Ducati CEO Confirms V4 Superbike Project

01/21/2017 @ 7:18 pm, by Jensen Beeler77 COMMENTS

At the launch of its 2017 MotoGP team, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali confirmed to the assembled press that the Italian marque was working on a V4 superbike, which echoes the rumors we have heard over the past two years. 

It shouldn’t surprise readers to hear that the model’s development comes directly from Ducati’s work in MotoGP, which is based around the 1,000cc 90° V4 engine that currently powers the Ducati Desmosedici GP race bike.

“The engine development we have made in MotoGP is exceptional,” Domenicali told our man David Emmett at the MotoGP team launch. “We have an engine which is very reliable, very light, compact and has a lot of interesting technology. We are seriously thinking of introducing it to regular customers, because it is a masterpiece of engineering.”

“Of course, translated into a something that can be sold for a reasonable, if not premium price,” Domenicali added. “So, it will not be a kind of exotic bike like the Desmosedici, but a more regular high-end sport bike.”

Domenicali of course would not let slip when we would see such a model from Ducati, though our sources say it will be a 2018 model, and that it will be offered in limited quantities, and be geared towards meeting the homologation requirements set by the FIM.

Domenicali seemed to confirm this notion when he was asked if the new superbike would geared to racing in the World Superbike Championship – to which he responded, “absolutely, yes.”

In other words, the V4 superbike is set to replace the Panigale R in Ducati’s lineup, and also be Ducati’s racing platform going forward in production-based racing championships.

Of course, Domenicali wouldn’t confirm that the machine would have a 1,000cc engine displacement (though WBSK rules would suggest so), and there are some hints from the CEO that the V4 platform would include some advances in aerodynamics, like what we have seen on the company’s MotoGP race bikes.

While our sources tell us to expect the V4 superbike to debut much later this year, at the EICMA show in Milan, we likely won’t see it racing until the 2019 season though. This is because of Ducati’s long-held pattern of developing its race bike’s first in national race series, before taking it to the world stage in WorldSBK.

Ducati Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti’s comments the team launch seem to confirm this notion, limiting his words on the future of the v-twin power plant to the 2017 and 2018 seasons in World Superbike.

“For sure we will race with the Panigale for 2017 and 2018,” said Ciabatti, when we asked him. But, there can be no denying the fact that the current World Superbike rules favor bikes with a four-cylinder design – a departure from the “Ducati Cup” rules we saw in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

So what does the future hold for Ducati’s v-twin superbike platform?

There certainly will be push-back from loyal Ducatisti to the concept of a four-cylinder superbike from the Italian brand, that much is certain.

But, limiting the V4 power plant only to a homologation-focused model might be the best way for the Italian brand to walk the thin line between heritage and racing rules. As such, we would expect to see Ducati keeping its commitment to the v-twin design, if only for street and track enthusiasts.

This could prove to be a strong strategy, as the v-twin power plant has many advantages over engine designs with more cylinders, namely in physical size and overall weight.

Free from the constraints of building a bike that must conform to the parameters of a racing rulebook, Ducati is free to take full advantage of its v-twin knoweldge.

We can see this philosophy already in the Ducati 959 Panigale and Ducati 1299 Panigale models, which rival other relevant sport bikes in size and weight, yet effectively use a much larger v-twin power plants.

This two-pronged strategy also allows Ducati to introduce innovations that would otherwise be banned by racing regulations. This would surely mean more aerodynamic advances for street bikes, but could also include technologies like motorcycling’s first proper kinetic energy recovery system (KERS).

Not only is this an exciting prospect, but it also serves Ducati’s goal of being a technology adoption leader in the motorcycle industry. Stay tuned, loyal A&R reader and Ducati lovers.

  • Ryan Ringstad

    OMG OMG OMG OMG

  • RT Moto

    Yeah… if they could not make that in limited numbers, that would be greatttttt…

  • Joe

    Besides humiliating the competition, I wonder what their specific design goals are?
    I’m hoping they disregard the bore and stroke architecture limitations of motogp and do something that is more proportional to the amazingly over square dimensions of their current v twin 1299.
    I don’t think world superbike has any such restrictions.
    Who cares if their production-based works superbike can smoke their motogp bike ? 😃

  • MikeD
  • MikeD
  • fzrider

    There will be WINGS!

  • PierreLaPierre

    no not wings…but lets hope as potential punters that this isn’t a ltd edition special and a replacement for the Panigale line

  • TwoWheelLoo

    What sauce flavors? 🤣😬

  • CBR Sean

    You should read the world superbike rulebook.

  • OH YES! I definitely want some of that!

  • MrDefo

    I have seen some pictures that indicate that Ducati’s “winglet” design is being modified for their 2017 GP bike to be basically a strake surrounded by fairing so as to get around the ban. So It is entirely possible that we’ll see something like that in this bike, if they choose to pursue it.

  • Larry Kahn
  • MotoBell

    Being a ducatisti I think this a good move.
    – hard to see them struggle w panigale – Chaz is the reason they are competitive
    – I would also welcome a V4 in my new Multi..the DVT motor is fantastic but I can’t help imagine what V4 in that platform would be like every time I ride my RSV4
    – definitely the allure of 1200cc twin super bike would go away if they manage to make a bike that is better than rsv4

    I love my 996, streetfighter s, DVT multi but the V4 in my rsv4 is the best engine ever. Time for a genuine v4 competitor

  • MikeD

    LOL.

  • Starmag

    Apollo. 100hp 600lbs. Bring it back with disc brakes, no whitewalls, and a black seat and I swear by the ghost of Dr. Taglioni I’ll buy one as my next tourer. What a beautiful and unusual engine.

  • Fidel Cash-Flow

    Give it active aero!!!!!!!!

  • Dc4go

    I feel exactly the same way love that V4!!

  • Dc4go

    Ducati should have done this right after the 1098. The Panigale has been the worse race bike Ducati has ever produce in terms of championships yet probably the most popular.. Now imaging a slick, sexy V4 superbike from Ducati it’ll sell like CRAZY

  • D19

    I am a big sucker for V4s. Depending on the price and numbers, this could be a legendary bike. Love my Aprilia and my crossplane R1, but this could be The Big One for the Ducatisti, myself, and many others.

  • chris

    ducati builds the bike that has been a honda rumor since um… 2003? good for them. they should drop the liquid cooled twins altogether. air cooled or v4 platforms.

  • paulus

    V4 for the hyper sports…. V-twin for the 800-900’s and areas for need of ‘lighter weight’ (Mulitstrada enduros etc)

  • KrissrocK

    Trump said this was Fake news!!!

  • KrissrocK

    I hope not…a V4 superbike would be nice, but I don’t want it to be a limited quantity item…It’s time to progress.

  • sburns2421

    Let’s hope it is not just a homologation special and strada and S versions are also planned. In the desmoquattro/testaretta days Ducati typically introduced the “R” (or SP or kit or whatever they called it at the time) and then at most a year later the actual series production version in standard and S were made available.
    This wouldn’t mean the Panigale line is killed off, but rather the desmosedici line is added to the existing models. Ducati has added many lines in the last few years: Diavel, DiavelX, Streetfighter, etc. Then the marketplace will decide whether V2 or V4 superbikes are what they want. (IMO it will be V4).
    People will worry about maintenance costs, but does anyone think this bike will not have 15,000+ mile valve adjustments? Of course it will.

  • james h

    you replied to your own post.

  • KrissrocK

    the voices told me to do it!

  • Alam R

    lol

  • Alam R

    Well I think we discussed this on one of the Ducati articles before. One of the die hard ducatisti guys was on here going on about how it would never happen. I think it was just after Domenicali stated that Ducati are not tied to the L-Twin platform or any engine configuration.
    We thought it alluded to a V4.
    Anyway if makes sense and from my perspective the V4 is the best of all configurations, followed by the Yamaha big bang and then twins and finally triples and at the bottom the good old IL4.

  • Superlight

    No production-based machine will outperform a dedicated racing platform. Too many concessions to street usage in the production bikes.

  • Superlight

    Ducati will do what they think is best for their brand, but it remains to be seen how customers will react to this decision. It could mean a semi-affordable Ducati superbike will be a thing of the past. I don’t see Panigales and V4 superbikes together on the showroom floor, especially with the slowdown in superbike sales. Be careful what you ask for; you may get it.

  • Superlight

    But what will Ducati do to make their V4 any better than the already-very-good Aprilia? I guess a 90-degree Vee and desmodromics, but we will see if that is enough.

  • Superlight

    If Ducati follows what many competitors are doing they will make just enough V4s to go racing and offer the bike at a premium price, much more than today’s R model but less than the Desmosedici street bike. The Panigales, at least the 1299s, will be dropped, as there isn’t enough sales volume to support two superbike platforms within the company. Again, be careful what you ask for…

  • Superlight

    And the IL4 is the best selling configuration, hands-down, among those mentioned.

    “Best”is different things to different people. I like V4s also, but they have their own disadvantages (complexity, cost), just like any engine design.

  • sburns2421

    So let me get this straight. They end production of a bike that still sells pretty well (1299, 1299S, Pani R), only to replace it with a very limited production bike that sells for more than the $35k Pani R today?
    The production V4 has to have high development costs, at least as much as the original 1199. It isn’t like they will slap a starter on the GP17 engine and call it good. It has to have been designed as a street engine first: able to survive the warranty period, idle for minutes at a time without overheating (too badly), and pass Euro 4.
    They will have two choices, either try to sell as many as they can as they did with every other bike they have ever introduced save the D16RR, or eat millions in development costs. And if they kill off the Panigale as you suggest, also lose that line and the sales that go with it.
    Glad you are not running Ducati because that sounds like a good way to reduce revenue and profits. Their VAG owners would not look too kindly on that.

  • Superlight

    I don’t believe either of us has access to the Panigale sales numbers, but I think they’re pretty low, with the possible exception of the more affordable 959 model.
    I do agree the V4 development costs will be high, though their V4 motoGP experience will help with design decisions for the streetbike. They may well sell different levels of V4s like they do Panigales today as you suggest, but their product costs will increase due to the more complicated engine and that may translate to product pricing as well.
    I still say this decision has many risks associated with it.

  • Joe

    You’re probably right but just a couple of weeks ago Jonathan Rea, who obviously is a stellar rider, bested the motogp field during testing on his WSB ride. This was, of course, minus the very top motogp riders.
    Production sport bikes are moving very rapidly closer to motogp spec with every new model that appears.
    Now I believe that a common gripe of racing teams is the bore and stroke restrictions that limit rpm ceilings and horsepower potential that is a function of the volume of air flow capacity that is determined by bore and stroke dimensions.
    Now CBR Sean has suggested there are bore and stroke restrictions in WSB but I only saw prohibitions to alterations of the homologated stock engine.

  • Alam R

    ‘Best’ was related to my favourite engine configuration and just my humble opinion. From the feel and drivability of the V4’s I have ridden, I feel its a superb engine configuration. Good on Ducati

    Regardless – Ducati are going with ‘another’ v4 when some on here screamed they wouldn’t.

  • sburns2421

    We actually have a pretty good idea what the 959/1299 model sales figures are worldwide. The 899/1199 sales were roughly 10k units in 2014. 899/1299 were a little less (down 500 units total through Q1-Q3/2015). Ducati sold almost the same number of bikes overall in 2016 as they did in 2016, with new models like the XDiavel accounting for some while the Diavel sales almost certainly dropped.
    So we are talking about a conservative number for Panigale sales in the 9000 units per year sales for both the bigger bike and smaller 959. Even if the cheaper bike accounts for 2/3 of sales (probably a high number, more like half in my on-the-street observations), one thing is still clear. The 1299/1299S account for at least a few thousand bikes for Ducati every year. And they are some of the most expensive (revenue) and profitable bikes Ducati makes.

  • Ryan Donahue

    Glad to hear this is finally happening. A (likely) lighter-weight bike than the Aprilia will be a great thing. I anxiously await the juicy details, the rumors and the spy shots.

  • Superlight

    You can’t compare one of the best WSBK riders on one of the best bikes (Rea/Kawasaki) to the second-string motoGP bikes and riders.

  • Superlight

    We’ll see how Ducati chooses to roll out the V4s. If, as you say, they’ll need to sell a lot to recover development costs, they might be sold in different levels (base, S, R) and priced just a little higher than the Panigales. If so, there will be little/no room for the Panigales in the lineup, I believe.
    This situation reminds me a bit of the ongoing product/sales war between Mustang and Camaro. Originally they were reasonable performing, good looking and very affordable. Over the years, however, journalists and customers alike kept asking for higher levels of handling and performance. The manufacturers delivered, but today’s Mustang GT and Camaro SS cost between $40-50k and the top models start at $65k, not so very affordable any more.
    The other analogy from the auto world will play out in a couple of years. Chevy will introduce the Zora, a mid-engine sports car with a twin-cam V8. I suspect they will price it where the ZO6 is today (~$85k base), but keep the current C7 front-engine model in the portfolio to keep the pricing semi-affordable. We’ll see how that works out.

  • Superlight

    I like V-twins, line 3s, V4s and the cross-plane IL4s alike. Engines are the heart of every motorcycle, just like in cars, and each one of us has their favorites.
    I am not “screaming” about whether Ducati will offer V4s, but I’d like to understand their rationale to do so. I still think this move has as many risks as it has rewards, especially for the purveyor of the best performing twin-cylinder bikes since 1972. They didn’t get to where they are today selling fours.

  • Paulo Rosas

    Isn’t THE best configuration a V4? revs-torque combination and narrow? If so, being a fan of “performance” instead of “type of engines”, I have never been a Ducati-V Twins fan at all, but I would totally be interested on this V4! Currently looking at getting the RSV4 Racing SS1. And would Honda follow Aprilia and Ducati on this!? They also have a great V4 GP engine! (Meaning, putting out a WSBK suitable V4). We’ll see!

  • Steve Cole

    The composite tank on the Ape is really all that is a porky thing. The rest of the bike is built like a tank and high quality at that. There’s not so much you could do to make it lighter – a v4 has two heads, a longer chain, 4 cams + gears, etc. There’s some weight to that, but it’s distributed properly, which is why the V4 is such a great engine. It’s not that much heavier than competitors – and as I said, a large part of that is the 18.5L composite tank. If you are racing and actually care about it, a smaller alu/ti/cf tank will get you almost 10 pounds improvement… exhaust system is worth about 14lbs.

  • Joe

    I’m not really comparing the riders, I’m comparing the bikes.
    Rea took what is likely an inferior machine and made it look competitive.
    A testament to his talent.
    Motogp limits bore to 80mm. All other things being equal, an engine with a larger bore to stroke ratio has greater power potential for a given displacement.
    If Dorna would increase the allowed bore size I’m certain manufacturers would immediately go there for their prototype racers.
    But unless there is such a limit for production-based WSB machines, there’s nothing to prevent the next Gen ZX10 or Ducati or whoever from doing it.
    That would, theoretically, make a production-based works superbike competitive with top tier prototypes with bore limitations..

  • Superlight

    Since the bikes don’t ride themselves, you have to look at both machine and rider combinations and that test didn’t have the top flight motoGP riders in attendance, so how can you fairly compare the two?
    The motoGP/WSBK engine rules complicate any comparisons being made between the two series, but you can rest assured the GP engines are in a much higher state of tune than any modified production engine, with no production-related compromises being made.

  • Superlight

    Honda was into V4s way before Aprilia and raced them in US Superbikes and WSBK, winning championships in both series.

  • Joe

    I guess I’m comparing current prototypes not with what exists now but with what is possible in a new production model if manufacturers choose to do it piloted by riders of equal ability.

  • Superlight

    We only have the current riders and bikes to compare, not what could be some day, maybe.

  • Paulo Rosas

    I know they had 2 strokes V4s, also on the TT, Joey! of course, but V4 4 Strokes? Pardon my ignorance on this :) , and well the more reason for them to do a V4 4S again!

  • Paulo Rosas
  • joe

    yea but with this news, Ducati has now gotten us wondering what COULD be.

  • Superlight

    The question I keep asking is why? With WSBK rules as they are I can think of two reasons:
    1. Leveraging their motoGP participation
    2. “no excuses” in WSBK (with no displacement advantage)
    I can think of many reasons not to go V4:
    1. Ducati twins are unique in superbike
    2. Ducati’s superbike history (and racing successes) are with twins, not fours
    3. The competition already has V4s
    4. V4s will most likely cost more to buy
    5. V4s will be more costly to maintain

  • sed

    ask VW for more cash.

  • MikeD

    “Let the sheep choose it’s grazing pasture” . . . sure, go on sheep, break a leg.
    If you call a “starting at $19,995” motorcycle semi-affordable then i envy you, i truly do, you are winning at life.
    You could be right. But i think it’ll be ok. Ducs have never been affordable and for everyone.
    I’m ok with the Panigale being gone (AT LAST everyone will be playing by the SAME rules.). No more BS whining or excuses from both sides. Do or Die.
    My condolences to prospective Panigale owners. There’s always Craigslist.
    I hope to own one some day before I turn into a crabby old fart that can’t ride for an hour before taking pain killers.

  • MikeD

    Very unlikely but they could always drop a bit the price of admission into the Panigale club and make their V-4 their latest and greatest darling flagship.

  • Superlight

    “Semi affordable” means just what it suggests – not very affordable for most of us.
    Yes, they’ll all be racing under the same rules, but at the loss of machine diversity. Why not dictate all entrants use inline 4s next, so no one can claim an advantage? Then outlaw the “flat plane crank”, since that could be seen as a benefit. Then we could mandate that everyone ride on the same brand bike. There, now we’ve got the perfect situation.

  • MotoBell

    Clearly aprilia has squeezed a lot from a 7 yr old design all the way up to a 250hp motogp spec bike. You can buy! ..a very poorly run o pant with amazing engineering and products…

    Ducati clearly has been most powerful fastest almost since they came ino moogp. They have done more iterations of their engine too without any tickle down value to wsbk or street or an other efforts. Looks possible that they can set the benchmark – and even if he ink match curren super bikes in engine dept, there engineering elsewhere, lighter weigh, brand will carry them in marketplace.

    Smart business strategy…competition improves the breed..may be a new rsv4 will be lighter to compete…..

  • Ryan Donahue

    Make no mistake, Ducati will make this a lighter bike. Just as you’ve pointed out, the next easiest comparison is the Aprilia. It will be lighter. And faster.

  • MikeD

    Ahhhh, you’re making a storm in a glass of water. LMAO. Why you gotta be so rad and dramatic about it at the same time ? (^_^)

  • MikeD

    Funny how most of the old timers at Motorcycledaily.com are against it claiming excessive price and performance likely and certainly not needed.
    FFS, it’s a friggin Ducati, get with the program, Pops.

  • Superlight

    Not so dramatic or rad, Mike. I like to see the various brands and engine configurations battle it out on the track. Twins add another dimension to the fight and losing them would be unfortunate.

  • Superlight

    Market sales won’t support two Ducati superbike platforms. Management will have to make a choice in superbikes – V4s or V2s. They could carry over the Pani 959 for a while, but it will need updates and I can’t see Ducati investing in two entirely different superbike engine families over time. Remember, that Superquadro engine is only used in the superbikes.

  • Superlight

    It had better be.

  • Superlight

    Mike, I guess I fit the “pops” moniker age-wise, but not in my choice of motorcycles. I own an MV F3 and am very interested in the new Ducati SS, as I ride on the street. I know it’s hard for you to understand, but many of us Ducati fans really like their twins and all the advantages that go with that engine type.

  • Ryan Donahue

    Even if it’s not, and let’s say it’s within a kilo or two of the Aprilia, you better believe it will be more powerful. Ducati has never been in the business of producing less powerful bikes.

    I’m excited. Should be a fun year, full of anxiously awaited tidbits.

  • Superlight

    We’ll see. It’s not like the current RSV4 is a “dog”, power-wise. The big advantage Ducati will have is a better distribution network (dealers).

  • Ryan Donahue

    True, on both accounts. Though the Aprilia isn’t exactly a new platform. It’s been around for a while now.

  • MikeD

    Oh, you devil…lol.

  • MikeD

    I just hope they never let go of the DVT. It’s “almost” unique to them if you want to count Suzuki’s ghetto approach to their system and Kawasaki’s half a$s system too on the Concours 14 [P.S: I own a Suzuki.]

  • MikeD

    Ok, i’m going to say this in the most calmed and mild of ways: There’s nothing hard to understand, I don’t DISLIKE V-TWINS.
    I own a “gummy” one on a 2003 SV1000N.
    Half the valves to adjust and “better” power delivery to MY TASTE + sounds like a V8 at high rpm. :)
    I do want Ducati’s Superbike to stop being a V2 & be a V4.
    Next time around bike shopping i’m going Triple, V4 or CrossPlane…that’s for sure…to many bikes so little $$$ and time.

  • MikeD

    CRAP, you make a sound argument. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I hope it (V4) doesn’t end up being a one application creation (Superbike).

  • MikeD

    Point taken, Sr.

  • Superlight

    You can do whatever you want…

  • Superlight

    Well, if the V4 race bike immediately makes the competitors look silly you can bet Ducati will expand the line over time. If not, they probably won’t.

  • MikeD

    Sure will. LOL.

  • Marc Jackson

    Bottom line is they need to show some efficiency gains everyone else is, with superbikes gobbling over 1000hp of fuel and air to produce maybe 200 at the rear wheel, is efing insane, F1 is going the other way, its ratio is far superior more like nearly 500hp from that same fuel mass. More cyinders is more surface area, heat loss, more frictional area, more friction losses from a V4. Is is contra to all the research findings, more power per cycle.