According to various online weather services I looked at prior to jumping on a plane to Bahrain, the desert country only gets about 10 days of rain for the entire year. With those kind of odds it’s no wonder Ducati chose this location to hold the international press launch of its new and improved 2020 Panigale V4 S in the middle of January; with beautiful sunshine, a world-class Formula1 track, and stacks of Pirelli tires at hand, it’s every track rider’s dream, and a perfect venue to test the improvements Ducati have made.
And those improvements are extensive. The full details of the changes can be found in my First Ride review linked above, but in short the new V4 and V4 S models have been redesigned, Ducati says, in order to be easier to ride. The big change is the switch to the R model’s frame – resulting in 30% less torsional rigidity – meaning the rider now has more communication with both ends of the bike. Extensive chassis changes like softer springs and higher center of gravity combine with further refinement of the traction control and throttle maps to result in less stress and quicker laps for any level of rider.
Speaking of throttle mapping, an interesting improvement not talked about in the video above regards engine speed when the rear tire starts to spin. Typically at a steady throttle (think maintenance throttle in the middle of a corner), when the tire starts to spin and lose traction engine speed will rise, making it harder to regain control. With the new V4, the throttle maps have been tweaked to actually lower engine speed in slip scenarios like this. The reduction in engine speed combined with the revised traction control settings help the V4 (and its rider) regain control quicker and with less drama. This kind of ECU programming all came from the Ducati Corse race team, as they helped by imparting their knowledge and skill on the race side to make the street-going machine even better.
With a 2.7% chance of rain all year I felt good – excited, even – in the days leading up to the trip. Who wouldn’t be? Of course, as the launch came closer, the weather forecasts weren’t looking so great. As luck would have it, when it was our turn to ride Mother Nature decided it was due time to dump down rain on the track. It definitely put a damper on our day (pun not intended), but also reminded us all how much fun rain riding can be when equipped with the proper tires (which, thankfully, Pirelli also supplied).
A wet track also lowers certain thresholds which, when riding 200-plus horsepower superbikes like the V4 S, means you can explore some of the limits of the machine in ways that are infinitely harder to do in the dry. Ducati’s second-generation EVO2 traction control system is a perfect example. With programming designed to intervene with minimal wheel oscillation, purposely exploring these limits in the dry is daunting. Not so in the wet, as even accelerating in a straight line could cause the TC light to shine – which, by the way, was often the only time I really knew the system was working. In years past it’d be obvious when engine power was being cut to reduce spin. Lately, it’s becoming harder and harder to tell.
There’s a lot more I have to say about the 2020 Ducati Panigale V4, but instead of reading about it, why don’t you click on the video above and watch me talk about it.