With Ducati joining the ranks of proper 1,000cc superbikes with the Panigale V4 R, it opens up a list opportunities that previously weren’t available to the Italian brand. One of those events is the Suzuka 8-Hours.
Of course, we already did see a Ducati Panigale V4 R at this year’s Suzuka race, but what we are ruminating about here is a full-factory effort from the Ducati Corse crew.
According to Paolo Ciabatti in his talked to Italy’s GPOne publication, the Ducati Corse Sporting Director, the idea isn’t off the table, though the circumstances of Ducati’s involvement in the Suzuka 8-Hours is very specific.
For now, Ducati will participate in the 2020 FIM Endurance World Championship, but only in a supporting role for private teams, starting in 2020 (their partner team has a deal with BMW Motorrad through 2019, even though the new season has already started).
This news with a private team is in itself a big step for the Italian brand, which has previously shunned the idea of competing in the FIM EWC.
The potency of the Ducati Panigale V4 R is surely a big piece to Ducati’s endurance racing puzzle though, and it is perhaps not surprising to see Borgo Panigale now dipping its toe in the water first with private teams.
Ducati has historically made similar small movements with new motorcycles in racing, choosing usually to develop its new superbikes in the World Superstock class before entering the following year in the World Superbike Championship with the model.
Could perhaps the same strategy be underway with the Endurance World Championship?
Talking to Italy’s GPone website, Ciabatti makes it clear that Ducati has no current plans to race at the Suzuka 8-Hours, but he does leave the door open to the possibility in the future.
“I want to say that in my opinion, if we ever decide to participate in the Suzuka 8-Hours in an official way at Ducati, it will be our own project, which will require a great deal of effort,” Ciabatti said to GPOne.
“We have to plan tests on the track when it is available; we have to field the best riders available in the Ducati family; and then we have to think that to win there, the Bridgestone tires must be used.”
“A challenge in the challenge. It is fascinating, but if Ducati decides to participate, it will do so to fight for victory.”
Talking to those inside the factory, it is clear that Ducati is very proud of the superbike they made in the Panigale V4 R, and the project came at great costs to the Italian brand.
Part of the selling point for the expensive Panigale V4 R model, which some suggest is a loss-leader at its mandated $40,000 price point, is the bike’s ability to take Ducati into series and races that previously were not part of Ducati’s racing game plan…and then to win there.
The point is clear: Ducati went to great lengths to make a race-dominating machine in the Panigale V4 R, and now it plans to put it to full use. Could the Suzuka 8-Hours be one of those events where Ducati shows its new muscle?
“We will see what it will bring in the future,” added Ciabatti, “but Ducati likes challenges.”