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Is the Ducati V-Twin Superbike Era About to End?

Ducati 1299 Panigale S Anniversario

Despite a popular misconception (including, among many MD readers), Ducati is currently at a disadvantage in WSB with its 1200 cc v-twin engine configuration. Although the v-twin superbike has become synonymous with Ducati, Ducati has already stated it is developing a v-four superbike engine based on lessons learned racing a v-four in MotoGP.

In MotoGP, despite the 1000 cc displacement limit shared by all manufacturers, Ducati has a horsepower advantage. If it can achieve a similar advantage in the superbike category, Ducati can reach parity, or even surpass, the engine performance of four-cylinder competitors, such as Kawasaki.

In the video below, Ducati teases an apparent end to the 1299 Panigale line by referring to the unveil of another v-twin superbike on July 7 at Laguna Seca. The video references “when the end tells the whole story.” Is this “end” also the beginning of the v-four era? Here is a relatively recent quote from Ducati’s CEO Claudio Domenicali concerning a future v-four:

“The engine development we have made in MotoGP has been exceptional, we have an engine which is very reliable, very light, compact, and has a lot of interesting techology. We are seriously thinking of introducing it to regular customers as it is a masterpiece of engineering.

It must be translated into something that can be sold to customers at a reasonable, even if premium, price. So it will not be an exotic bike like the Desmosedici, but a high-end sports bike. We cannot say when it will happen … but it is getting closer, much closer.”

Look for a Ducati v-four superbike to be unveiled at EICMA this fall.


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92 Comments

  1. billy says:

    Scott says:
    June 20, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    “Ducati has also won several WSBK championships without a “displacement advantage”. Things change.”

    Since when has Ducati raced without a displacement advantage? The current world superbike Ducati is not 1298cc’s?

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      1000cc Ducatis successfully campaigned against 1000cc fours in the early to mid 00’s, but Ducati was pretty much the only factory team in the game. I think maybe Suzuki as well, though most of their resources were dumped into MotoGP.

      And the 1298cc is street only. 1200cc is the limit for twins in SBK.

  2. Norm G. says:

    heads up guys, first spy images of the V4 are floating on the interwebs, and guess what…? it looks basically just like the current Pani…!? (OMG) unless of course they’ve simply dressed up the test mule in the Emperors old clothes. but logic dictates it was always going to use the same monocoque frame design, however don’t be surprised if they sort this one with another DSS swinger ala Desmosedeci, 999, and 899.

    oh speaking of the “Super Junior”, this begs the question will Bologna bother with turning out a middle-weight (750 class) of this kit…? “spidey senses” say NO. while it may not necessarily carry an eye-watering price (you will tear up a lil’ bit) keeping with history/tradition, i contend the intent of this initial version is just to be a homologation special replacing the R. it will sit in the current Superbike line alongside (but above) the current 1299 and 959 V2’s offerings. see entry for “baby/bathwater”.

  3. -D says:

    Ducati made their mark with their focus being on performance.
    If V-4 means a better performing sportbike over the traditional V-twin design,
    then they will make the switch without looking back. Aprilia did it with no regrets.
    Honda will be switching back to the V-4 layout real soon, which for them means going back to their SBK racing roots (RC-30, RC-45).
    Yamaha has started a new era for themselves through the engineering innovation of a crossplane crank (a different way of making V-4 style power).
    V-4 sounds like the way of the future for performance oriented motorcycles and its being proven to work out awesome on the racetrack for bike companies that have made the switch.
    Now lets see who can do it best. Thats what this is all about right?
    I’m excited for whats in store for us bike enthusiasts in the near future. I’ve never ridden a V-4 before, but it sounds like a good compromise inbetween the crazy top end of an inline 4, and the moster torque of a twin.
    I wont be selling my ’02 Ducati V-twin superbike to own a V-4 version though.
    Perhaps I could make room in the garage for one more bike, of course it would have to be a V-4 or crossplane 4… 🙂

    • Dave says:

      With the success that Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki have had with i-4’s, I don’t see them going anywhere. They’re strong, scale-able, and easier/cheaper to manufacture. Racing success has had less to do with engine configuration and more to do with factory commitment. Case in point: Kawasaki- No cross-plane, no V4, just a plain, proven 180* crank and a well resourced team and it’s been almost unbeatable for a few years now. It even brushes up against MotoGP lap times in certain conditions.

      I would not be at all surprised if Honda backs off their plan to do the V4, either.

      • Provologna says:

        Kawasaki SBK “…even brushes up against MotoGP lap times in certain conditions…”

        IIRC it was last year Dirck posted the Kawi SBK pole time placed it mid-pack for the start of a MotoGP race at the same track. Wow, that’s insane! Quicker than half the MotoGP paddock?

        Dave, what portion of the Kawi’s success do you credit to Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes?

        • Norm G. says:

          Q: Dave, what portion of the Kawi’s success do you credit to Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes?

          A: just the left clip-on… (Dave’s manly man voice)

          prior to the Zed, Grinner couldn’t get arrested on the MK1 R1 and prior to the Zed, “Ray-J” couldn’t get arrested on the Blade (again for 8 years this).

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      The “V” has nothing to do with torque. They can make the engine a stump puller or a high rpm screamer. Just like you can do with an I4. Since horsepower is the sole reason for the switch, they’ll be going the screamer route.

      • todd says:

        Exactly. People think that, if a 1690cc V-twin makes 100 lb-ft and a 600cc I-4 makes 45, V-twins make more torque. What they’re missing is that the inline-four makes 25% MORE torque for its size.

        • peter h says:

          at a given capacity, 2 big cylinders of any layout will have more low end torque than 4 smaller cylinders of any layout. I suspect that i-4 torque you’re speaking of, occurs at 12k rpm or something.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            That is typically how said engines are tuned, but the assumption is false. Everything else equal, displacement determines torque, not number of cylinders.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “they’ll be going the screamer route.”

        i counter with they will be going the twinpulse/supertwin route, though i don’t think they will rule out the “screamer config” as a model year update in the future (talking 4-8 years) but lets see who’s right.

        however, one things for sure, you can be bet BOTH versions already exist and are being tested overtop the control Pirellis, that would be Pirellis that don’t “auto-deflate” and dump test riders like Stoner and Pirro on their ass.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Lol, well I meant that they will be going for high rpm power. I agree with you on there likely choice for power pulse configuration

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “I meant that they will be going for high rpm power.”

            ok understood. they will be getting that automatically by virtue of now dividing up of the volume across 4 cylinders, and the simultaneous reduction in displacement.

            even if they changed nothing else…? these 2 actions combine will result in a smaller/lighter rotating/reciprocating assembly, an assembly that naturally (“naturally” meaning the laws of physics) will be capable of revving a whopping 2000-4000 rpms HIGHER.

            i think this is also what Domenicalli is implying by saying the bike will be “lower cost”. while the top end will surely employ Ti, this massive change on the bottom end will finally forego the need to sort costly Ti rods. the quality of steel rods are at an all time high. iirc they even tried this with the first R model of Pani but weren’t able to get away with it. if you think ponying up for 2 Pankl rods is expensive, try shelling out for 4. LOL

            (R1 aside) the bottom end of the competition is all steel, so employing a 90V, Ducati knows they can easily meet their performance target doing the same. which is not to say they won’t produce and sell yet another “SuperLeggera”. the last “full carby” model for $80k shows they have no qualms in separating the rich from their money. 🙂

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Honda will be switching back to the V-4 layout real soon, which for them means going back to their SBK racing roots (RC-30, RC-45).”

      nope.

      re: “I would not be at all surprised if Honda backs off their plan to do the V4, either.”

      you will get nothing and LIKE IT…!!! (supermax prison gaurd voice)

      whatever V4 Big Red was going to give, they already GAVE, see entry for RC213VS.

  4. Provologna says:

    Five words Re. Ducati V-twin Superbike, baby: Cook Nielsen, Gordon Jennings, Daytona!

    Dirck kicks butt. Killer image up there.

  5. Mr.Mike says:

    Doesn’t matter. Everything will be electric within the next 20 or so years anyway.

  6. Norm G. says:

    man this really bites, today the svelte 1 Liter V2 is put to pasture for a bulky 1 Liter V4, then tommorrow the 1 Liter V4 is put to pasture for an EVEN MORE bulky 2 Liter V8.

    just saying, where does it all end…? it’s madness i tell you…!!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIm3_HDv8YE

    • Provologna says:

      Norm, everyone, go to your window now, open it, and scream as loud as you can, all in unison: “I’m MAD AS HELL, and I’m NOT gonna take it anymore!”

  7. brinskee says:

    I, personally, will shed a tear or 20 if/when Ducati abandons the V2 route. There is something magical and, sure, agricultural about those rough engines, but when you combine the sound, the feel, the torque and the uniqueness, it all adds up in my book, on the street. If you’re listening Ducati, please, please keep up the V2 Superbike line. Your legacy was built on it.

    And for a little shameless self promotion, here is a little film I made about how special these bikes are. Enjoy.

    https://youtu.be/3NpkaubKalU

    • TF says:

      Very nice! I have to tell you, I test rode an 1198S back in 2010 and it made such an instant impression on me. I never would have been able to live with the ergos but I loved that engine. I could not let go of the experience. As a result, I am on my second Multistrada now. The torque and the sound really is moving.

      That said, every time I hear an RSV4 or Tuono light up, I want one……

      • Brinskee says:

        About to buy my second Multistrada. They are fantastic all around bikes aren’t they? Still pining to get a 996 too. One day, one day…

        • TF says:

          Which Multi are you buying? I had a 2011 S Sport and now a 2014 PP. Both bikes have been pretty much trouble free and both have been ridden almost exclusively two-up. Yes, they are great bikes.

          I just put money down on a 1090 Adventure R (although I am keeping the Multi) as there are a lot of dirt roads out there that need exploring!

    • Gutterslob says:

      Don’t worry. Harley Davidson seems to be interested in them, so the agricultural bit will probably remain.

  8. Tom R says:

    Does any other motorcycle maker use desmodra, uh dimsodrama, uh dromicdenso or whatever its called for the valves?

  9. Norm G. says:

    Q: Is the Ducati V-Twin Superbike Era About to End?

    A: not sure, all i know is this article makes me feel QUEASY. it’s like i got a hold of some bad cheese or something.

    re: “In the video below, Ducati teases an apparent end to the 1299 Panigale line by referring to the unveil of another v-twin superbike on July 7 at Laguna Seca.”

    I’M GOING TO HAVE A MELT DOWN…!!!

  10. Neil says:

    Roland Sands Desmoquattro Flat tracker. Nice machine. For the street the VFRs are nice, if a bit heavy. For Superbike racing the four is better. The fuel burn is x2 over the twin, whatever the firing order. Aprilia. Yamaha (slow at the moment for some reason). I have not studied it but where is KAW making their lap time? Corner exit? Straight line speed? Bit of everything?

    • dt 175 says:

      it’s jonny rea…

    • Dave says:

      Re: “The fuel burn is x2 over the twin,”

      That almost can’t be right. The Ducati WSBK Bikes have much larger gas tanks than the street bikes do. If the 4 cylinders burned significantly more fuel than there simply wouldn’t be enough fuel on the bike or in the rules to finish races.

    • todd says:

      Fuel burn is related directly to power being produced and the efficiency of the burn. Usually fewer, larger cylinders are less efficient at converting fuel/air to power than an engine with more, smaller cylinders.

  11. Fred says:

    A Twin having half the components in the heads compared with a V4 should reflect a lower production price and is that really what Racing Authorities have been pushing hard for years.
    It also helps the Win on Sunday – Sell on Monday theory, then you can brag your bike is just like the winning that Ducati SuperBike.

  12. xLaYN says:

    There is something that will still affect the way the machine handles or how it can deliver power and that’s weight distribution.
    I4 can be push forward and lower; a v4 can’t due to the two cylinder banks.
    So even if they do have the same power, weight distribution will limit performance against the Kawi.

    • ROXX says:

      Forward – yes.
      Lower – no.
      The V4 is narrower than the I4.

    • Stuki Moi says:

      That’s still an open question. Both Honda and Ducati do well in GP with V4s, against their inline 4 competition. Heck, it’s so close that it is highly the fundamental difference would manifest itself anywhere less competitive.

      V4s will likely inherently cost more as streetbikes. Which is nice for Ducati and the like, as it helps justify their premium pricing and positioning.

  13. John S. D'Orazio says:

    If you own a Ducati V twin, you know just how much grunt these bikes have. But, they do give up peak horsepower for that torque. Works great on the street, but the writing is on the wall and has been for a while. Now that Ducati’s MotoGP seems to be bearing fruit, it makes sense for this technology to make its way to the showroom. Can’t wait!

    • Provologna says:

      Comparing Ducati’s V-twin SB from the last three or so years forward, in fact the I4 SBs are smoother and more tractable in the lowest range. To narrow the prior top end gap, the twin gave up it’s prior low end advantage. At least that’s what I’ve read.

      All that changes with the V-four. Apparently better performance throughout v. the I4s.

  14. Tom R says:

    Frankly, I wonder why it took them so long. Hasn’t Aprilia won WSK three times with their V-4 engines…without a displacement advantage?

    • Scott says:

      Ducati has also won several WSBK championships without a “displacement advantage”. Things change.

      • Tom R says:

        Using quotes around the term…displacement advantage…makes it seem as if sarcastically spoken by Pee Wee Herman while rolling his eyes.

        BTW, what changed in that LATELY Ducati has not won WSK?

        • Dave says:

          “BTW, what changed in that LATELY Ducati has not won WSK?”

          Factory financial commitment?

        • Norm G. says:

          Q: BTW, what changed in that LATELY Ducati has not won WSK?

          A: adoption of a monocoque frame.

          what SUCKS for racing is a BOON for the economics of manufacturing, that was the intent.

          VIVA LA PREZIOSI…!!!

    • MotoMaster39 says:

      Ducati isn’t winning titles in WSBK because Kawasaki is putting all their eggs in the WSBK basket. Everyone else is more concerned with Motogp, and Kawi doesn’t even field a team there.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Kawasaki is putting all their eggs in the WSBK basket.”

        i’ll say and really, if you take the aberration that is Team Motocard out of the results, Ducati’s back to “winning ways”. admittedly, when the rules changed, i was really expecting Superbikes to be less “super” and more like Superstock (even for Ducati).

        but as we see, despite their participation Honda, Yamaha, BMW, or Aprilia really can’t get a word in edgewise. even the non-factory Zeds can’t get arrested and (despite having new kit that looks the business) Suzuki’s not in Superbike or in Superstock with any kind of Factory support. however on paper, the new GSXR definitely has goods enough to tempt Francis Batta back into the paddock.

        Alstare Corona…? Bueller…? anyone…?

  15. Scott says:

    When a 1000cc V-Four Ducati superbike turns out to have MORE power than their 1200cc twin, what are all the Ducati haters going to scream about?

  16. Jeremy in TX says:

    I’m glad to see they have the cajones to make this move. While I am sure there will always be a V2 sportbike in Ducati’s lineup, the days of seeing one cross a finish line are numbered.

  17. Gary says:

    People are starting to figure out that you don’t need to inflict ergonomic pain on yourself to enjoy a high performance motorcycle. I’m glad.

  18. Tom Baxter says:

    Although I have owned Ducs since the 1970s, I admit that I had thought the desmodromic valve actuation was quaint and historic, but not necessarily a high tech solution to valve control. After all, it was first tried by Mercedes in the 1930s. Then I read an article some years ago that the engineers could use more radical cams due to the positive closing of the valves, vs springs or air pressure. Furthermore, Ducati has certainly mastered longevity in valve settings during the last decade. (My a/c Multi of 2004 is 6000 miles, but my Panigale is double that for valve settings). I believe everbody else in MotoGP is using pneumatic valve actuation, obviously not practical for street bikes. So, I am confident that a V4 with the desmodromics will get Ducati back to the front on a more regular basis.

    It will be interesting to see how Ducati initially compares with Aprilia who has a head start with street based V 4s. That should have been Honda, but they seem to have lost their way in this league. Great SBK times ahead in 2019.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Quaint, historic and low-tech. All accurate adjectives with respect to describing desmodromics. So is “bloody effective” as well apparently.

    • Ryan Craig says:

      Not bad, but the valve check interval on many newer Japanese bikes, like my Yamaha Fazer 8, is 40,000 km (or 26,000 miles). Long enough that many first owners probably won’t even reach it during the time they own the bike.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Yamaha is the only manufacturer sporting 26K mile adjustment intervals. Some of the newer Ducatis have 18K mile intervals, more than any other manufacter employing shims under buckets besides Yamaha

  19. slipjoint says:

    I’m glad somebody else said it about twin power. Inline fours have beating the daylights out of twins of every configuration on asphalt for 50+ years. Call it a Inlinea Quattro and you can feel better about it AND spend more money.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I believe it would be a Veefouria Quattro, like the GP bike

      • slipjoint says:

        As long as it ends with a vowel you can charge a premium, and crush them after the sale with parts and a mañana based service department. Or you can purchase a Big Four product, a service manual, a low price internet parts vendor and do their own maintenance and ride.

    • Dave says:

      Not so much in WSBK. Ducati’s success on WSBK cannot be denied. Honda sure hasn’t done much winning with I4’s since they abandoned the V-4, then the twin of the RC51.

      Aside from 1 year of Yamaha and the recent years of the Kawi (and of note, *only* the 3 particular bikes, nobody else’s), have any I4’s captured the WSBK title?

      • Scott says:

        Scott Russell’s Kawasaki 750…

        Troy Corser’s Suzuki…

        Toseland’s CBR1000RR

        (And what should have been a win for Nori Haga on the R7, save for some illegal use of cold medicine…)

  20. slipjoint says:

    I’m glad somebody else said it about twin power. Inline fours have beating the daylights out of twins of every configuration on asphalt for 50+ years

  21. MotoMaster39 says:

    Their V-twin is getting less competitive at the highest level of racing, so now they’re gonna give the buying public something they never asked for.

    I think anyone who has enough moolah to buy a Ducati knows plenty about the company and what they’re all about. They certainly don’t need Ducati to win more racing titles to be sold on their product.

    I really believe that the OEMS should lobby the FIA to loosen the homologation rules. Pretty soon all the production bikes will be $20k repli-racers, which absolutely nobody needs for street riding.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “They certainly don’t need Ducati to win more racing titles to be sold on their product.”

      i personally don’t. i actually like the ergonomics. what i mean is (first day in prison seating aside) the NARROWNESS of riding say a trellis framed 99X twin makes hoping on most everything else feel like you’re suddenly astride a PACK ELEPHANT.

      not to “fat shame” anyone, that “thinness” just feels right to me for a motorbike, be it a racer or otherwise.

  22. Dave says:

    “In MotoGP, despite the 1000 cc displacement limit shared by all manufacturers, Ducati has a horsepower advantage.”

    I know the commentary says that their MOtoGP engine is reliable, but does Ducati still enjoy a greater engine allowance than Yamaha and Honda, or has that been repealed with their victories last season?

    I always thought their engine allowance was key to their horsepower advantage..

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Ducati has no concessions this year. The difference in power is so noticeable between the Ducati and it’s rivals that I have to believe that the valve motion and sealing accuracy of the desmo valvetrain is more than just marketing hype? At least at this level of power output.

      • Dave says:

        It’ll be interesting to see if their engine management holds this year, then. There have been races in the past where Jorge’s Yamaha was conspicuously down on power, I guessed this was racing on a tired or detuned engine due to the allotment.

      • Provologna says:

        Two races ago the announcer said “Ducati is rumored to be making 280hp.” What do you think? That number is insane for one liter! That number is much more like a forced air induction motor (which I know they have ram air and they do go over 200mph, which must be quite a bit over atmospheric pressure, but how much I don’t know).

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          The Ducati’s routinely have the highest trap speeds and are still accelerating pretty hard when they shut the throttle to start braking at the end of the straight. The bike would indeed need to be making around 280 hp at the minimum.

  23. DucDynasty says:

    I’m relatively poor. So I’ll hang onto my old 900ss sp for a while yet. I still enjoy it.