Our contributor Federico Natali, test driver for the Ducati Special Team, involved in the Endurance World Championship, tells us about his Easter Monday day on the track with the top rider of the team: Manuel Poggiali. The setting up of the bike, the running-in of the engine and the braking pads
In collaboration with Federico Natali (photos by Photohouse Srl on track e Natali at the paddock)
Titanium connecting rods, lightened crankshaft, treated distribution rockers to reduce friction.
Rev limiter set at 12 thousand rpm.
These are the specifications of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R. Not a recent motorcycle, since it was released in 2013.
Federico Natali talks about it because on April 20-22 this bike will race the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Ducati Special Team. If you don’t remember, it is the team that won the Supertwins category last year at Le Mans with the Panigale 1299. This year, however, Supertwins category doesn’t exist anymore as part of the Endurance World Championship (EWC), and the Team choose to run in the Stock category instead, where they can’t use the 1299. Hence the return to the 1199.
We already talked HERE about the job of motorcycle tester of our friend, Federico Natali, who debuted with the Ducati Special Team team this year, he only had experience with Japanese 4-cylinder bikes before. Federico, who raced in various categories and international competitions, has the task of roughing the basic setting before passing the bike to its riders. So he’s tuning the bike, the suspension, doing all the tests, and break-ins.
And here we are on Easter Monday at the Cremona (Italy) circuit, with Natali and Manuel Poggiali. Manuel, former 125 and 250 GP world champion, will be the team’s top driver. He will share the saddle with Frenchman Lionel Ancelin, a super expert in Ducati and Endurance, and with Fabio Massei, a very fast pilot who finally moves to the World Endurance Championship from the Stock 1000 Championship.
That said of the pilots, it should be added that the team manager is a woman, and her name is Alessia Salmaso. At her side the sports director, Jacopo Zizza, who will be the 4th driver of the team.
Federico is particularly keen to introduce the bike as it is prepared. And the list of racing components is long, as you can see.
The suspension was fitted with Mupo components, the AB1 EVO monoshock and K 911 forks.
For the engine, additional Rapid Bike control unit, to optimise the air-fuel mix, Sprint Filter P08 air filter, with a filtering membrane consisting of a fabric of synthetic threads. SC-Project complete exhaust, an Italian company that has always been a partner of the Ducati Special Team.
For the transmission, electronic gear blipper supplied by IRC Components and clutch equipped with anti-slip system by Radial Clutch.
The braking system is obviously Brembo, with the choice of leaving the original 16-18 master cylinder. They could use the 18-20, which has a larger plunger and a greater distance between the fulcrum lever and point of application of force on the plunger, but the 16-18 offers a more modular braking, and on 24 hours of racing that can help pilots.
The FIM approved casing covers of GB Racing by Omnia Racing and the data acquisition system and instrumentation with GPS from PZ Racing complete the equipment.
Federico Natali, tells us about his day on the track in his own words.
8.30 am. Arrival on the track. The Panigale is ready on the stands with tyre warmers on.
Time to chat with the mechanics, drink a coffee, have a small chat about the bike to understand the operation of some technical equipment, such as the pit limiter button (which automatically limits the speed in the pit lane), how to change the ECU map, traction control settings and we are already at 10 am : the track is open. Air temperature is a bit on the cool side: about 10 degrees.
11:00 am. After another coffee, I spend a few minutes stretching, waiting for the temperature of the asphalt to rise by a couple of degrees and thus leaving the task to a group of friends who can’t wait to warm it up on my behalf.
The day is long and there are many things to do so “let’s stop procrastinating”, leather suit on, helmet on and let’s go.
In the first two hour, I run 8/10 laps shifts, with various pit stops, to check tyre pressures and to have the data recorded by engineers.
After the one-hour lunch break, at 2 pm the team starts working until 5.30 pm. A lot of data is collected on different configurations of the bike. We ran with the tank full (24 litres) and the bike in reserve (3 litres) to see how the amount of fuel affects weight transfer. We tried various set-ups, then varying the spring rate, both on the front and on the rear, logging the operation of the various setups to have a guideline to follow. We have combined the work of the setting up the bike with testing a couple of tyre compounds (sc3 and sc2), changing the pressure as well. Because at Le Mans the night can also reach temperatures close to zero, and in this case, the tyre pressure must be changed.
The final drive ratio remains unchanged: 16/41
During the various shifts we run-in a few pairs of brake pads, so that they will be ready to use during Le Mans week.
I split the sessions with the 4th driver and owner of the Team, Jacopo Zizza, who, unlike me, rode the 1299 R last year at Le Mans, and so it was fundamental to understand how to bring the setting of the 1199 as close as possible to that of its older sister.
How did it go
I was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which this technological marvel made in Italy is driven. I must honestly admit that I had started off prejudiced because, after many years spent riding Japs, my fear was to find myself out of my comfort zone and having to work harder. After just one turn, however, it seemed as if I had always ridden her.
Intuitive and with a position on the saddle not at all tiring, it proved precise in cornering insertion and very agile in changing direction. The gearbox with quick shifter up and down is soft and precise, hard braking before a curve causes a slight skidding in the rear wheel that is easy to control in any circumstance. There is a lot of power up to 8,000 laps, but once this threshold is exceeded, it becomes even more and the bike takes off. The DTC (Ducati traction control) with 8 levels to choose from does its job very well, even though for racing use we have set it on level 1, the less invasive one, which requires a minimum of attention with the throttle.
Information gained during the first test was used to provide a feedback to the top driver of the team: Manuel Poggiali, with whom I spent Easter Monday. The work done on the second day of practice was divided into two parts. My task was to break in a brand new 1199 Panigale R, a completely original one, which will be transformed in the next few days for the first trip of the EWC calendar to the French circuit of la Sarthe.
The team focused on Manuel’s requests to “tailor-made” the Endurance version of the Panigale based on his preferences, a bike that the rider from San Marino knows very well, as he is also an instructor for the Ducati Riding Experience.
Starting from the settings that I had left the last time, the work focused on the weight transfer of the bike during braking and starts, trying to reduce the “pumping” of the suspensions as much as possible, especially during the gas reopening phase. Another important step was taken with regard to the use of the anti-skid clutch supplied by Radial Clutch, with painstaking work by Cristian Murari who immediately found the right set-up thanks to the targeted feedback provided by Manuel.
At the end of the day we were all satisfied and smiling. Next step, appointment in Le Mans the 20th-22nd of April: the time to race is approaching! Even if my test job is now running out, I will be back on the track in the future to try new components. But we will be at Le Mans anyway and we will update you as soon as Tuesday 17th.
One more thing, allow me to tell you about my technical sponsors, who contribute to making this dream possible.
My helmet is an Arai RX-7 GP (supplied by BER Racing), the suit is Texsport, and I wear TCX – RT Race boots and Axo gloves
Previous articles by Federico:
My life as a tester in Endurance
A couple of Slow-motion videos
And now some details of the bike