DUCATI XEROX TEAM KICK-STARTS 2006 WORLD SUPERBIKE CAMPAIGN AT LOSAIL DESERT CIRCUIT IN QATAR The Ducati Xerox Team officially gets its 2006 World Superbike campaign underway this weekend in the Gulf state of Qatar, the venue for the opening...
DUCATI XEROX TEAM KICK-STARTS 2006 WORLD SUPERBIKE CAMPAIGN AT LOSAIL DESERT CIRCUIT IN QATAR
The Ducati Xerox Team officially gets its 2006 World Superbike campaign underway this weekend in the Gulf state of Qatar, the venue for the opening round of the championship at the Losail International Circuit on Saturday 25th February. The team will compete in this year's 13-round championship for production-based machines with a totally new rider line-up. Australian Troy Bayliss returns to Ducati to spearhead the squad and he will be flanked by the talented young Italian Lorenzo Lanzi, who earned his place in the team with two late wins at the end of the 2005 season.
BAYLISS IS BACK: Troy Bayliss is, to put it simply, a legend for Ducati. The 36 year-old from Taree in Australia burst onto the World Superbike scene in 2000 as replacement for the injured Carl Fogarty and then won the title the following year. After finishing runner-up to Colin Edwards in 2002, Troy moved to MotoGP in 2003 and 2004 with the factory Ducati team, with whom he obtained some superb results, in particular in 2003. Troy has now opted to return to the championship where he made his name, and the Ducati Xerox Team rider will surely be one of the protagonists in this year's series.
"The biggest thing is that it feels like I'm coming home ... and I don't mean to Australia!" commented Bayliss. "Even though the bike has changed quite a lot, the engine is still very similar and has been much improved since I've been away so it's a built-in package already waiting there for me. It reminds me of the bike I rode in 2002, especially after the couple of changes we made during the recent tests in Qatar. I think I'm pretty much there, it just needs a little bit of fine-tuning because we're already at the level we expected to be. The championship is looking strong now, all the manufacturers are back and it's going to be great to be there with Ducati and challenge all the other guys for the title".
LANZI LOOKING FOR GLORY: The other rider in the Ducati Xerox Team will be Lorenzo Lanzi, the 24-year-old Italian from the province of Cesena. Lanzi has had a meteoric rise to fame, becoming a World Superbike winner in his rookie season. Three years in 125 and 250 from 1999 to 2001 were followed by Lorenzo's first experience with four-stroke machines and Ducati in the 2003 European Superstock championship, in which he was runner-up riding a 999S. He then finished fifth in the 2004 World Supersport championship with the Breil-sponsored factory Ducati 749R and was promoted to Superbike the following year with the satellite Ducati SC Caracchi team on a customer 999RS bike. As replacement for the injured Regis Laconi, Lanzi then stepped onto the factory 999F05 machine in the Ducati Xerox Team, and scored a sensational win at the Eurospeedway at his first attempt, winning again in the last round of the championship in Magny-Cours. The decision to move Lorenzo Lanzi into Ducati's factory WSBK team is just reward for one of Italy's most promising new talents.
"I am really proud to be a part of the Ducati Xerox Team that will take part in the World Superbike Championship, because it was an aim that I had made for myself when I was racing in Superstock in 2003" declared Lanzi. "Now that moment has arrived I am so happy because it is the dream of so many Italian riders to race a factory Ducati. The team that is around me is fantastic, the mechanics and all the engineers, and there is a great feeling. We have everything we need to be competitive and, in fact, after the recent tests I am already up there amongst the top riders. Being in the factory team doesn't bother me one bit, I think I have already demonstrated at Lausitz that pressure isn't a problem. I know there is a lot of work still to do but we are working well and that's positive".
SIGHTS SET ON VICTORY: Ducati Corse director Paolo Ciabatti has been in charge of the Italian manufacturer's Superbike programme for several years now, and as a result is no stranger to winning titles. This year he is looking forward to renewing battle against a stellar line-up of bikes, riders and teams in the rapidly-growing Superbike championship.
"It is natural for the Ducati Xerox Team to start the 2006 championship with our sights set on victory" declared Ciabatti, "because the last few races of last year in particular showed that the 999 is definitely a winning machine. We are certainly not underestimating the challenge of the 2006 championship because as we saw last year, World Superbike is now more competitive and popular than ever before and the arrival of top riders from other categories and a complete line-up of our traditional manufacturing rivals means that the competition is going to be difficult again this year".
"However it is for this reason that the World Superbike Championship continues to be important for Ducati as it allows us to race and win with machines derived from our current production range against our direct competitors, as a result showcasing our technology. This year we will be taking part with a powerful new rider line-up and the F06 version of the Ducati 999. We warmly welcome Troy and Lorenzo into the team and believe that this combination of experience and youth will help us to continue our winning tradition in World Superbike" he concluded.
SUSPENSION MODIFICATIONS: The Ducati 999 machine that won two World Superbike titles in the hands of Neil Hodgson (2003) and James Toseland (2004) has undergone some minor suspension modifications over the winter months since winning six races last season. The F06 began its latest specification trail with two test sessions in November (Valencia) and December (Qatar) of last year, when the two new riders got their hands on the bike for the first time, and the testing programme continued at the start of February with two more days at Valencia before the machines were shipped out to Qatar for the opening round.
Ducati Corse Superbike technical director Ernesto Marinelli explains the changes: "The technical differences between the two versions can be summed up in the use of a new Ohlins hydraulic system applied to the new TTX20 front forks and the TTX36 rear shock absorber. The new hydraulics circuit improves compression and rebound behavior and helps to simplify maintenance operations and changes in the settings. The new shock absorber design uses smaller diameter springs, which helps save around 600 g in weight".
THE CHAMPIONSHIP: The 2006 championship sees the Ducati Xerox Team up against stiff opposition from all of the Italian manufacturer's traditional Japanese rivals, Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki together with Malaysia's Petronas on the 30-strong grid. Bayliss and Lanzi will face a star-studded field of competitive riders, including reigning champion Troy Corser (Suzuki), James Toseland (Honda), 2004 champion with Ducati, and the latest arrival from MotoGP, Brazil's Alex Barros (Honda). Two more riders coming from MotoGP include former Ducati factory star Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Ducati) and Roberto Rolfo (Ducati SC Caracchi)), while the other Ducati customer machines in the Italian manufacturer's eight-strong contingent on the official entry lists will be raced by Max Neukirchner, Ivan Clementi, Lucio Pedercini (Team Pedercini), and Marco Borciani, Xaus's team-mate.
THE CIRCUIT: Name: Losail International Circuit. Length: 5380 metres. Pole Position: left. Corners Left/Right: 10/6. Longest straight: 1068 metres.
STATISTICS: Best lap: Corser (Suzuki), 2m01.244s (2005). Lap record: Kagayama (Suzuki), 2m02.135 (2005). Superpole: Laconi (Ducati Xerox), 2m1.593s (2005).
TV COVERAGE: Eurosport 2 (Pan European): Friday 24 February - 1400 Superpole (live); Saturday 25 February - 1000 SBK race 1 (live), 1330 SBK race 2 (live). La7 (Italy): Saturday 25 February - 0945 SBK race 1 (live) + 1650 (delayed), 1725 SBK race 2 (delayed).