The DRE Track Days came to India, and Ducati test-rider, Alessandro Valia, set the lap record at the BIC. But, the bigger news has to be Shivank breaking the ‘sound barrier’ on a Panigale V4 at the very same event!
291km/h on the back straight! I slammed the front brake way before the braking marker. The Ducati Panigale V4 remained steady, but I couldn’t say the same about myself – I felt as if I needed all the oxygen in the world, and my heart… my heart was ready to explode. Exhilarated, excited and, to be frank, a little afraid, I exclaimed to myself, and not unsurprisingly, ‘Wow!’ After all, it was the fastest that I’ve ever gone on a machine! Sure, I’ve crossed the 250km/h barrier a couple of times on some exotic machines, but the V4 is a completely different monster. The speed build-up is relentless. The way you carry momentum is nothing short of a pantomime – clip the shifter, go full gas and you can sense the front wheel break contact and hop back down with every gear change. There’s absolutely zero power fade even at the top of the rev range. I can’t remember if I’ve experienced something pull as ferociously as this motorcycle. I mean, I’m no fighter plane pilot, but this is probably how Chuck Yeager must have felt after he went supersonic back in the day. What a beast the V4 is!
The interesting thing is that straight-line performance is only a prologue to this exotic tale from Bologna. It’s only when you go around a corner that you realise the next level of performance that this motorcycle can achieve. The amount of speed and lean angle you can carry into a corner, regardless of your skills, is simply mind-blowing. And I say this because, within just two laps, I was scraping my right knee at Turn 15. Then it happened again at Turn 1. And then again at Turn 15. By lap 4, I felt like the second-coming of Casey Stoner on a Ducati. There’s a wide net of electronics working in such a sophisticated manner that you’re fooled into believing that you’re a riding God of some sort. And that’s the beauty of the Panigale V4. The performance is surreal, the handling impeccable, but everything is easily accessible. For everyone.
At this point, I have to say that that the God-like feeling didn’t last very long. And that’s because Ducati’s chief test-rider and DRE guru, Alessandro Valia, was around. He was there for the first edition of the Ducati DRE Track Days in India. Basically, the event was organised for Ducati- and non-Ducati owners to help them hone their riding skills and experience their motorcycles on the tack. The day started with theoretical sessions, where Valia shared various features of the V4 and instructed us on basic track-riding etiquette. This was followed by two sessions on the track for all the riders. Now I don’t have a Ducati, or any 600cc-above motorcycle. as required to be a part of the DRE Track Days, but I still managed to get two riding sessions. Talk about the benefits of flashing your press card…
The Flying Italian
Now, although Valia was there as a DRE instructor, he couldn’t help but hammer out a couple of hot laps with the V4. And while he was at it, Ducati India thought it would be nice to have a crack at the circuit’s long-standing lap record. So, the team shod a V4 S with Pirelli slick tyres and sent Valia out. After just two laps, Valia set the fastest lap time for a production motorcycle at the BIC – a 1:56.316!
To be honest, it looked like he did it without putting in any effort – just watch the on-board video on YouTube and see for yourself. In fact, in a brief chat afterwards, Valia told me that he could’ve gone much faster if the set-up and conditions were right. ‘I think we could improve a lot because the bike I used was completely stock. We only changed the tyres to slicks. But, it wasn’t the compound that I usually use. We had to go with an SC2 rear instead of the SC0 that I prefer for these conditions. So, with the right tyre and correct setup, and also the performance exhaust that adds nearly 15bhp (the stock bike is ‘only’ 211bhp, by the way) I believe a 1:53.0 was possible.’ And I don’t doubt it. I’m 100% sure he’ll smash it again the next time he’s here.
As for me, well, not only is the V4 the fastest motorcycle that I’ve ever ridden, it’s the also most beautiful and rewarding motorcycle that I’ve ever come across. My new favourite then? Hell, yes!