For the 2018 World Superbike season, Ducati will once again campaign its v-twin platform: the venerable Panigale R superbike. This will be the final season for the two-cylinder Panigale R, before the Italian firm replaces it with its V4 package (likely too to be named the Panigale R).
This makes the upcoming season a hallmark occasion for Ducatisti, as they watch Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri compete with the Superquadro engine for a final time.
The zenith of v-twin engine design, Ducati’s Superquadro motor is an impressive power plant, but the race team in Borgo Panigale (the bike’s namesake) have reached the limits of their development with it – at least within the constraints of World Superbike regulations.
Looking closely at Ducati’s launch photos for its WorldSBK, we can spot some of those developments.
Virtually every aspect of the WSBK-spec Panigale R that can be changed under the WorldSBK rules has been changed. One of the easy items to spot is the vented airbox cover, through which you can see the substantially sized air filter.
The rear subframe also differs from stock, with carbon fiber bodywork hiding an aluminum tubular frame, likely made by the folks at Pierobon.
It is interesting to see both Davies and Melandri are using thumb brakes for their rear brake actuation. This might be due to an aggressive sliding technique becoming a strong element in how the Panigale R needs to be ridden, in order to keep pace with bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.
Also of note is the stepped seat on Marco Melandri’s machine. With almost a 12″ height deficit to the very tall Chaz Davies, Melandri’s seat helps keep his body forward through the turns, while also likely aiding his body position back and upward when tucked in on long straights.
With the season-opener for the World Superbike season set to launch on February 23rd, we won’t have to wait long to see how the Ducatis go in Australia…and with Phillip Island long-being a strong track for Ducati, first blood could go to the Italians.
Photos: Ducati Corse