I had the pleasure to meet Claudio Domenicali at the Ducati stand at EICMA; his mood was very positive due to the enthusiastic response of the public to the new Ducati models—the Diavel and the Multistrada 950 in particular.
Sure, the Panigale V4 R made many mouths water, but that bike is out of reach for most. Ducati is about to close another very positive year, though sales are in slight decline; the motorcycle market is the one that is recovering the slowest inside the general economic picture. And this is valid for all makes; the industry must find a way to set a fire in the guts of the potential enthusiasts again, like it happened years ago. The crisis is behind us, we must be able to cheer at life again.
My first question to Claudio was inspired by his presentation of the new for 2019 Ducati models.
The Panigale V4 R was the queen of the show, as were all the other novelties, but for some reason they were all based on the tried-and-true Testastretta V-2, no mention of the Panigale V2, the ultimate V-twin.
I was there to introduce the new models for 2019 and for now the Panigale 959 remain unaltered, so no reason to mention it.
Still, Ducati will close 2018 with a total of about 52,000 bikes produced, a big number for Ducati but not a “really big” number for a general point of view, and these numbers are achieved through four lines of products and related engines.
Have you ever thought of a slightly tighter standardization in order to achieve a higher level of synergy in the product line?
This is well posed. Yet at this stage the old, reliable SOHC air-cooled engine is perfectly right for the Scrambler model line and in addition is a very accessible unit, easy to maintain, and this is very important since the Scrambler is manufactured also in Thailand and is very well accepted in all the markets of the area and there, and an engine like the SOHC 800/1100 is exactly what Ducati needs.
We invested a lot on the Testastretta to make it a super-efficient engine: secondary air, twin spark ignition, variable desmo timing, and it delivers—returning great efficiency and performance and perfectly responding to the roles it is called to play on all the models it powers.
The Panigale V4 responded to the old Ducati vocation to always renew its myth, and the response from the public was fantastic and confirmed that our constant evolution-revolution is the way to go. We thought that some might regret that we switched from the Panigale V2 1299 to the Panigale V4, but in reality they were all enthusiastic of the new concept.
Just for a comparison, we did not see any of the criticisms the Porsche die-hard clients addressed to the make when they switched from the air- to the liquid-cooled 911 flat-six engine. This was very gratifying for us.
Yet the Panigale 959 seems to be pushed aside in comparison with the Testastretta.
The Panigale 959 is a state-of-the-art engine and does not need any of the upgrades the Testastretta needed to conform with the latest emissions regulations. The Panigale 959 will always play a major role in our line of models, that of entry supersport models, accessible and still capable of delivering upper-class performances. We are already evaluating further evolutionary steps for that model, by all means it is not set aside.
Talking of supersport, have you ever considered the possibility of destroking the Panigale 959 to 750cc and making it the wildest V-2 ever to challenge the dominance of the four-cylinder models in the Supersport series. I personally miss the drone of the old 749R that showed good potential at the time.
That is not a bad idea, but any new model today must go through the headache of the present homologation procedures that are long, nasty, and so expensive that a smaller-displacement Panigale V2 would never recover the investment, no matter how good it might be at the races. On the road, the 959 would always be better and easier.
Okay then. Have you ever evaluated the possibility of manufacturing a special series of Panigale 959 specifically conceived for track-only use and give life to a Ducati Panigale 959 Trophy? The bikes should be completely stripped of their road equipment to make them less expensive and more accessible.
Not a bad concept either, sure worth being further investigated.