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“I’ve had to pinch myself leaving Imola in the past." That's how Chaz Davies sums up his relationship with the Italian circuit and the Ducatisti in a few short words.

Winning four races in a row at an Italian circuit on an Italian bike will make for some great memories. Unfortunately for the Welshman, he hasn’t looked like adding to those memories this season.

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Episode 100 (woohoo! one hundred shows!) of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this one is a WorldSBK show. As such, this means that we see Steve English joined by Gordon Ritchie on the mics, as they are now our WorldSBK reporting duo for the 2019 season.

Recording straight from The Netherlands, the guys talk about the on-track action at Assen, where once again (how many times have we said that now?) it was a sweep by Alvaro Bautista and the factory-spec Ducati Panigale V4 R race bike.

This race weekend came with a twist though, as it snowed during Saturday’s events, which caused a cancellation of the day’s World Superbike races.

As such there is a limited amount to discuss, so we recruited Ducati rider Chaz Davies to the microphones for an interesting interview that you won’t want to miss.

The Ducati Panigale V4 R is the newest bike on the Superbike block, and as you’d expect it is the most advanced bike on the WorldSBK grid. 

The Italian manufacturer has developed a tremendous package over the winter, to immediately vault to the top of the pile in the production based series, and with Alvaro Bautista having been undefeated in the opening two rounds of the championship, he has laid the foundations of a very strong title challenge.

This is a production based series, and Ducati has developed a so-called ‘homologation special.’ While the rest of the grid comprises of heavily developed machinery, the Ducati was developed as a no holds barred, pure bred racing machine.

This is a throwback to a bygone era when the likes of Honda would develop their Superbike machinery with the sole goal of winning the title.

No compromises are made with a homologation special. Other than costing a maximum of €40,000, there is very little that isn’t maximised on the machinery.

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And so the season ends for WorldSBK. The weather finally behaved at Jerez, and the four WorldSBK teams and three WorldSSP teams got a full day of testing in at Jerez.

Or rather, nearly a full day of testing: the track opened at 10am, but the riders didn’t go out for about 45 minutes, as cold track temperatures made it a perilous undertaking in those early minutes.

But the sun soon did its work, heated the asphalt, and away they went.

Three factories and eight WorldSBK riders turned up at Jerez on Monday, Ducati bringing their brand new Panigale V4R, but at the end, Jonathan Rea was fastest. Plus ça change.

All eyes were on the Ducati garage, and Alvaro Bautista’s first day on the Panigale V4 R. “First day at school” was how the Spaniard characterized it, taking some time to adapt to the bike. It was quite a switch from the Desmosedici he had been riding in MotoGP, the bike having a lot less power.

But, the V4 engine still has plenty, rival teams complaining that the Ducati was 10km/h faster than the others at the Aragon test. Here, the difference was less, but the Panigale was still clearly quicker than the rivals. 

A number of the MotoGP teams have had a busy test at the Aragon circuit over the past two days. This is the test that played a role in not being able to move the Silverstone race to the Monday, a public holiday in the UK, as the trucks needed to travel the 2000km from Towcester to Alcañiz and set up ready for testing.

On Wednesday, Suzuki, Yamaha, and KTM were the factories taking to the track, with the Pramac Ducati squad also present. Thursday saw Yamaha and Pramac depart to make way for the factory Ducati squad. The teams were met with much better weather than at Silverstone, allowing two full days of testing, with the track improving as it got cleaned up with bikes circulating.

Step aside Marco Melandri, because Alvaro Bautista just stole your seat in the factory Ducati World Superbike team. Announcing his signing today at the British GP, the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team will have Bautista within its ranks for the year.

Additionally, Chaz Davies has signed up again to be on the Ducati Corse squad, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the paddock.

Both Davies and Bautista will ride on the new Ducati Panigale V4 superbike, which will make its first proper racing debut in the 1,000cc format next year.

The street model for this machine has yet to be seen, though we have caught glimpses of the test mule for the race bike making laps around various circuits – and it has shown astonishing speed in the process.

More bad news from the World Superbike paddock, as Chaz Davies joins Leon Camier in the list of riders who have injured themselves during the two-month summer break

Davies broke the collarbone in his right shoulder during a training incident. As such, Davies will miss the Race of Champions at World Ducati Week 2018, but he should be ready for racing action when WorldSBK convenes in Portugal for the official WorldSBK test in August, and later in September for the Portuguese round.

It is not clear at this time if Davies will undergo surgery to plate the collarbone fracture, or if he will let the fracture mend on its own. Either way, the injury should not prevent the factory Ducati rider from performing his WorldSBK duties.

12 Ducati racers. 12 Ducati Panigale V4 S superbikes. 12 race liveries to drool over. If you are not on the Adriatic Coast of Italy right now, you are missing out on one of the motorcycle industry’s best events…even if you don’t ride a Ducati motorcycle.

This is because World Ducati Week 2018 is about to kickoff in Misano this weekend, and while the festival has plenty to keep you entertained, one of the highlights to the three-day event will certainly be the Race of Champions.

Slotted to race will be a dozen names that should be familiar to motorcycle racing fans: Troy Bayliss, Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, Michele Pirro, Chaz Davies (who will miss the race because of a broken collarbone), Marco Melandri, Jack Miller, Danilo Petrucci, Xavi Fores, Michael Rinaldi, Tito Rabat, and Karel Abraham.

The race will take place on Saturday, and be shown live on Italian TV, but fans around the world can get in on the action as well, as each of the Ducati Panigale V4 S superbikes being raced will be auctioned publicly on eBay, giving Ducatisti a chance to own a very special race-prepped motorcycle.

For those of us without the coin, however, we have 12 gorgeous machines to drool over on the interwebs.

It is hard to pick a favorite, but I will say just this…Ducati would sell the beans out of a special edition Bayliss replica…and the MotoGP livery looks fantastic when applied the Panigale V4 street bike. Which is your pick?

Episode 76 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we mix things up. Recorded at the Laguna Seca WorldSBK round, on the mics are Steve English and Jensen Beeler, and the duo covers the World Superbike Championship season thus far.

The show is the first part of a two-part series look at the WorldSBK paddock, which is currently on a two-month summer break. 

Starting with the opening round at Phillip Island, we look at what has happened thus far in production racing. We then move to the WorldSBK silly season, as the rider market for next season is just starting to get interesting.

Lastly, we make some predictions for the rest of the season, and take some quick looks at what is to come for the 2019 season in terms of riders, teams, and machinery.

All in all, we think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info on the World Superbike Championship, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.

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