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Ducati Panigale V4: Track ready
Ducati's inaugural Track Day at the Buddh International Circuit is a sign of good things to comeNothing should be allowed to be this fast. I was on the main straight of the Buddh International Circuit and the speedo on the Panigale V4 had just gone blank. There were three tiny dashes that showed me that the V4 had just crossed the 300kph mark. And the scary part was that it was still accelerating with a vengeance. There is no stopping the V4. The ease with which the motorcycle hits 300kph has to be experienced to be believed. On the main straight, where’re you’re usually stretching the limits of your courage trying to hit 300kph, the V4 had hit it with enough in reserve to pile on another 30-40kph. And when it came to braking from that speed, the bike would do a one wheel dance without ever making you feel like you’re staring death in the face. It really is magic!
And it was the same for the way it cornered – it made you believe your abilities extend way farther than they actually do. It lets you hang your tail out entering corners and pull massive power slides exiting them. It makes you look and feel like a champ even when you’re far from it. The limits on this motorcycle are so far beyond my capabilities that the entire time I was riding it, it felt like the bike was handling me with nanny gloves. And, as expected, I ran out of globes way before the V4 ran out of velocity. As one of the most technologically advanced motorcycles to roam the earth right now, the V4 absolutely defies common reason. And in order to fully tap into the sheer violence that it is capable of, you need someone with the skills of Alessandro Valia.
Ducati’s chief test rider is the same person that can be seen pulling those ridiculous wheelies coming out of every single corner in every press image of every modern Ducati. Corner slide? Sure. Wheelies for days? No biggie. Stoppies pulling into the pit lane? Pffft. There is not much that Valia cannot do with a motorcycle, and this was clear as he blasted past me on the V4 S. There is a methodical smoothness and a surgical accuracy to his riding. Where the V4 reduced me to a weeping mess, Valia was throwing the damn thing around like a rag doll. So, it made sense that he also functions as the lead instructor for the riding schools that function as part of the Ducati Riding Experience (DRE). It also made sense that he was the one imparting his wisdom at the first DRE Track Day that Ducati India was running in India at the BIC.
The idea behind DRE Track Day is simple – give Ducati owners and prospective owners a safe, secure space to fully exploit the capabilities of their motorcycles. And they get to do this under the watchful eyes of Ducati’s trained instructors. Over the two days that DRE ran at the BIC, we got to ride the Ducati 959 Panigale, the Supersport and the Panigale V4. The sessions started with an off-track briefing about the motorcycles and various riding techniques, followed by on-track riding sessions. The idea was to give participants a taste of what DRE training sessions are like. A full-fledged DRE session, that is likely to happen in the future, would include 20 motorcycles with five instructors over a weekend, where the instructors break down every aspect of riding on a racetrack.
Aside from riding all the motorcycles around the BIC, the bonus was watching Valia do his thing around the BIC. On his first outing on the track, he was already dragging elbow. On his second lap, he broke the laps record at the BIC for a stock OEM motorcycle. And the lap after that, he completely smashed it, he posted a time of 1:56.316, over two seconds quicker than the previous lap record on a race-spec machine. Personally, I cannot wait for the full-scale DRE to arrive on our shores. Even if it means that I get to soak in a small percentage of the skill that Valia and the other instructors possess, that itself would be worth its weight in gold.