Ducati Racetrack Academy Review | On track with stars of MotoGP


Visordown was lucky enough to be invited to the first Ducati DRE Racetrack Experience held in the UK - here’s how we got on

SINCE 2003, The Ducati Riding Experience (DRE) has welcomed around 28,000 motorcycle riders to the best roads, tracks and trails, in Europe and beyond. The Ducati Racetrack Academy is the prestigious on-track riding experience, that takes place at the best circuits, and with the most famous instructors.

2023 though marks the first occasion that the DRE has travelled across the channel to the UK. Playing host to the Racetrack Academy was the glorious Silverstone GP circuit, a fitting venue for 60 Ducatisti and a hoard of big-name riders. I was lucky enough to get the call from Ducati to sample the event and was never going to turn down riding one of my favourite sports bikes on one of the best tracks on the planet.

What is the Ducati Racetrack Academy?

Before we get into the details of what we did and how it went, a bit of background on the DRE. The DRE is a riding experience, with a bit of a Ducati-style twist. It covers five elements; Rookie, Road, Track Warm Up, Racetrack and Adventure. Rookie is what you’d expect, for newer riders who have recently got their A2 licence. Road is for more experienced pilots, looking to improve their skills and awareness on the road. Track Warm Up is for experienced riders looking to get on track for the first time, while Racetrack is aimed at those with already some track riding experience. Adventure is aimed at people looking to gain more experience and skills when riding on roads and trails on either the Multistrada V4, Multistrada V4 Rally, or DesertX. All of the DRE courses include bike hire, instruction and, if applicable, overnight accommodation at the event.

Ducati Racetrack Academy review

Okay, so some background on me… I ride on track fairly frequently thanks to all the track-oriented launches that have happened in the last couple of years. I’m not a hugely experienced track rider though, I’m not an ex-racer and probably attend between eight and ten on-track events a year. I have done a training school on track before, but it was a number of years ago when I’d been a fully licensed rider for about three years. So, I was keen to get along to the DRE and see if the expert tuition could help me out on the track. And when I say expert, they really do call in some world-class riders for this thing, especially for the Racetrack Academy. At the Silverstone DRE, we had WorldSBK legend Chaz Davies, MotoGP stars Alex De Angelis and Michele Pirro, and Ferruccio Lamborghini (as in the Grandson of the posh supercar company). We also had the boss of the entire DRE there, the most Italian bloke you’ll ever meet, Dario Marchetti. 

Each pro-rider takes on a group of about five customers, and we had a Silverstone motorcycle trackday instructor as a floater in the group to help pick up riders who get lost in traffic or drop off the back of the group.

We were lucky enough to have MotoGP racer and Ducati test rider Michele Pirro as our lead instructor, and once a quick safety briefing was done, we were ushered out into the pitlane for our first session.

Session one was a fairly steady affair, with Michele really just getting a feel for the riders in the group and figuring out what sort of pace everyone had. As our group was populated by journalists only, we kind of knew where we all were in the pecking order, and sorted out who was where based on the pace we all knew we had. As the session progressed the speed did pick up, and we took turns riding either in front or behind Michele as he assessed our strengths, or in my case weaknesses! Once the 20-minute session was over, we headed back into the pit garage for a refreshment break and a chance to speak one-to-one with Michele. The Ducati Panigale V4 S he was riding was fitted with a GoPro on the nose, and when you overtook him to lead the group, he’d stick to your back wheel to document all your braking and turn-in points, and the lines taken through the bends. The debriefs between the first sessions were fairly high-level, with Michele mainly pointing out lines and talking through your gear selection and so forth. Even at this level of detail, it’s incredibly helpful to be getting feedback from such a big name in the racing world, and the way he dissects your lap and picks up the areas where he can ‘see’ you are lacking confidence is impressive. Personally, I have a strange problem when riding on track in that I seem to relish faster corners and detest slower ones. Michele very quickly picked up on this, commenting how I was strongest through the fast and flowing Maggotts and Becketts complex, but clunky and slow through the Club, Village and The Loop. He’s bang on too, I seem to be able to get my teeth into faster turns, yet panic about picking my moment when it comes to tipping into slower more technical corners. Michele quickly concluded that part of the problem was my braking into the corner. I get too much of it done when the bike is upright, don’t carry enough of the brake into the apex and end up coasting through the apex of the turn. Instead of braking later, Michele advised it might be easier at first to brake more gently, allowing the bike to carry slightly more corner speed and, with more load on the suspension, a more composed bike beneath me.

Easy to say, harder to implement, and it took serious amounts of willpower to convince myself the bike, and myself could do it. What did help was when Michele and the other pros really let their hair down in the final session of the day. With all the star riders out on track at once, it basically turned into a one-make race with Ducati Panigale V4 S power. As experiences go, this was amazing. We had Chaz Davies, Michele Pirro, Alex De Angelis and Karel Abraham carving around the Silverstone GP circuit like it was the last moments of a qualifying session. There aren’t many trackday experiences that give you that kind of spectacle unfolding in front of you!

Ducati Racetrack Academy Verdict

There is something a bit special about the DRE, it’s a track riding experience (which many manufacturers have) but with a bit more of a premium feel to it. Aside from the track-riding element of the event, the DRE at Silverstone saw the punters and pro-riders all sharing the same hotel within the grounds of the circuit. That meant that should you wish to, you could chat to them in the bar about the famous races they have taken part in and racers they’ve competed against over the years. I’ve shared track time with some big names in the past, but rarely on events like this do you get that kind of access. 

Obviously, the track element of the event is the key part, and on that front, it's phenomenal to be able to download riding tips from the mind of a racer that has very much been there and done that. The things that all of these top riders can pick up about your riding after watching you for just a handful of corners is super impressive, and undoubtedly I felt an improvement in the areas that Michele asked me to work on by the end of the day. The setting and layout within the event is also brilliant, and each group gets a specific area to base themselves meaning there are no problems with having to shout across a noisy garage to make yourself heard.

There are a few points to note though. Firstly, this isn’t a track day like Ducati already has in the UK. You can’t take your own bike and we had four twenty-minute sessions on the track which made the time between our sessions (sometimes around an hour) seem to drag on a bit. You will undoubtedly spend some of that time chatting with your instructor, but it’s just something to bear in mind. Secondly, as it’s a group experience you do ride at a speed that the group as a whole can achieve, and while there are times later in the day when you can go banzai, some of the early sessions are fairly steady.

Taking those two points into account - If you are an avid trackday rider already, and take part in lots of events throughout the year and just want to tick a box to say you’ve shared a track and been given instruction by some MotoGP legends, book it up. On that front the DRE Racetrack Academy is a kind of money can’t buy experience - even though you buy it with money, but… you get the picture! If you are going to the DRE expecting a standard trackday experience the group riding element of the course might pose a problem, and you’ll be better off looking at the one-to-one sessions that the DRE offers. 

For me the people that could really benefit from the DRE as we tried it are those riders, like myself, who ride on track fairly frequently but for whatever reason haven’t got themselves much in the way of instruction. It’s these riders who can really benefit from the riding, the feedback and the way that it's delivered. 

Overall the DRE at Silverstone was an unforgettable day, and you could really see that on the faces of the paying customers that were there. In this job, you can become desensitised to hanging around with big names from the racing world. If ever I needed reminding of this fact, I just had to take a look at the faces of the punters as they were being talked through their laps, you can tell that this event is just something a little bit special.

A big thank you to Ducati for inviting us along to the event, and thanks to all the instructors on the day.

More information on the Ducati Racetrack Academy and the DRE can be found on the official website.

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