Ducati ended its 2013 World Superbike season with a whimper after neither of its riders last race of the final round in Jerez. That meant Ayrton Badovini’s 12th place in the title chase is the worst ever for Ducati since the series began.
From the inception of the series in 1988, when Marco Lucchinelli nearly won the title on debut but ended up 5th after the team decided not to contest the last two rounds, Ducati has been synonymous with World Superbike racing and victory in particular.
Ducati have won the title 14 times in the 26 years the series has run. Ducati had been so dominant the World Superbike Championship was given the pejorative ‘Ducati Cup’ in the early 2000s such did the brand dominant the field and results. Even in the years that weren’t a Ducati victory you didn’t need to go far down the order to find a Bologna bullet. You have to go back to 2000 (when Troy Bayliss finished 6th) to find a time when the best Ducati didn’t finish in the top 5.
By contrast this year has been a disaster for Ducati. Hopes were raised when Carlos Checa put the radical new Ducati 1199 Panigale on pole for the first race at Phillip Island but his crash in the first race combined with Badovini’s ankle injury meant the team left Australia with nil points.
Things only got worse from there. The all new bike has proven to be no more a match (at least in Superbike form) for its formidable Japanese and European competitors than the Ducati 1098R it replaced. In fact, during the penultimate round, Lorenzo Lanzi finished 9th and first Ducati on the obsolete 1098R. The Panigale only made it to the podium once all year (Moscow Race 1 with Badovini at the controls).
With this background it was sad to see Carlos Checa call it quits, his disastrous season this year somewhat undermining his glorious resurgence in form late in his career that helped him earn the 2011 World Superbike title for Ducati. How long will it be before there’s another one?