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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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