5. Rossi a Dud with Ducati

It was a marketing dream come true. Racing legend Valentino Rossi joining another Italian icon, Ducati, to race for the MotoGP Championship. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, almost everything apparently.

As dominant as Casey Stoner was this year, the bigger story in 2011 was Rossi and his disappointing debut season with Ducati. The Italian god finished the season in very sub-par seventh place, but more stunningly, failed to win a single race for the first time in his Grand Prix racing career.

Rossi has shown the ability to adapt to new racebikes and win in the past. When the premiere class switched from 500cc to MotoGP in 2002, Rossi won 11 of 16 races to capture the title. A couple of years later when Rossi jumped to Yamaha, he won another championship. Unfortunately, the Doctor was unable to continue that magic on the Desmosedici.

Making matters worse, Ducati appears set to adopt a conventional twin-spar aluminum frame next season and drop its monocoque frame – the same design used in its new flagship 1199 Panigale superbike. D’oh!.

Will the lack of MotoGP success hurt the Panigale? Probably, to some degree, though the 1199 will likely still do very well. Just not as well as it would if Rossi was more competitive this year.