At the Misano circuit, ahead of this weekend’s MotoGP, Ducati have unveiled the Desmosedici Stradale: a new 1100cc V4 engine that pumps out over 210hp and will shake up the superbike world when it debuts inside the Panigale V4 at the EICMA motorcycle show in November.
Ducati have had huge success in MotoGP with their V4 engines, so it makes perfect sense that the new road-going Stradale borrows from the GP engine. Ducati say they started the design of the new Stradale engine with the heart of the GP engine: its cylinder heads. The Stradale borrows the same dimensions, so the 90-degree V4 is rotated backwards by 42-degrees making for an extremely compact unit. By maintaining the 90-degree V-angle, Ducati don’t require a countershaft to balance the engine, so it can comfortably (and reliably) rev to 14,000 rpm. The compact engine has other benefits too, so Ducati say it optimises weight distribution, while also allowing for larger radiators and lets them bring the swingarm pivot as far forward as possible.
As on the GP bike the Stradale also has a counter-rotating crankshaft. This reduces the gyroscopic effect of the engine, which makes the bike more agile and quick to turn. It also reduces the wheelie effect on acceleration and helps prevent rear wheel lift as you slow down. The crank has a 70-degree offset, which gives the Stradale a ‘twin-pulse’ firing sequence that not only gives the engine a unique sound, but also helps deliver excellent traction when driving out of a corner. In fact, the 0-90-290-380 firing order effectively turns the engine into a big twin of sorts, by firing both the left cylinders closely followed by the two right cylinders.
No replacement for displacement
Despite all these race features, Ducati insist that this engine is at home on the road as it is on the track, which is why they have increased the displacement to 1103cc. Ducati have done this by maintaining the GP bike's 81mm bore (the maximum permitted) and increasing the stroke. Ducati say this increase gives a punchier torque curve and greater power at low revs – peak power is 210hp at 13,000 rpm while torque tops 88ftlb from 8750 to 12,250rpm.
By using the same 81mm bore at the GP engine (the largest in the 4-cylinder sport segment), the Stradale also shares nearly identical engine fluid dynamic (valves, intakes, throttle bodies etc.) – right where the power is made.
As you may imagine the Stradale uses Ducati’s desmodromic valve system, which dispenses with valve springs, instead having arms that actively open and close each valve. Ducati say without this system, the cam profiles on the Stradale would be impossible. Like the Superquadro, the Stradale is controlled by hybrid chain/gear timing but has new, smaller spark plugs to keep the heads compact.
Even though the engine complexity has increased along with the performance, the valve inspection service interval remains at 15,000 miles while the general service interval stays at 12 months/7500 miles.
Lots of liquids
A big engine needs lots of air and lots of fuel to go with it, so the Stradale has a new intake system featuring huge 52mm oval throttle bodies, which have variable-height intake horns. As the rpm varies, the ECU lengthens or shortens the ducts to optimise the air intake. There are also two fuel injectors to go with this system: one below the throttle butterfly and one above it. At low load the lower one is used, but as maximum engine performance is required the second one fires up.
Nowhere near as exciting but there’s a new lubrication system at work too, which borrows the semi-dry sump system from the GP bike. One oil pump work to keep oil going around the engine, while three more scavenge the oil, which helps prevent power losses from resistance in the crankcase.
Unlike the GP bike however, the Stradale engine has a wet clutch, mated to the six-speed gearbox. The new clutch has 11 plates and a servo mechanism that compresses the plates together when driven by the engine. Ducati say that not only does this enhance feel, but it also gives a much lighter action at the clutch. When you’re pushing on, the same mechanism also reduces pressure on the friction plates, acting as a slipper clutch and helping to stabilise the rear end under aggressive down shifts.
Even with all these additional new features (plus those extra two cylinders), the Stradale weighs just 64.9kg, which is only 2.2kg heavier than the Superquadro engine it replaces. This is mostly down to the materials used, so the cylinders are aluminium while the engine cases, cam covers, oil ump, alternator cover and clutch cover are all magnesium.
So when can I ride one?
Well Ducati say we will see no more of the Panigale V4 until it is officially unveiled at the EICMA motorcycle show in November. The bike will then go on sale in 2018. There will also be a 1000cc homologation special but for WSB, but that won’t go on sale until 2019 as the team won’t take the new bike for another year. No indication of pricing of either model yet, but we expect the Panigale V4 won’t give you much change from £24,000.
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