In one week’s time, Ducati will unveil its new V4 engine, which will power the next-generation of the Italian company’s superbikes and other high-powered motorcycles. Set to debut the Thursday before the San Marino GP round for MotoGP, Ducati has begun teasing us some information, the first of which is the new motor’s name, the Desmosedici Stradale. True to Ducati naming conventions, the name of the engine literally means what it is, a road-going version of the Desmosedici engine that powers Bologna’s MotoGP project. Between the choice of that name, and the fact that the motor will debut at a MotoGP round, it is clear that Ducati is playing to the engine’s roots that stem from the Desmosedici GP bike, which also uses a 90° V4 power plant with desmodromic valves.
Just in case you have been living under a rock, or been the victim of a massive coma, Ducati is set to debut a new superbike with a V4 engine. The news is a pretty big deal in Ducati circles – the Italian brand finally abandoning the v-twin format for its superbike offering. Although…this isn’t the first Ducati superbike with a V4 engine, nor is Ducati unfamiliar with making four-cylinder machines. A limited edition machine, the Ducati Desmosedici RR was bred as an exclusive street bike, with obvious inspirations coming from the MotoGP machine, including its “twin pulse” firing order. What does this all have to do with the here and now though? Ducati is about to repeat the process, albeit with a superbike that is more fit for mass production.
Talking to us at the launch of the Ducati 1299 Panigale Final Edition, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali gave us some details on the Italian company’s upcoming, and long-awaited, V4 superbike. Much has already been speculated and rumored about the successor to the v-twin Panigale, but Domenicali paints a pretty clear picture of what we can expect to see unveiled at the upcoming EICMA show, in Milan. The big news is perhaps not the fact that Ducati is moving to a four-cylinder format for its superbike program (though that is big news indeed), but instead the focus should be on what is inside the V4 engine, and how it operates. He also teased us with some news on a few other upcoming Ducati motorcycles, which should start a new chapter for the Italian brand.
Imagine if you will that the first Ducati, the Ducati Cucciolo, and the most modern Ducati, the Ducati Desmosedici, had a child — what would it look like? That far-fetched question nagged Mexican designer Alex Garoli, so he decided to build a concept of the machine. At the core of the Ducati Desmosedici Cucciolo is the V4 powerplant of Italy’s MotoGP race bike, and around it Garoli has imagined a modern steel trellis frame that mimics the bicycle frame look of the post-WWII motorized bicycles that pulled Italy out of deep recession. Of course the most interesting thing about Garoli’s concept is the fact that it’s a ~12:1 scale model. The work is pretty exquisite, even if you don’t agree with the concept’s ethos.
Things look a little different as the MotoGP paddock arrives at the spectacular Motorland Aragon circuit. After two defeats in the last three races, Marc Marquez is looking almost vulnerable.
At Brno, Marquez and his team never found the right set up, and the 21-year-old Spanish prodigy finished off the podium for the first time in his MotoGP career. Two races later, at Misano, Marquez tried to compensate for a similar lack of setup by pushing hard for the win, but crashed chasing Valentino Rossi, and remounted to score just a solitary point.
Marquez had hoped to wrap up the title at Aragon, he told the press conference on Thursday, but the crash at Misano put an end to any such aims. He would have needed a win at both Misano and Aragon, and took a risk trying to beat an unleashed Rossi at his home track. Victory at Misano proved impossible, especially against a Rossi determined to win at any cost.
After all the speculation of massive changes in Ducati’s MotoGP team, all is to remain the same. During the World Ducati Week event held for fans of the Italian marque at Misano, both Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow announced that they would be remaining with Ducati for 2015. The news means Crutchlow chose not to exercise his option to leave, and Dovizioso was persuaded to sign-on for two more years. In addition, it means that Ducati has exercised its option to extend the contract with Andrea Iannone, with Iannone to be given factory support.
The latest and greatest from Bologna might be the Ducati 1199 Superleggera, but our heartstrings still find themselves tugged hardest by the Ducati Desmosedici RR. Based off Ducati’s MotoGP racing machine, there is just a certain street-worthy craziness that comes from the Desmosedici RR, which the production-based Superleggera lacks. They’re both fine machines, to be certain, but that’s just where we find ourselves in the hyperbike category. Taking that crazy to a whole new level is this “Black Polygon” Desmosedici RR by Death Spray Custom. A simple, yet effective departure from the Rosso Corsa found on the original D16, the desaturated and angular work by DSC is a stark contrast to what came out of Borgo Panigale.
This is the second part of our two-part series on how the silly season for next year’s MotoGP rider line up may play out. If you missed the first part, you can catch up with the situation in the Honda and Yamaha factory teams here.
Up until late in the 2013 season, changes in the rider lineup for Yamaha and Honda’s MotoGP squads looked to be limited. Though all four riders will technically be on the open market at the end of 2014, the most likely scenarios for 2015 and beyond looked fairly settled.
Either the lineups of the Repsol Honda and Movistar Yamaha teams would remain identical, or Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa might swap seats. The biggest question mark, it appeared, hung over whether Valentino Rossi would continue racing after 2014.
Two major shake ups changed all that. For Valentino Rossi, the replacement of Jeremy Burgess with Silvano Galbusera – and the increased role for electronics engineer Matteo Flamigni – has helped him find at least some of the time he was losing to the three Spaniards who dominated MotoGP last year, making it more likely he will stay on at Yamaha for another couple of seasons. That leaves the situation at Yamaha look more stable than before.
The biggest change, though, came at Ducati. The top of the entire Ducati Corse department underwent radical change. Gigi Dall’Igna was brought in to replace Bernhard Gobmeier as head of Ducati Corse, while Davide Tardozzi joined Paolo Ciabatti and Ernesto Marinelli to help manage the MotoGP and World Superbike teams.
The arrival of Dall’Igna and Tardozzi has had a major impact, and will likely become even more significant as the season progresses. Dall’Igna has greatly improved communications between staff at Ducati’s Bologna headquarters and the race teams at the track, making for a much more efficient organization.
Ducati Corse has finally debuted its 2014 MotoGP team, with Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso showing off the team colors with the Ducati Desmosedici GP14. The reunited teammates have their work cutout for them this year, honing Ducati’s GP machine. Under the guidance of Gigi Dall’Igna, Ducati will compete under the Open Category, though Dorna has now made Ducati’s entry a “Factory 2” option, in an attempt to appease the complaints of Honda and Yamaha. Regardless of what you want to call it, Ducati is free to develop the Desmosedici GP14’s engine, for the modest concession of using the spec-ECU software. Hopefully this means Cal and Dovi will be more competitive as the season wears on this year.
It’s hard to get up-close with the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. For starters, she’s always traveling somewhere — a slave to her jet-setter lifestyle. And, when she finally touches down long enough for you to get a glimpse of her, she’s surrounded by men in red uniforms, who whisk her out of sight almost immediately. Occasionally though, she gets all buttoned-up and makes a public appearance, and if you have the right credentials (not an easy feat in its own right), you can elbow your way in for a look at her scarlet glow. Dodging other bikes, riders, and mechanics in the hot pit lane of the Grand Prix of the Americas, we had such a brief opportunity. We have been up-close with a number of rare machines, but the Desmosedici GP13 stands out even in that prestigious crowd.
“This is the reality,” factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso told the media after finishing 7th at Qatar, some 24 seconds off the pace of the winner, Jorge Lorenzo. Hopes had been raised on Saturday night, after the Italian had qualified in fourth, posting a flying lap within half a second of polesitter Lorenzo. While Dovizioso’s qualifying performance had been strong, he had at the time warned against too much optimism. The Desmosedici is good on new tires, but as they begin to wear, the chronic understeer which has plagued the Ducati since, well, probably since the beginning of the 800cc era, and maybe even well before that, rears its ugly head and makes posting competitively fast laps nigh on impossible.