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Ducati: Japanese WSBK rivals are stuck in “downward spiral”

Ducati believes that its Japanese rivals in the World Superbike championship are stuck in a “downward spiral” due to years of underinvestment in road-going Superbikes.

Alvaro Bautista, Aruba.it Racing Ducati, Andrea Locatelli, Pata Yamaha WorldSBK

The dominance of Ducati and Alvaro Bautista in particular has caused concern in the paddock, as Yamaha and Kawasaki struggle to keep up with the all-conquering V4 R Panigale with their ageing packages.

Ducati introduced an updated version of the V4 R for this season, which Bautista has used to devastating effect with 18 wins of a possible 24 so far in 2023. The Spaniard holds a 74-point lead in the standings with four rounds remaining.

WSBK rules strictly limit what modifications can be made to each manufacturer’s race bikes compared to the street versions on which they are based, although the introduction of new concession rules for struggling marques has liberalised this to a degree.

But Ducati technical co-ordinator Marco Zambenedetti feels that the Italian firm is simply reaping the rewards of investing heavily in its road offering while the Japanese manufacturers continue to rely on minor updates to models that they have been using for many years.

“I don’t know why the Japanese have stopped investing in this type of motorcycle,” Zambendetti told Motorsport.com’s German edition. “I’m still convinced there is a market if you offer good and beautiful motorcycles. 

“But if the decision was made 10 years ago to stop investing in this type of motorcycle, it becomes difficult to keep customers interested. And when you lose customer interest, it makes even less sense to invest. 

“It’s a downward spiral, and it’s reflected in this championship. You can tell whether a manufacturer is investing or not.

 

“You have to respect the work of the manufacturers who are constantly investing and developing their production motorcycles. These manufacturers then have bikes that are faster and easier to ride. 

“Of course, the situation worries us. But we can’t make decisions for the Japanese.”

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Both Kawasaki boss Guim Roda and his opposite number at Yamaha, Paul Denning, have said that their parent firms cannot justify the investment required to produce a brand new Superbike to take on Ducati, which sells fewer bikes at a much higher price point.

The price cap for homologation was even raised from 40,000 to 45,000 euros this year to accommodate the new V4 R.

While there has been talk of further balancing measures to level the playing field, Zambenedetti is adamant that Ducati should not be punished for producing the best bike.

“The bottom line is that this is sport,” he said. “And in sport, it’s important that the strongest and the fastest come first. Those that do the best work in the factory and on track have to be rewarded - the best riders, engineers, and the best bike should prevail.

“We have to keep things fair, but we also have to respect the sporting side. We should try and keep everyone on board, but in the end the best must win.”

 

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