The twin-cylinder engine is Ducati's signature powerplant, but there are inherent disadvantages that limit maximum power, so the proud Bolognese bike maker is preparing to move to a V-four design for its maximum-performance superbikes in the near future.
The new engine layout is needed to keep Ducati's superbikes competitive, both on the world's tracks and in terms of performance specifications for the street versions of these machines. But Ducati is giving the twin-cylinder superbike a fitting sendoff in the form of the Panigale R Final Edition.
Ducati president Claudio Domenicali explained, "Maybe no other motorcycle manufacturer has bound its name so tightly to an engine as Ducati has to its sports twin-cylinder. Today, we want to pay homage to a twin-cylinder engine that, thanks to incredible torque and compactness, has seen Ducati win races in every superbike championship it has ever participated in."
The Final Edition employs a development of the 1299 Superleggera engine, cranking out 209 horsepower thanks to a lighter crankshaft and titanium connecting rods and valves.
Ducati's racing team led development of the Final Edition's frame, which incorporates the airbox, and helps trim the dry weight of the 1299 Panigale R Final Edition to just 395 lbs. The fork and shock absorber are Öhlins units. The titanium Akropovic exhaust is another race-spec part that helps reduce mass.
Naturally, just like the race bike, the street-going Panigale Final Edition uses advanced electronics to control its incredible power output. In this case, the Bosch-supplied computer provides ABS Cornering, Ducati Wheelie Control EVO, Ducati Traction Control EVO and Engine Brake Control, whose default settings link to the selected riding mode (Race, Sport and Wet) but can be customized.
Ducati has been racing a V-four engine in MotoGP, so the company has ample experience with the configuration, even though customers expect twins from the brand. "We stand on the cusp of a new era in which our desmodromic [valve actuation] system will be used on a new generation of V-four engines derived from extensive experience in MotoGP, a championship in which our engine has demonstrated outstanding performance," Domenicali said.
Ducati launched its family of V-twin superbikes with the seminal race-ready 851 of 1988. Factory rider Marco Lucchinelli's scored Ducati's first victory with the 851 at Donington Park, England in April of 1988, establishing a run of success that extended through the subsequent 888, 916, 996, 998 and 999 models.