Niccolo Canepa believes Ducati can fight at the front of both World Superbike Championship classes after an encouraging season opener in Australia.
The Italian comes into the 2014 WSBK season having been chosen to spearhead Ducati's EVO class challenge with Althea Racing, the only rider to do so in a class mostly dominated by Kawasaki machinery.
Finishing second in class during both races at Phillip Island behind KRT's David Salom, Canepa was impressed with the 1199 Panigale's performance considering a relative lack of pre-season testing, even if a strong showing in qualifying suggested better results should have come during race day.
"It's obvious that after being so quick during practice, the goal became to win the race for the EVO class. Looking back to the weekend, with the little amount of data we had, two second places are a very good achievement. Salom has done some winter testing, whilst the first time we got on track was at Phillip Island for the official test.
“During the race we put together for the first time 20 consecutive laps, plus I still need to fully adapt to the new bike. We understood a lot of things during that weekend and I think there is a huge room for improvement for the season."
Following a desperately disappointing first season with the 1199R during its first season of WSBK competition in 2013, Ducati has undergone a major overhaul ahead of 2014, signing Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies, as well as replacing Alstare with former collaborators Feel Racing.
Furthermore, Canepa and Althea have been charged with developing the EVO specification machine ahead of an anticipated wholesale switch to new regulations in 2015. It's a move Canepa believes will see Ducati fighting up at the front once more.
“Last year we could not see the real potential of the bike for different reasons and especially due to the injuries suffered by the two riders. I always thought that the Panigale works very well and now after a year I'm sure it's even better.
“I think Davide and Chaz will do great things, as much as we will in the EVO class. We can lay down the foundations of an incredible 2015 and if we do things the right way, next year the bike will ready to be up front."