Ducati, the 'Ferrari of motorcycling', have officially launched the Marlboro liveried machine with which they will make their much-anticipated return to Grand Prix racing, after an absence of 30 years.

Over the past three decades Ducati has repeatedly proven it is a master of creating extremely fast four-stroke racing motorcycles: The marque's street-based racers have achieved victories across the globe in all kinds of production-based racing disciplines - from World Superbike to TT Formula One and from World Supersport to endurance racing.

Despite this, Ducati hasn't raced in the premier Grand Prix series since the early seventies because for many years the premier 500 championship was dominated by two-stroke machines that bore no resemblance to their four-stroke streetbikes.

However, last year the rules changed to prioritise four-strokes and the 500 World Championship was transformed into the MotoGP World Championship.

Immediately Ducati realised it had to be involved, for while its streetbikes continue to be promoted by World Superbike success, factory engineers knew that MotoGP offers a further opportunity to evaluate innovative and avant-garde technology.

Therefore, Ducati enters the 2003 World Championship with riders' Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi racing an all-new prototype machine - the Desmosedici V4, which was officially launched in Ducati Marlboro Team colours at 12.00 today [local time] in Milan, Italy.

The Desmosedici has already set some head turning times during winter testing, but the team are under no illusions about the task they face in taking on the mighty Japanese factories.

The Desmosedici, they say, is a long-term racing project to experiment with new technology, and Ducati Corse has increased its staff to 110 people to meet the biggest challenge of its illustrious history.

"This is a fascinating and stimulating project," said Managing Director Claudio Domenicali. "We are proud that Marlboro, a brand that has contributed to the history of both motorcycling and car racing, has chosen Ducati as its partner for the next four years.

"For Ducati, the arrival of four-strokes in MotoGP represents an opportunity to demonstrate its maturity and technology in this championship," added Domenicali. "I believe that the experience accumulated in World Superbike will allow us, after an initial period of growth, to take on the best in this category at the highest level."

"The philosophy of the Ducati Desmosedici project is total integration between engine, chassis and rider," added Technical Director Filippo Preziosi. "This concept has been our guideline from our very first meeting, when we began to tackle this new challenge.

"The Desmosedici represents a significant step forward over the Ducati Superbike, and is the result of new design technologies which have allowed us to work entirely in 'virtual' mode, thus speeding up development and immediately obtain promising results," Preziosi. revealed. "Ducati believes a lot in this project, which will allow us to grow further and to transfer new technologies to increasingly reliable and enjoyable high-performance streetbikes."

The Ducati MotoGP Team is based at the Ducati Corse premises in Borgo Panigale, outside Bologna. Bayliss and Capirossi commence the 16-race MotoGP World Championship at Suzuka, Japan, on April 6.

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