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Ducati UK photo

Special Report By Greg Pullen

British Superbikes is allegedly the most competitive national production based race series in the world, attracting an international grid and teams spending up to £4 million ($6 million!) a year to land the crown. Unsurprisingly the grid of 30 plus bikes is rammed with wailing 1000cc fours running to pretty much World Superbike specification but, given Ducati fans’ obsession, just as predictably there’s a UK Ducati dealership in there with a quarter of the competitions’ budget trying to get Panigale’ s finest onto the podium.

Watching the season opener in glorious sunshine with Ducati legend Paul Smart made for a very special day in England’s heartland. This part of the country may not have the cachet of London and the south east, but it’s close to the home of Shakespeare and the one time home of the British motorcycle industry that Smarty raced for before spreading his wings to the Japanese and Ducati.

In Europe the Easter weekend gives us a four day holiday, and British Superbikes season kicks off with practice, qualifying and support races on the Saturday and Sunday. Monday is a race packed day. Warm ups start at 9am to already full grandstands, and racing runs pretty much non-stop to almost 6pm. The two Superbike races are the highlights, but in between everything from 125s to sidecars gets a run out.

As a VIP guest of Ducati UK access to the pits is a given. The calm and focussed Lloyds British Moto Rapido crew are running Jakub ‘Kuba’ Smrz for a second season aboard the increasingly competitive Ducati Panigale, and team are happy to chat despite a disastrous qualifying and practice. Ian, running around the garage is surprisingly upbeat. ‘We replaced all the Superbike electronics and it wouldn’t even start. In the end we replaced the engine to get it running. But the real problem in that the [Panigale chassis] is so stiff; that’s great for a road bike but put it on slicks and there’s no feedback to the rider. The Kawasakis’ swing arm can be adjusted for flex, but with a single sided swing arm that’s not an option.’

But Czech Smrz doesn’t look happy. In fairness the team spotted a split rear tyre on the grid – lack of practice means he’s right at the back of the grid – and have to pull him back for a tyre change and pit lane start. Not great for a racer’s mindset. The only times I see him smile all day is playing with his young daughter, and for another guest’s toddler. Pulling out of race one with arm pump – something he blames on a lack of practice – the team’s physio is immediately on hand with advice. His lack of eye contact with her is telling, as are his requests for changes to the bike. Not a happy Easter bunny.

Watching him in race two running plumb last must be heart breaking for such a hardworking and dedicated crew. But earlier in the day Moto Rapido had found their young star in South African James Eagan.

Paul Smart had been one of the first to congratulate James for an astonishing performance in the intensely competitive National Superstock 1000 category. James was clearly deliriously happy with his result and becoming part of the Ducati story; even as a youngster who’s not raced a Ducati before he knew exactly who Paul was and how he’s part of the Ducati legend.

‘It was special’ James admitted with a big grin. ‘with only this morning’s warm up’ – just four laps – ‘and starting from 33rd it was going to be difficult, so finishing 11th means a win this season has got to be possible. The Panigale is exactly the bridge I needed to break into the top ten. Last year on a Kawasaki I just didn’t seem to be able to get into the top 10. To go from 33rd to 11th means that if I could have started in 11th who knows what’s possible? There’s so much grip and potential to unlock and the bike is exactly what I’d hoped for’

And how special is this bike? Well, it probably would cost you less than the Öhlins’ forks on Smrz’ Superbike. Both bikes need weight moving backwards to prevent seesawing, and Smrz bike has a fuel tank that moves most of the fuel back under the seat – the filler cap is about as far forward as the fuel gets. Such mods are illegal on the Superstock bike, which is actually under the minimum weight in stock trim. This is basically a stock Panigale with an Akrapovič exhaust – from the Ducati Performance catalogue – and wave discs. By the time the road bike’s paraphernalia is removed the team actually have to add weight, mostly in the shape of a 2lbs lump of lead as far back as they can, right under the rider’s seat.

Ian again: ‘It’s a bike that could win the series. It’s a great start to the season, and a top five finish would be great

Team Owner Steve Moore – aka Wilf – gets the last word: ‘The team have done so well this weekend so a massive thanks to everyone. The total number of laps we completed over the whole weekend is what we’d normally expect to do on day one, so actually all things considered it’s not too bad. We had a bit of bad luck with a tyre that Pirelli has confirmed was faulty, and starting from pit lane always sets you back. That’s racing though; the key is we completed the second race. Kuba ran wide on lap one but we said let’s take the risk and push as hard as we can, and then use the rest of the race as a test session. We’ve got loads of data to go on to Brands Hatch, so onwards and upwards!’

 

For the full weekend photo gallery: http://photos.ducati.net/Ducati-Events/British-Superbike-Donington/48467481_Mjbsws#!i=3977627361&k=Xn9HpXn

For more of Greg Pullen’s stories and  book info,  visit http://teambenzina.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

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From Ducati Corse:

2015 Ducati Team and new Desmosedici GP15 presented today at Ducati Auditorium in Bologna

  • CEO Domenicali: “The spirit I have seen in the company in the last few months reminds me of the same enthusiasm and motivation with which we began our adventure in MotoGP.”
  • Dall’Igna: “The Desmosedici GP15 is a major step forward and, together with our two riders, will allow us to aim for ambitious targets.”
  • The event was broadcast in live streaming worldwide thanks to the support of Telecom Italia.
  • Factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone unveiled the new Ducati Desmosedici GP15.

The 2015 Ducati Team was presented today at the Ducati Auditorium in Borgo Panigale, and the new Desmosedici GP15, the bike with which factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone will take part in the 2015 MotoGP World Championship, was unveiled. The event was conducted by Guido Meda, Italy’s long-time MotoGP TV commentator and Deputy Director of SKY Sport Italia.

The first to speak was Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding, who commented on the atmosphere in Ducati Corse and the excellent results achieved by the Bologna-based company in 2014.

Claudio Domenicali: “The spirit that I have seen during these last few months in Ducati Corse re-minds me of the same enthusiasm with which the MotoGP project got underway in 2003. The new GP15, which is really quite revolutionary in many of its concepts, best represents the pride and the desire to win of everyone in Ducati Corse, and whom I would really like to thank for their efforts. I personally followed the final phases of starting the engine on the dyno, the first tests, the perfor-mance checking of the new engine, the assembly of the bike and starting it for the first time and I witnessed an emotional feeling and extraordinary devotion. We are only at the start but I am sure that the results will soon reward our efforts. Ducati has just finished an excellent 2014, a year in which we recorded new record sales, delivering 45,100 bikes to customers, 2% more than 2013, and confirming for the fifth year in a row our positive growth trend. Racing has always formed part of our DNA, and returning to a role as protagonists would mean completing a global framework of growth. We can but look forward to 2015 with confidence, and it is for this reason that I wish the two Andreas and the entire team all the best for the new season.”

Domenicali was followed onto the stage by Luigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager, who spoke of the new GP15 project and the aims for 2015.

Luigi Dall’Igna: “The Desmosedici GP15 that will make its debut in the next test in Malaysia is a completely new bike, different to the one we used two weeks ago in Sepang, even though certain aspects of the aerodynamics are quite similar. With the GP14.3 we have made some major progress with the software, which will be easy to switch over to the GP15, but also steps forward in the suspension, chassis and engine departments. The GP15 will start with the same settings as the GP14.3, but it will have many more possibilities for adjustment. Our aim this year is very ambitious, because we want to win at least one race. We know that it is an extremely tough objective, but we are used to accepting the most difficult of challenges. Last year we said that we wanted to reduce the gap to the winner to less than ten seconds. This was also an ambitious challenge, but we achieved it in the second half of the championship. Winning a race means finishing ahead of two giants like Honda and Yamaha and their four riders, who are for sure four of the strongest, but this in any case is our aim and we know we can count on Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, who in my opinion are capable of fighting on equal terms with their adversaries.”

After unveiling the Desmosedici GP15 in its new colours, the two riders of the team spoke about their expectations for the 2015 championship.

Andrea Dovizioso: “In a few days’ time we will be going to Malaysia for the second winter test ses-sion at Sepang and I can’t wait to test the new GP15. I am very happy with the improvements that we managed to achieve last year and so, with this new project, I can only be optimistic for the com-ing season. I think that the spirit and the desire to win that I see in Ducati are vitally important for all of us. I expect a lot of support from the Ducati fans this season: we have worked a lot and well in the last couple of years and now it’s time to reap the benefits.” Andrea Iannone: “I am very happy to form part of the Ducati Team, because it’s always been my dream to join the factory team. I already feel part of this family, and I have already established an excellent rapport with my team of technicians and mechanics, which enabled me to go immediately well with the Desmosedici GP14.3 in the recent tests at Sepang. Now we are back in action in Ma-laysia for the penultimate tests before the start of the season, and I’ll ride the GP15 for the first time, in the knowledge that at the start we’re going to have to work hard to make the bike competitive. In any case I am optimistic and I can’t wait to take to the track in a few days’ time.” The presentation was broadcast in web streaming thanks to the technical support of Telecom Italia, offering media and fans worldwide the possibility to follow the event live.

In a few days’ time the Ducati Team will leave for Malaysia where, from 23 to 26 February, the second round of winter tests at Sepang will be taking place and where the GP15 will make its track debut.

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The Ducati MotoGP Team and the fully redesigned (and hotly awaited) GP15 will be presented on Monday February 16th from the Ducati Auditorium in Borgo Panigale, and offered via live streaming on www.Ducati.com as well as the mobile phone platform www.timrace.it and on TIM’s Facebook pages. The event can also be followed on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #TIMDucati.  Official team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone will be there to unveil the GP15, which will make it’s first on track outing at the MotoGP test at Sepang later this month (February 23 – 26)

 

 

 020 - Davies & Giugliano

In a live streaming broadcast today from new sponsor Aruba.it’s datacenter, today was unveiled the newly named “Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team livery of both Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano.  In addition, it was disclosed that the agreement between Aruba.it and The Ducati Superbike Team is a three year commitment. Aruba.it is is the Italian market leader for data center, webhosting, email and domains and have a presence in the main European markets.

Superbike Racing Project Director Ernesto Marinelli was there to speak on the technical innovations, and pull back the curtain a bit between the bikes Ducati offers to the public and the ones they are challenging with in 2015 WSBK:“The 2015 Panigale R Superbike is an evolved version of the one we raced in 2014. We have come into line with the new technical regulations and, as well as the normal suspension, brakes and chassis upgrades, the three areas where we have made the biggest changes are the new electronics, the engine and the new exhaust system, which has come from the collaboration with Akrapovič. The electronics package has been totally revised, also because a €8000 price-cap has been introduced by the regulations. Many components have been changed, in particular the sensors, including the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) platform, which is now in common with production bikes, as well as the new Magneti Marelli MLE, which costs less than a third of the one used last year. Despite the significant difference in price, we have however been able to maintain virtually the same management strategies and update them with new settings. The engine is not as highly tuned as before and is closer to the production engine of the new Panigale R, using the same pistons, but in any case we have succeeded in maintaining the same maximum power output as the 2014 bike.”

Also there to explain the current prospects of the team offered by the new rules was Ducati Corse General Manager Luigi Dall’Igna: “The new regulations introduced for the 2015 season will bring Superbikes very close to production models in terms of preparation and also introduce a price-cap for some tech-nical components. In this difficult economic period, I believe that this is the right path to take with a view to keeping costs under control and levelling the playing field. The reorganization that has taken place inside Ducati Corse over recent months means that we can now better capitalize on the synergies between the engineers who work at the Ducati factory and those working at the tracks, for the benefit of the entire Superbike programme. We have also extended to Superbike our partnership with Akrapovič, with whom we have collaborated in MotoGP since last year, and together we have developed a new exhaust that has already given excellent results in the winter tests. Our aim for 2015, which is shared with our new partner Aruba, at this point can only be one: to win again and be protagonists in the championship this season.”

In a few days’ time, the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team will travel to Australia, where the final winter test sessions will take place at Phillip Island on 16 and 17 February, followed by the opening round of the 2015 World Superbike Championship, to take place over the weekend of 20-22 February at the same track.