Cycle News

Cycle News 2014 Issue 03 January 21 2014

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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CN III IN THE PADDOCK P112 BY MICHAEL SCOTT AN OPENING FOR DUCATI? O ne should always welcome the unexpected, but MotoGP 2014 doesn't seem likely to offer too much of that, or at least not up front, where the already almost immaculate Jorge Lorenzo and the M1 will be seeking further perfection to tame fiery title-stealer Marc Marquez and his equally heated RCV. Over at Ducati, they will be hoping for surprises. But can they deliver? What is Cal Crutchlow in for? And will the grand old marque's latest savior, ex-Aprilia engineer Gigi Dall'Igna, be the magician to straighten the whole thing out again? These are desperate times for the Italian challengers – so not much change there. They've been such ever since Casey Stoner left and Valentino Rossi joined. Valentino joined the ever-growing list of riders whose careers were badly damaged by their time wearing red. Even ultra-loyal sponsors Marlboro are now looking like they might join the departing trail: an abandonment that would cost a great deal more, in the literal sense, than the previous loss of luminaries including not just high-end riders but also the Desmosedici's originator Filippo Preziosi and the unsuccessful savior put in to replace him, German Bernhard Gobmeier. Now comes talk that Ducati will itself join the exodus – not from MotoGP, but down a level to the new socalled Open category, leaving just Honda and Yamaha to play the factory game, accepting less fuel and severely restricted engine numbers (and from this year "frozen" engines, allowing no development during the season) in exchange for electronic freedom. Ducati's option is to contest the next tier with the privateers and production-racers, with access to softer tires and freedom to develop. Ducati denies downgrade plans, pointing out that that they are already entering an open-category bike for Colombian Yonny Hernandez, last year drafted into the official B-team run by Pramac. Still tongues wag, suggesting that pending test results factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and new boy Crutchlow may also be on second-tier machines. It will at least allow the new regime some latitude, including the chance of a proper fresh start that some think is the only hope. The year began a bit downbeat anyway: for the first time in 24 years the annual Marlboro "Wrooom" jamboree – the joint press launch of the Ferrari and Ducati factory teams – was cancelled. Wrooom was a massive midwinter freebie for downat-heel journalists, enjoying skiing, open bars and piles of food over three days, with a bit of spoon-fed "news" thrown in. (It was from one of these, by the way, that all those TV clips of skier Michael Schumacher were culled, wearing Marlboro-Ferrari livery, shown as news broke of the car hero and bike racer's stillworrying skiing accident). At least the non-event, cancelled last August on financial grounds, freed Ducati from any jokes about going downhill fast. These would have suited the dry wit of big-money recruit Crutchlow; his sense of humor will face many more such tests in the months to come. On February 4 he and second-year teammate Dovizioso join the circus at Sepang, where they are expected to test both full Factory and Open versions of the bike. The

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