With the 2020 Australian Superbike Championship (ASBK) in a holding pattern, we touched base with Cube Performance Centre owner, and DesmoSport Ducati Co-Owner, Ben Henry to chat about the season, the bike, and what happens now.
DesmoSport Ducati V4 R
The V4R from Ducati has grabbed headlines around the world in 2019, but you chose not to race it, and instead took the ASBK championship on the Panigale Final Edition. Ultimately, it was the right decision, but why didn’t you change over to the new bike as expected?
“There was a few reasons why we didn’t change. We started the season with Troy (Bayliss) on the bike, and we had intentions of racing the V4R during the (2019) season, but it was difficult to source all the parts we needed to even build it the way we wanted to. The bike we unveiled at the first round, we actually built using items that the World Superbike teams transported over for us from Europe, which included a chassis and blank fairings, so I was pretty proud to turn around and unveil a completed ASBK-spec race bike over the race weekend. As it turned out, that weekend ended Troy’s 2019 campaign, we couldn’t secure a second V4R, and when we drafted Mike in, he was already familiar with riding a Ducati twin, so it made sense to stick with a bike that we already developed and knew.”
Mike Jones – 2019 ASBK Champ on the 1299 Panigale R Final Edition – Image by Rob Mott
So fast forward to 2020 and the V4R is the bike that Mike Jones is racing. What has DesmoSport Ducati done to the standard V4R to get it up to speed in the ASBK?
“The rules for ASBK are designed to try and maintain a somewhat level playing field between the manufacturers without opening the floodgates and increasing the costs to be competitive. I think we saw that in 2019, with just about every brand taking race wins and in contention for the championship right until the end.
Rear sets help with ground clearance and rider positioning
“It does mean that we only have a limited number of things that we can do to our race bikes, but that’s the challenge, or the race, that I compete in for the championship. Mike has to be the best rider, and I have to give him the best bike. So on our V4R, starting from the ground up, we choose Pirelli tyres, and Spider rear sets to reposition the rider and improve the lean angle.
Termignoni system on the DesmoSport Ducati V4 R
“I tested a number of leading exhausts and the Termignoni gave us the best numbers and power curve. After round one, we re-routed the fuel tank breather into a small bottle, and use a Sprint Filter air filter, along with GB Racing protectors.
GB Racing protectors
“I do work on the motors to ensure all tolerances are correct and balanced, and we maintain a short service interval, pulling the motors down after every two track weekends to check and replace any components that look worn.
DesmoSport Ducati V4 R at 2020 Round One
“We use a JetPrime switch block on the handle bars with ProGrip grips, and always have a Speed Angle in place whenever on track for the rider. We use Plastic Bike race fairings and EaziGrip grip pads on the tank.
JetPrime switch block on the handle bars with ProGrip grips
“We’re limited with what we can do in the standard ECU, and so that puts more pressure on us to get the chassis and suspension working even better.”
So that brings us to the elephant in the room. In testing and round one, Wayne’s (Maxwell) V4R was faster than yours, why?
“Craig (McMartin) and their team have done a great job, there’s no question. Wayne is a rider that you can’t give an inch to, and they’ve come out of the gates firing. If you look at the times through the weekend, we weren’t too far off where we needed to be in the final race, and we missed some critical track time when we were pulled off the grid in race one, so while I don’t know that we would’ve won, I think if we had that track time, we might have moved to the suspension settings we eventually got to earlier, and been closer to the front.
Wayne Maxwell took out the 2020 ASBK season opener at Phillip Island – Image by Rob Mott
“We could see how Wayne was riding the bike, how it was set up. They had a plan and have played to their strengths and it’s paid off for them. In saying that, we were missing something else, we could see from the box that the bike was a little unsettled, and it wasn’t allowing Mike to ride it to its potential.
Mike Jones testing at Wakefield Park – Image by TDJ
“We tested at Wakefield and I saw the same issues there and although we were improving, we didn’t have an impact on that problem, so we went back to basics, and also went over the information we gathered from the WSBK team at Phillip Island. We actually measured the World Superbike V4R’s and found a lot more similarities to the standard bike than in previous years in a few key areas, so we’ve used their experience and translated some of their advice over to our race bike.
Mike Jones testing at Wakefield Park – Image by TDJ
“We tested at Morgan Park prior to the more stringent social distancing guidelines and we’ve taken some strong steps forward that should see us back where we belong, at the front.”
Mike Jones at Phillip Island – Image by Rob Mott
So from your answer, can we assume that changes you’re referring to are suspension related?
“Essentially yes. The V4R is fast out of the box, Troy showed that when he raced the bike at MotoGP. The changes we make from standard improve the ergonomics, the power and its delivery to the back wheel, we make it a race bike, improving lean angles, and remove non-essential components. We’re limited by the lack of changes we can make through the ECU for things like engine braking, fuel and traction control, so it puts even more focus on our suspension settings to get the most from both Mike and the bike.”
Winners and losers in ASBK are often decided by the internal settings of the forks and shock
So with the season paused, what does DesmoSport Ducati do now?
“We were lucky to get that last test in at Morgan Park. Mike did over 150 laps, and instead of sitting here theorising about the changes we want, we’ve tested them, proved them, and now focus on the small things.
DesmoSport Ducati VR
“The bikes are in the Cube Performance Centre workshop, where, in between customers’ bikes they’re being pulled down and fine-tuned and generally maintained while we play our part to get through the current health crisis.
The Cube Performance Centre workshop
“We are keen to go racing, the ASBK is incredibly competitive with a group of 8 or 9 riders that are capable of winning races, and it would be great to give Australia something apart from Tiger King to watch!”
Ben Henry at work on the DesmoSport Ducati – Image by Rob Mott