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The check boxes are getting ticked by the Ducati Panigale V4 R. WorldSBK race winner? Check! British Superbike race winner? Check! Road Racing winner? Not just yet.

The Ducati Panigale V4 R was designed and developed to dominate, and Gigi Dall’igna has said that the goal is to make the bike the most sought after Superbike in every paddock.

Last year the Italian spoke about how important it was to win the North West 200 because this was a race that Ducati had never won. Breaking new ground was important 12 months ago, and it’s even more important now.

The new bike is one that can, in theory, be a contender at the Suzuka 8 Hours, and finally give Ducati a reliable platform to compete at races such as that. The North West 200 is also a potential precursor to once again seeing Ducati on the roads of the Isle of Man.

This bike has the potential to be a real challenger, but it will take success this weekend to really show just how good the Panigale V4 R can become.

To find out what goes into making a bike into a contender on the roads Asphalt & Rubber talked with Paul Bird Motorsport to find out exactly what it takes.

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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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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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Are you ready? For the revolution? That is what is happening in Japan right now, at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show. We say this because Honda just debuted an electric dirt bike prototype that looks the business.

The Honda CR Electric prototype was co-developed with Mugen, a company with close ties to Honda. In fact, beyond the fairings, you would have a hard time distinguishing the Honda CR Electric prototype from the Mugen E.Rex that re-debuted this week as well.

Both bikes use an aluminum twin-spar frame, and look very "Honda" in their approach to building a dirt bike. It also doesn't surprise us to see that Nissin supplies the brakes for both efforts, and the same goes for Showa on the suspension side. What would you expect though, considering the close ties these brands have to Honda?

This is a project that is very much still in the family, and in the case of Mugen, that phrase is meant literally, as Mugen was founded by Soichiro Honda's son.

With Mugen spending the last eight years competing in the Isle of Man TT electric race, and racking up five race wins in the process, the tuning brand has built a cache of EV experience. Surely, this is where the Mugen-Honda connection is at its strongest. Together, these two companies are forging a new era of motorcycle design.

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There is no challenge like Buriram on the WorldSBK calendar. It is the hottest round of the year, and it places huge physical and mental demands on riders. With temperatures expected to be in the high 100°F’s, the sun and heat will sap the power from riders.

Leon Camier has described racing in those conditions as “brutal” in the past and he’s not wrong. To get an idea of what the riders will go through this weekend, try sitting in a sauna for 30 minutes and then imagine doing that while your heart is racing and you’re wearing leathers and a helmet.

Before travelling to Thailand, I tried to put myself into a rider’s frame of mind and the results were interesting to say the least. We’ve all heard that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s a lie. I didn’t die, but I definitely wasn’t strong afterwards!

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“There’s no replacement for displacement” in racing but what about power? In particular what about peak power and where a bike reaches it?

For WorldSBK purposes, the peak power of an engine is defined as the rev limit on the production machine, plus 3%.

Calculating this takes a little bit more math, as it requires you to average the rev limit from both the third and fourth gears, and then once this has been established, the FIM typically add an extra 3% to that RPM figure.

The rev limits are defined at the start of the championship season, but they aren’t set in stone for the duration of the championship. They can be changed at the discretion of organisers as the year progresses.

Having been introduced to much fanfare 12 months ago, the new limits are of interest again in 2019 because we have new bikes on the grid. The most newsworthy new machine is the headline grabbing Ducati Panigale V4 R, but it should be noted that  Kawasaki, BMW and Honda also have newly homologated bikes, and thus also new rev limits.

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If Tiger Woods needs a swing coach it stands to reason that even a world-class motorcycle racer needs a coach too.

Gone are the days where riders eschewed coaching - now they are embracing it. In paddocks, like in any walk of life, keeping up with the Joneses is a factor of life. When one rider makes a change, it forces others to do the same.

When world class racers got to the point of diminishing returns, like when it comes to fitness training, their focus turned to having more bike time with flat track or supermoto riding taking on extra significance.

Now it’s coaching that is taking center stage.

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“We have to look which is the best ownership for Ducati. Either we find a way forward for Ducati, which provides some growth, some probably additional brands, or we have to look for new ownerships...I wouldn’t exclude that.”

Ever since Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said those words, I have been perseverating on their meaning. Many in the industry have taken Herr Diess to mean that Ducati is once again for sale, and that Ducati's time within Audi AG is coming to an end.

As Diess says himself, we can't exclude that possibility. But, what about the part of his statement that proceeds that notion?

How does one make Ducati Motor Holding more profitable? More sustainable? Better suited for the trends we are seeing in the motorcycle industry? In the changing world that transportation is facing?

How does the Italian company fit into all those questions marks, and more? This is the thought that has been burning a hole on my notepad recently, and I keep coming back to Diess' thought that Ducati should have some additional brands.

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Ducati's announcement that it is making its final production run of the Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition got me thinking this week. This could be the very last v-twin superbike from the Italian brand, making it a true "Final Edition" motorcycle? It certainly appears so.

Right now, the Italian marque is betting its superbike future on the V4 platform, which means it could be another 5 years or longer (10 years could be a reasonable number, even) before Ducati debuts its next superbike platform.

What do we imagine that motorcycle will look like? Where do we imagine the motorcycle industry will be in the next five to ten years? That future isn't too far away, but the answer is still hard to fathom.

Can we really see a future where Ducati builds another v-twin engine? Understand, the Superquadro motor is the pinnacle of v-twin design, and pushes the limits of what kind of power such an engine configuration can create.

This is the very reason that Ducati abandoned the Superquadro v-twin design for the Desmosedici Stradale V4. That is a big deal in Ducatista land, but it is a notable move for the motorcycle industry as a whole.

So, the thought experiment evolves from this, and we begin to wonder what is not only in store for a brand like Ducati, whose history is rooted in a particular engine design, but also what is in store for the other brands of the motorcycle industry, who have been tied to thermic engines for over a century.

For the Japanese brands, the hand that holds that future has been tipped, with turbocharged and supercharged designs teased by three out of the Big Four manufacturers. We have even see Kawasaki bringing its own supercharged motorcycles already to market already.

But, is this really the future? Or, is this resurgence of forced induction for motorcycles dead on arrival?

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In our round-ups of the EICMA show of Milan, I am not sure if we have saved the best for last, but we certainly have saved the most important for last. There has been no shortage of news from MV Agusta this month already, and the Italian brand ran a skillful guerrilla campaign in Milan this year - a show that takes place in the company's own backyard.

In this month alone, MV Agusta has announced a €40 million investment, a new CEO, a new four-cylinder platform, and a bevy of special edition models. Recently too, the iconic motorcycle brand has entered into the Moto2 World Championship, withdrawn from the World Superbike paddock, and positioned itself as the ultra-premium offering in the two-wheeled space.

So, what does this all mean? Well...we certainly have a lot to talk about.

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Next up on our analysis of the EICMA show in Milan are the Japanese brands: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha.

You can usually count on the Big Four to bring out some popular new bike launches and intriguing concepts to EICMA, and this year...well...the Japanese brands phoned it in, for the most part.

Before we get into Jensen's complete feeling of disappointment, I first have to apologize because I failed you as a publisher. Much of the disappointment that comes from the INTERMOT and EICMA shows comes from the implications of the Euro5 emissions standards. As a publication, we should have prepared you  better for this reality, and we didn't.

There is very little incentive right now for a motorcycle OEM to release a new model. Euro5 comes online for new models in 2020, and for existing models in 2021, which means that many of the motorcycle brands are holding onto their new bike launches for those model years.

As such, the 2019 model year is very much a "development year" for the industry. This doesn't change the fact that the Japanese brands had a weak showing in Milan, especially compared to the Europeans, but at least it explains why...for the most part.

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