Ducati and World Superbike. World Superbike and Ducati. The two went together like Ozzie and Harriet, Lucy and Ricky. Now it’s Tiger and Elin.
For the first time since the World Superbike Championship began in 1988, there won’t be a factory Ducati team in the series in 2011. The announcement came today from Bologna.
“This decision is part of a specific strategy made by Ducati, the aim being to further increase technological
content in production models that will arrive on the market in the coming years,” said Gabriele Del Torchio, President and CEO of Ducati in a press release. “In order to achieve this objective, the company’s technical resources, until now engaged with the management of the factory Superbike team, will instead be dedicated to the development of the new generation of hypersport bikes, in both their homologated and Superbike race versions. “I would like to thank Nori [Haga] and Michel [Fabrizio], and all of the riders that have contributed to the great history of Ducati in Superbike, but above all the Ducati employees; it is their hard work and professionalism that has allowed us to achieve such important results. A big thank you also to all of the partners that have supported us, first and foremost Xerox of course. I would also like to acknowledge the Flammini brothers who have managed the championship for so long, and the FIM, the organization with which we have continuous, constructive relations.”
Ducati riders have won the World Superbike Championship 13 times since 1988, collecting 16 Manufacturer titles along the way. But they won’t collect either of those two titles this year, with both Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio suffering through seasons in which the pair have combined to win just two races (Haga won race two at Valencia; Fabrizio won race one at Kyalami). Althea Ducati’s Carlos Checa, meanwhile, is the top-ranked Ducati rider in the series in fourth place. Ducati says they will continue to support privateer teams in 2011.
Ducati says the decision to stop racing on the factory level will help them “increase the speed and efficiency with which it transfers advanced technological solutions, currently tested in the prototype championship, to the production series.”
Without a factory team, Ducati says the technical support the privateer teams get will be increased with “more competitive machines and parts.”
Ducati is apparently miffed at the current rules, which they “has been interpreted as moving more towards competition between prototypes rather than for bikes derived from production machines. This has led to an increase in costs, both for the manufacturers and the teams participating in the championship. This picture does not correlate with the current worldwide economic situation, which has made the securing of sponsorship even more difficult. Ducati trusts that the work carried out by all parties will lead to improvement also in this area.”
With Ducati pulling its factory team from the series that will likely cost the grid two riders – though World Superbike’s grids aren’t exactly thin. And there was also talk that Colin Edwards was one of the riders in line to replace the current Haga/Fabrizio duo.
Now there’s speculation that all the Ducati money is going to support Valentino Rossi as he moves to the Marlboro Ducati team for the 2011 MotoGP World Championship, thus putting the World Superbike team on the chopping block.
Whatever the reasons, financial or simply Ducati taking a stand against the rules, they will be missed in a championship they have always fought for.