I think next year we will show it.

GateDrop: Triumph are obviously there doing the MX2 World Championship this year, probably going to be MXGP next year along with yourselves, two new brands in the sport, that’s only a positive thing I think…

Lupino: Of course, they did an amazing job, they showed it in the first three rounds that they went with two different guys on the podium, they are battling there so as a brand with new bike, I can tell you it’s something really good. Now I know how difficult it is to bring one bike from zero to bring it to the GP’s, but it’s a lot of work. It is more work than what we can imagine, so they make a good job. For our sport, it’s cool and it’s the best thing that we can imagine.

GateDrop: Just on MXGP at the moment, we’re three and a half rounds in, Jorge Prado looks good, but Gajser, Febvre, Herlings… they look like they’re motivated and maybe they’re coming, but it’s been an exciting season so far…

Lupino: Yeah, the season is really long, so at the moment, yeah, I think that those are the four battling for the championship, and the guys who will be more consistent from them will be the world champions. They don’t have to be, I think, the fastest, because like we said in the past years, not the fastest always win, but the consistent.  So at the moment Prado is the fastest, but the rest are there, so it should be interesting to see.