Ducati will not compete in the 2011 World Superbike Championship in a factory-backed capacity, it has been announced.
The Italian manufacturer, the most successful brand in the history of the production-based series, has made the shock decision as part of plans to transfer its resources into product development instead.
As a result, it will scale back its direct involvement in the championship but will continue to provide some support to customer teams.
“This decision is part of a specific strategy made by Ducati, the aim being to further increase technological content in production models that will arrive on the market in the coming years,” said Ducati CEO Gabriele Del Torchio.
“In order to achieve this objective, the company's technical resources, until now engaged with the management of the factory Superbike team, will instead be dedicated to the development of the new generation of hypersport bikes, in both their homologated and Superbike race versions.
“I would like to thank Nori and Michel, and all of the riders that have contributed to the great history of Ducati in Superbike, but above all the Ducati employees; it is their hard work and professionalism that has allowed us to achieve such important results.
“A big thank you also to all of the partners that have supported us, first and foremost Xerox of course. I would also like to acknowledge the Flammini brothers who have managed the championship for so long, and the FIM, the organization with which we have continuous, constructive relations.”
Ducati's official withdrawal will come as a major blow to the World Superbike Championship, not least because of the manufacturer's immense success at this level over the years and marketing pull.
Since 1988, Ducati has won 16 titles, 285 wins and 704 podiums - no other manufacturer can get close to these tallies.
While Ducati has always been well represented by customer teams, not least in 2010 with Carlos Checa leading the factory outfit for Althea Racing, it remains to be seen exactly what support they will offer in 2011.
Nonetheless, Ducati maintains the customer teams will be well looked after.
"The task of testing innovative technical solutions in Superbike racing will therefore be entrusted to external
teams in the coming years, teams that will have the chance to receive technical support from Ducati
"This choice will allow the teams to benefit from even more competitive machines and parts."
Ducati's announcement comes as they are on the cusp of losing their manufacturers' crown to Italian rivals Aprilia.