‘Lap-time has al­ways been a very clear tar­get’

In con­ver­sa­tion with Du­cati CEO Clau­dio Domeni­cali


For DU­CatI’s Boss, the De­CI­sIoN to de­velop a mass-pro­duced V4 su­per­bike dates back sev­eral years, to shortly af­ter the launch of the 1199 that it­self seemed rev­o­lu­tion­ary at the time. “It was a typ­i­cal mo­ment af­ter you have just launched a new prod­uct,” he re­calls. “we had to start to think, ‘what is next?’ “we very openly an­a­lysed how we can make the bike bet­ter; more re­ward­ing for the rider. and with it be­ing sports bike, how can we make it faster, be­cause the whole game in this en­vi­ron­ment is to make the bike fast on a race­track, and with less ef­fort.”

Domeni­cali re­alised he had to choose be­tween two al­ter­na­tives. “one was to im­prove our su­perquadro [V-twin] en­gine, which we al­ready knew would be­come 1,300 cc in 2015. for sure, there was some think­ing that a lot of the her­itage of the com­pany in the last 20 years is de­vel­op­ing the twin. on one side, it is a pity to stop the de­vel­op­ment of this plat­form.

“But on the other side, we thought that with a 116-mm bore, the ra­tio be­tween bore and stroke of this en­gine was al­ready very ex­treme. It was get­ting rather com­pli­cated, so we thought it would be try­ing too hard to con­tinue that con­cept. and we had the Des­mosedici in Mo­toGP, with which we had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence through rac­ing. so we thought that this would be the proper time.”

for Domeni­cali, one fac­tor that made the switch eas­ier was that the V4 would re­tain much of the char­ac­ter of the V-twin. “Due to the fir­ing order and the way the crank­shaft is set, when you ride the bike up to 11,000 rpm it very much feels like a twin.”

the other key fac­tor in choos­ing a V4 was that al­though a vol­ume-pro­duced en­gine would be new for Du­cati, much of the de­vel­op­ment work had al­ready been done. “we didn’t ex­per­i­ment with fir­ing orders be­cause we had played a lot in Mo­toGP. we knew this fir­ing order very well, it’s the same one as in Mo­toGP and it’s re­ally the best so­lu­tion.”

sim­i­larly, the en­gine’s di­men­sions and com­bus­tion cham­ber shape came di­rectly from rac­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. “we set the bore at 81 mm to keep it the same as Mo­toGP. Valve di­men­sion, ports, all the ther­mo­dy­namic el­e­ments came from our ex­pe­ri­ence. we just use a longer stroke in order to gain the fan­tas­tic mid-range be­tween 4,000 and 8,000 or 9,000 rpm. this is the best for track-days and rid­ing on the road.”

the V4’s frame was also very much shaped on the track. “again we did not try many so­lu­tions be­cause it is de­rived from our ex­pe­ri­ence. with Mo­toGP we had made a lot of tests with dif­fer­ent chas­sis, dis­con­nect­ing over­all stiff­ness from lat­eral stiff­ness. for a bike that has to reach a very high lean­ing an­gle, it is very im­por­tant to have the cor­ner­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics that come from a dis­con­nec­tion be­tween the types of stiff­ness.

“Chang­ing the thick­ness of the alu­minium to al­ter the stiff­ness is pretty easy,” says the Ceo who be­gan at Du­cati as an en­gi­neer in the early 1990s, work­ing on the steel-framed chas­sis of the sweet-han­dling su­per­mono race bike. “the dif­fi­cult part is set­ting the tar­get. once you have the tar­get, the de­sign struc­ture to reach this tar­get is a kind of kid’s job with the de­sign tools that we have to­day.”

as that fo­cus on han­dling at ex­treme an­gles sug­gests, Domeni­cali was al­ways clear that the Pani­gale’s fo­cus would be on pure per­for­mance. “the lap-time has al­ways been a very clear tar­get, but this comes partly from ride­abil­ity,” he says. “for ex­am­ple, the way it is pos­si­ble to con­trol the bike with the throt­tle: close the throt­tle and the bike turns, open it and the bike over­steers a lit­tle bit. we wanted to make a track-day en­joy­able be­cause you are fast, but with to­tal con­trol of the bike.”

that search for con­trol ex­tended to fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of elec­tron­ics. “when we have 214 Ps we’re start­ing to en­ter the world of real race bikes. at this point, you are run­ning at a high speed so you need proper skills and knowl­edge of the race­track. But the soft­ware and hard­ware are de­vel­op­ing su­per quickly, so I think it’s far eas­ier to ride this bike than to ride a less pow­er­ful bike 15 years ago.”

look­ing to the fu­ture, the V4 en­gine will in­evitably be adopted by other mod­els, start­ing with a 1,000-cc Pani­gale for su­per­bike rac­ing ho­molo­ga­tion. “our range in the fu­ture will be a mix­ture of one so­lu­tion or the other, de­pend­ing on the ve­hi­cle and the ca­pac­ity. the V-twin with DVt that we have in the Mul­tistrada 1260 is a su­per en­gine, very bal­anced, so we’ll keep de­vel­op­ing that.”

the V-twin will also con­tinue for smaller-ca­pac­ity mod­els, partly due to cost. “we will def­i­nitely not make a ‘su­per-mid’ V4. this en­gine has many com­po­nents so it is ex­pen­sive, and will be only for top bikes.

“But I think this plat­form has the po­ten­tial to ex­pand. Not in this shape, be­cause this en­gine is very much a rac­ing in­spired sport ap­pli­ca­tion. But many of the com­po­nents of the V4 en­gine can be shared with a big­ger plat­form, so in the fu­ture we may see more bikes from Du­cati around it.”

We knew this fir­ing order very well, it’s the same one as in Mo­toGP and it’s re­ally the best so­lu­tion

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