Ducati‘s 2012 Panigale 1199 is powered by the most radical engine seen in any production motorcycle.
Output of the 90-degree V-twin 'Superquadro' (oversquare) is 192bhp (195PS, 143.5kW) at 10,750rpm, while the peak torque figure is a massive 97.6lb.ft (13.5kgm, 132.4Nm) at 9,000rpm, a huge 14.6lb.ft (2kgm, 19.8Nm) more than BMW's S1000RR.
Key to the engine‘s enormous output is the desmodromic valve system, so long cited by many as nothing more than a marketing tool. But the system, which uses secondary rocker arms to pull the valves closed rather than depending on springs, has enabled Ducati to use extremely oversquare bore and stroke dimensions of 112 x 60.8mm, a ratio of 1.84:1 which is way beyond that used by any other manufacturer. As an example, MV Agusta‘s latest Corsa Corta (which means short stroke) engine has a ratio of 1.55.
This means very wide pistons and an ultra short stroke, creating a large area in the cylinder head for unusually large valves, which is exactly what Ducati has done. Compared with the current 1198, the inlet valve size has increased from 43.5mm to 46.8mm and the exhaust valves are up from 34.5mm to 38.2mm. The valves are made from titanium to reduce weight and hence the loads on the valve train, but it's the desmodromics which have allowed the designers to utilise exceptionally steep cam profiles and radical valve timing, combined with these huge valves and high revs. With conventional valve springs these would not be possible, and a less dramatically oversquare design would have to be used instead. Desmodromics also offer much reduced internal friction compared with a valve-spring system.
Even so, the loads are still very high, so the belt drive which has been fitted to Ducati twins since the first 500 Pantah of 1979 has been replaced with a chain and gear combination.
Another radical feature is the automatic decompression system. A centrifugal weight on each exhaust cam retracts below idle speed and as it does it lifts a ramp on the circular section of the opening cam lobe. This holds one of the exhaust valves off its seat, making it easier to turn the engine over, in turn meaning the bike can manage with a lightweight starter motor and smaller battery, reducing the bike‘s overall weight significantly - Ducati claims the saving is 7.3lb (3.3kg). A small indentation is ground into the corresponding region of the desmo cam to allow the 0.2mm of lift. When the engine is running normally, the desmo rocker arm simply jumps across the gap.
The gearbox is also new, featuring larger diameter gears to increase strength, mated to a wet, self-servo slipper clutch, the first wet clutch on a Ducati superbike. The gears are stacked vertically to keep the engine short, and breaking another link with the Pantah, this is the first time different centres have been used between the two gear shafts and the crank.
The cylinders are still set at a 90-degree angle to each other resulting in perfect primary balance and near-zero inertial torque, but in the Superquadro they‘re tipped back so the front cylinder is 21 degrees up from the horizontal, enabling the engine to be moved 1.26in (32mm) further forward compared with the 1198. This helps weight distribution and is also ideal, according to Ducati, for using the engine as an integral component in the bike‘s monocoque frame.
Rather than using separate cylinders, in the Superquadro the cylinder outer walls are integral with the crankcase. Wet aluminium liners are fitted, while the cylinder heads are in effect bolted directly to the crankcase.
All the main covers such as primary drive, clutch cover, sump and cam covers are cast in magnesium to minimise weight.
For the first time, Ducati uses shell main bearings for the crankshaft, finally ending the practice of fitting roller bearings which dates back to the bevel drive V-twins of the 1970s. This allows the larger diameter crank journals deemed essential for the strength necessary to deal with the very high power output, and also means there's more crankcase material around the bearings, increasing strength here.
A feature which has migrated from Ducati‘s MotoGP bikes to the Superquadro is the fitment of a vacuum pump to the crankcase, which scavenges air from beneath the pistons and minimises pumping losses. The pressure is reduced by around 0.7 to 0.8 bar. The pump is an oversized oil scavenge pump which removes much of the air as well as the oil that's drained back into the crankcase.
Despite the cutting edge technology, exotic materials and staggering power output, the Superquadro's major service intervals are the same as other Ducatis at 15,000 miles (24,000km).
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