While the announcement may have come several months ago now, when the riders line-up on the World Superbike grid in Australia this week, only then will we see how much of a chasm the withdrawal of the Ducati factory has left.

Indeed, Ducati's departure struck a tremor through the sport and the aftershocks continue to be felt months later as the 2011 World Superbike season - the first without the manufacturer's factory team - looms.

Mercifully, Ducati haven't disappeared entirely, with their mantle being assumed by a trio of privateer teams, which have shown themselves to be equally as capable and - in Althea Racing's case last year - occasionally more so than the 'official' Xerox operation.

Unsurprisingly, Althea's magnificent run to third overall in 2011 has earned them the status of 'de facto factory Ducati team', with the manufacturer still keeping one eye on how its brand is faring with some technical support.

While it is a shame to see the Althea down to just a single bike for Carlos Checa, the Spaniard should ensure we see plenty of the 'Xerox-esque' bike at the front in 2011.

The only two-man Ducati team on the grid will instead be the ambitious new Effenbert-Liberty outfit, which will become the first Czech operation in the World Superbike Championship.

Luring local favourite Jakub Smrz back to twin machinery following his half-year stint on an Aprilia, while some may question why he's opted for the 1098R over the RSV-4, testing results suggest he has the package to turn his renowned single-lap ability into improved race results.

Team-mate Sylvain Guintoli, meanwhile, is a welcome addition to the line-up after almost being left ride-less in Suzuki's determined bid to trim its WSBK effort down to the bare minimum. Like Smrz, testing has gone remarkably well aboard the yellow and white Ducati, though Guintoli will need to turn ultra-consistency into some regular podiums this year.

The fourth and final 1098R on the grid will be assumed by Maxime Berger, who graduates to World Superbikes after three years of success at Superstock 1000 level. Pairing with the Supersonic team, which made an impressive WSBK debut last season with Luca Scassa, the Frenchman will tackle Eugene Laverty, Joan Lascorz and Mark Aitchison for rookie honours.



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