A change in policy for the Italian team
The announcement that Marco Melandri would be joining Ducati for the 2008 signals the completion of a change in policy for the Italian team, understandable after the success of Casey Stoner in his maiden year decked out in red.
Loris Capirossi unlikely to be part of Ducati's plans next season, despite the factory investigating the possibility of running a third bike, the combined age of the team at the start of the season will be 47, comparatively low by their standards.
In Ducati's history, they have traditionally adopted the strategy of running experienced riders on the Desmosedici, with four over-30s having been part of their lineup since 2003.
In their debut year in MotoGP, the Borgo Panigalle factory put together the combination of 30 year-old Loris Capirossi and 34 year-old Troy Bayliss to take their first steps in the World Championship, with a combined age of 64. They stuck with the duo until 2005, when veteran Bayliss moved on and was replaced by another experienced face; 32 year-old Spaniard Carlos Checa. Once again, the combined age of the Ducati lineup was over 60, something that continued after Checa's departure at the end of his solitary year.
Ever-present for Ducati, Capirossi was joined by Sete Gibernau last year in what was seen as a dream combination. Despite his pedigree, Gibernau had an injury-plagued season, culminating in a crash with his eventual successor Casey Stoner that marked the final race of his career.
Stoner's arrival to partner Capirossi has brought the team their most successful year in MotoGP, and has dropped the combined age of the team to 55 and under 60 for the first time in history. The Australian has taken six victories so far in 2007, signalling that the change in policy for Livio Suppo's outfit has been a resounding success. Capirossi has struggled onboard the new 800cc bike, and now looks to be on his way out to pastures new, but appears to have a ready-made replacement in Marco Melandri as the all-important Italian representative of the proudly nationalistic team.
Although age is by no means a barrier to success in MotoGP, Ducati have continually improved their results since they hit the World Championship, and look set for more success with two proven race-winners leading their charge in 2008.
DORNA / CAPSIS International