By Lisa Lewis
The 2014 MotoGP season could feature just two Factory class manufacturers with Ducati, looking to improve on the results returned by the Desmosedici over the past few seasons, reported to be considering moving all of its entries to the new Open class.
Though no final decision has been reached, in an interview on GPOne.com
Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso revealed that both types of machine will be evaluated during the opening 2014 test in Malaysia:
"No decision has been taken but it is so: in Sepang, after we have tested, we will decide which route to take."
The Open class is a replacement for the privateer 'CRT' category. The machinery can no longer be 'claimed' by rivals but will still continue to benefit from extra race fuel, more engine changes and a softer spec rear tyre (to be confirmed) relative to the Factory entries - while also avoiding the new freeze on in-season engine development.
However Open teams must run the complete standard (Magneti Marelli) ECU package, while Factory entries will keep their own software. Dovizioso suggested that the performance loss from the less advanced software was balanced by the other benefits:
"In Jerez [when Pramac's Yonny Hernandez debuted the Open class Ducati in November] actually the difference between Factory and Open was minimal. They also said that the response of the motor changes with four litres more petrol... but how? We must try it and see if there are any positive changes."
So far, only Hernandez is officially listed as using an Open class version of the Ducati in 2014.
Should the other Ducati riders - Dovizioso, new team-mate Cal Crutchlow and Pramac's second entry for Andrea Iannone - also switch, it would leave only Honda and Yamaha in the Factory class. Honda and Yamaha will also be involved in the Open category, through the supply of machinery to independent teams.
While the Honda and Yamaha Open bikes feature numerous differences relative to the Factory versions, the Open Ducati is essentially a full factory machine with the standard ECU.
Ducati hasn't won a race since 2010 and claimed a best result of fourth last season. The factory scored less than half the constructors' points of Honda and Yamaha and some of its riders frequently came under threat from the top CRT of Aleix Espargaro. Espargaro was riding an Aprilia ART - a project run by new Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall'Igna.
Ducati's consideration of an all-Open class project is in stark contrast to Honda, which has threatened to withdraw from MotoGP should Factory software development be banned.
The first Sepang test takes place on 4-6 February.