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Ducati Reveals MotoGP Engine: A Four-Cylinder!

Today, Ducati revealed its engine design for the 2003 MotoGP season. Although yet to be bench tested (expected in May of this year), much less track tested (expected to begin in July of this year), Ducati expects the 988cc, 16-valve (Desmo valve actuation) to produce in excess of 220 horsepower at the crank, with a red-line beyond 16,000 rpm.

Although not a twin, Ducati retained the traditional firing order of a twin (each bank of cylinders fires simultaneously), and stuck with Desmodromic valve timing. Ducati says it will contest the first round of MotoGP in the 2003 season with a two-rider team.

The engine design is capable of exceeding 18,000 rpm despite the lack of pneumatic valves, according to Ducati. Here is a quote from Ducati Corse Managing Dirctor Claudio Domenicali regarding the choice of engine design:


After analysing all the possibilities offered by the regulations and on the basis of computer simulations, we are convinced that a massive power output is required to be competitive in MotoGP. It would have been difficult to obtain this power with conventional twin-cylinder engines, which amongst other things are only given a 10 kg weight advantage over 4 and 5 cylinder engines in the regulations. As a result, the bore size would have to be taken to an extremely high value, with the risk of incurring serious combustion problems.

For this reason, in the preliminary study phase, we considered a twin-cylinder oval piston engine to be an excellent layout for the new regulations. With the same weight as 4 and 5 cylinder engines, this layout combines the typical advantages of a twin in terms of power output and delivery, with the performance necessary to compete at the same level as the multi-cylinder units.

But further analysis led us to decide that the best solution was a ‘double twin’ and therefore we designed an engine with four round pistons which, thanks to a simultaneous two-by-two firing order, reproduce the working cycle of a twin. This will generate the ‘big bang’ effect, making the rear tyre work in a way that extends its duration and improves rider feeling when exiting curves.

The Desmosedici engine, continued Domenicali will have a relatively short development period and reasonable costs and it will then be easily available also for external teams, since it is Ducati Corse’s intention to become a point of reference for private teams in MotoGP, as already it is in World Superbike.

The Desmosedici power-unit, designed to tolerate the greater stress generated by simultaneous combustion, is therefore a unique engine with a further advantage: it allows two different versions to be tested. As well as the Twinpulse, we will also be testing a layout with a traditional firing order, which will have a slightly higher power output, but probably to the detriment of traction. Track testing and rider feeling will decide which layout will be used for racing.