Way back in 2002 Ducati surprised the biking world when it showcased its new V4-powered sportsbike: the GP3. It was to hit the MotoGP scene in time for the 2003 season, with Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss atop this beautiful and capable bike that powered Loris to a podium in its very first outing, before rounding
off the championship in fourth place.
Much of the reason for the model’s success was its V4 motor, which was configured in a traditional Ducati-esque 90-degree format. This ‘super twin’ configuration had both benefits and drawbacks – it was naturally perfectly primarily balanced, so could take the high revs necessary to make its claimed 230bhp. But the wide V-angle, while allowing lots of room for an airbox/injectors in between its cylinders, was long compared with a more compact narrow angle V5 or inline four, so packaging it in the chassis to keep the wheelbase short was tricky.
However, Ducati’s knowledge of the V-twin, not to mention the fact the Desmo valve train meant they didn’t have to resort to complicated pneumatic valves to stop valve float (resonance in the valve spring causing the valve to not shut properly) saw the firm stick with the V4. Interestingly, Ducati experimented with a variety of firing orders from the regular V4 configuration to ‘twin pulse’ (or big bang) where pairs of cylinders fired together before finally settling on the irregular twin pulse that the Panigale V4 runs.
Unlike the Panigale, and most MotoGP machines of today, the Desmo’s motor, which was based around the GP6 model, rotated clockwise. Its 989cc capacity was outlawed the following season when MotoGP machines went to 800cc, so the decision to capitalise on the brand’s engine development by producing 1500 road-going versions could, and should, be considered as a sound economic decision by the Bologna-based bike builders that gave the public a truly delicious taste of the exotica that may not have otherwise ever come our way.
What’s it like to ride? Jack Thompson will tell you. Turn to page 46 of the October issue of MoreBikes – read online here