MotoGP launch season starts this week, an annual orgy of equal parts flash, optimism and optimism.
Usually these affairs, during which teams introduce their riders and unveil their motorcycles for the upcoming season, are predictable. The riders and team officials are happy. They express their positive thoughts about progress for the upcoming season. The colorful sheen of the new bikes pleases sponsors and photographers. And every attendee usually gets a free meal and some other kind of swag.
But the Ducati "Wrooom" event starting today could be different.
This season will be a season of tremendous change for the Italian team. The dream-turned-nightmare pairing of Valentino Rossi and the Boys from Bologna is over after two seasons, and the Ducati factory team will move slightly off center stage in the MotoGP world with the lower-profile rider pairing of Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso. That's probably not a bad thing since Ducati doesn't need any more pressure while it continues to adjust to development of a traditional alloy-frame bike after abandoning the carbon-fiber frame concept after the 2011 season.
An even larger facet of the change surrounding Ducati Corse this season is the new management.
New Ducati owner Audi stayed true to its Teutonic roots by hiring former BMW World Superbike manager Bernhard Gobmeier to run the company's racing operations, while keeping some passione rosso by naming former Ducati WSBK manager Paolo Ciabatti (possibly the most respected man in motorcycle racing) as the head of the MotoGP team. Ducati Corse engineering godfather Filippo Preziosi will be a notable absence from Wrooom, as he was pushed out of the team after last season for an abstract research-and-development job in the company.
This will be the first public chance other than a press release for Gobmeier to outline his plan and vision to return Ducati to the ability to compete with Yamaha and Honda for the world title.
Another new wrinkle for Wrooom is the addition of Pramac Ducati "junior team" riders Ben Spies and Andrea Iannone to the festivities.
Normally the factory team riders only are present at the function at Madonna di Campiglio in the Dolomites. But the addition of Spies and Iannone to the program is another clear indication Ducati is serious about complete integration between the works and Pramac satellite teams.
Repsol Honda will stage its launch Jan. 24 in Madrid with team and HRC officials, and riders Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez. Yamaha has not set a date for its factory team launch.