Currently, there is a great deal of doom talk about how Ducati will dominate the 2023 WSBK season based on the assuredly impressive performance of the Ducati Panigale V4R at Phillip Island last weekend. There are rumors, or fears, that Kawasaki may pull out of the series, and however unlikely, Yamaha as well.
Certainly, it’s easy to press the panic button. Ducati did indeed steamroll the competition at Phillip Island. Bautista is now, finally, riding with a great deal of self-confidence, and the Ducati is refined for 2023, which makes for a very powerful package.
It’s a little early to press the panic button, though. Ducati has dominated at Phillip Island before. And, what’s more, the romantic days of WSBK were, in fact, the years when Ducati basically ran roughshod over Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki.
Here is a story that illustrates something few seem to be grasping. This was a conversation, either via phone or in person, between Ducati legend Eraldo Ferracci and rider Jon Rea when the Ducati Panigale V4R was introduced. As Desmo Grand-master Eraldo tells it, Jon Rea took strong objection of the Ducati Panigale V4R and said to Eraldo that the bike wasn’t in line with the Superbike rules, that Ducati has essentially built a MotoGP bike for the street, and WSBK.
Eraldo said, “Hey, that is bullsh*t. You need to talk to your manufacturer about building you a better bike.” (All one word, Eraldo style)
Rea, steadfast in his belief, disagreed and repeated that the V4R isn’t so much a WSBK weapon as it is a weak MotoGP bike for the street.
Eraldo wasn’t having it. As he told me the story, he replied, “HEY. F*CK YOU. DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE TALKING TO? I know-ah the bikes. Your manufacturer can-ah easily build you a new bike. They can build so many different bikes with the sup-ah-charger, but they can’t build you a new Superbike? COME ON.”
The point that few seem to be grasping? Everyone in WSBK gets the same rule book. Ducati built a bike to the limit of the rules. Period.
Thankfully the FIM has relieved Scott Smart of his position as the World Superbike Technical Director. What needs to happen next is that all of the other teams get to race with no rev limits so they can battle against the Ducati with every weapon at their disposal.