WSB: Is this the bike that will end Kawasaki's domination?

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Last night Ducati lifted the covers off the all-new Panigale V4 R. A homologation special designed to race in superbike championships around the world.

With the standard road-going V4 1103cc, Ducati were sent back to the drawing board for their race model as the addition of the extra two cylinders meant they could no longer exceed the 1000cc limit in the regulations.

Introducing the 998cc V4 R, inspired by even more MotoGP technology than the ‘basic’ road going machine.


Naturally, the V4 R had to be released as a road bike before it could be raced in the World Superbike series but make no mistake, in road trim this is a race bike with mirrors and indicators.

Producing 221bhp standard or 234bhp with a racing exhaust, the V4 R is primed to become a Superbike weapon, which is exactly what the Bologna factory needed after failing to win a world championship with the V-Twin Panigale.

That failure saw the Panigale become the first ever sports bike introduced by Ducati not to win a world title, a hard blow for the Italian firm.

With that in mind, work into the V4 R started early, it made its public debut on track in superbike trim (so that’ll be with even more trick bits and power than the race-kitted version unveiled last night) at Jerez in January but had been hard at work in private tests long before that.

The final version of the racing machine appeared in a number of demonstration laps at the recent final round of the Bennetts British Superbike series.

Make no mistake, the V4 R has been designed with one thing in mind – getting the better of the dominant force that is Kawasaki and Jonathan Rea in the World Superbike championship.

Boasting impressive power figures before the engine has been touched by the engineers in Ducati’s race department goes to show that Chaz Davies and Alvaro Bautista could have a weapon on their hands next year.

MCN has been told the V4 RS superbike has lapped significantly quicker than the outgoing Panigale at every test track ridden by Ducati Corse test riders Lorenzo Zanetti and Michele Pirro.

Ducati even saw fit to add MotoGP-style winglets to the fairing to help keep the front end down and improve feeling in corners. It’ll be the first time that aerodynamic packages such as this will have featured on the superbike grid – what will be interesting is whether the superbike team will have to run these winglets all the time or whether they can change between running them or not.

Revving to 16000rpm as standard, the V4 could come under fire from various different series’ rev limits. It’s understood BSB bosses are considering capping the machine at its standard rev limit, while in World Superbike it should be allowed to rev higher but should the bike prove dominant, the series’ rules allow for that limit to be cut.  

Chaz Davies will get his first taste of the new machine at Aragon in two weeks with team-mate Bautista joining him a couple of weeks after at Jerez. These first tests will be pivotal for the Aruba Ducati squad, turning up with a new bike is never easy but at least they know that the bike has spent countless hours testing in the hands of the highly experienced racers Ducati employ as test riders.

Could this be the bike to end four years of Kawasaki domination in the Superbike World Championship? Quite possibly.

Find your next two-wheeled companion at MCN Bikes for Sale.

Oli Rushby

By Oli Rushby

Former sports reporter covering British Superbikes, World Superbikes and road racing