Ducati launch 2008 MotoGP effort

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Reigning MotoGP world champions Ducati kicked off the defence of the premier class crown with an official team launch in Italy today.

Against the spectacular mountain backdrop at the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort, the Bologna factory officially unveiled the new GP8 Desmosedici machine bosses hope will carry Aussie Casey Stoner to another dominant MotoGP championship success.

The 22-year-old, who won 10 races in 2007, unveiled the new bike with new team-mate Marco Melandri, who joins the Italian factory from the Gresini Honda outfit.

Stoner, who confirmed today that he will definitely be running the number one plate in 2008, said: “This is such a wonderful event. I’m happy to be here although it meant celebrating my first wedding anniversary on a flight from Australia! I hope to be able to have fun and do some skiing too, maybe cross-country skiing. I don’t want to run any risks snowboarding.

“This holiday break after our latest test was just what I needed to unwind after a fantastic, although extremely challenging season. I also needed to recover after my shoulder injury from the Jerez tests. I feel much better now, although I’ll only know if I’m completely recovered when I get back in the saddle.

“I’m happy to begin a new season with the same bike and the same team, it’s a first for me since I started to race. As for my bike, I haven’t suggested any big changes either, because we already had such a competitive package. We are only going to work on a few details.

“Winning a world championship has taken a big weight off my shoulders: all my parents’ sacrifices, all the hard times in the past, it’s all behind me now. This year, I’ll continue to work in order to try and repeat my performance of last year and be even stronger and faster, but I’ll be able to do that in a very different spirit”.

Stoner is expected to begin his winter testing campaign in Malaysia on January 22, despite revealing today that he is unlikely to have regained 100 per cent strength in his damaged left shoulder until after the start of the new season.

New Ducati recruit Melandri said: “I’m so happy to have become part of the Ducati family. I’d dreamt of riding a Ducati ever since I first saw one. When I tried on my new leathers yesterday, I felt quite emotional.

“I’m aware of the big opportunity I have been given this year. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be exciting and I’m ready to commit entirely to reward all those who wanted me to be here. I’m really impressed with how people work at Ducati.

“Although they’ve already achieved the greatest goal, winning the World Championship, they have continued to work relentlessly. After my first tests, I gave feedback to the engineers so that my bike could be adjusted to match my requirements and now, I can’t wait to hit the track again to train for this season. As soon as we manage to fine-tune the bike we’ll be very competitive.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt