Bombshell! Ducati Withdraw From World Superbikes From 2011

Ducati have announced that they are to withdraw from World Superbikes for the 2011 season as a factory team. More detail to follow, but here's the text of the press release:


Borgo Panigale (Bologna - Italy), 27 August 2010 - Ducati, having participated with a factory team in every edition of the World Superbike Championship since it began in 1988, winning 16 Manufacturers' world titles and 13 Riders' world titles along the way, has decided to limit its participation to the supply of machines and support to private teams.

"This decision is part of a specific strategy made by Ducati, the aim being to further increase technological content in production models that will arrive on the market in the coming years. In order to achieve this objective, the company's technical resources, until now engaged with the management of the factory Superbike team, will instead be dedicated to the development of the new generation of hypersport bikes, in both their homologated and Superbike race versions," declared Gabriele Del Torchio, President and CEO of Ducati. "I would like to thank Nori and Michel, and all of the riders that have contributed to the great history of Ducati in Superbike, but above all the Ducati employees; it is their hard work and professionalism that has allowed us to achieve such important results. A big thank you also to all of the partners that have supported us, first and foremost Xerox of course. I would also like to acknowledge the Flammini brothers who have managed the championship for so long, and the FIM, the organization with which we have continuous, constructive relations."

By making this important decision Ducati aims to increase the speed and efficiency with which it transfers advanced technological solutions, currently tested in the prototype championship, to the production series.

The task of testing innovative technical solutions in Superbike racing will therefore be entrusted to external teams in the coming years, teams that will have the chance to receive technical support from Ducati personnel. This choice will allow the teams to benefit from even more competitive machines and parts. Despite the decision to interrupt its official participation in the World Superbike Championship, Ducati will continue to work, in collaboration with the championship organizers, other manufacturers and the FIM, to define a technical regulation aimed at containing costs.

Strong in the sporting spirit that has always allowed this manufacturer to compete, line-up against its rivals, and win, it is fundamental for Ducati to identify, together with the other interested parties, solutions that can guarantee the future of the championship in the medium-long term.

Recently the Superbike World Championship, according to the current regulations, has been interpreted as moving more towards competition between prototypes rather than for bikes derived from production machines. This has led to an increase in costs, both for the manufacturers and the teams participating in the championship. This picture does not correlate with the current worldwide economic situation, which has made the securing of sponsorship even more difficult. Ducati trusts that the work carried out by all parties will lead to improvement also in this area.

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Hmmm... "the aim being to further increase technological content in production models that will arrive on the market in the coming years"... Maybe that new V4 airbox-framed Ducati will come sooner now. I guess my old twin will have to last me a couple more years. ;)

What an incredible blow to the WSBK series. Announcing their withdrawl from the series a week after signing Valentino and right when Indy MotoGP is kicking-off.

"Recently the Superbike World Championship....,has been interpreted as moving more towards competition between prototypes rather than for bikes derived from production machines. This has led to an increase in costs, both for the manufacturers and the teams participating in the championship. This picture does not correlate with the current worldwide economic situation"

ie. SBK is trying to be prototype racing, it has become too expensive and if we have to place all our chips somewhere that is going to be GPs. And yes, our product and marketing strategy is that Vale will help us sell thousands of V4s starting 2012.

Difficult but I guess ultimately sound business decisions (especially if Vale wins).

How long is it going to take for the conspiracy theorists to say Dorna was behind all of this...? Incredible.

I already know no one will believe me, but people should hear it anyway. The writing on the wall for Ducati started in 2004, but they refused to read it until 2011. Feel free to delete this David, if you do not wish to rehash.

WSBK is rev-limited via homologation which means AFAIK, MotoGP is the last international racing series on the planet that doesn't regulate horsepower via revs, bore limits, or air restriction (why do you think the MSMA refuse to add fuel? They know the bore limit will take over and all bikes will make the same power). Refusal to regulate horsepower give you two options: death by revs (3.0L F1), or death by fuel computers (Group C prototypes). If you read the BSB Evo rulebook you will actually find a reference to the FIM homologated rev limit. The BSB Evo rev limit is the "homoloated rev limit +500rpm". BSB uses FIM homologation procedures.

So hear goes. Twins cannot compete against 4's at equal displacement unless the revs are moderate. In 2003, this was the case b/c WSBK was air restricted and the bikes were producing approx 180hp. The Ducati 999R was perfectly well suited for this competition. In 2004, the Flamminis rejected the MSMA's rulebook, and crafted a new rulebook with no air-restrictors and lots of prototype parts. This rulebook has not changed so why would Ducati withdraw now? Why did they suddenly beg for more capacity in 2007?

What I believe you should know is that the rev limit increases. In 2003, they homologated 12,500rpm (imo) b/c the sport was supposed to be non-aggressive and production-relevant according to the MSMA. The air restrictors were supposed to reduce peak power at 12,500rpm from 200bhp to roughly 180bhp. When the Flamminis rejected this rulebook, they convinced the FIM to adopt an incrementally rising rev limit (100rpm per year) to create the appearance of technological progression and performance progression (good for marketing). This year, I have heard that the homologated rev limit is 13,300rpm which is 12,500rpm +800rpm (100rpm for each season of 1000cc competition; 2003-2010). Coincidence? Does coincidence ever govern business operations?

When the homologation procedures changed, the writing was on the wall for Ducati. They revved the 999R (104mm x 58.8mm) harder and harder until they hit max potential at 13,000rpm in the 2007 season. At this point, Ducati needed to develop a 4-cylinder for 2008 or they needed to reduce revs (increase stroke) for 2008. In 2008, they were broke and on the verge of collapsing so they chose the latter. They begged the SBK commission for an additional 200cc which would allow them to add 2mm bore so they could reach the required horsepower maximum while stroking the engine from 58.8mm to 69.7mm to reduce revs (13,000rpm to ~11,000rpm). If you look at the stat sheets, the Japanese bikes have all undergone the same bore transformation to cope with the rising rev limit while maintaining their own bore/stroke requirements. The Honda from 75mm to 76mm. The Yamaha from 77mm to 78mm. The Suzuki from 73.4mm to 74.5mm. The Kawasaki is unchanged at 76mm but we still don't know the bore of the new bike (imo it will be 78mm). For those of you who may not be aware, BMW's prodigious bore number (80mm) would give it a 30hp advantage over small bore bikes like the GSX-R1000 if not for performance controls. Anyway, the 1198 was always a band-aid b/c twins cannot easily compete at the current escalating rev limit, but the onerous air-restriction rules mean that Ducati cannot see the 1198 project through 2012 season. As a result, they are withdrawing now to pay Rossi and focus on the next bike which will be a V4 or perhaps an even more insane twin (never underestimate the power of stubborn but I hope the twin rumors are misdirection).

I'm sure Dorna have been pressuring the MSMA to withdraw from WSBK competition, but Ducati's withdrawal has little to do with Dorna, imo. The twin concept was maxed out in 2007, but Ducati couldn't bring themselves to part with it b/c they were broke and too cautious to part with the twin.

Take the rev-limit theory for what you will. To me it is just a postulate that reflects the realities of business and modern racing governance. To others, my theories are heretical bile that undermine the religion. Either way, I hope you enjoy the read, and you maybe contemplate the events of the sport through the lens of entertainment business.

Amazing write up. A very interesting perspective, and the way you put it makes sense.

Heard the guy a cycleworld editor just got canned, holler at them

Hi, does the FIM have a limit on bore size? Could not see a rev limit in the FIM regs and none quoted.
Also 2000 bikes required for homologation. Ducati has produced 1500 Desmosedici RRs'.
Ducati should use this bike or an updated version..........

The homologation requirements just changed in 2009 to prohibit bikes like the Desmosedici. In 2007, the homologation quantity was still just 500 units and the bike would have been legal AFAIK.

The FIM have no bore limit for WSBK competition; however they might have a homologated bore limit in WSS. All Japanese 600s have the same bore measurements.

Is one I can get behind. =)

This has been in the works for a while and a rule change or organizational changes were going to be necessary in the next year or so but Aprilia introduced a very near prototype 4 cylinder in the off development cycle so all manufacturers were caught off guard.

The Japanese 4s are more capable of absorbing an increase in performance but the twins are not.

At the same time, this has forced all the manufacturers to dump money into R&D on existing motors rather than focus on developing the next models. Non-aggressive?

The Flammini's are in more trouble than they are letting on.

--------------------------------------------- - MotoGP Data & Statistics

phoenix1, I have to admit that I've thought a couple of times that your posts have been juuuuuuust a tinge pessimistic... This one, however, is not only fascinating, but well-spoken, and it has more than a little bit of logic and evidence to support it.

I subscribe to the school of thought that (I believe) Agatha Christie introduced through Sherlock Holmes. If memory serves, he (she) states that, when you remove all impossibilities, what is left--no matter how improbable--is the answer. While I'm not sure that ALL the impossibilities are eliminated through your post, it certainly frames the available information in a very "enlightening light".

Overall, credit where credit is due. Excellent post.

The idea is crazy, I know, b/c there has never been a mention of a rev limit, and most people go out of their way to explain how the tires cause all of the bikes go roughly the same speed in the absence of rev-limits, bore limits, or fuel restrictions. I'm not saying that is incorrect, but.....

I have it on good authority that the FIM rev limit does indeed exist, and that it is in fact 13,300rpm (12,500rpm + 100rpm per 1000cc season) for 1000cc motorcycles, but I have no knowledge or understanding of what classes (e.g. WSBK, Superstock, WSS) homologated rev limits apply to or how they are enforced. I also don't know if the rev limit changes; however, the minor increase in bore for all SBKs make it appear that engine speeds are increasing according to some schedule.

I also found an article where Biaggi says that Aprilia gain the "normal" engine performance between 2009 and 2010. Did anyone know there was a set amount of horsepower the engines get each season?

BTW, Sherlock Holmes is Arthur Conan Doyle. Christie created Hercule Poirot.

It's possible that the budget required to ensure the success of Rossi's campaign has scuppered the WSB effort.

But IMO it's equally possible that Ducati has no roadbikes in the pipeline to hit back at the RSV4 and S1000RR? Which look like dominating production racing for a few years to come, the odd Honda victory notwithstanding. Plus a new ZX-10R in the wings which might dust the Ducatis as well.

Sad to see them go but they have certainly been a major part in the success of WSB as a series... they'll be back.

Oh the horror. I guess there will be some teams popping up like Ten Kate. But to not see the big Red Factory. Hater of Ducati or not, people have to admit that is going to take a little more away from WSBK. With Vale on in the Motogp team, it is easy to see why they would throw most of their racing effort behind him.

Still, cannot wait until the new Ducati's they are working on come out. With more development work being done on the new ones, you KNOW it is going to be something special.

Sad to see them go though. Been a fan of their racing team from the Carl "Foggy!" Fogarty, to Haga last year. Maybe they will come back after Rossi retires.

I have a feeling that Ducati just didn't see a favorable return on their investment if Aprilia is just going to step in and beat them at their own game. The combination of reduced sponsorship, reduced sales (or profit), Aprilia's success, the opportunity to make the most out of their dream MotoGP program and the impending drama of the shift in the rules of the leagues points to this just being a wise decision without much conspiracy. I'd bet there will still be a few Ducatis on the grid next year, but possibly none the year after. If they shift from making WSBK race replicas to MotoGP race replicas I don't think their market share for sport bikes will suffer. Maybe it's a good example for the Japanese factories to 'race on Sunday, sell on Monday' with consideration of only one league. Another example of duplication of services that can be remedied.

Looks to me that the deminished returns argument won out in the end. The current 1098/1198 is long in the tooth and sitting at the peak of its development. To make it compete with the big 4 and Noale, they are going to have spend alot more money. Forget the current economic climate argument. Just good old common sense will tell you that if you have to spend double or more than your competition to be competitive then its not worth the money. Especially when they have an all new bike in the pipeline. Ducati is wise to take a year or 2 off from WSBK to develop a new bike and then return in the exact same way Aprilia did last year. It will be good for the sport and create buzz when they do return. The Superquadra, or Superquadratta or whatever its called looks to be very interesting, if that is indeed the bike they are developing. Id like to think that they wont be building a V4, but MotoGP and even Aprilia have proven that it is a viable design to be competitive. Throw their racing budget for 2 years into design and then return to competitive form. Very wise in general, the current economic climate not withstanding.

"Looks to me that the deminished returns argument won out in the end. The current 1098/1198 is long in the tooth and sitting at the peak of its development."

This is exactly what I was thinking. Ducati has been saying for a couple years now that twin development is prohibitively expensive.

It's getting to be kind of a joke how twins keep getting displacement increases just to keep them viable anyway.

Ducati's problem is that they've built their whole identity and brand around the twin.

I think this is a good play. Fans, media, spectators, ducatisti will now focus their attention on the V4 GP bike for a few years, begin the mental switch of associating twins to Ducati to 4's to Ducati, at the same time having a superstar rider promote the switch in identity, eventually returning to SBK with a production-based 4.

Good-bye duc twins... it was a nice run.

Aren't Aprilia doubling up their team? Maybe he can find a seat there...

Although I don't see why Herve wouldn't want him around for another year, especially if Crutchlow is gonna be Ben's replacement.

Maybe... although they already have an experienced rider in James (and a champion no less).

The way Haga has ridden this year it almost seems like he's had it, I wouldn't be surprised if he retired.

...couldn't his lackluster year be attributed to the Ducati being past the pinnacle of its development? I'm willing to bet that he would be much closer to top-tier riding if he was on a better bike. (BTW, I can't believe that I'm saying that about a Ducati...)

But then again, maybe that's just me being sympathetic. I really like ol' Nori. I think he's a great guy and a class act.

Also, regarding the Aprilia, they ARE losing their gear-driven cams. How much peak HP do y'all think that'll cost them? Is it really THAT much of an advantage? (C'mon, resident engineers, teach me something here!) :)

"...couldn't his lackluster year be attributed to the Ducati being past the pinnacle of its development?"

I like Nori too, and I had really high hopes for him this year.

At the end of the day though, he should be top Ducati. Carlos is in 4th and that just looks bad... for both factory riders.

In principle, a gear train cam drive can withstand high revs better and because there is less flex than in a chain drive, the timing is more precise/constant. Still, the first advantage only counts when you are really revving higher and I don't know if the Aprilia V4 is actually doing that. How much difference the second advantage makes, I have no idea.

I love the Ducati twins and their history but racing them is a different story-EXPENSIVE!! Any links to leaks on the v4 road Duc? (besides the unobtanium Desmosedici...)

What I understand about the 2012 Ducati WSBK bike is that it will be an extremely oversquare V twin, not a V4. That's certainly what Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio told Cycle World earlier this month. 

...that said Ducati were looking at making an "undersize" MOTO GP engine, so as to keep extremely oversquare engine dimensions in order to maintain their strategy of extremely high revs.

My confusion with this stems from the maximum bore allowed. I suppose I was under the impression that everyone would be using the maximum bore allowed (81mm), meaning that they would all have the same stroke. Am I right in assuming that not all teams will be using the maximum bore? I haven't crunched the numbers regarding what the stroke would be if the bore were at the 81mm max (and what the stroke would be with smaller bores), but I guess that I figured all engines would be made on the maximum bore allowed. Also, is there to be a cap on the revs of the new 1000cc engines?

I still get pretty dang "leaked" off with the whole idea of fuel limitations...and the pointlessness of it all...

There is also a 2 page spread in this months Motorcyclist about the suspected bike and a rendering of what it may look like.

Frameless with the engine being the stressed member of the chassis, oversquare 90 degree twin, but the are changing the angle that it is mounted in the bike. Decent article. Talks about how this is based on the study they did for a twin cyl MotoGP bike from 2002.

I was talking about the new MOTO GP 1000cc bike for 2012.

That said, yes, I did see that picture in MotorCyclist. Pretty incredibly cool.

I was really impressed by the technology involved in that new bike. Especially considering that it is destined to be a road bike!

Any thoughts on the 1000cc Moto GP bike?

When I hear yet another person saying things like: 'It's getting to be kind of a joke how twins keep getting displacement increases just to keep them viable anyway.', I know they don't know anything about engine technology.
First of all, they don't keep on getting displacement increases. The limit was 1000 cc since the start of the championship, and even when the fours were getting a displacement increase from 750 to 1000 cc in 2003, the twins still stayed the same for some more years. And anybody having some knowledge of laws of physics can see that with the same level of technological development, a twin will never be able to produce the same power as an equal-capacity four (or any engine with more than two cylinders). A matter of valve area and especially inertia forces that mean they can not rev as high, and revs are the biggest factor in getting power.
Even when in 2008 they did get the capacity increase, it was only 200 cc, which is just 20% more and from a technical point of view that is still quite modest. Next to that, they got an weight penalty AND an air restrictor, which none of the fours get.
And don't start about the extra torque, because that gets cancelled out by the necessary taller gearing because of the lower rev ceiling. All in all: Ducati just did an amazing job with their twins, especially in the year that Bayliss took the title with the 999 against all the 1000cc fours. That was bloody impressive.

Having said that, KTM are doing a very good job in the IDM with the RC8R (currently being second behind Muggeridge on the Honda), so let's hope they will step up to the World Championship and fill the gap.

I know enough to know that what you just said was precisely what I was implying, so I'll let you say it for me again:

"And anybody having some knowledge of laws of physics can see that with the same level of technological development, a twin will never be able to produce the same power as an equal-capacity four (or any engine with more than two cylinders). A matter of valve area and especially inertia forces that mean they can not rev as high, and revs are the biggest factor in getting power."

That's exactly what my point was. Twins are ultimately an inferior design configuration for racing.

I have to disagree with what you said about Ducati and Bayliss. I'd have to say that Bayliss did an outstanding job DESPITE being on a twin.

For both 2006 and 2008, what standing was the next Ducati in line? Yeah, not so great.

Ha, that changes things. Yes, in that respect I totally agree with you. From a given capacity, twins are inferior to triples, fours etcetera when it comes to making power. Glad you pointed this out. I was thinking from the point of a technically fair formula to let different cylinder counts compete against each other. Which by the way is something that is acceptable in roadbike-based racing, but not in GP's in my opinion. But that's another story...

Given the current racing paradigms (i.e. titanium valves, aluminum internals, and max production bike engine speeds of approx 16,000rpm in WSS) twins are only inferior above a certain capacity.

Let's just suppose that Ducati are capable of revving a 67mm piston to 16,000rpm just like the Japanese 600s. Furthermore, a maximum stroke of 48mm (approx) is required for a production bike to reach the 16,000rpm rev ceiling.

A 67mm x 48mm twin would displace 340cc. Any racing engine under 350cc. If you assume a bore of 81mm and a rev ceiling of 16,000rpm (GP) the capacity is approx. 500cc. Somewhere below 500cc is twin country. Not surprising b/c it's roughly 250cc per cylinder (same as a 1000cc four).

You sound like just the type of "engine"er I want to talk to!

Put simply, I understand your point...and I agree.

And the victory of the "Triple 9" against the 1000cc fours was really, REALLY impressive... Whether or not you look at it as winning despite itself (which would, in my book, make the win all the more amazing!), it was say the LEAST!

Understand that I'm not "stirring up" anything. YOU BOTH have understandable and valid points. Ducati is sticking with their tradition...and they're making it work...against what many (understandably) consider to be a superior package. The Italians...want to do it their way. And I respect that.

Now, on to the new Moto GP bikes coming...any thoughts on the post I just put up above?

You are right, Prof. Powervalve is the kind of engineer who can help. He happens to be arguably the best technical motorcycling journalist in the Netherlands, and writes these kinds of articles for Dutch magazines all the time. I'm proud to have him as a reader of the website.

Can you give me a bit of an education on this little tidbit: PAGES 30-31

Pages 30-31 have a reference to Ducati wanting to make an "undersize" engine for their oversquare engineering plan. I was under the impression that most (if not all) the teams would be building their engines to the maximum bore, meaning that there would be no choice of stroke. That would kill any chances of making an oversquare engine...or at least any MORE oversquare than any of the other teams.


By saying this, is Preziosi saying that he would consider making an engine LOWER THAN 1000cc JUST SO he could have a more oversquare engine design?

Could they give up displacement to the other teams...and then make it up by having a higher rev ceiling?

Obviously, they would be giving up a LOT of torque down low, but could they pull higher peak horsepower from less displacement IF they had a shorter stroke and higher revs?

Also, will there be limits on the revs?

If so, wouldn't that defeat the purpose of having radically oversquare engine architecture?

I really DO have a burning desire to learn more. I think that I have a LITTLE bit of understanding of how this all works (and I hope that my questions somewhat show at least an elemental grasp of it all), but I know for certain that I know very little. If David says that you are the man that can help, then that's all the endorsement you'll EVER need with me. I hope that the questions are valid ones, and I look forward to your answers.


(p.s. Where in the Netherlands do you live? I lived on Eleanor Rooseveltlaan in Amstelveen for a year or so. Just off the Beneluxbaan at the Zonnestein stop for the "5" and the "51"...)

(p.p.s. Pages 20-21 of the above-referenced issue of gpweek also have THE best little article on Rossi's leaving for Ducati that I have yet read. Really golden stuff.)

I heard about those plans of an undersized engine from Ducati some time ago and I am also a bit puzzled. Especially since there now seems to be a sort of grey area between the full prototype 800's we have now and the road bike engine-based 1000's that will be allowed in 2012. Apparently prototype engines now also will be allowed to have 1000 cc by then, but with less engines per season and less fuel capacity. It is all becoming very confusing.
Anyway, the only reasons I can think of to NOT use the full 1000 cc are maybe a slight handling advantage (like in motocross, because of the smaller and lighter rotating parts, although that would at least partially be offset by higher revs) or a better fuel economy from a smaller engine - although that too would be at least partially offset by the higher revs and therefore bigger friction losses. I can not imagine that you will get more horsepower by only shortening the stroke to raise revs (unless you're starting off with a very long-stroke Harley Sportster engine, maybe).
All in all, it will depend on what the rules will eventually be. And as we know, they make up new rules every two months or so these days.

I must say that although I have lots of respect for what Ducati has achieved in Superbike racing, I am a bit disappointed in their comment about the tendency towards expensive prototypes in the Superbike class. Obviously, they are referring to the Aprilia RSV4 resembling a MotoGP bike, more precisely the Honda and Suzuki with their 75-degree V4's. And this complaint is coming from a manufacturer that has always produced exotic and expensive homologation specials as a basis for their Superbike race bikes. Aprilia on the other hand has built a completely new bike from scratch and did that using the latest available technology, exactly like any designer should, and is putting it on the market for people to buy at a normal price - even the Factory version is lots and lots cheaper than the 1098R/1198R. So, well done Aprilia! We as motorcyclists can now enjoy the developments made in the pinnacle of motorcycle racing.

I thought they were referring to the 80mm BMW bore dimensions. The Aprilia only features 78mm bore which isn't that big a deal (1.5 bore stroke), it's the same as Yamaha.

What is important is that the old rulebook had a rule which rev limited bikes with bore/stroke limits higher than 1.5:1. The BMW is higher than 1.5:1 and the manufacturers generally regard this as bad form for 4-cylinder engine design. Still pot calling kettle black situation b/c Ducati's 999R engine was 1.8:1.

I think Ducati realized WSBK was not really stimulating their sales numbers. It is practically non-existant in North Amer and Asia. Europe they've hit a plateau. If they want to sell more bikes - their golden goose is Rossi. Italy will now go into over-drive hysteria. North America ditto. Asia sort of ditto. WSBK - have to bite the bullet sometime.

Am sure the technical reasons cited above are all perfectly valid and probably add to the argument, but methinks there is a commercial angle that prompted serious introspection. Given their less than stellar business track record, Ducati needs to ensure the future. And there ain't no space for sentiment in it.