Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ducati threaten to pull out of World Superbikes

Will Ducatis still be there on the 2008 WSB grid?

For quite some time now, Ducati have been pushing for upping the engine displacement limit for twin-cylinder engines to 1200cc, for World Superbikes. Even when Ducati launched the 1098 superbike in 2006, people expected it to serve as the basis for a 1198cc homologation-special, which would go racing in WSB.

Ducati’s current 999-based WSB racebike still manages to stay competitive due to things like special throttle bodies, cranks and crankcases, and other components. But the 194-horsepower engine is a highly stressed unit, which lasts barely 480km – as compared to more than 4500km for a four-cylinder WSB-spec superbike.

Now, Ducati are putting their foot down and threatening to exit the WSB series unless they are allowed to race a 1198cc version of the road-going 1098. While talking to Gazzetta dello Sport last week, Claudio Domenicali, Ducati Corse CEO, said “We have to know what is happening by the end of May, so we can get the bike working. That is our deadline.”

This is the twentieth year of the FIM's World Superbike Championship, and Ducati have won no less than 12 out of the last 19 WSB world titles! Starting with the 851, moving on to the 888 and then on to the legendary 916 and its various iterations, Ducati have made world superbikes their very own territory.

The stakes are high, and if a 1200cc limit is allowed for twin-cylinder bikes, Ducati are not the only ones who may benefit. KTM are working on a 1200cc twin for WSB, and BMW and Buell are also expected to join in with their own twin-cylinder bikes – definitely a good thing for the series.

Let’s see what happens in the next few weeks, and let’s just hope that Ducati are still around at the start of the 2008 World Superbikes season. Things just wouldn’t be the same without those Italians…

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