“Who's the greatest” has been a question asked in every sport over the years. Whether it's Muhammad Ali self proclaiming himself, or Tiger Woods being anointed by the masses, a general consensus quickly forms about a pecking order.
In football, it quickly comes down to Pele or Maradonna, Ronaldo or Messi, or another combination from a certain era. In tennis it comes down to dominance over a sustained period, with one era blending into the next of Rod Laver to Bjorn Borg to Pete Sampras to Roger Federer.
Motorcycle racing is similar in a lot of ways with riders typically earning their titles in spurts of sustained excellence.
Superbike racing is however a curious subset. With domestic series feeding into World championships, and some of the brightest WorldSBK stars being offered MotoGP seats after only a couple of years, at the same as riders step across to Superbike racing from Grand Prix for only a handful of seasons at the end of their careers, it's a strange combination of fluidity and constant change.
When you ask a Superbike fan who the greatest is you certainly get more than your fair share of choice.
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?
Don’t call it a comeback, Troy Bayliss has been here along, as the Australian never really hung up his racing leathers.
Partaking over the years in numerous one-off and short-term racing endeavors, the 48-year-old Australian is looking for a little bit more two-wheeled action in his life though, and accordingly has his eyes on a proper championship go.
As such, Bayliss has announced that he will compete in the 2018 Australian Superbike Championship, riding with the DesmoSport Ducati team, which he co-owns with team manager Ben Henry, with an eye on the series’ #1 plate.
“Initially I did want to see another young guy on the bike, but after I rode it I felt that I needed to contest the championship and try and win myself the elusive Australian Superbike title,” explained Bayliss.
Ernesto Marinelli has been an almost ever-present force within Ducati's World Superbike program for over two decades.
Last month the Italian announced that he would leave his role as Superbike Project Leader, but having enjoyed a hugely successful 22 years with the Italian manufacturer he will leave with a heavy heart.
Having joined Ducati fresh out of university as an engine technician, Marinelli was keen to prove his worth. He did this with an innovative approach to engine simulations, while working as an undergraduate, and quickly found his way into the Race Department, Ducati Corse.
It was not an easy decision then that he finally decided to move away from Ducati and onto a new chapter in his career.
“Ducati is an extraordinary company,” reflected the Italian. “Even after 22 years I still love my job but it is a stressful life. Between testing and racing there really is no break."
"You do it because you have a passion, and it’s not a normal job. It was actually quite hard when we announced it because of all the messages from people that worked for me. I was very pleased to see that you leave to everyone a good memory."
“There comes a point in your life that you need to balance yourself a bit better. I think it was about time to balance my life a bit better."
"There was a new opportunity coming that actually would bring new experience on my profile. It was a difficult decision, and I was putting all the plus and minus in a table like any engineer does!"
"At this point of my life, it was a bit more the plus than the minus to make the change. It was a very hard though and it was a stressful decision because I love what I’m doing. I love the people that I work with. I love the company that I work for.”
“It’s like drinking from a firehose” is the phrase I would use over and over while telling people about my recent trip to this year’s World Ducati Week.
The three-day event attracted 81,000 rabid Ducati fans through the gates of the Misano race track, which is just a stone’s throw from Italy’s Adriatic Coast. One of the best race tracks in the world, along one of Italy’s best beaches…the recipe for success here might seem obvious.
Beyond these factors though, World Ducati Week itself is a magnet event that attracts Ducatisti from the world over by offering them the ultimate Ducati experience.
Strangely enough though, you don’t even have to be a Ducati fan to attend – though it helps – as WDW2016 is something that any motorcyclist can enjoy.
For my part in this, I will admit to having more than one Ducati in my garage (none on press loan, mind you), so consider my glass of Kool-aid aptly filled, but truthful Ducati has put together a motorcycle enthusiast agenda that other brands and venues should take note of .
As such, World Ducati Week is a great example of how to get motorcyclists excited about being…well, motorcyclists.
Ducati does this by having no shortage of events and spectacles for fans to enjoy, and while the venue is a race track, most of what makes World Ducati Week special doesn’t take place on the Misano Circuit itself.
Instead, the key to World Ducati Week’s success is the carnival atmosphere, that immerses attendees in the very best that the Ducati brand has to offer.
Ducati’s flat track race bike hasn’t really mimiced anything in the Italian company’s lineup, until now of course. Behold the first new model to the Scrambler Ducati brand, the Ducati Scrambler Flat Track Pro.
The big flat track news this weekend was Troy Bayliss breaking his leg while competing in the AMA Pro Flat Track race at the Sacramento Mile. The event was the Australian’s second outing with the American flat track scene, racing of course on his Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati race bike.
Bayliss broke his leg while competing in the evening’s semi-final race, and according to the Australian, his foot was pointing the other way after it had been ensnarled with the track air fence. He will fly back to Australia for an operation to correct the injury, though it’s not clear when he will return to flat track racing.
We already know that Troy Bayliss will be making another return to racing this year, taking on five one-mile events on the AMA Pro Grand National Series. We also knew that Bayliss would be on a Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati race bike, continuing the Australian’s link to the Italian brand.
Ducati has given us a glimpse of that flat-tracking machine, and to our surprise, it seems the folks in Bologna are looking to get some more marketing mileage out of the partnership, as Troy’s race bike is a spitting image of the Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle.
He may have retired from World Superbike racing, but that isn’t stopping Troy Bayliss from continuing his pursuit of checkered flags, as the Australian has confirmed his long-rumored move to the AMA Pro Grand National Series.
Bayliss will be racing on an 1,100, air-cooled, two-valve Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati (no surprise there), as a teammate to Johnny Lewis. The former World Champion plans to contest all five mile-long racing events, with his first race being the Springfield Mile in Illinois on May 24th.
To paraphrase a little bit, Troy Bayliss is absolutely, positively, for reals this time, never going to race in World Superbikes again, or so said the 45-year-old Australian after he completed the second WSBK race in Thailand on Sunday.
Bayliss has been filling in for the injured Davide Giugliano on the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike factory squad, but it seems the three-time WSBK champion will call it quits here in Thailand.
The announcement also effectively squashes rumors that Bayliss would do a couple more races with Ducati, as Giugliano is pegged to be absent for two more rounds.