With two races left on the 2022 WorldSBK calendar, the 2023 arms race is already heating up. On the heels of the recently unveiled 2023 Yamaha YZF-R1 GYTR and BMW M 1000 RR, Ducati just released images, specs and tantalizing details from the upcoming 2023 Panigale V4 R superbike.
Unlike the M RR, the V4 R headline comes pre-written from Bolognese scribes: “Over 240 hp in Track Setup, Limiter at 16,500 rpm.” These figures are made possible with a deft mix of old and new engineering tricks. As is the case every year, this year’s track bike is the closest thing possible to a competition motorcycle in production form.
Before the Tecnici Ducati boosts the pony count to 240.5, the oil-and-liquid-cooled 998 cc V-4 Desmosedici Stradale R starts life with 207 hp at 13,500 rpm. How is that extra 33.5 hp unlocked? Here goes.
The classic benefit of dry clutches is that lubricants can be optimized to do one thing really well instead of two things adequately. Ducati claims a special oil with “racing-type additives” developed by Shell brings a 10% reduction in mechanical friction, resulting in a 3.5 hp increase in maximum power, translating to +4.5 hp at the limiter. It doesn’t hurt that clutch weight is also reduced by 1.8 pounds (800g).
Moving from gearbox to cylinders, the V4 R employs “gun drilled” titanium connecting rods, creating a .06 in. oil passage extending longitudinally from the head to the small end, improving lubrication in extreme conditions. This is said to be a first in production motorcycles.
Additionally, Desmosedici Stradale R pistons get a Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) surface treatment borrowed from MotoGP and Formula 1 engineers to reduce friction between piston and cylinder wall. These pistons also feature new geometry that makes them .04 ounces. (5g) lighter.
A more aggressive intake cam profile brings an increased lift of 0.03 inches (1mm) and is matched to new variable-length horns, which are reduced by 0.2 inches (5mm). This improves breathing at high rpm and unlocks maximum power when matched with the racing exhaust.
That racing exhaust is the tried and true Akrapovič titanium system that shaves 11 pounds of weight and increases power to 237 hp. Since it isn’t street legal, its advantage is not what it does but what it doesn’t do, such as blunt the impact of four shrieking cylinders sending burnt race gas into the atmosphere at incomprehensible rates.
Gearing is borrowed directly from WorldSBK Panigale ratios, now taller in 1st, 2nd and 6th gear. This brings us to the refinements with the Ducati Quick Shift (DQS). Shifts are claimed to be smoother, thanks to refinements in software. At anything less than race pace, EFI gets cut and advance gets reduced for a more seamless riding experience. But at full throttle, DQS employs a “torque restitution phase that guarantees more stability.” An educated guess would be that it compensates for lost rpm by, well, increasing rpm.
The V4 R’s dash is largely unchanged, but now includes a new Power Mode “Track Evo” dashboard display showing engine maps with calibration dedicated to each single gear. As you’d expect, Power Mode has been updated with calibrations dedicated to the Desmosedici Stradale R engine, in Full, High, Medium and Low mode. Fun fact: Nanny Mode, AKA the Low Mode, gives you “only” 160 hp to play with.
All of this rides on revised chassis geometry. Front Öhlins forks are longer by 0.2 inches (5mm) while the rear shock increases from 12.3 inches to 12.4 inches (312 to 316mm). In the now-standard +1 position of the swingarm pivot, rear height increases by 0.8 inches for a higher center of gravity.
Lastly, the 2023 V4 R features new carbon wings and MotoGP-derived racing livery that includes the number 1. Having won the 2021 MotoGP contructor’s championship (but not the MotoGP or World SBK rider’s championship), it’s a fitting and aspirational design.
The Ducati Panigale V4 R will retail for $44,995 in the U.S. and $52,995 CAD in Canada with dealership arrivals expected in spring 2023. Fancy matching Ducati Corse apparel sold separately.