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‘The Blue Shark’ Ducati Panigale R Cafe Racer – Ducati Zentralschweiz & Parts World

Posted on March 3, 2017 by Andrew in Café Racer, Racer. 57 comments

Written by Martin Hodgson.

With the circus that is the World Superbike Championship wrapping up for the weekend at the Imola circuit, Ducati asked a few select journalists to stay behind. After a superlative-laden speech by Ducati supremo Claudio Domenicali, they hit the track on the brand new 2016 Ducati Panigale R. To say that they were gobsmacked would be a gross understatement. So it’s probably for the best that a certain bunch of Swiss motorcycle fanatics weren’t on hand. Undoubtedly they would be thinking that there was even more to be had from the bike. Fortunately, their absence did nothing to quell their creativity. And the result is arguably the world’s fastest cafe racer; a unique collaboration of talents that has delivered a freakishly cool animal known simply as ‘The Blue Shark’.

The incubator for this mind-bending project was the imagination of Parts World CEO Andy Matter. “The idea for The Blue Shark came step by step,” he begins. “After browsing the web and many other sources, I found out that no one had ever customised a Panigale R as a cafe racer. Moreover, even 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,” says Andy. It just so happens that Parts World is Switzerland’s premier aftermarket distributor and to make this insanity happen, they joined forces with Ducati Zentralschweiz, Schaub Metalworks and exhaust giant Akrapovic to form the ultimate dream team.

The Blue Shark started its life with zero kilometres on the clock as a brand new Panigale R, straight from the Ducati Zentralschweiz showroom floor. But despite the machine’s status as a god of bikes the team quickly ripped into it, pulling off the stunning factory red fairings to reveal the skeletal beast beneath.

“Instantly they were struck with the first challenge of the build. There were wires everywhere.”

Instantly they were struck with the first challenge of the build, and clearly one that had deterred others from ever getting past this stage. There was simply wires everywhere, something that shouldn’t surprise given the technological power house that the Panigale is. So hours were spent hiding and re-routing 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 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-alloy 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. Raphael works metal by hand. There’s no 3D printers or fancy CAD modelling here. Offering up pieces of 2mm Aluminum sheet, he simply visualises the components and forges them by hand. The first of these incredible parts is the gas tank that had to be party silky smooth cafe racer on the outside and part complex mix of angles and parts to work with the EFI on the inside.

With the final tank taking on classic ’60s style thanks to the smooth lines and perfectly shaped knee dents, the tail could now follow suit. It’s almost impossible to explain just how difficult it is to create this look while placing it over the factory Panigale subframe, but the metal maestro that is Raphael has somehow pulled it off.

The single seat with a vintage-style cafe hump follows the kicked up tail lines of the modern Duke, 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.

Not only do they add a unique visual aspect to the bike, they cover one of the bike’s control units and their louvres further assist in the bike’s major heat extraction requirements. 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.

Mounted below the headlight, the shark mouth-like opening actively forces air into the airbox to assist in plenum pressurisation. It looks incredible too. Above, the twin headlights are gone, replaced with a traditional unit that now wears an alloy fairing and a beautifully frenched-in yellow screen with some industrial-style fittings for more of the old-school look.

With the body work 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 paint, everyone agreed to let the master panel and paint man do his job.

“Andy had a serious struggle on his hands; how to convince his partners to go with the unusual colour”

Now, the colour combination couldn’t be further from the factory Ducati red, but it perfectly shows off the incredible lines of the Schaub alloy pieces. The vintage blue with black accents give the whole bike an ‘anything but Italian’ feel with the raw metal allowing the yellow of the lights and the gold Ohlins suspension to pop in all the right places. Finally, the job was completed with a hand-stitched leather seat, the hue of which was chosen for its ability to accentuate the dominant blue hue.

Of course, powering the project is the incredible Ducati L-twin 205hp engine as used in the factory’s own WSBK efforts. In fact, it’s hard to think of any cafe racer in existence capable of getting you to your favourite watering hole as fast as this one. The internals are precision perfect, titanium is used for the rods and the valves, while the crankshaft is tungsten-balanced.

With the fairings off, it’s true to say the water-cooled beast is not as elegant as the simpler air-cooled lumps, but instead you are free to marvel at one of the world’s most incredible motorcycle engines on full display. Revel in the NASA-like complexity of the elliptical throttle bodies, quick shifter, cast magnesium covers in gold and the Vacural-formed crankcases.

But what really captures your attention is that exhaust. With Parts World the official Akrapovic distributor for Switzerland, they managed to source direct factory help for the pipes. So impressed by the potential The Blue Shark design possessed, the boffins at the ‘Big A’ wanted to help to adapt a genuine WSBK set-up.

The titanium system, nicknamed the “Shotgun”, was requested by factory Ducati rider Chaz Davies who felt the 200+hp engine needed a little more power. It literally turned his season around, and it adds an orchestral soundtrack and visual appeal unlike any other exhaust system 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.

With Parts World being the distributor for major brands like Rizoma and Kineo, it made perfect sense to show of their wares. Rizoma comes to the party with their gorgeous fluid reservoirs mounted on the clip-ons. While a set of their fully adjustable rear-sets make it an absolute pleasure to punch through the gears. But if one addition was going to make or break the build, it was the wheels. But with Kineo on board, they made it in a big way. The single-sided swingarm really shows off the stunning spoked rims that are both capable of working with the latest tyre technology while giving the bike classic appeal.

Thanks to the homologated Akrapovic exhaust, the bike will be fitted up with race rubber and hit the track. But just as important to Andy is the fact it’s 100% road legal. “My personal goal was to create something new; a radical cafe racer that is still usable and rideable under all conditions. I also wanted to make something unique by thinking out of the box, which isn’t always easy. I guess it is like a great painting – you can’t finish it in one sitting, but instead it takes countless hours and a lot of dedication and determination.”

Of course, such a remarkable feat could not have been achieved without the input of all the major supporters involved. It’s a testament to working as a team with a singular vision. And what a vision it is. So if you want to see the Blue Shark in the flesh, head to Biarritz for Wheels & Waves or to Glemseck in Germany this year. Its bite won’t leave a physical mark, but you’re likely to be in moto therapy for years to come.

[Ducati Zentralschweiz – Parts World | Photos by Lorenz Richard]

  • the watcher

    If you landed on Earth from another galaxy, you’d think this was great (and it really is, in one way or another). But! As an Earthling, Chas and WSB fan, and lifelong Ducati lover, I would no more do this to a Panigale (a fucking R, no less!) than I would chop a ’78 Hailwood Rep. Abomination!!!

  • Bultaco Metralla

    This is better than great, it is magnificent! It’s the fastest bike we’ve seen here in yonks. No foolium, no wishful thinking, no guff about the torque of two big cylinders, this bike is effing fast. As for all the “how could you do this to a Panigale?” crowd, get over it. There are other Panigale R’s in the world but this is unique, beautiful and a triumph of craft, attention to detail and a eye for a line.

    • the watcher

      Or is it an advert for an aftermarket parts supplier? And it’s not “how could you?” but “why would you?”

      • Why WOULDN’T you?

        • Because you would not like to create a two wheeled equivalent of a Ferrari with overfenders like Liberty Walk did.

    • yuriy dushchak

      There is no detail here. Just booger welds and some paint. Look at the air inlet, it looks like a 10 year old made it. The headlight!!!! found that in a dumpster.

  • Jesse Malloch

    This is effing beautiful!!

  • Steve Jordan 

    Pissing off the purists. It’s the best contribution anyone can make in this world…

    • the watcher

      Hope you don’t mean me! Reminds me of an old biker cartoon: a guy opens his front door to find an old greaser – what he can’t see is 20 more with bats and chains round the corner. Caption reads “I hear you’ve got a chopped Vincent for sale?”

      • Steve Jordan 

        No. I didn’t even read the comments…

        • the watcher

          What about “purist” specials-builders? It’s like “everything in moderation”;. what about moderation itself?

    • yuriy dushchak

      Please see APOGEE MOTOWORKS. thats detail. thats contribution to the moto world

  • Watcher, I agree 110%. As far as designers/designs go, I think Ducati is at the pointy end of the spear without question. To take their best work ever and go backwards to a theme from 45 years ago because it’s the current fad? Sorry. No sale. There are dozens of years/ brands/models to carve up that when finished would be an improvement. This one is nicely done but the way wrong bike to do it too. The photos look like paintings. The special effects person went a hair too far me thinks.

    • guvnor67

      Thought it was me, those 1st two pics especially I thought were renderings.

    • Robert Henry

      They did go a little over board with the “NOIR” filter in photoshop.

    • Bultaco Metralla

      I disagree. There is no wrong bike for customising. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are a lot of different folk. I don’t like sports fairings. They get in way of things and there is no public road where their aerodynamic advantages can be utilised. There is always a ‘white space’ in the market for the naked cafe version of the super sports. Just as Aprilia attempts to do with the v4 Tuono. However, they are usually built out of wrecks when some moneyed fool has found the limits of their ability.

      • lemieuxmc

        Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but ugly is everywhere.

        If these guys want to mess around with a Panigale… it’s their money and their time, but I think it’s a loser.

        Functionally, is it better than a stock Panigale?

        Stylistically, the Panigale is a bad starting point because it is totally about function as a crotch rocket. The engine looks like an air compressor with a gigantic mess of plumbing attached, stuck into the engine space of a motorcycle.
        A rocket motor is cool because it’s a messy looking bunch of nozzles and plumbing that puts out stupid levels of thrust, the engine in a Norton Commando, a Vincent Black Shadow, or a CZ motocrosser is cool because it looks like a motorcycle engine.

        Why did Triumph make their F.I. throttle bodies look like CV Keihins and then Amal GP’s?

        Caitlyn Jenner has better shaped boobs than Marilyn Monroe did, but that isn’t enough to make it a good thing…

        • “Man hands” Jenner.

          • Jeff Loffert


        • Bultaco Metralla

          Come in out of the rain and shut the door will you.. Panigales are not unique masterpieces they are produced in the thousands. The 1299 Superleggera was produced in a limited run of 500 units and here we have ONE bike which is different.

          This bike is much better looking than any of Ducatis attempts to build a naked.

          Times change, engines have become complex and intricate. My old friend, Anders, compares working on eight valve Ducatis to Swiss watchmaking and rightly so. Getting a v twin 1200 to produce 205 bhp takes real technology not wedding cake construction and knitting needle valve gear.

          This is a modern powerplant and it needs to be seen and appreciated as a triumph of engineering.


  • Polly Molly Moo

    I am always up for pissing off the purists, but this is a mess.

    • yuriy dushchak

      Thank you. Make changes, but dont ruin something by making it worse!

  • guvnor67

    I’m torn. I like it, but I think the gold/brass industrial approach gives it an almost steampunk look, probably suited to an older donor machine? I love the exhaust, and the tank, and there’s no denying a massive amount of work has gone into it. Can’t decide whether it should’ve been done, and there’s not many bikes I look at and don’t think change this, cut that, but .. ..

  • Joseph Gustafson

    “… even the Ducati specialists were doubtful anyone would succeed with such a project. That said ‘Hey, it is already the world’s most beautiful sportsbike, you can only make it worse!””

    – and they were right.

  • Doing this to an R is sacrilegious and all this exposed over-engineering of the motor is not pleasing to the eyes. An iconic racing livery like the one in the photo below is much more to my taste.

  • Controversy. ALWAYS a tell-tale sign of a great bike…

    • Guzzto

      cough “el sol” cough

    • the watcher

      Surely IF it were a “great bike” there would be almost no controversy.

  • Guzzto

    I have no issue with upsetting the purists so chop away, however I think it just confirms to me that many modern bikes just don’t lend themselves to the “cafe” treatment, if I squint the silhouette is okay I guess, but I just can’t get past that masses jumble of differing surfaces and textures and colours, Waaaay too busy and fussy for me. I kinda feel the same about every XSR custom I see too, Some bikes deserve a nice full fairing for good reason

    • Another guy I’m in total agreement with. “Chop away” is my moto. It takes a real man to turn a new bike into chips and dust and end up making it look better! And to quote the late Pete Chapouris (world renowned hot rod builder), “You can put just as much time and money into a project that comes out not looking right as one that looks bitchin’!” Or, another goldie, “Never confuse effort with results”.

  • John_Tangeraas

    Nice bike, but a little too much going on, visual noise so to speak.

  • WOW, just WOW! Dense packaging on already dense bike. Café racer maybe, cool bike hell yes!

  • Manesh Karunakaran

    An incredible motorcycle born as a result of an incredible amount of effort. But was it all needed?? Like Mule and Guzzto have already said, the Panigale is pretty much the best looking and performing stock bike in the world. Why would you want to chop it up and make a cafe racer out of it??? With such eye watering performance and technology on offer, the bike needs a fairing to make it aesthetically and aerodynamic ally complete and you really can’t have a complaint about the stock fairing.

    • the watcher

      Spot on Manesh, saved me having to spell out what really should be obvious.

    • Louvers look awesome on a hot rod hood side or trunk. On this they look like gills or at the least, an afterthought.

    • Why climb a mountain?

      • lemieuxmc

        Unless you’re making the first ascent, it’s because it’s something that you just like to do and you don’t give a shit if anyone else knows that you did it… unlike this particular bike where the builders are out to promote themselves as top level, professional “customizers”.

        Like Mule paraphrased the quote, “It’s just as much work and expense to build something ugly as something beautiful”

  • properjob

    The photos from the front and back and from above the tank make me think ‘hmmmm, nice’ – then I latch onto the dog’s dinner that is the side view and I’m immediately struck why Ducati had to encase the original in all-covering bodywork. Sure, it’s intentionally controversial – and that works as the initiator of much, often heated, conversation. So as a brand-promotional PR exercise it does its job. I’m all in favour of customs that ignore boundaries and push envelopes, but this is a mess.

  • des stanley

    how do you tungsten balance a crankshaft?just asking.

    • Jeff Loffert

      I have no idea, but I’ll take a SWAG. Rather than drilling out material on the “heavy side” of the crank, I’m guessing they add denser/heavier tungsten carbide plugs to the “light side” instead. So the finished/balanced crank winds up heavier, rather than lighter than the original? Hell, I don’t know!

  • AB

    I’m a fan 🙂

  • Motomanic

    What’s that ‘noir’ filter people were writing about? As for the matter hand (if perhaps, a little heavy handed) I would stick with T S Eliot for now: “most evil in the world is done by people with good intentions.”

    Ok it’s clearly not evil (I am NOT a purist and don’t give a sh&£t about that sort of thing but…this ones just not right. Sorry. The exhaust looks like a pair of uneven testicles).

    • There’s no ‘noir’ filter. Its just the adjustments that Photographers make when they process their images. Personally, I think these shots are superb. Lorenz is clearly a master lensman.

  • Mo Denaro

    Thought it was a drawing? Knobbies and pipe wrap would really set it off.

  • 7.8k Facebook likes now. That’s clear-cut BOTY territory. I told you it’s always the controversial ones…

  • Infadel Macgee

    Best looking Ducati ever ! Love the pipes , mini fairing , louvers !

  • Al

    Niiiiice metal work…Raphael

    • yuriy dushchak

      you dont take off light weight materials and use “alloys” on a sport bike. nice work sure, its beautiful. BUT not on this bike.

  • RangerMoto

    Love this build. Nothing better than getting a shot at a monster like this with zero on the clock.

  • John in Pollock

    I’m late to this party, but wow- BOTY material for sure.

  • Andy Rappold

    All the details and workmanship are outstanding…..but it , somehow, does not go together.
    Too busy looking for my eye.

  • 15k Facebook likes. That’s BOTY territory right there, peoples…

  • yuriy dushchak

    Why on earth would they allow someone to take a perfect sport bike and ADD weight to it. If you want to take on the challenge of building a beautiful custom panigale go for it, but dont ruin the technological masterpiece. Adding “alloy” to the entire bike. That’s 1000 year old technology that people are still working with. Using CAD isn’t a bad thing as the article makes it out to be. Let the metal workers work on 70s bikes. Let engineers and modern artists work on today’s bikes using the most advanced technology and materials. Tare a panigale apart, just dont ruin the bike

  • Gian

    I have an R & if I could afford it I would love to buy another one & turn it into this! What
    a bike! I love it