One should always welcome the unexpected, but MotoGP 2014 doesn’t seem likely to offer too much of that, or at least not up front, where the already almost immaculate Jorge Lorenzo and the M1 will be seeking further perfection to tame fiery title-stealer Marc Marquez and his equally heated RCV.

Over at Ducati, they will be hoping for surprises. But can they deliver? What is Cal Crutchlow in for? And will the grand old marque’s latest savior, ex-Aprilia engineer Gigi Dall’Igna, be the magician to straighten the whole thing out again?

These are desperate times for the Italian challengers – so not much change there. They’ve been such ever since Casey Stoner left and Valentino Rossi joined. Valentino joined the ever-growing list of riders whose careers were badly damaged by their time wearing red.

Even ultra-loyal sponsors Marlboro are now looking like they might join the departing trail: an abandonment that would cost a great deal more, in the literal sense, than the previous loss of luminaries including not just high-end riders but also the Desmosedici’s originator Filippo Preziosi and the unsuccessful savior put in to replace him, German Bernhard Gobmeier.

Now comes talk that Ducati will itself join the exodus – not from MotoGP, but down a level to the new so-called Open category, leaving just Honda and Yamaha to play the factory game, accepting less fuel and severely restricted engine numbers (and from this year “frozen” engines, allowing no development during the season) in exchange for electronic freedom. Ducati’s option is to contest the next tier with the privateers and production-racers, with access to softer tires and freedom to develop.

Ducati denies downgrade plans, pointing out that that they are already entering an open-category bike for Colombian Yonny Hernandez, last year drafted into the official B-team run by Pramac. Still tongues wag, suggesting that pending test results factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and new boy Crutchlow may also be on second-tier machines. It will at least allow the new regime some latitude, including the chance of a proper fresh start that some think is the only hope.

To read more of this week’s In The Paddock, click here

 

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Michael Scott | MotoGP Editor

Scott has been covering MotoGP since long before it was MotoGP. Remember two-strokes? Scott does. He’s also a best-selling author of biographies on the lives of legendary racers such as Wayne Rainey and Barry Sheene.

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