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Tested: Ducati DRE Racetrack Academy review

BikeSocial Web Editor. Content man - reviewer, road tester, video presenter, interviewer, commissioner, organiser. First ride was a 1979 Honda ST70 in the back garden aged 6. Not too shabby on track, loves a sportsbike, worries about helmet hair, occasionally plays golf and squash but enjoys being a father to a 6-year old the most.

Posted:

10.08.2023

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Date reviewed: May 2023 | Tested by: Michael Mann | Price: £1800 | DRE Website

 

It’s not often you get to ride on the same circuit at the same time as those who are among the quickest to have ever lapped it. I’m talking about the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit and the likes of MotoGP and World Superbike stars Michele Pirro, Chaz Davies and Karel Abraham.

Yet today that became a reality because Ducati brought its Racetrack Academy (part of the Bologna firms’ menu of riding experience opportunities) over to the UK for the first time. And for the handsome sum of £1800 per person, a maximum of 60 riders got to ride Ducati’s 2023 Panigale V4 around the hallowed ground as racing superstars from past and present helped. With guidance before, during and after each session available to all as groups of five were assigned either a racing pro or one of Silverstone’s own band of ex-racing instructors.

It has to be noted that £1800 includes two nights B&B accommodation at the Silverstone Hilton, plus bike hire inc. fuel and tyres, as well as on-and-off track instruction for the day.

After arrival, a dozen riders are invited into a minibus and offered a lap of the GP circuit with a MotoGP instructor, stopping a three of the trickier sections of the track so he can explain the right lines.

And because we here at BikeSocial like looking after our members, we invited a competition winner to join us for the day, and it was all captured on camera.

 

Ducati Racetrack Academy Review | Riding with MotoGP pros

Michael escorts BikeSocial member, Gary, who won a competition for a place at the DRE, and finds out what the Racetrack Academy is all about.

 

What you’ll learn at the Ducati Race Academy

Designed to offer the ultimate in track tutorials, the mixture of on-and-off circuit has a luxuriousness to it, from the moment you stroll towards the pit garages to be met by Ducati UK’s CEO, Fabrizio Cazzoli, and his management team, to the cleanliness and professionalism of the whole operation. Of course, the experience doesn’t start in the pit garage, oh no, that happens the afternoon before when arriving at the exclusive check-in desk at Silverstone’s Hilton hotel which has balcony’s overlooking the start/finish straight and is joined to The Wing by a glass tunnel above the start-line. This is premium.

The course itself begins early, like a normal track day. You’re invited to be ready for coffee and an introduction to the day while perched on stools surrounding the stage and display screen – again, this is no ordinary track day where the organiser bellows instructions from afar while riders chunter among themselves. Ducati’s operation is slick – Dario Marchetti, DRE Technical Director takes the microphone and introduces the star instructors as well as the concept of the day via PowerPoint. He mentioned the importance of using the rear brake, as well as the neutral phase of cornering, which were to be emphasised by our instructor during the day.

“We only use the top levels tracks like Silverstone, Mugello, Missano and Sepang. Customers come and they are welcomed like a factory rider,” Dario tells me.

What dawned on me at this point was this was no ordinary track experience format. We were to be divided into groups of five based on similar levels of track experience and we’d stay with one instructor all day. There’d be four 20-minute track sessions with a pre-session briefing and a post-session debrief. And we’d stay in line on track, like ducklings following mother, until it was our turn to follow the instructor for a lap, then we’d drop to the back of the line. Three groups of five would be on track at any one time, and overall there were 12 groups.

In advance of the event, we’d completed a form with information about our track experience, what we’d ridden and where, plus an idea of what we’d like to get out of the day, so each group was theoretically made up of riders with similar levels of ability. I was a little despondent at this point thinking beforehand that I’d have just 17 others including instructors on the whole 3.66-mile GP circuit to play on armed with a Ducati Panigale V4.

If you’re thinking about signing up for the next one then do take this into account because if you’re in a group with slower riders then you will spend several laps dawdling around, though the opportunity does allow you to become more familiar with the circuit, it’s apexes, and even the bike’s controls. When it comes to your turn behind (or sometimes in front, when he has his camera on) mother duck then this is the chance to shine.

Each session looks at elements of track riding from body position and gear selection to lines and apexes, and Rupert May, our highly experienced Silverstone-based instructor, was a God-send.

 

 

Who is the Ducati Race Academy aimed at?

The racetrack academy sounds like it should be for experienced riders, club racers or advanced group track dayers only, and all sets of motorcyclists would gain plenty if paired with one of the superstar GP riders, but do bear in mind their Silverstone experiences might be limited to one race per year whereas the Silverstone coaches don’t have the kudos of a Pirro or a Davies but they know the circuit like the back of their hand.

Even so, track beginners or those with no circuit experience will hoover up the information overload and will improve their understanding of the bike and the circuit with an overall massive improvement in lap times. It’s a guarantee such is the depth and breadth of information on offer. Those with some track days under their belt will be much the same. The teaching style and course format is certainly more formulaic than a standard track day, and those with experience will always recommend spending money on one-to-one tutoring for track day goers over tyre warmers and gazebos.

From a commercial perspective, Ducati are clearly wanting to make a buck but also introduce non-Panigale owners to their highest performance sportsbike, though it’s ‘just’ the V4 and not the S, SP, SP2, or R.

 

 

What I got out of DRE Race Academy

Every lap of a circuit be it Mallory Park or the TT course is like a very complex jigsaw. If all the pieces fit then it looks great, and there are many, many pieces to get right:

  • Corner exit enabling you to line up for the next, or carry momentum along a fast section

  • Braking marker

  • Position on the circuit

  • Body position at the various stages of a corner

  • Transfer of weight

  • Brake pressure

  • Brake release

  • Front vs rear brake ratio

  • Turn-in point

  • Hitting the apex

  • Etc.

And we worked on several of these during the on-track and classroom sessions, with some relatively simple techniques being explained carefully using a white board or video evidence ensuring they become embedded next time I was on circuit. One particular gem was to imagine your eye is in your belly button when approaching a corner such as the tight first-gear right hander of The Loop which leads into Village. Get into position early and allow your torso to follow your head by looking through the corner.

Lower gears and higher revs as well as making the corners shorter by creating straight lines through sections like Maggotts/Becketts as well as Vale/Club were also on the agenda but I won’t spoil the plot too much here!

Despite my experience with 4-5 track days per year for the last decade plus (on average) a couple of circuit-based press launches, I still found plenty of areas to improve, and only when you hear directly from the professional who’s been leading or chasing you, do you start to pick up on the tips and tricks specific to your riding.

 

How does DRE relate to road riding?

Road riding traits and habits are easy to spot on track for the instructors but converting the lessons learned on circuit back to the streets are more obvious than you’d first think. While we know to look as far ahead as possible, is it natural? Do we do it as regimentally or as benefittingly as we should? And how often do we get to explore how a bike reacts at full throttle or under hard braking. The opportunities to improve your road riding when having a blast on track are plentiful, and in this case the lessons taught by Rupert about making your gear selections work better for you, looking through corners, and even the cornering process itself can all make you more of an accomplished rider on the road.

 

 

Other Race Academy riders say….

Ahead of the event, BikeSocial members had been invited to enter a competition to win a place at the Ducati DRE Racetrack Academy, worth £1800, and I’d been chaperoning and riding with our winner, Gary Neil, himself a Panigale V4S owner, and occasional frequenter of the BikeSocial track days:

  • Bike owned: Ducati Panigale V4S (this is his second one)

  • Experience: Gary has ridden on bike track days before, including Ducati’s own days, and at Silverstone

  • He was interested in booking the Racetrack academy but had already got Portimao for the following week in his diary but when he won the BikeSocial, “I’ve entered several of the BikeSocial competitions in the past but never been so lucky!”

  • “It’s a great experience with some expert tuition thrown in as well. We were focussing on when to turn in, getting our gear selection right, and getting our knees and body’s into positions nice and early. Rupert was suggesting that the bike was in perhaps a lower gear than we’d normally have selected, so using 1 or 2 in some of the tighter bends, so that you have the ability to pick the bike up in the higher part of the torque band so it has the direct control with the throttle and back wheel.”

  • “It was absolutely brilliant, well organised, and a great experience. Certainly a lot of interaction in the garages from videoing to discussing the circuit maps, talking about braking points, gear changing, best lines. Then we worked on body position after a filmed third session.

  • “For my next track day I’m going to focus on that body position and opening up my shoulder to allow my elbow to come up a little more, not necessarily to be quicker but to be in a better position on the bike, and smoother too, hopefully it will become more comfortable and natural too.”

 

Three alternatives to the Ducati DRE Racetrack Academy

  • Road Race Rider Coaching – you get a personal data engineer for the day, solely one-to-one with ex-club racer Jordan Malton who uses two on-board action cameras and a GPS logger to record and interpret data at a track day. He then demonstrates on his iPad the areas he’d like you to focus on in the following sessions. £400 for the day and although he doesn’t ride on track withyou, the USP here is the data recording, video evidence and almost immediate feedback.

  • California Superbike School – Level 4 – after completing the first three levels, the top tier is level 4 which sees more intense coaching aimed and refining and improving. For £465, the one-to-two coaching means there’s plenty of time with a professional instructor, and they too use a camera later in the day but the same format applies – pre-session briefing, on-track chasing or being followed by the instructor, then post-session debrief. Located at one of three UK tracks and bike hire is an additional charge.

  • Bennetts BikeSocial Track Days – hosted by MSV but branded up as Bennetts BikeSocial track days, we host six days per year at BSB circuits all over the country usually including Oulton Park, Donington Park, Cadwell Park and Brands Hatch. We restrict the numbers so there’s more time on track, MSV instructors offer guidance as well as our ambassadors, John McGuinness and Peter Hickman. Free photos, and an onsite mechanic are handy perks too. Only one date remains in 2023 and that’s on the Donington Park GP circuit on 13th September but it’s fully booked, so keep an eye out for the 2024 dates due to be released at Motorcyle Live.

These are just three of many alternatives – you can find all the on-track training course we’ve tested here and be sure to regularly check for the discounts available through Bikesocial membership.

 

 

Ducati DRE Racetrack Academy: Verdict

Ducati is a premium brand and you’d expect nothing less than to be treated like racing royalty at the Racetrack Academy, especially having forked out £1800, but thankfully the experience justifies the price tag. The operation is super slick, the instructors look splendid in their matching branded Dainese leathers, the bikes are pristinely prepared and the entire day becomes memorable for all the right reasons. There was never a chance Ducati were going to book Seven Sisters or Darley Moor for such an occasion.

It’s pricey and it’s not like your average track day where you can go hell-for-leather for 6 sessions, but rest assured you’ll learn so much more doing the DRE RtA.

Keep an eye out in case we run a similar competition in 2024!

 

If you’d like to chat about this article or anything else biking related, join us and thousands of other riders at the Bennetts BikeSocial Facebook page.