During the offseason for the WorldSBK series, I sent our man Steve English on a photo-finding mission. He came back victorious from his endeavor, bringing us our first look at the WorldSBK-spec BMW S1000RR superbike that Tom Sykes will campaign this season.
Today, we have another treasure trove of photos from that outing, as we bring you an “up-close” gallery of Eugene Laverty’s Ducati Panigale V4 RS19 race bike, which was back-to-back testing components at Portimão, ahead of this weekend’s season-opener.
A motorcycle that we have covered extensively here at Asphalt & Rubber, you might be wondering why another Panigale V4 is gracing our pages. For that, let me explain.
While there are four Ducati Panigale V4 race bikes on the grid this season, the reality is that we are seeing three different machines, and they are easiest to define by which suspension they use.
The Ducati Corse team is easy to spot with its Öhlins suspension, and Michael Rinaldi is on the grid sporting suspension from Showa. But, for Eugene Laverty and the Team GoEleven Ducati Panigale V4, a less known name is used: Bitubo.
Bitubo is an interesting choice for the team, and so far the gamble hasn’t paid off too well, as Laverty comes out of the preseason test at Phillip Island over a second and a half back from Alvaro Bautista on the Öhlins-equipped Panigale V4.
It can be taken as no coincidence that Laverty has struggled for rear grip thus far. Observing from trackside, it is easy to spot that the backend is pumping and sliding through fast corners, and that the suspension is clearly a factor.
In the past, when the GoEleven team had their agreement in place with Bitubo, but with the team running Roman Ramos on a Kawasaki the stakes weren’t as high. Now with a proven race winner in Laverty there is pressure and expectation. As it stands they look to be coming up short of meeting those expectations.
It’s the same story with the braking components as well, for all three teams. Brembo for Chaz Davies and Alvaro Bautista, Nissin for Rinaldi, and Galfer for Laverty.
All of these systems can work, and all can be successful, but with Ducati having experience of Brembo the path to success is shorter for the Aruba bikes. Barni need to learn Nissin, and the same can be said for GoEleven and the Galfer system.
Apart from these materials there were also some small differences between the bikes too. The Aruba and Barni bikes had a “cheese grater” on their fuel tanks, while GoEleven did not. The “grater” is used to cool the ECU and keep temperature down, and its a development that debuted at Phillip Island this week.
These are subtle, but significant, differences that show not just the pecking order of the teams, but also the budgets that are available to them. Racing is a meritocracy. It’s the survival of the fittest.
The easiest way to be the fittest is to have the best materials available to you. It’s a dog eat dog world and any advantage is key. Before a wheel has even been turned in anger it is clear that the Ducati riders are fighting the war from different positions.
While Laverty has been on a variety of machines in his career, including a V4-powered Ducati in the MotoGP class, this year marks his fourth manufacturer in the WorldSBK series.
Undoubtedly, there is a learning curve that comes with all this change. It will be interesting to see how the 2019 season progresses for Eugene Laverty and the GoEleven squad, as it will be interesting to see how all four of the Ducati riders perform through this season, and which combination of the Panigale V4 comes out on top. Stay tuned.
Photos: © 2019 Steve English – All Rights Reserved
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