The future of Ducati - more on the V4
Interesting article in Asphalt and Rubber:
Ducati CEO Dishes on V4 Superbike Details
Talking to Asphalt & Rubber 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.
Talking during the WorldSBK weekend at Laguna Seca, he also teased us with some
news on a few other upcoming Ducati motorcycles, which should start a new chapter
for the Italian brand.
Because Two Is Greater Than Four
For Ducatisti, there is no bigger news item than Ducati’s departure from the v-twin
platform for its apex motorcycle. Though the Italian brand started with single-cylinder
machines, it is known best for its desmodromic, 90°, v-twin engines, which permeates
throughout the entire line.
Moving from the twin-cylinder format to the four-cylinder format hasn’t been an easy
choice for Ducati, but the brand has been racing a V4 in the MotoGP Championship since
it began racing that series, so there is a strong precedent for the move, along with
a good technological motivation to do so.
“This is the last edition, because we wanted to move onto the V4,” said Domenicali
curtly. “So, the question is then why move to a V4? Actually, we made a ten-year
experience in MotoGP, and we thought it was a pity that all we have learned in this
time period, not to make that available to our customers.”
“We do not consider it that companies should stay still for long periods of time,”
he continued. “But, sometimes companies use some kind of technological solution as
a flag, only because they are not able to think of something different.”
“So we did not think it was something wrong to continue changing it and improving
it [the v-twin platform]. This engine is a superb engine, and there are some
characteristics that still remain unmatched. But on the other hand, the balance
between weight, power, and torque of the V4 we are developing is superior.”
Addressing the concerns of Ducatisti, that Ducati is tied to a twin-cylinder,
Domenicali had an interesting response. “I think that one option would be to try
the engine, the new engine, and then to make a judgment. In my opinion, that would
be the best idea.”
“Of course, it is possible that there will be some people that will continue to
prefer some of the characters of the twin, and this is why we have the Final Edition,
because they can even buy it next year, it’s actually not an ending series.”
“But, we think that it will be a small group of people, because we have taken care
in the development of the [V4] bike and the development of the engine, to fill in a
lot of Ducati character.”
“How is the torque? How is the sound? How is the vibration? So we are not worried
about that. The bike is a very good bike.”
Big Bang Firing Order
Domenicali is confident that Ducati owners, and in fact all motorcycle enthusiasts
will be intrigued by Ducati’s new V4 superbike, namely because of the technology
that resides inside its crankcases.
If the Panigale was an exhibition of the kind of outside-of-the-box thinking that
the Italian brand can bring to chassis design – cue the company’s “frameless”
chassis design – the still unnamed V4 superbike will showcase what Ducati’s
engineers can do when it comes to designing an engine.
Based off Ducati’s MotoGP program, specifically the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, we
can already guess at a unique “big bang” firing order. Domenicali confirms as
much, without saying so.
“We have some tricks in the engine, that are very interesting. And when you couple
this engine, a short-stroke, multiple-cylinder, with a desmodromic valves, you
come out with a combination that is something which is unique.”
“It will make it different from any other four-cylinder on the market. This is
the reason why our engine in MotoGP is so special, because it’s the only desmo
When asked directly if the V4 had a “big bang” firing order, Domenicali would
only reply by saying that “it’s something very unique,” and that the engine
would mimic the character of its v-twin predecessor. However, we know from
Ducati’s program that the Italian brand runs a big-bang-like firing order.
Connecting the dots, the V4 production bike could fire two cylinders at a time,
effectively making it a four-cylinder twin (if that makes logical sense to say),
or it could have a firing order that is a bit more spaced out, but still retains
a big bang firing character – which is rumored to be the case with Ducati’s
MotoGP race bike.
Domenicali hints at this while talking about the company’s racing program, and
how it has lead to the development of the V4 street bike platform.
“I think racing is relevant, but more than that, the whole experience and
technical development that has gone into this engine – the fact that MotoGP
has this configuration means that there has been many, many years of development
for this engine. So that means we can put a lot of small stuff on the
“And actually, the desmo system is far more relevant on a higher revving
engine – let’s say high-revs, but not so high like our current v-twin – so
when you sum them up everything, and when you consider that we have a special
firing order on our V4, it makes it something between a v-twin and V4.”
“The most interesting stuff is inside,” Claudio Domenicali concluded, with a smile.
Other V4 Models
The most interesting word to come out of the CEO’s mouth though was that
the V4 engine would be a platform engine, meaning that it would exist in other
models, in different motorcycle segments.
“The V4 will be a platform, and it will be on different kinds of bikes,” Domenicali
told us, while talking about the future of the Italian brand. What those models are,
he could not say. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill,” he said... possibly
But, one doesn’t have to think too had about which models in Ducati’s lineup could
benefit from a high-tech V4 engine, one between 1,000cc and 1,200cc in engine
Talking that same evening to Rennie Scaysbrook at Cycle News, Domenicali wouldn’t
confirm the rumors that the V4 superbike would come in two displacements, as had
And while it may be the case the the V4 superbike will come in multiple
displacements, another possibility for those rumors existence is that a 1,200cc
version of the V4 engine could be destined for bikes like the Multistrada 1200,
A 600cc V4 Supersport?
With Ducati seemingly back into sync with its model displacement, in relations
to WorldSBK rules and what other manufacturers produce, our next thought was
whether there was a future for a smaller V4 engine, say for a 600cc supersport
In the most honest answer I’ve ever seen from a motorcycle exhaust, Domenicali
dashed our hopes, simply saying “uhh... no.” With our dreams dashed, spirits
crestfallen, futures collided, Domenicali had a compelling argument for this
“The [V4] engine is an expensive, because of how it’s built inside. You would
never strip it down to this level of price, that you need to be to be in this
class,” Domenicali said, while talking of the 600cc supersport category.
“You cannot be in this class, and ask for 80% higher in price. You can ask for
a premium, but can’t ask for double,” he finished by saying.
The Future for Superquadro
While there may not be a racing supersport in the company’s future, Ducati has
a long history of repurposing its superbike engine designs for more tame street
models, and so with the new V4 coming, we wondered about where that leaves the
Superquadro engine design.
It’s here where the Ducati CEO gave us a surprise, suggesting that the Superquadro
motor may not see life beyond its superbike application.
“We will have the smaller version [of the Superquadro], the 959, that will continue
to be developed. So we will continue to have a middleweight superbike, twin-cylinder,
that will be continuously updated.”
“So, in the just-below one-liter class, we will continue to have a very nice,
something like 160 horsepower, engine. It will be a very good compromise between
horsepower, drivability, road use ability, and thus we think it’s a good application
for the twin.”
But when it comes to using the 959 Superquadro engine outside of the Ducati 959 Panigale,
Domenicali was clear. “That’s not the plan. We have a very nice 937cc engine, which is
working pretty well. It’s a very good platform, so we will continue to use that
platform as well. And so, we are developing the platform.”
When asked if the Testastretta engine would continue to be the engine of choice for
new models (fingers crossed for a new Streetfighter model), Domenicali replied in the
affirmative, though again would not give details on what those machines could be.
The Long Goodbye
Ducati’s thought process for the future seems to be of two minds. With the backbone
of the brand, the street bike line, continuing to use and develop on the same v-twin
engine platform, while a new, high-performance line will benefit from the features
of Ducati’s new V4 production engine.
Where that takes Ducati could be an intriguing road. With rumors of Ducati’s sale
to another brand, like Harley-Davidson, continuing to swirl, the future for Ducati
shall be interesting – in the Chinese proverb sense of the world.
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