After weeks of rumors, Ducati and Alstare have terminated the partnership. Factors cited include the global economic downturn, standard code for loss of a main sponsor and lack of money momentum going into 2014. But the relationship with Francis Batta has been rocky for some time. The 2013 SBK season was the worst in Ducati’s history – Ducati for the first time failing to win a race. The team was riddled with rider injuries and and the fundamental issues of where to lay the blame – was it the bike or was it the riders – reported to be an ongoing disagreement with Ducati management. Despite reported efforts to reconcile, the relationship was terminated early by “common agreement”.
So what happens now? Ducati has confirmed that it will take part in the Superbike World Championship next season, with 2014 riders and racing plans to be announced in the coming days. Strong rumors indicate these plans are likely to include Ben Spies. For team structure, the choices seem to be go back to an internal factory race team, or, reaffiliate with Feel Racing, most recently with BMW. Feel Racing has a long Ducati history prior to this, and with a team in place and operating, this is about as seamless a choice as possible, with a minimum of compromise.
Regardless of what direction Ducati chooses to go, Ducati’s SBK race effort is headed for what is effectively a fresh start for 2014, with the resources available to have a much bigger impact on the series than we have seen this year. New management, increased funding, new structure and a fully revised rider line up, combined with the deep well of talent that Ducati has on hand, as well as the new talent doors opened by the arrival of Gigi Dall’Igna (Max Biaggi comes to mind, his skill set is particularly suited to sorting chassis issues) this is shaping up quickly. The potential for a quick fix might be well in place.