Ducati Panigale R Café Racer | Bike Tests | Latest Tests
This is arguably the fastest Ducati café racer ever built. Meet the ‘The Blue Shark’ Panigale R produced by Swiss company Parts World
Andy Matter, CEO of Swiss company Parts World, provided the inspiration for this mind-bending project.
“After browsing the web and many other sources, I found that no one had ever customised a Panigale R as a café racer,” Matter said. “Moreover, the Ducati specialists were doubtful anyone would succeed with such a project. They said, ‘Hey, it is already the world’s most beautiful sportsbike, you can only make it worse’. That’s when the trigger was pulled in my head.”
Parts World is Switzerland’s premier aftermarket distributor. To make this insanity happen, they joined forces with dealer Ducati Zentralschweiz, Schaub Metalworks and exhaust giant Akrapovič to form a dream team.
The Blue Shark started its life as a new Panigale R, straight from the Ducati Zentralschweiz showroom floor, and from the outset the team was struck with the first challenge of the build – a mess of wires everywhere. So hours were spent hiding and rerouting the wiring for the ride-by-wire, ABS, wheelie control, data analyser, espresso machine and a host of other units, including the brains of the operation, the mighty Bosch IMU.
With Andy Matter happy that the bike was as clean as it could be and having removed all the stock plastics, he had to find someone crazy enough to build an all-metal body. The challenge was accepted by master craftsman Raphael Schaub of Schaub Metalworks.
The contrast between his methods and the technology overload of the stock bike couldn’t be more stark. He works metal by hand; no 3D printers or fancy CAD modelling.
Working with pieces of 2mm aluminium sheet, Schaub simply visualises the components and forges them by hand.
The first of these incredible parts is the gas tank that had to be part silky-smooth café racer and part complex angles and shapes to work with the EFI on the inside.
With the final tank taking on a classic 1960s style thanks to the smooth lines and perfectly shaped knee dents, the tail was able to follow suit. It’s almost impossible to create this look while placing it over the factory Panigale subframe, but the metal maestro that is Raphael Schaub somehow pulled it off.
The single seat with a vintage-style café hump follows the kicked-up tail lines of the modern Ducati, while still creating a seamless transition with the new tank. To further enhance the look and add to the bike’s muscular shoulders, Schaub crafted some extra gill-like side vents that merge perfectly with the tank.
Wanting all the bodywork to be as functional as possible, the next step was to recreate the ram air intake in alloy instead of the factory’s original carbon-fibre.
With the bodywork complete, Andy had a serious struggle on his hands: how to convince his partners to go with the unusual colour he had in mind. But with a good friend close by at Burkhardts, a classic car and bike body shop, everyone agreed to let the master panel and paint man do his job. Good call by the looks of it.
But what really captures your attention is that exhaust. With Parts World being the official Akrapovič distributor for Switzerland, they managed to source factory help for the pipes.
Impressed by the potential of The Blue Shark’s design, the boffins at the ‘Big A’ helped to adapt a genuine WSBK set-up.
The titanium system, nicknamed ‘The Shotgun’, was instigated by factory Ducati rider Chaz Davies, who felt the 200+hp engine needed a little more power. It turned his season around, and adds an orchestral soundtrack and visual appeal unlike any other exhaust on the market. With the fully operational quickshifter on board, the twin cans provide the perfect barrels for launching impressive sets of flames out the bike’s tail.
Such a remarkable machine could not have been achieved without the input of all the major supporters. It’s a testament to working as a team with a singular vision, and what a vision it is.
If you want to see the Blue Shark in the flesh, head to Biarritz for Wheels & Waves or to Glemseck in Germany later this year. Its bite won’t kill you, but you’re likely to be in moto therapy for years to come.
WORDS MARTIN HODGSON FOR PIPEBURN.COM PHOTOS LORENZRICHARD.COM