We’re getting our first look at the sportbike that will mark the end of an era. This new V-4-powered Ducati will eventually elbow aside V-Twin Ducatis from the Superbike series.

Spotted in a test area at Ducati’s factory in Bologna, Italy, this new Desmosedici will make its way into production for the 2018 model year. Our lensman, herr Hohne, says he “heard it a while before I saw it, and I immediately knew what bike they were testing” by the sound of its V-4 engine. “From what I could tell, it sounded a lot like the Aprilia Tuono/RSV4, but a bit… err… rougher I guess is the best word to explain it.”

Visible below the Ducati test rider’s knee is a rear cylinder, not terribly unlike Ducati’s traditional V-Twin but angled further rearward. The added distinction here is that there are a pair of rear cylinders to go along with a pair up front. We imagine there will be an aluminum steering head section that doubles as the airbox and engine mount for a monocoque layout similar to the Panigale’s. An Öhlins fork and Brembo M50 brakes are predictable.

Visible below the Ducati test rider’s knee is a rear cylinder, not terribly unlike Ducati’s traditional V-Twin but angled further rearward. The added distinction here is that there are a pair of rear cylinders to go along with a pair up front. We imagine there will be an aluminum steering head section that doubles as the airbox and engine mount for a monocoque layout similar to the Panigale’s. An Öhlins fork and Brembo M50 brakes are predictable.

Because Ducati’s MotoGP team already uses a V-4 engine, we expect some commonalities between them, including the 90-degree angle of its cylinder vee and, of course, desmodromic valve actuation. The exotic Desmosedici RR from a decade ago had a wide 86mm bore, which is far fatter than the 81mm now mandated as maximum by the FIM. If a 48.5mm stroke was added to an 81mm hole, the engine would yield exactly 1000cc.

2008 Ducati Desmosedici RR Review

The quality of Hohne’s photos was hampered by having to shoot through a small car window, but the images of the bike are fairly clear because it was being operated at low speeds. Just a couple of laps around the test area “at such a low speed that the motor even choked a few times,” Hohne explained.

Note the snaking header pipes from the two rear cylinders that dump into a sizable muffler under the engine a la the Panigale (and Buell/EBR). A single-sided swingarm like the Panigale carries over. The cobby heat shielding and unfinished tailsection reveal this test mule is still several steps away from production.

Note the snaking header pipes from the two rear cylinders that dump into a sizable muffler under the engine a la the Panigale (and Buell/EBR). A single-sided swingarm like the Panigale carries over. The cobby heat shielding and unfinished tailsection reveal this test mule is still several steps away from production.

It’s difficult to imagine a World Superbike race without a V-Twin Ducati in it, as the red machines from Borgo Panigale have been winning championships since 1990. But Ducati hasn’t won a rider’s title since 2011 when Carlos Checa rode the 1098R. This is the longest WSB championship drought for Ducati since the series began.

Ducati has said it will continue to race the Panigale in 2018, which will provide a bit of extra time to develop this new V-4 superbike into a machine ready to challenge the best in class by the time the 2019 season begins.

Here’s another view of the angle of the rear cylinders. Imagining a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the cylinder bank locates the second set of cylinders approximately at the white scuff marks on the fairing, creating a vee shape that’s a departure from Ducati’s so-called L-Twins.

Here’s another view of the angle of the rear cylinders. Imagining a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the cylinder bank locates the second set of cylinders approximately at the white scuff marks on the fairing, creating a vee shape that’s a departure from Ducati’s so-called L-Twins.

This rebooted Desmosedici RR will surely be seen in production form this fall, likely debuting at the big EICMA show in Milan. As typical for Ducati, we’ll expect a base version as well as one outfitted with higher-end components like electronic suspension and lighter-weight forged wheels. All will include traction control and ABS, as well as TFT instrumentation.

Prices will start north of $20,000, as that’s currently the cheapest 1299 Panigale, and will add about $5k extra for the S version if the Panigale MSRP model is followed; so, about $22k and $27k? An R model will likely follow in 2019, and we’re reasonably sure it will retail for less than $45,000. To be eligible for World Superbike competition, a motorcycle’s price can’t exceed the price cap of €40,000 (about $45,000 USD).

LED headlights will be part of the V-4’s package. Hopefully also paint.

LED headlights will be part of the V-4’s package. Hopefully also paint.

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  • Born to Ride

    I never particularly cared for the Panigale personally. Maybe it was the lack of a trellis frame, or the hideous and thigh roasting header snake under the seat. Hopefully this means we will get more development to the Supersport line as the Desmosedici takes over track bike duties.

    • Stan James

      What will be funny is since Ducati will be making a V4 I think it would be hilarious if Kawasaki Honda and or Yamaha made a V-Twin that would be funny and pretty damn cool

      • TonyCarlos

        They already did that. Not Kawi, but Honda and Suzuki both took a run at liter V twins. Despite good reviews neither seemed to sell in large numbers as I recall.

        • Jason Channell

          I still really want a RC51 SP-2 though. One day….

      • Herbert Jahn

        Kawasaki is I believe the only one which has not made a V 2 mind you not nessesary sporty engines but Hondas RC 51 was not to shabby

  • spiff

    I have almost no interest in race replicas now. They are so focused, and beyond my ability, that I gaze right past them. Am I getting old?

    • Born to Ride

      I am similarly disinterested in the class. Race Replicas are for rich men these days. When you have to fork over 15-20 grand for the bike, and 2 grand or more every year in insurance, and need to attend regular track days to get your money’s worth out of them… Yeah, a Street Triple RS will do me just fine.

      • spiff

        You can buy a 4 year old liter bike, and an old 600 track bike for less. You would have money left over for track days. That said an RSV4RF is pretty freakin cool.

        The nakeds just seem so much more useful. Technology has made such advances. If I was buying a Ducati it would be a Monster 1200R.

      • No_More_Liberals

        2013 FJR1300 and a 2011 FZ1. Nothing hurts!

    • Douglas

      Every single day…..but be glad for it. ‘S better than the alternative, no?

      • spiff

        True.

  • Glenn59

    So they have built an Aprilia? I am sure it will be a great bike but very sad to see the twin dropped.

    • Douglas

      Speakin’ of dropped, looks like this test mule has been intimate w/the asphalt a few times…..

  • kenneth_moore

    “Antonio, I see the spy photographer in his car by the track. Take the bike out and do a few slow laps so he can get some nice pictures for the web.”

    “Boss, I’m wearing my fat jeans today…can’t we do the spy photos tomorrow?”

  • luxury bikes. beautiful to watch, limited use, fun to ride. better use them on the track though.

  • HarleyDylanson68

    Why do they iNSIST on putting the motorcycle.com logo over the engine section of the photo ? It’s a POORLY exposed pic to begin with so that makes it okay to make the engine TOTALLY INDISCERNIBLE ?

    • denchung

      Trust me, you can’t see any more detail without the watermark.

      Besides, it’s not really for our benefit to watermark these photos. Yes, other sites will steal and re-publish them, but that’s going to happen, watermark or no. It’s the photographers that really gets screwed over, and watermarking is their way of tracking where images come from. Putting them somewhere out of the way like in the corner not covering anything doesn’t help because people will just crop it out.

  • guymacher

    Me want one!

  • JMDGT

    I have always been in love with the idea of a V4 whatever.

  • Mad4TheCrest

    I’ve owned two Ducatis: a Monster S4RS and a heart-meltingly beautiful 1198SP. For both bikes the two best days were the day I bought them and the day I sold them on. Altogether there were 9 years of love/hate in between. You’d think that would be enough, but damn I want the V4 when it comes out – or maybe a new Monster with the 1299 Panigale superquaddro motor that might come soon after the V4’s released. Desmolust is some kind of disease, one that’s only cured by death or a Harley-Davidson takeover …

    • Born to Ride

      Eww, why would you want a soggy midrange superquadro engine in your monster? The 1200R has more top end than you could ever need on the street with the bottom and midrange power that you want.

      • Mad4TheCrest

        Because (1) I’d like an engine without belts to replace for a change; (2) I’ve had enough experience with the old motor having enjoyed it in the 1198; and (3) Ducati’s top-line Monster always inherits the outgoing top superbike engine, it’s almost a tradition.

        As a an added note, I doubt there’s anything really ‘soggy’ about the 1299 Panigale’s midrange…

        • Born to Ride

          I guess with years of experience as an automotive technician, the task of changing timing belts seems trivial to me relative to the pain in the ass replacing worn out timing chains and chain guides if/when you have a problem. A set of belts is like 100$ and it takes all of an hour to replace them if you go as slow and carefully as possible.

          As for the monster always inheriting the superbike engine, that made sense when all Ducati built was two engines with two displacements of each. Now Ducati has three engine platforms and soon a fourth. The testastretta 11 degree engine is purpose built for service in their streetbike line. I think it’s far more likely to see the variable valve timing engine in the next gen monster than the superquadro. That being said, I only rode the 1199 panigale and not the 1299, so I will concede that my complaints about the midrange may be unfounded in comparison.