Ducati officially introduced its 2014 World Superbike Championship team, the manufacturer’s first full factory outfit in the series since it left Superbike racing in 2010. Ducati presented riders Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano and the 2014 version of the 1199 Panigale superbike in a live streaming presentation from the Ducati Auditorium in Borgo Panigale, Italy.
The 2014 WSBK season will be an important one for Ducati, as it faces pressure to return to the same competitive form that resulted in 14 ricer championships and 17 manufacturer championships. The manufacturer returned to the series last year in a non-factory capacity, with Team Alstare fielding Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini. The results were disappointing, despite it being the Panigale’s first season in the series. Badovini finished 12th overall, while Checa finished 15th while suffering an injury that led to his decision to retire from racing.
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The fallout from the disappointing 2013 season (in addition to the company’s similarly disappointing MotoGP program) resulted in Ducati hiring Luigi “Gigi” Dall’Igna away from Italian rival Aprilia as general manager of Ducati Corse. So far, Ducati and Dall’Igna say they are satisfied with the pace of development, encouraged by the results of pre-season testing.
“The results of the latest tests are encouraging. Both riders were able to record important lap times but more important is the fact that their comments regarding the bike have been positive,” says Dall’Igna. “This is a key factor, especially in view of the experience they have accumulated in recent seasons and the fact that both were riding bikes of reference until just a few months ago. They are together providing us with the feedback needed in order to develop the 1199 Panigale in the best possible way. There is of course a lot of work still to do but I am confident and optimistic and believe that over the course of this coming championship we will get the bike back to where it deserves to be.”
Ducati made a number of updates to the 1199 that it hopes will translate to improved results.
“The 2014 version of the Panigale has undergone various evolutions since last year. I would say the main one regards the electronics system that has been completely modified, generating not only an advantage in terms of functionality but also a lower overall weight,” says Ernesto Marinelli, Ducati Superbike project director. “With regard to the chassis, the biggest change involves the new Ӧhlins suspension, which this season has a price cap imposed by the regulations. The braking system has also changed, with new 328mm Brembo front discs, and the engine has undergone evolution in order to achieve greater performance. We believe that we have a good bike/rider package with which to bring Ducati back to the positions that count.”
We’ll find out whether Ducati’s changes will make a difference at the 2014 WSBK season opener, Feb. 23 at Australia’s Phillip Island circuit.