October 22, 2017

Rumours of a MotoGP-derived V4 road-going Ducati superbike have been doing the rounds for years. But that’s all they were… rumours. Until now!

These latest spy pictures show once and for all that the V4 Ducati sportsbike lives and breathes. Ever since the firm released their Desmosedici D16RR MotoGP replica back in 2007, motorcyclists have been waiting with bated breath. But that was a decade ago, and Ducati’s fortunes have changed almost as much as the market.

Even more pressing, perhaps, are the dramatic changes in superbike performance and technology – combined with ever-tightening emissions laws. Ducati need to make the next jump in performance for road and race bikes alike – and they can’t do that with the Panigale’s Superquadro. The result is the imminent arrival of their first full-production V4 superbike.

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We fully expect the new range-topping sportsbike to be unveiled at the Milan show this November – effectively a home event for the factory. But while Ducati were hoping the world’s attention would be focused on their Final Edition 1299 Panigale – set to be revealed at the end of the week – it’s our first tantalising glimpse of an almost complete V4 that are grabbing the headlines.

“I confirm Ducati is working on a four-cylinder engine project for a road bike,” said Ducati CEO Claudio
Domenicali a few months ago, speaking at the firm’s race team press conference. And there are huge ramifications for the WSB team, which will also get the new V4 – although not until 2019, as confirmed by WSB racing boss Paolo Ciabatti: “We will race with the Panigale for 2017 and 2018, so obviously we will keep developing the engine to be competitive.”

While the road bike is set to arrive before it’s used in superbike racing, there’s no doubt that competition is what’s driving the new model. “The engine development that we have made in MotoGP is exceptional – we have an engine that is very light, very reliable, and with a lot of very interesting technology. We are seriously thinking about making that available to regular customers because it is really a masterpiece of engineering – of course translated into something that can be sold at a reasonable, but premium, price – so it will not be exotic like the Desmosedici, but a more regular high-end sportsbike. We would absolutely race this in WSB,” continued Domenicali.

This means that the new engine must be sub-1000cc in this V4 configuration due to superbike engine regulations, but – just like the current Panigale – there is an expectation that this will lead to a split in the road range. There will be a 1000cc V4 homologation edition, with an R in its name, while there’s likely to be a further pair of road models (standard and S) which could boast a 1200cc V4.

All that ties into the images you see here. It’s blatantly a V4, clearly a road bike, and overtly styled to make the switch to life on track without losing any of its cues. It’s also obvious that this is a well-advanced test mule, fitted with many parts – rather than an early prototype with cobbled-together solutions. The fact that a Final Edition Panigale will be announced this week also confirms that this will be a 2018 machine – leaving the only mysteries as the spec figures, and its name.

Highlights

  • New V4 road bike to be unveiled officially in November
  • WSB teams will have to wait until 2019
  • Premium price but not exotic
  • 1000cc and 1200cc versions 

Ducati V4 motorcycle spy shot

Frame changer 

One of the most dramatic changes is the ditching of the Panigale’s monocoque ‘frameless’ design in favour of a more conventional twin-spar cast frame. Still around half the size of a normal frame, it can be seen emerging from the headstock and arcing to the rear bank of cylinders. 

Emperor’s new clothes

The outline, attitude, and silhouette are all unmistakeable – making it clear that Ducati want the new V4 to look like an evolution of the existing road family, not a clone of their MotoGP Desmosedici. This hints that they’re unlikely to call it a Desmosedici – while it seems equally likely it won’t inherit the Panigale name, either. That instantly recognisable face has put on a few pounds, though. The front-end and flanks are noticeably more haunched and muscular than its V2 forebear, inevitable considering the near doubling of the width of the engine.

Light show

The headlamps and sidelights are all mounted in the air intake ports, as given away by one of the LED headlamps being illuminated (see below). It’s a clear evolution of the Panigale look. We can also see a new style of high-mounted numberplate mount, and neat small indicators mounted to the trellis subframe.

Shock move

The rear shock has been repositioned and it’s now nestling down behind the rider’s left ankle. It appears to be a mechanical Öhlins shock (a TTX36 is our guess). But this test mule clearly isn’t a top spec model, as the fork also bears no sign of electronic adjustment. We’d expect this to be addresses on an S model.

Exhaustive changes

While the engine capacity has at best remained unchanged, at worst decreased by 200cc, the increased focus on emissions means the exhaust has grown to cope. It’s clear to see two headers entering the large collector at the front, and another two at the rear. And it’s a big box. Clearly this is a road legal system.

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