Ahead of the Panigale V4 debut, we take look back over the engines from the past
As the iconic Ducati factory prepare to roll out their all new Panigale V4 next season, making its racing debut around Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, they will become the third manufacturer to welcome the four cylinder engine into the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship paddock.
Looking back over the seasons, the first time the WorldSBK paddock witnessed a V4 engine was from Honda, with the VF750R RC30. As the season began in 1988, the Honda was the bike to beat out on track. Taking two titles in the first two seasons, Fred Merkel rode the Japanese bike to glory out on track. Facing a strong opposition from Bimota and the 851 Borgo Panigale. However, despite its strong start to the series after facing tough competition against the twin engine of the Ducati, the next revolution of Honda’s V4 came with the RVF750R RC45 which was built with racing in mind. After overcoming some issues in its first few seasons, their next title came in 1997 with John Kocinski.
Aprilia were the next factory to welcome a V4 into the WorldSBK paddock, after beginning their SBK® journey with the RSV1000 twin-cylinder – a bike which struggled on occasion. Leaving the championship at the end of the 2002 season to focus on MotoGP™, the Italian manufacturer returned in 2009 with their RSV4 and bringing with it, their experience gained in MotoGP™. Signing Italian legend Max Biaggi to take on their four cylindered beast, he impressed in the opening season with nine podiums and one victory. Working on the bike over the winter, Biaggi then went one step better in 2010 as he was crowned WorldSBK champion. Repeating his feat two seasons later, the Italian was able to fight with the very best on the RSV4 and secured the crown by half a point in the final round of the season. On top of the rider’s world championship, Aprilia also took the coveted manufacturers world championship in 2012.
It remains to be seen how Ducati will fare with their all new V4 machine. With plenty of testing from their official rider Michele Pirro, as well as a debut of the V4s bikes at World Ducati Week in July, anticipation is building. History tells us it doesn’t take long for a V4 engine to be competitive in WorldSBK, but can Ducati live up to this name?
Welcoming MotoGP™’s Alvaro Bautista to the factory Ducati team next season, he will join the experienced Chaz Davies as they look at taming their new beast. Can they tame it? Time will tell, and it can all be watched and enjoyed with the WorldSBK VideoPass next season!