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My new Panigale V4, part 4

Posted on June 01, 2018 by acruhl

First read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

This isn’t really a post about my experience with the bike, it’s more of a reflection on Ducati superbike engines in the last 30 years or so, and how the current V4 might not be as big of a departure for Ducati as the previous Superquadro (1199) engine was.

The first Ducati superbike engine was a 748cc water cooled engine first raced in the mid 1980s, the first water cooled engine Ducati ever produced. It was known as the Desmoquattro. The last Desmoquattro engine in a Ducati superbike was the 748 of 2002, and it went on in ST and Monster models a little while longer. But parts of that engine design existed in all Ducati superbikes up to the 1198. And it lives on today in many (most!) Ducatis today.

The “bottom end” design of that engine was all Ducati used for 25 years. But it became a limitation. There was no more room left for improvement after 2011 in the context of a race homologated street bike.

Then came the Superquadro in the 1199 in 2012, a completely new design from the ground up. It was a very radical step for Ducati to make. Nothing like it had ever been done before – a very oversquare, high revving twin built to attempt to keep pace with the 1000cc 4 cylinder bikes in World Superbike. It was a very high strung engine that didn’t work like twins of the past, but it worked well enough and Ducati is having success with it this year. Probably it’s biggest success has been multiple British Superbike championships with Shane Byrne riding.

In 2017 Ducati revealed the shocking news (shocking to purists like me anyway) that the next superbike would have a V4 engine – named the Desmosedici Stradale. But the bike was still named “Panigale”, which seemed strange given the major engine change. It seemed like a huge departure for Ducati.

But was it really?

Taken in the context of experience with engine designs, Ducati had been producing a V4 racing engine since 2002 – 16 years before the Panigale V4 was released. They released the Desmosedici RR MotoGP replica in 2006, although that engine is not very similar to the 2018 Panigale Stradale. This is a lot of real world experience with V4 engines.

By comparison, the 1199 Panigale Superquadro was probably only a few years old with prototype testing before it was released to the public. It was a much more radical change for them internally than the Panigale V4 was in the context of experience with the engine design.

I owned an 1199 Panigale and now I own the Panigale V4. It’s amazing how similar the bikes are, which is obviously why the V4 is still called “Panigale”. The V4 is simply an evolution of the 1199 with a new but race proven engine design. It even feels and sounds like a twin at lower RPM. So far it’s a positive step. But I will miss the twins.

If Ducati builds a 1000cc version of the 959 with a single sided swingarm and upscale components, I’ll be very interested :).

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