”I am proud to announce Ducati’s entry into Motocross,” Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, told the motor racing world in the January of this year.

“A totally new world for Ducati in which we want to bring our talent in designing lightweight motorcycles, with excellent components and high performance and – above all – which can excite more and more motorcyclists. Just as we believe that the track is the best laboratory to develop and test the bikes that will then be available to customers and enthusiasts.”

DUCATI DESMO 450 MX – Dettagli tecnici

Ducati has been front and center during 70 years of FIM World Championship racing success, winning 18 constructors titles, and 15 riders titles, along the way in becoming one of the most successful teams in MotoGP and World Superbike Championship motorcycle racing history.

Now it arrives in motocross. It has developed a prototype four-stroke, single cylinder 450cc Ducati Desmo450 MX rbike which it will first take to the starting gate in mid-March with Maddii Racing and team rider Alessandro Lupino as part of the Italian Motocross Pro Prestige MX1 Championship.

Overseeing the program will be Paolo Ciabatti, Sporting Director of Ducati Corse from 2013 through 2023. Tapped to fill the role of General Manager of the new Ducati Corse Off-Road program, 66 year-old Ciabatti helped boost Ducati’s MotoGP success, beginning with Casey Stoner’s 2007 MotoGP title. A key variable in the calculus of Ducati’s MotoGP and WorldSBKdominance – Ducati won both the MotoGP ad WorldSBK championships in 2023 – Ciabatti will now hold station over the upstart Ducati MXGP program.

“Obviously Ducati had this idea to go off-road for many, many years,” explained Ciabatti from his home in Italy. “For whatever reason, the project and the plan was always delayed; it was, ‘Next time! Next time!’ Luckily, three years ago there was the approval to go ahead with this project. Ducati decided that there was a market for Ducati, even though the off-road market is very new to Ducati and is dominated by KTM and the Japanese brands at the moment.”

Placing Ciabatti at the control of the spectacular new project displays a strong vote of confidence from Ducati in the veteran racing executive.

“This whole project is a clean sheet of paper,” he said. “Obviously, it’s an exciting challenge, because Ducati has never been present in the off-road world. All of the projects that I’ve been working on, obviously they were already existing projects like Superbike or MotoGP. You enjoy success, but you want something new; a new challenge; a new motivation. I think this came at the right time.”

“Ducati thinks that with the right product and with the right network, we can be successful. Obviously, success will depend on the quality of the product, which is going to be our target at the top of the segment. Ducati also wants to be successful in racing. We think that with this model we can attract a younger customer base that will get into the Ducati family through a new product and eventually they will stay with Ducati and move to something else maybe when they get a little bit older.”


Domenicali has told the motorcycle industry media that Ducati cannot make mistakes along the way. Ciabatti addressed Domenicali’s concerns.

“When you enter into a new segment as a manufacturer, not only is there racing but also with the product you need to be very careful with what you do,” he said.

“Obviously, the quality and the features of the product are very important. Some good success in racing obviously helps to convince people that it is the right product. There is also a lot of work to do on the sales network and many other things that Ducati is taking very seriously because we still have some time ahead of us for the production, because the bike will be on the market in the last part of 2025. We want to be ready.

“Ducati is very proud of our engineering qualities,” furthered Ciabatti, referring back to the 20 Ducati engineers who have been dispatched to the Borgo Panigale motocross bike. “It is a brand new engine. It doesn’t have any single part in common with any other existing engine. It does retain the Desmo System because this is what Ducati has on all of the sports models, so this engine has a Desmodromic Valve System.

“Also with the frame, we took a different approach. We started with all of the competitors because this is what you normally do when you are developing a new product – especially if you develop a product in a different space outside of your comfort zone. We got some knowledge from the competitors and what they are doing and then we decided to go our own way.”

And so far, so good for Desmo450 MX project.

“The first test we did seemed to show we are going in the right direction,” said Ciabatti. “Obviously, we will need more testing this year. We’ll also take part in the Italian Championship with Alessandro, mainly with the target to further develop the bike in the most grueling situation, which is to go racing. Toni Cairoli is also helping, as well, in pushing the bike to the limit. Maybe he will do some races as well. That has not been decided yet.

“The riders Cairoli and Lupino, they decided to join the project and I think that shows that Ducati is doing things seriously. We want to be successful. We know it will take time because we know how long it took for some other manufacturers before they came to success. We know that we can get there and that’s the target.

“The main target is developing the bike. There is developing the bike, and on the other side, we know with riders like Alessandro and Toni, the expectation in racing is that we will be on top, or fighting for the top. We are a mix on one side where people expect Ducati to come to races and immediately be hyper competitive. I think we can be very competitive, but we will never forget that the main purpose in racing in 2024 is to develop the bike further. If it comes with some very good results, it is going to be the perfect situation.”

DUCATI 450 Desmo MX – Photo Gallery

As the Desmo450 MX is raced and developed in the next year, it will be imperative for Ducati Corse and Ducati Production to stay closely connected as the two entities will be in a constant flow and exchange of R&D information.

“For Superbikes we develop a street bike, which has some features that will make it competitive in Superbike, so it’s a way where Ducati Corse engineers and Ducati Motor engineers work closely,” he said.

“In this Desmo450 MX case it is even more so, because it’s a non-homologated bike. It is not a bike that you need to homologate. It is a bike that is going to be used in motocross tracks by enthusiasts and by professionals. The bike that will be on sale in the second half of 2025 will have a lot in common with the bike we use for racing. This is why Ducati Corse Off-Road has been created.”

After developing the new motorcycle in the Italian Pro Prestige MX1 Championship, Ducati Corse R&D will look to the U.S.-based Monster Energy Supercross Championship. Ciabatti is fully aware that American Supercross is an entirely different world to navigate.

“It is definitely a championship we want to compete in and hopefully it will be in 2026,” he said. “This is the plan. We know it’s a different story for motocross. It takes a lot of preparation, but it is exciting. We can see that not only KTM and the Japanese manufacturers, but Beta is there and Triumph is there. I think this is good for the sport because if you see more and more manufacturers interested to enter into motocross and supercross, it shows that this sport that we all love is now attracting more interest from new manufacturers is very good.”

Now owned by Audi and armed with the German automotive brand’s financial and engineering wherewithal, Ducati has not been shy about preparing to take its new motocross fight to both the Japanese and Austrian motorcycle brands.

“Definitely we’re going to go fight those guys, as we’ve been fighting them in MotoGP and Superbikes,” said Ciabatti. “As I said, we know that it will take some time. Possibly less time than it took some other manufacturers, hopefully. We know that it will not be easy because it is a very competitive championship. Riders make a huge difference. Obviously, attracting the right riders to ride our bike will be a key for our future success. Hopefully, I think that the image Ducati has worldwide as a company that is succeeding in every motorsport activity we compete in will help us put together the best possible team with the best possible riders.”