Crunching The Numbers: Will The Ducati Panigale V4R Have Its Revs Reduced In WorldSBK?

Alvaro Bautista came to the WorldSBK championship and has been unstoppable. Since figuring out how to get the right feeling from the front end of the brand new Ducati Panigale V4R, he has won all six races held so far – four full-length races, and the two new Superpole sprint races held on Sunday. His winning margins in the four full races were 14.983, 12.195, 8.217, and 10.053 seconds. He won both sprint Superpole races by over a second as well.

Naturally, that kind of domination attracts attention. The WorldSBK series is meant to be a close battle between bikes based on road-going motorcycles, and as modification of the standard bikes is limited, there are mechanisms in the rule book for keeping the disparity between the different bikes racing to a minimum, giving any manufacturer which sells a 1000cc sports bike a chance to be competitive.

To ensure this, the rules have a section on balancing performance between the different bikes competing. The method of balancing performance has varied over the years, but the current rules use only the maximum revs to try to keep the bikes close. The maximum rev limit is set when each new model is homologated, following a formula described in the rules, and explained by WorldSBK Technical Director Scott Smart in a video on the WorldSBK website. The short version is that the bikes are limited at 1100 RPM above the point at which they make their peak horsepower.

Adjusting revs

After the rev limit has been set for each new model at homologation time, the results of that model are monitored after every three rounds. If the bike is too successful, then the rev limit can be revised down in steps of 250 RPM. Conversely, if the bike is not doing well enough, the rev limits can be revised upwards by the same amount.

The algorithm used to calculate whether the rev limits need to be adjusted is complex. It is based on a number of factors, including relative lap times, top speeds, race results, laps led, overall race time, and number of riders per manufacturers. These factors are all balanced out based on anticipated rider performance and the recency of results obtained.

The exact formula used is not publicly available, Scott Smart explained to me in an email. "The rev limits are changed / analyzed every three rounds using the algorithm," he wrote. "The algorithm was created by an external company appointed by the series, and we get their analysis at those points." Because the algorithm used is proprietary, it has not been published, but it has been signed off by the manufacturers involved in WorldSBK.

No one-offs

The reason for waiting for three rounds is to eliminate outliers, such as one track being particularly good for a specific rider or manufacturer. "The results from one round are statistically unreliable - hence normally waiting for three events," Smart said. But with three new models in the series this year – besides the Ducati Panigale V4R, BMW's S1000RR is also completely new, while the Kawasaki ZX-10RR is sufficiently changed for it to qualify as a new model – the algorithm is being run more often, to monitor results.

The rules also state that the FIM and Dorna reserve the right to change the rev limits at their own discretion. That discretion would only be used if the results were starting to skew too strongly in favor of one particular manufacturer.

Six wins from six races suggests that might be starting to happen, perhaps. So is an adjustment of the Ducati Panigale V4R's rev limits likely any time soon?

If the decision were to be made solely on the strength of Alvaro Bautista's results, it might, but the reason for the complex algorithm used to calculate whether performance balancing needs to be triggered is to allow for an individual rider to excel without being punished. Remove Bautista from the equation, and the Ducati's dominance disappears completely.

Solidly mid-pack

Michael Ruben Rinaldi has usually been the second rider on a Ducati Panigale V4R to finish the races. In five of the six races held so far, he has been the first Ducati behind Bautista. And he has been a very long way behind: in race 1 at Phillip Island, he crossed the line in ninth place, over 25 seconds after Alvaro Bautista. In the two full races at Buriram in Thailand, he was over 27 seconds slower than Bautista, finishing in eighth place both times.

In race 2 at Phillip Island, Chaz Davies managed to be the second Ducati rider across the line. But even Davies, who has finished runner up in the championship for three of the past four years, was 27 seconds slower than Bautista, and in seventh place.

Of course, there are plenty of possible explanations for this disparity between Alvaro Bautista and the rest of the Ducatis. Chaz Davies missed a lot of preseason testing, and seems to still be struggling with the after-effects of injuries sustained at the end of last year. So he still hasn't found the right feeling with the front end of the Panigale V4R. The Barni Ducati team of Michael Ruben Rinaldi is shod with Showa suspension, while Eugene Laverty's Go Eleven squad are using Bitubo suspension, both of which are very different to the Ohlins adorning the factory bike.

These are all good reasons why Davies, Rinaldi, and Laverty are not able to match Bautista. But the yawning gap between Bautista and the others, and the fact that they are all well behind the Kawasakis and Yamahas suggests that there is much more to Bautista's success than just a massively powerful engine. It is hard to see how stripping 250 RPM from the Ducati Panigale V4R is going to help to reduce the 25+ second gap between Bautista and the other Ducatis.

Rea repeats

There is precedent for this, of course. Last year, Jonathan Rea dominated on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR, but rev limits were not applied, because the other Kawasakis were never able to finish anywhere near him. It was something Scott Smart is taking note of. "Another consideration is that Kawasakis weren't slowed when only one of their riders was dominating - as is the case with Ducati - only one rider managing to get the very best from the bike," Smart said.

The same thing looks to be happening this year as well. Rea has finished second in all six races held so far. The gap between Rea and the next best Kawasaki rider is significantly smaller, however. KRT teammate has been the second Kawasaki finisher in five of the six races, crossing the line third overall in two of them, and fifth in the remaining three races. The gap between Rea and the next Kawasaki has generally been a handful of seconds – the biggest gap was 10 seconds in race 1 at Buriram, the smallest a quarter of a second in race 2 at Phillip Island. But Rea is still head and shoulders above the other riders on the same bike.

The differences between the Ducati and the Kawasaki riders fall into sharp relief when contrasted with the Yamahas. The four YZF-R1s on the grid – two factory-backed Pata Yamahas, two GRT Yamahas – have managed to cross the line pretty much as a pack in all six races so far. All four Yamahas have finished between third and eighth place in every race contested this year, with Alex Lowes taking three podiums, and Marco Melandri taking another. It is clear that the Yamahas are all very evenly matched.

Revs can go up as well as down

Of course, rev limits can be revised up as well as down. While the new BMW S1000RR has shown real potential, especially in the hands of Tom Sykes, the Honda CBR1000RR has slipped even further behind since HRC dropped the Ten Kate squad and backed Moriwaki and Althea. In 2018, Leon Camier had a fourth, two sixth, and a seventh place finish. This year, the best finish for a Honda has been Camier's tenth place in the second race at Phillip Island.

Based on the results of the WorldSBK races so far this year, there is a good chance that rev limits will be adjusted, though not where the fans might be expecting. The disparity in results between Alvaro Bautista and the other Ducati riders makes it extremely unlikely that the Panigale V4R will have revs taken away. Much the same could be said for the Kawasaki, Leon Haslam getting close to teammate Jonathan Rea, but still finishing well behind the world champion.

The Honda CBR1000RR, on the other hand, looks to be struggling. Though not short of top speed, the bike is clearly not competitive, and in need of some help. Whether 250 extra revs will make much difference remains to be seen, however.

No decision is due to be made yet on rev limits. The state of the championship, and the balance of the various bikes, will be reassessed after the third round of the WorldSBK series at Aragon. Perhaps Chaz Davies, after his test at the circuit, a track he has traditionally been exceptionally strong at, will join Bautista at the front, and skew the performance balancing algorithm against the Ducati. But it might take a few more rounds before the Panigale has its wings clipped. First, we have to be sure that there is more to Alvaro Bautista's success than just brilliant riding.

Current rev limits for the WorldSBK machines:

Bike Rev limit
Aprilia RSV4 RF 14700
BMW S 1000RR 14900
Ducati 1199 Panigale R 12400
Ducati Panigale V4R 16350
Honda CBR1000RR 14550
Kawasaki ZX 10 RR 2019 14600
MV Agusta F4 RR 14950
Suzuki GSX R 1000RR 14900
Yamaha YZF-R1 14700

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Perhaps the algorithm needs a factor for Bad Karma to help out the Fireblade.

But one may argue that Honda made their own bed, so they get to sleep in it.


System does seem a bit prone to being gamed by Manu's supplying kit to mostly low-buck teams other than the factory rider(s)?

Can that work?

Thanks David. Interesting.
Seems a matter of time. The bike is still arriving.

16350 vs 14700!

Of course it would be better if there were more amazing homologated specials coming rather than wing clipping. The motor in this V4 Duc is AMAZING. A bit of a pandora's box and unexpected consequences, like speeddog notes.. ^ A bit of a strange time in WSBK.

Go Yamaha!

That bike is poo. Had one and hated it. Bring back their V4 project? And Aprilia! Such a great bike!

And damn Supersport development...litre bikes used to have 160 - 170hp and no electronics, but were a touch chunky. 600's 110-120hp and more fun to chuck around. Now? 200hp+ Superbike monsters needing rider aids, but nicely sized. This is just where Supersports could be coming into that sweet spot, the handling ever improving, even lighter, and approaching 150hp. Gah! You bearded coffee shop boys better be enjoying your bloody retro scramblers. Makes me want to get an 800cc mild build pump gas motor for the 675R, shave every bit of weight, Marceshini wheels, and forget that new bikes are coming out at all. These last generation GSXR750's are going to be a good bike to get, sort and keep as well.

Question last year: "what will it take to beat Rea and Kawasaki?"

Answer this year: "A hungry healthy solid MotoGP rider in their prime on the Panigale V4r."
217.2hp at 15250rpm. *STOCK*
Race bike able to approach 240hp?! Bloody amazing. Not for me, but amazing. Sock it to em AB

Ten Kate racing yes, but not the fireblade, obviously. Sold my last blade bits earleir this year. Still have one Honda.

V4 Honda? Yeah! with all that history RC30 etc where is the Marc Marquez race replica roady?

Beard yes, Coffee definately, Retro scrambler, No thanks. An original Ducati 450 scrambler maybe.

Light bikes are fun. New or old, medium size, big or little, fast or slow two wheels good! to paraphrase George Orwell.

Yes I am guilty of wanting someone, anyone to stop Jonathan Rea winning everything. At P.I. in Feb, towards the end of the last superbike race I was thinking "be careful what you wish for" & only a fool rejoices at a change of tyrants. After Buriram more so. Alvaro 100% thus far, this to shall pass.

Bautista may well clean up again at Aragon.

Been in contact with my local Duck dealership, seems like any mug off the street can by a V4R. Troy Bayliss's team in Australia has had the V4R since before the first round & they haven't raced it yet. Troy raced (& crashed) the panigale at Phillip island round 1. Mike Jones rode the 1299 panigale at Wakefield rnd 2. Picked up to 5th in race one. Third in race 2. Wondering why no vee4 ? Hard to set up? different to what T.B. is used to, but Mike rode a four at round 1. He has raced the twin previously.


... should be considered in the light that he backed off by many seconds on the last lap, cruising over the line.  Take the gap from the end of the 2nd last lap and it gets even more dominant.  I don't think he's lying awake at night worrying about losing 250rpm.  Bautista is simply in the right place at the right time, he has the ability to exploit the strengths and contain the limitations to produce a winning combination.  Shades of Stoner in 2007.

Rules!!    The cylinder bore diameter of Ducati's competitors;

Honda 76mm

Kawasaki 76mm

Suzuki 76mm

Yamaha 79mm

MV Augusta 79mm

BMW 80mm

Ducati's bore is 81mm. High rpm horsepower is dictated by how much air/fuel can be crammed into cylinder's, the bigger the bore, the more valve area, cylinder head port area can be utilised. Ducati is at the maximum allowable bore, therefore it should be at its maximum port area, combined with Desmodronic Valve acuation, which has less frictional losses than a steel spring based valve system, as per the other manufacturers.

All I can say is thank goodness Ducati didn't introduce a 4 cylinder 1000cc bike much earlier than 2019, because they would have won heaps more championships.

The same situation arose when when Ducati entered MotoGp, all other manufacturers had to convert and invest into pnuematic valve springs to be able to compete with the Ducati's Desmodronic valve actuation! 

a desmo motor can be turned easily by hand unlike a high lift valve spring motor however the springs release a large proportion of their compressed energy back into the downslope of the cam lobe helping to turn the cam. Frictional losses are higher for desmo. 

The primary benefit is extreme accuracy for even the most aggressive cam profiles, cam shapes that would have a spring motor self destructing. 

The non Ducati bikes have smaller bores because they have road bike orgins. They also have conventional valves, not pneumatic or desmo, the later being a Ducati speciality.

The Ducati is at 81mm as this is the maximum for the current MotoGP class (not WSBK) and the motor is supposedly based on the GP15. The earlier Ducati MotoGP replica, the Ducati Desmosedicci RR had a 86mm bore and was supposedly based on the GP05 when there was no bore restriction in Moto GP. Reportedly max power at only 13800rpm for that one.

So much for bore limits restricting max revs even in production based racing.

Imagine what an 86mm bore desmo 1000 with current MotoGP technology could rev to.

... David. Sometimes I forget you personally dip your toes in the WSBK world too! 

I really don't see any signifigant restricting being done by WSBK on this massive power advantage enjoyed by Ducati, the powers that be are far too conservative (and probably wary of coming down too hard on any one manufacturer). However I am somewhat surprised the championship was allowed to start the way it has, Ducati basically brought an ultra-exclusive, almost-prototype to the table with an, again, almost-prototype engine and stratospheric max revs to boot. 

I haven't kept up on these things all that closely, but I'm guessing the hologation limit is extremely low to allow Ducati to pull this off?

Regardless, I think us fans may be in for a strange, maybe even snoozer season while Ducati forces every manufacturer to play by a new set of rules which include these ultra-exclusive 16k+ rpm so called "Superbikes". 

Unfortunately, I don't really see how that benefits the fans or the sport one bit...

Actually, no. The Panigale is the best selling Sportsbike of 2018, and of those, 6,100 V4s have been sold up to the end of January. ducati cannot wheel the V4 variants out the door fast enough

If race direction wanted to slow Bautista down, 250 revs won't do it.  They'll have to send Tonya Harding to the carpark and give him the ol' knee job.  He's dominating out of talent and being on the right bike that matches his riding style.   I'm fine with Bautista walking away with each race.   Rea has been doing it for some time now.  Let's not handicap racers, let them stretch out the leads and light a fire under the other manufactuters and teams to catch up and innovate.  Isn't innovation what racing is all about? 


In my country you can purchase a 1299 Panigale R Final Edition L- Twin or a Panigale V4S Speciale (L-4 ..1103cc) or a Panigalle V4R (998 cc ..L4) for exactly the same price...roughly $46000.00 translated into local currency. Spoiled for choice for sure. I'm too old and slow for any of them anyway. Thing is, Ducati give you a massive choice unlike Universal Japanese Motorcycle, UJM bikes as we called them back in the 80's. Honda proved easily with Colin Edwards that they could take Ducati on at their own game with he SP1/2. The thing is, UJM customers stuck to UJM mindset. Japanese transverse 4. They still do and its ingrained in their psyche. The SP1/2 Honda's were superb bikes yet suffered in the sales area...too expensive. Honda's RC 213 replica is a beaut. I see no reason why they cannot follow Ducati initiative and run an homologation special of the bike and enter it in SBK. Maybe its all the R's, double RR's over the years touted by UJM. Ducati kept it pretty simple. R and SL designation to a lesser extent actually meant something. Not in terms of volume but rather in terms of homologation specials, hence the most collectable examples of the marque. That is a whole other topic. I still have a 1974, 750 valve sprung tower shaft and bevel gear Sport. Back to topic. I don't think that cutting the rev limit will change a thing on the V4R.  It still makes its max at 15250 rpm. You can either ride it or you can't. It is a vastly different bike from the GP bike. Single sided swingarm, integral chassis/engine mounting boss. Granted, Bautista is familiar with the engine characteristics, but the rest, from tires up is new to him. UJM stays UJM mentallity. Solid, reliable, ultra consistent but no sense of adventure. My R and SL bikes stay parked and maintained for the most part. My go to bike every day of the week is 'Beastie', a little carbie Yamaha XT250 thumper. Well, the powers that be 'choked out' the Ducati twins and now they complain about Ducati 4's. It's going to get worse when Chaz, Michael and Eugene couple their tallent and suspension systems in unison at Aragon. UJM will scream 'foul'.

His talent is whats dominating. Sure cut his revs it won't change a thing it'll just mean the other Ducs are even farther back. He was fighting for the podium at PI in MotoGP in his first race on JLos bike ffs

It seems slightly wrong to penalise Ducati by limiting the revs on an engine that has a complex valve train designed to permit a higher rev limit in the first place. 

Chaz Davis is also no mug but he's a long way off Alvaro's pace at the moment.

Before the first tests this season there was a lot of talk about how Bautista needed to have good edge grip and the WSBK tyres would not give this. Seems to me that he has actually shown that there is a different way to ride a WSBK, and that point and shoot cornering is a thing of the past. And, he is making the tyres last as well. It was telling watching the sprint race at Buriram, about 7 laps in Rea was pushing very hard and lost the front and just managed to pick it up, and from that time on he backed off and was half a second a lap slower.

I look forward to Rea and Lowe’s working this out and changing the way they ride, that they too get great cornering speed and longer tyre life, and the close racing will come back. It’s not just about the engine revs...