It has been a truly incredible year for Ducati: At the end of its first GP season in more than three decades, the Bologna based manufacturer beat all but Honda to take second in the constructors' championship, with the Ducati Marlboro Team third in the teams' championship - and riders' Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss fourth and sixth in the individual championship.

Other results from the factory's remarkable rookie season include one victory, nine podium finishes, three pole positions and 14 front-row starts. The team's Desmosedici also become the fastest GP bike ever, exceeding 332km/h at June's Italian GP - and once again headed the top-speed charts at the Valencia season finale.

No-one, not even Ducati, dared dream they would achieve such results.

"This race ends an amazing first season for us," said Ducati Marlboro team director Livio Suppo. "I'd like to thank everyone involved."

"The year was better than we expected," added technical director Corrado Cecchinelli with a smile. "And we've completed it with another podium at a track which wasn't supposed to be so good for our bike. Everyone in this project has worked so hard this season, during which it's always been hard to find a balance between making small improvements for the next race and concentrating on more important improvements for the future.

"We always try to take the long-term view, so we hope to make a good step forward for next year. We test here next week, though we've no major new parts to try. Our first real test with our 2004 development bike will probably take place at Sepang in February."

Capirossi finished third at Valencia, his 200th GP start, with Bayliss seventh.



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