It's hard to remember darker days for Ducati's racing team than those of last weekend. Ducati MotoGP struggled all weekend at Assen with essentially not a glimmer of hope throughout the Dutch TT. It was hoped that the WSBK's return to Imola--historically a strong track for the Ducati--would be the first really successful weekend for the Alstare Ducati team and the Superbike-spec Panigale. Instead, both Ayrton Badovini and former series champion Carlos Checa struggled in some ways more at Imola than they have at other racetracks.
Opinions abound as to the reasons both teams are struggling but some of the loudest whispers on the subject blame Valentino Rossi.
Of course, not Rossi himself, but the general process that culminated with Rossi signing to race for Ducati. In doing so, Ducati pulled nearly all of their WSBK resources and allocated much of them to MotoGP. Then with Rossi as the rider steering development, the Ducati MotoGP bike slowly became a motorcycle that can't do long fast stints in anything but cool or wet conditions. Rossi, with nine world championships, was the point man on development, but after Ducati built a small truckload of parts to suit his desires, Rossi actually had to stoop down and adopt Nicky Hayden's set up.
Ducati had a presence in World Superbike after they killed the factory team, but key partnerships were lost (primarily with Feel Racing, among others) which simultaneously allowed Ducati's rivals that stayed in WSBK to build momentum. Ducati's race effort become much more focused on MotoGP and Rossi.
Ultimately, the gamble to bring Rossi to Ducati was a losing bet, and the forces which converged to try and make the Rossi-led MotoGP effort a success somehow have put Ducati's entire race effort so far off course at times they seem like a sailboat lost in space.
In the mean time, Audi/Lamborghini purchased Ducati, MotoGP savant Filippo Preziosi--whose design fingerprints are all over every modern Ducati MotoGP bike and the Panigale--was ousted and a "fix this" crew hired.
The weekend of Assen/Imola 2013 illustrated how much work remains for the men assigned to navigate a sailboat lost in the Milky Way back to Bologna.