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By Melissa Berkoff
Ducati Corse will not be fielding a factory World Supersport team this year, deciding instead to concentrate resources on developing the new 996R motor and fighting the onslaught of new competing models and manufacturers with three official Ducati riders in World Superbike. However, the official Ducati factory racing effort will still offer support for teams running Ducatis in World Supersport.
When questioned in Italy as to their plans for the Grand Prix World Championship now that rules will allow 990cc four-strokes starting in 2002, Ducati Corse representatives became very evasive but a number of points stand out in relief.
1. Ducati officials have not made a decision to participate in Grand Prix but will be making an announcement in the spring.
2. The Ducati men would have been happier if the Grand Prix rules had not changed. They would prefer to not have to participate in Grand Prix due to the additional expense and Ducati's long-standing success in World Superbike.
3. Ducati always has a keen eye for marketing opportunities related to racing. GP participation would have to have a direct connection with sales.
4. Ducati will only compete if company officials and engineers feel they have a good chance of winning races.
5. Ducati engineers have been evaluating different engine configurations using software that simulates lap times on various tracks incorporating such details as power and weight. Based on these simulations, Ducati engineers believe that the ideal engine configuration will have an odd number of cylinders. Ducati engineers confirmed Honda's conclusion that a five-cylinder engine will be the fastest, but tempered that assessment by saying that engine reliability will play an important role in Ducati's final decision. That said, the engineers suggested that Ducati's Grand Prix engine, if built, could be a Triple.