With the World Superbike Championship currently under massive pressure over controversial rule changes, which threaten to leave the series without official factory support and many of its star riders next season, the championship received a welcome boost from series dominators Ducati at last weekend's Imola round.

Speaking after receiving the 2003 manufacturers trophy, Claudio Domenicali, managing director of Ducati Corse, highlighted the part played by the series in riving the Bologna based company - and its importance to Ducati.

"Today Ducati is a reality throughout the world thanks to Superbike because Superbike has given a lot to the company," said Domenicali, who was presented with the trophy by Paolo Flammini of championship organiser's FGSport (pictured). "Ducati has believed in this championship right from the start, and it has become our 'warhorse' from 1988/89 and the first world title won in 1990 onwards.

"The World Superbike championship is important because it allows us to experiment with a massive amount of technical solutions which we then apply to our road-going motorcycle range," he added. "This year has been fundamental for us both thanks to the victories of Neil (Hodgson) and Ruben (Xaus) and to the success of the 999 Factory bike."

Domenicali's words are seen as a softening of the stance originally taken by Ducati and its fellow MSMA members when the rules were announced, and it now seems that the Italian marque will continue to enter a factory team next season.

However, they are likely to be the only official factory outfit - Honda are likely to return with their new Fireblade, but will use the Ten Kate team to run the machines.

Ducati have won 12 world Superbike constructors championships in 16 years of World Superbike competition.



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