Bologna's Piazza Maggiore attracted more than 38000 fans in the biggest pre-season party ever organized by the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. It was an incredible send-off for the Ducati MotoGP Team and factory riders, Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden.
The "Ducati MotoGP Night" event came at the end of an action-packed day that included a visit to the Ducati factory in Borgo Panigale, Bologna where Rossi and Hayden toured the production lines and met the workers.
"It's great to be here," said Valentino as he met and addressed the Ducati workers. "I'd like to say thank you to everyone. We all look to do well in our work and the bikes you make are really beautiful. Carry on doing a great job here and we'll try to do a great job for you on the track."
Team mate, Nicky Hayden, was equally as impressed. "It's really very special to be here," he said. "I've worked for other manufacturers, but Ducati is really unique. The bikes are special, the people that work here are special and now let's hope that we can give them the special results that they deserve."
Later in the day the riders also attended a packed press conference where Hayden continued to talk about being part of the Ducati MotoGP Team.
"I'm very happy to be here today, happy to ride the Desmosedici and happy to be a part of this team. I know how hard the season will be, MotoGP is never easy, but that's why we love it. The last tests in Malaysia were difficult, but our team spirit is always positive. Today we were in Ducati, saw the factory and the enthusiasm of all the people there and now I'm just waiting to get back on the track and give all the Italian fans the results they deserve."
2011 team arrival Valentino Rossi echoed Hayden's sentiments: "Our visit to Ducati today was really emotional. For many years I've raced for other motorcycle manufacturers and visited their factories, but for sure the atmosphere was never like this. Today was like returning home and I'm very happy to be working with an Italian team this year. The people we met today have a great passion in what they do and pride in who they are and now we have to be fast on the track, have some great races and give everyone motivation."
During the press conference, Gabriele Del Torchio, President and CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, took the opportunity to announce an agreement had been signed to start work on a brand new factory in Borgo Panigale, Bologna.
"The new Ducati factory will be 134,600sqm, a 15% increase over our current site," he revealed. "55000sqm of covered structure with 13500sqm of offices and supporting utilities such as a museum, auditorium and canteen, plus 41500sqm of production, R&D, Ducati Corse and storage. An additional 11000 meters of potential future expansion has also been factored in.
"We have the possibility to be truly international, but to do so Bologna must be the central base of our operation. Borgo Panigale is the head, the heart and the hands of our company. The intelligence, the passion and the professionalism of Ducati will always be in Bologna. This doesn't mean that we will not explore other opportunities internationally, but Bologna will always remain the heart."
While the press conference was drawing to a close, 38000 fans had gathered in front of a huge stage built in Piazza Maggiore, ready to see the MotoGP team presented.
Following the introductions of Gabriele Del Torchio, Claudio Domenicali, Filippo Preziosi and the rest of the team, the massive crowd heard two MotoGP bikes start and Rossi and Hayden rode their Ducati Desmosedici GP11s onto the stage. The incredible sound of the two Ducati MotoGP bikes in the center of Bologna signaled the start of the 2011 season for the team, who will shortly leave for the first race in Qatar held on 20 March.