EBR’s Canepa says engine power the only drawback

Niccolò Canepa says EBR 1190RX superbike has handling advantage over the Ducatis he’s ridden for so many years

world superbike ebr canepa

Only three months ago, Niccolò Canepa was without a ride for the 2015 championship. Despite taking second place in the EVO category with the privateer Ducati fielded by the Althea team, he was first turned down by the Italian manufacturer, then by the factory Honda World Supersport squad. Hero EBR offered him the only unpaid-for saddle in World Superbike aboard the 1190 RX, and the 26-year-old rider accepted it earnestly despite the manufacturer's dismal debut in the championship (no points scored by either one of the official riders Geoff May and Aaron Yates). The two, literally, took a turn for the best in Phillip Island (Australia), surging to an unprecedented top-ten finish during the last day of pre-season tests.

“This result counts as much as a pole position or a victory for me,” Canepa, eleventh in the combined rankings, said. “I surely wasn't expecting it. We made steady progress so far, and the bike still needs major developments. So, to be only one second off the pace is encouraging.”

Having served as a development rider for the Ducati Panigale, Canepa applied his twin-cylinder experience to the 1190 RX, focusing first and foremost on the electronics and chassis, with the help of his teammate and team manager Larry Pegram.

“He's a nice person to work with, and quite fast too,” added Canepa. “He knows the bike inside-out. Now we have to focus on engine power but, given its configuration, there's not much we can do unless we homologate new components. We're closer to the limit, and I want to thank the team for working so hard during the winter, but there's still room for improvement so I'm confident.”

Canepa was about 15 km/h (a little over 9 mph) slower than the frontrunners on the straight, but made the most of the bike's unique features. “From a chassis point of view, the 1190 RX has an edge,” he said. “Compared with Ducati, it's more stable in the corners, but it also has less horsepower. To see some Panigales behind made me both proud and sad.”

During the season opener, Canepa may be able to collect more points for EBR than what his predecessors have done in an entire season. “Phillip Island is a friendly track because it flows, there are not many stop-and-go corners,” he analyzed. “It's a fast track, but raw power is less important here than elsewhere. Last year, my race pace with the Ducati was in the 1:32s. I'm already at that level, and the 1190 RX allows me to be more consistent as it's a less physical bike to ride.”

Sometimes, the gods of motorcycle racing operate in mysterious ways. Some said EBR needed a miracle. Today's result may not fit the definition, but it's pretty close.