2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale Superquadro

It’s Still a 90-Degree Desmo V-Twin, but that’s All!

By James Parker, Photography by Ducati

When the specifications of a new engine first appear, we usually take the corporate superlatives with a few grains of salt. So when Ducati calls the 2012 1199 Panigale Superquadro’s bore and stroke dimensions “incredible,” we get skeptical.

It’s got a bore of 112mm—a full 6mm wider than the 1198. That’s big, especially relative to the 60.8mm stroke, which is more than 7mm down from the previous 1198 Superbike. Those dimensions break fresh engineering ground, and the new engine was literally built around them. The 90-degree V-angle remains, but is rotated back 6 degrees to make the engine shorter. That rotation, along with the shorter stroke, allows the engine to move 32mm closer to the front tire for a more forward weight bias.

Big pistons mean big valves: 3.3mm larger intakes and 3.7mm larger exhausts. Big also means heavy—unless those valves are titanium, so titanium it is. Since big valves also put big stresses on the valve gear, Ducati’s desmodromic actuation becomes even more necessary to prevent unwanted motion with aggressive cam timing and high revs. Cam and rocker faces get special finishes and coatings.

In a break from Ducati’s traditional toothed-belt timing, each cylinder/head pair has a roller chain turning a gear that in turn meshes with gears on the ends of the intake and exhaust cams. Few Ducatisti will miss replacing cambelts every 12,000 miles. To make the starting hardware smaller and lighter, a crafty decompression system uses a centrifugal mechanism on one or both exhaust cams to allow full compression once revs rise past tick-over. We looked to see if the cylinder heads were identical, but the requirements of the camchain tensioners dictate no—the front and rear heads are unique parts.

The huge, oval throttle bodies topping each head have an “equivalent diameter” of 67.5mm. Each carries two injectors: one under the throttle plate for best response and a showerhead injector above for top-end power. Throttle plates are controlled by independent ride-by-wire motors, with the rider free to choose between various Riding Modes depending on conditions.

There’s plenty new in the vertically split crankcase, as well. Modern plain bearings support the crankshaft, creating a stronger, quieter bottom end. An efficient, geroter-type oil pump supplies oil at the necessarily higher pressure and volume. “Wet” cylinder liners of Nikasil-coated aluminum slip into the cases.

The traditional Ducati dry clutch is gone, replaced with a more durable, wet, slipper-type unit, which is also quieter, though “loud clutches save lives” advocates will miss their rattle. There’s more distance between transmission-shaft centers to make room for bigger, stronger gears, and the transmission shafts are stacked to reduce engine length. Those big pistons can act as parachutes as they descend into the crankcase, so the 1199 uses a MotoGP-style vacuum pump to lower crankcase pressure and thus reduce pumping losses. Mounted on the right side of the crankcase is an oil-to-water heat exchanger plumbed directly into the oil gallery.

There has been a lot of talk about Ducati’s so-called “frameless” chassis concept, and we’ve all seen the patent drawings. The new engine shows that concept in action. There are two prominent studs on the intake side of each cylinder head that serve as mounting points for the box structure of the steering head (and airbox). As on previous Ducatis, the swingarm pivots in the rear of the crankcase. Attentive spy-photo watchers have seen the 1199’s shock mounted on the left side of the bike, forward of the swingarm pivot. Sure enough, looking at the left side of the rear cylinder crankcase area and head you can see the three mounting holes for the shock mount plate—another dead giveaway for the “frameless” feature.

What does this engine promise in perform-ance? Ducati is very specific—and deadly serious: a claimed 195 horsepower at 10,750 rpm, and 98 lb.-ft. of torque at 9000 rpm. Those are heart-stopping numbers! If yours is still ticking, we’ve heard unconfirmed reports that the engine/chassis combination will undercut the current 1198 by around 20 lbs.

The 1199 Panigale Superquadro is indeed a line drawn in the sand, demonstrating a long-term commitment to production-based Superbike racing and Ducati traditions. Some have said that the Desmosedici’s current problems in MotoGP should call into question frameless construction. We haven’t actually seen the 1199’s chassis yet, much less ridden it, but if this engine provides an indication as to the ferocity of the rest of the package, we can’t wait to see the rest!

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