MotoGP's silly season is in full swing, and it has been Ducati who have been dominating the media over the past couple of months. First, by seeing the man who won their only championship, Casey Stoner, head off to Honda to join his former mentor Livio Suppo. And more recently, by the will-he-won't-he saga of Valentino Rossi's imminent arrival to take Stoner's place at the Bologna factory.
But out of the spotlight, the factory has being expanding its involvement even further. Yesterday, Karel Abraham announced on his website that he will be riding a Desmosedici GP11 in MotoGP next season. The 20 year-old Czech is currently riding for the Cardion AB Moto2 team, and has seen a marked improvement in his fortunes since the team switched from the RSV chassis to the FTR.
Encouraged by his progress, and the strong times that Abraham posted when he tested a Ducati MotoGP bike earlier this year at the Mugello circuit (Abraham posted a 1'51.0 matching that of Nicky Hayden and around half a second or more faster than the other satellite riders, according to Motorkari.cz), the Cardion AB team has decided to move up to MotoGP next season, leasing a 6th Ducati Desmosedici and expanding the grid to 18. The usual objection - money - is less of a factor in the case of Abraham, as his father - also named Karel - is the owner of a large medical equipment company specializing in cardiological and neurological equipment, Cardion. Abraham Senior also owns the Brno circuit, home of the Czech MotoGP and World Superbike rounds.
With Ducati stepping up its involvement to six machines next season, pressure is sure to increase on Suzuki. The Hamamatsu factory has faced criticism from all sides about their refusal to field more than two bikes, Suzuki putting that refusal down to a question of cost. But Yamaha could also faced press to expand their own presence, as if Ducati - a vastly smaller factory - can field six bikes, then the question of why Yamaha can only support four machines is also likely to be raised. The Cardion AB bike will bring Ducati level with Honda for the number of bikes each factory has on the grid.