Unthinkable! -- Ducati Dropping Out of WSBK?

With 13 rider's  and 16 constructor's championships, the name Ducati is virtually synonymous with World Superbike. In good times and bad Ducati has exemplified the hoary racing aphorism "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday." Indeed, there were years that the Italian marque's presence was so pervasive in the series that wags called it the Ducati Cup.

A variety of sources are reporting that this active participation will come to an end at the finish of the 2010 season when the factory team will cease to compete in WSBK. A plethora of factors are said to have contributed to this decision, perhaps foremost the recent signing of Valentino Rossi to the MotoGP team and the attendant salary and developmental costs that will presumably entail.  Ducati has alao apparently decided that, with the Doctor on board, their PR lira would make more of an impact being spent in GPs.

Another factor is that the 1198 platform, which then team manager Davide Tardozzi had said reached it's developmental apogee in 2009, is long in the tooth and will be replaced by a radical new platform that doesn't really resemble its 916/999/1098 forebearers much at all.

The last factor is the performance of this year's team.  With both riders well down in the standings, Haga lying seventh and Fabrizio ninth, there have been whispers that long-time sponsors are questioning the economic efficacy of continuing to support the team.

The withdrawal by the factory team may not mark the death knell of Ducati's involment in the series however. There have been rumors that Althea Ducati would become the de facto factory team, much like Ten Kate's role with Honda. Ducati may also continue to supply other privateer teams although the extent of that committment is unclear at this writing.

A press release confirming the Team's withdrawal is expected at 3pm in Italy

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That would be big news! Edwards tone in the Indy press confrence was sayig that staying with Tech3 was his number one goal, it's only a few weeks since he was sayinb he would prefer to move to WSBK.

"The last factor is the performance of this year's team. With both riders well down in the standings, Haga lying seventh and Fabrizio ninth, there have been whispers that long-time sponsors are questioning the economic efficacy of continuing to support the team."

I hope this last factor has no basis on the Ducati decision. Every team and every company has down years. Maybe the sponsors will pull back funds, but the Ducati brand carries loyalty that endures time. Ferrari? McLaren? Porsche?

Money can sometimes eclipse sensible thinking.

It seems to me that pulling out while you still have a lot of credibility, then coming back witha lot of hype around a new bike is going to make sponsorship a lot easier to come by than slowly shuffling to the back of the pack. How much is Xerox willing to pay for regular 8th place finishes while they wait for a return to form?

I'm not terribly shocked. Imo, it has been obvious for some time that the MSMA could not continue to harm the value of GP by dumping tens of millions into WSBK. Furthermore, each GP manufacturer can't continue to spend between $5m-$10m in WSBK when BMW and Aprilia are allegedly investing far more. Withdrawal of funding and support by the MSMA GP manufacturers is inevitable, imo. By investing in WSBK without running works teams, they are only lending credence to their competitors new bikes.

1000cc WSBK was supposed to be a privateer contest that featured low-revving air-restricted engines and homologated kit parts for the teams. The death of these rules in 2004 has meant that the long-term forecast for the competitiveness of 1000cc twin engines was quite grim. I think the 1200cc masquerade and the annoyance of dealing with air restrictors has caused InFront to lose Ducati's support. Julian Ryder also said that the MSMA had struck a deal during recent meetings (to discuss Suzuki's engine situation) to help Ducati in WSBK. Perhaps withdrawal of the factory team was part of the negotiation?

I think the Flamminis have seen this coming for quite sometime b/c the MSMA have been looking for a way to put the screws to the SBK commission. Ducati were always the fly in the ointment, but SBK received a vote of no-confidence when Ducati threatened withdrawal if they did not receive a 200cc dispensation. Ducati would never have needed to beg for displacement if they had stuck to the original 1000cc rules proposals. Due to the falling out with Ducati, I believe the Flamminis allowed Aprilia and BMW to join early despite protest from other competitors and despite the fact that neither bike was on sale in major motorcycle markets in February of 2009.

Imo, the Flamminis have anticipated this announcement for quite some time.

Also, Julian Ryder said that in the latest MSMA meeting (to discuss Suzuki's engine situation) the manufacturers had resolved to pressure the SBK commission into giving Ducati more engine tuning allowances. Perhaps withdrawal of factory participation (or the Ducati Corse name) was part of the deal?