There’s wheelie control and three different stages of launch control, depending on whether you’re an amateur, semi-pro or expert (Neil goes for the latter and describes the process in the separate story on the right), plus there’s a flat-shift feature that means he doesn’t have to roll off the throttle or pull the clutch in as he works through the gears. Either way, until the Panigale is hooked up properly, deftness of hand stands between him and a demolition of the R8.
And let’s be clear: ultimately, that’s what this is. We put our VBox data-logging system to use on both vehicles, and I’ll give you the numbers in a minute, but visually, from on board the car, there are a few distinct phases after our flag marshal drops his hand.
Firstly, Neil’s fingers work more quickly than the R8’s launch control, so for a split second the bike starts to edge as the Ducati’s clutch is feathered and the R8 figures out you want to leave the line.
Then the R8 claws a bit of time back, as the four-wheel drive system puts the power to the road. Perhaps it edges ahead, if it doesn’t have to feather its own throttle output, which it sometimes does if it gets on a patch of iffy concrete.
Out of the corner of your eye, you can sense the bike having its own issues deploying all of its power, but mostly that seems to involve not lifting its front wheel too far off the ground. Neil’s body position is important. He’s lying as flat as he can on the tank, right foot still trailing, left foot on its peg ready to kick an upshift. In the car, you could be listening to Radio 4.
But after the initial getaway, it’s all motorbike. It’s ahead at 60mph (3.28sec versus 3.43sec), stays ahead at 100mph (6.30sec versus 7.72sec), and then, just for a moment, at around that speed, the Audi is clearly in a good gear and the bike is still having issues keeping its front wheel down. For a moment or two, you think you might – perhaps in the middle of The World At One – very, very gradually reel the bike back in, or at least keep pace with it.