Ducati’s 996 SPS
The world is full of rumors regarding the replacement of Ducati’s venerable 916 with a new model. In the August 1999 issue of Britain’s Fast Bikes magazine, there is something a bit more concrete — quotes directly from Ducati’s chief designer, Pierre Terblanche.
Terblanche (who was mentored by the world’s greatest motorcycle designer, Massimo Tamburini), was elevated to the head of Ducati design upon the departure of Tamburini (who designed both the 916 and MV Agusta’s new F4).
Terblanche is quoted in Fast Bikes as stating two main design goals for the new Ducati flagship, including (1) far lighter weight and (2) a more comfortable riding position.
Terblanche’s comments indicate the 916 will become even smaller, as well. Ducati has undoubtedly witnessed the success of Yamaha’s R1 and R6 — both extremely compact and light (the R6 weighing less than 370 pounds dry).
One difficulty Ducati faces is preserving the company’s trademark 90 degree V-twin format. A 90 degree V-twin is, by its nature, less compact than many other engine designs (such as Aprilia’s much narrower-angle RSV1000 engine). Some press reports indicate a debate going on in Ducati whether to narrow the angle of the new superbike V-twin.
A narrow-angle V-twin, although it may need a balance shaft (because only a 90 degree V-twin has perfect primary balance), can be made much more compact, and allow Ducati to more easily design a shorter wheelbase (for quick turning) and a longer swingarm (for more supple suspension control and better handling). These reasons are precisely why Aprilia did not go with a 90 degree design.
The current 916 design (punched out to 996 cubic centimeters, of course) is doing so well in racing and sales worldwide that Ducati is not expected to replace the bike until the year 2001. Nevertheless, because the 916 is a design benchmark in motorcycling history, and the flagship of Ducati, the world waits impatiently for news on its successor. You can trust that MotorcycleDaily will keep you updated.