A&R Pro

Rev Limits & 16,350 Reasons Why the Ducati Can Sing in WorldSBK

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“There’s no replacement for displacement” in racing but what about power? In particular what about peak power and where a bike reaches it?

For WorldSBK purposes, the peak power of an engine is defined as the rev limit on the production machine, plus 3%.

Calculating this takes a little bit more math, as it requires you to average the rev limit from both the third and fourth gears, and then once this has been established, the FIM typically add an extra 3% to that RPM figure.

The rev limits are defined at the start of the championship season, but they aren’t set in stone for the duration of the championship. They can be changed at the discretion of organisers as the year progresses.

Having been introduced to much fanfare 12 months ago, the new limits are of interest again in 2019 because we have new bikes on the grid. The most newsworthy new machine is the headline grabbing Ducati Panigale V4 R, but it should be noted that  Kawasaki, BMW and Honda also have newly homologated bikes, and thus also new rev limits.

2019 Rev Limits for the World Superbike Championship

BMW S1000RR 14,900
Ducati Panigale V4 R 16,350
Honda CBR1000RR SP2 14,550
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR 14,600
Yamaha YZF-R1M 14,700

2018 Rev Limits for the World Superbike Championship

Aprilia RSV4 14,700
Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR 14,100
Ducati Panigale R 12,400
MV Agusta F4 RR 14,950
Suzuki GSX-R1000R 14,900

The changes range from the subtle, a new ECU for Honda for instance, to the significant as we see with the all-new bikes for BMW and Ducati. Kawasaki sits somewhere in the middle, with a new motor that produces an extra 600 RPM thanks to its titanium connecting rods, new cylinder heads, and revised valvetrain.

The Ducati Panigale V4 R though is definitely the most interesting story. The brand new machine is MotoGP derived in many ways, and the engine is no different.

The switch from a twin-cylinder 1,200cc machine to the V4 one-liter machine has been much publicized, but it was only this week that their rpm limits were published.

The commercialized Ducati Panigale V4 R is the highest revving production superbike around, and now that the WorldSBK Championship has released its RPM balancing sheet, the Ducati Panigale V4 RS19 is also the highest revving machine on the grid, with a rev limit of almost 1,500 RPM more than anyone else.

“The engine of this bike is incredible,” said an enthusiastic Eugene Laverty after his first day on the bike in January. “The power deliver is so linear and very similar to when I rode for Ducati in MotoGP. It’s a very impressive engine.”

The Laverty is able to draw parallels between the V4 engine on his WorldSBK-spec machine, and what he rode in the MotoGP Championship is no accident. The two bikes even share the unique “Twin Pulse” 0-90-290-380 firing order for their pistons, which sees each side of the V4 engine firing like two sets of v-twin motors.

In designing its road-legal superbike, Ducati borrowed heavily from it had learned in the MotoGP paddock, which it then in turn is using in the WorldSBK arena. Make no mistake, Ducati very much intends to win the WorldSBK Championship, and it is borrowing the lessons learned in prototype motorcycle racing to ensure victory on the production racing side of the equation.

That “impressive engine” as Eugene Laverty calls it has been the talk of the WorldSBK paddock in Australia this past week as well, and for good reason.

On the opening day of the Phillip Island test, Alvaro Bautista was the name on everyone’s lips. His pace and consistency were hugely impressive (as you would expect from the underrated rider), but it was his top speed that was setting tongues wagging.

Clocked at a smidge under 197 MPH, his bike was over 10 MPH faster than some leading bikes, including the new BMW S1000RR.

The reason for this is simple. While the old saying is that there is no replacement for displacement, the epilogue is that finding more revs in the motor comes in at a close second.

The Ducati Desmosedici Stradale engine (as it is officially called) is a fast spinning V4 motor with an ultra-smooth power delivery that comes in across the rev range. It is the ideal package and one that, for the moment at least, appears to have given the Italian brand a significant advantage on the high-speed course that Phillip Island provides.

The other power advantage that Ducati has is that it has a very greedy airbox. Like a distant relative at an open bar, it gets as much as it can when the going is good. That extra air helps the engine at higher revs and is crucial for top speed at circuits such as Buriram.

“I’m focused solely on the race weekend,” said BMW’s Tom Sykes. “I was happy after the January tests with the bike, but at the moment I’m losing 18km/h to Bautista in top speed. All he has to do is turn the gas on and it can make up some time on us.”

“Our bike handles well and the speeds are what they are,” continued the former world champion. “When I consider what level of development our engine has, our lap times are impressive though. Everyone at BMW wants to achieve the same goal and there is still a lot in the pipeline.”

For Sykes and the BMW, the winter was spent focusing on finding a platform for their bike. This means that the winter was spent using stock engines, not high-horsepower racing lumps, and thus it will only be when they fully start to exploit their race engines that we will see progress from the BMW camp.

The same cannot be said for other riders though, with the Ducati already claiming the high ground on the straight. It’s free lap-time for the Italian machine ,and it’s in the final sector of the Phillip Island lap that Bautista is making up most of his advantage on the stopwatch.

Like the Desmosedici GP19 that is on the MotoGP grid, the Ducati Panigale V4 R is wildly held to be the WorldSBK machine with the most horsepower on tap…and that power is tractable, as Bautista demonstrated in Australia.

“When I compare my sector times with the other riders I lose on Alvaro in the fourth sector,” assessed Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea. “On the straights my top speed is much lower than his, 5 MPH and that’s too much!”

“We have 500 RPM extra and that makes us more competitive compared to last year. In acceleration and top speed, it gives us some benefits. The character feels good, at the winter tests in Europe and here the bike feels good. Step by step everything comes into its own.”

For Ducati’s leading man the performance in Australia has been a step above his expectations but, like any rider, he was keen to downplay the advantage.

“I think there are a lot of factors,” said Bautista when asked about his results. “Maybe this Ducati feels more similar to the MotoGP bike, so it’s easier for me compared to the other riders who are used to the old bike.”

“The engine character is similar to MotoGP, but with much less power. After my first two laps I went to the garage and thought I had a problem because I could remember the MotoGP bike from here. With that bike you open the gas and whoa! The character of this engine is the same but with much less power.”

“For the top speed, I am so light and that is important. I don’t know with the revs how much of a difference it is. It helps, but I remember from MotoGP that the exit of the last corner is very important for top speed. I’m strong in the final sector and I think this helps for the high speed.”

While Bautista is trying to downplay the advantage, it is clear that as WorldSBK heads to the opening races of the year that the red machines have an early advantage.

Of course, that advantage for Ducati will be short-lived. The WorldSBK Championship reassess the superbike rev limits throughout the season, and the next adjustment is coming in just three rounds’ time, where as much as a 250 RPM penalty could be levied on the Ducati bikes..

While there is much racing to see between now and then, one factor in Bautista’s (and perhaps Ducati’s) favor are the less-than-impressive results of Chaz Davies, Eugene Laverty, and Michael Rinaldi.

While the latter two riders are struggling with suspension troubles and other woes of being on satellite teams, Davies lack of result is a bit more worrying for the Ducati Corse crew, and likely would have been a disaster for the team had Bautista’s WorldSBK rookie debut not been a stunning success.

That disparity in lap times does play into Bautista’s hands though, as it makes a rev-limit penalty a less likely occurrence after the Jerez round, as the other three riders’ results will help lower Ducati’s score in Dorna’s performance-balancing algorithm.

Though, with Buriram and Aragon offering very different challenges to riders, teams, and manufacturers than what Phillip Island provides, perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves in making too much hay about one weekend’s results.

Make no mistake though, Alvaro Bautista will have a target on the back of his Ducati at the upcoming rounds.

Photos: Ducati

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