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.