At Imola, in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup class, we got to see the all-new Panigale 1199 - the most radical Ducati sportsbike for several decades - attack its rivals on track for the first time. An eventual third for Eddi La Marra was the final reward, behind the BMW of Sylvain Barrier and the Kawasaki of Loris Baz. In many ways a podium finish for a brand new bike is always a great result, but with La Marra leading before the red flags came out, maybe it could have been even better.
For Ducati Corse's Superbike boss Ernesto Marinelli it was a weekend of mixed feelings about the overall performance of machines and riders, but he too declared that third was a good result in the peculiar circumstances of the Imola race weekend. "I know the potential of the bike is definitely higher than it appeared in Imola," said Marinelli. "I was quite pleased in race one with La Marra and overall with La Marra's performance over the weekend. I would have expected a bit more from the other riders, from Savadori and Sandi, but Sandi had not been on the bike since the first test he did at Phillip Island with Liberty Racing. He also had to adapt on the tyres, and also he had not ridden at Imola during the three days of testing there that most others had, as a test for the CIV championship."
"I think it was a very strange race," continued Marinelli. "La Marra did very well in the first part, and he was leading by 1.5 seconds before they put out the red flag. Our thoughts were that he was heading for his first win but they stopped it and he had already used all his four sets of tyres. He had to restart with the same tyres he finished the first leg on. They tell me Barrier and Baz each had one tyre that was barely used left (from their allocation), so they used them on the second part. With a five-lap race and no aggregate any more, it was one-shot race after that. Eddi had a few occasions where I think he could have passed Baz but of course he did not want to crash, he wanted to get points in the first race, so he felt it was too much of a risk and he got a third, which is OK. Overall I have to say I was happy."
The full Superbike version of the Panigale is undergoing a now familiar development ritual, which includes racing in Superstock for a season while an intense level of backroom and racetrack development to finalise the Superbike specification machine takes place behind public view. Maybe more out of the ordinary is that the top Ducati rider of all - reigning champion Carlos Checa - has not ridden any version of the Panigale yet. Or will for a while, it appears.
Says Marinelli, "Checa has not tested it yet. A strange coincidence but it was not planned. We hope to have him make a nice test around June. Every other test we have is very close to races, so it is not particularly nice to test too soon before a race. The Panigale is a different bike and the feel is different too, so we do not want to take Carlos' concentration from the championship. That is his primary target. His test is scheduled for Mugello after the Misano round, in one of our regular development tests we do every month."
Posted: 2012-04-11 13:57:27