Without a shadow of doubt, courage, ambition, pride, ingenuity and heritage all form the basis of the Ducati Desmosedici project. This important venture has simultaneously marked the return of Ducati to the MotoGP World Championship, and enabled the company to confirm its tradition of manufacturing successful, high-performance, four-stroke racing motorcycles.
In the past Ducati racing motorcycles have been victorious at circuits throughout the world in every category of production-based racing: World Superbike, Formula 1 TT and World Supersport.
Ducati abandoned the Grand Prix racing scene at the start of the 1970s. For many years the 500 class was essentially a class for two-stroke bikes, an engineering technology that was far removed from the four-stroke road-going machines sold by Ducati. The technical rules changed in 2002, giving priority to four-stroke machinery and turning the 500 class of World Road Racing into the MotoGP Championship. This convinced Ducati to make a much-awaited return to the track in the new MotoGP class.
The 2002 Italian GP at Mugello was the venue for the unveiling of the Desmosedici, the bike that was to make its official MotoGP racing debut at the start of the following season.
2003 would see the Italian manufacturer make a spectacular return to the championship with a project that had begun two years earlier and which had been developed by the Bologna manufacturer’s racing department. Vittoriano Guareschi, the Ducati Corse test-rider, followed every phase of the Desmosedici’s development process from early testing to track debut and the project’s evolution.
While still fully committed to Superbike racing, Ducati was also embarking on this exciting new challenge, taking part in the MotoGP World Championship for four-stroke prototype machines with the Ducati Marlboro Team of Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss.
In its debut year, the Desmosedici GP3 immediately scored a series of fantastic results with Loris Capirossi, who stepped onto the podium in the opening round of the championship in Japan and who won the GP Catalunya in Barcelona. The Italian finished fourth in the final championship standings, the Australian Troy Bayliss sixth, while Ducati finished second overall in the Manufacturers’ standings.
In 2004 the Desmosedici GP4, again in the hands of Capirossi and Bayliss, underwent a series of major modifications. A large part of the season went by before the bike became competitive, but the season concluded with both riders on the podium.
The evolution of the Desmosedici continued and the GP5 version lined up for Ducati’s third season in MotoGP. This time the big difference lay with the tyres; thanks to a collaboration agreement with Bridgestone, Ducati could finally contribute to the development of new tyres and by the end of the season it had become a very competitive machine indeed. Capirossi took two fantastic wins in the Grand Prix of Japan at Motegi and in the Malaysian GP at Sepang, while Carlos Checa, who had replaced Troy Bayliss, scored a brace of podium finishes.
After encouraging winter tests, the Desmosedici GP6, again in the hands of Loris Capirossi, took its first win of 2006 in the opening GP at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, a result that was immediately followed by a podium in Qatar. Loris’s team-mate for the 2006 season is Spain’s Sete Gibernau.
“The philosophy of the Ducati Desmosedici project,” declared Filippo Preziosi, Ducati Corse Director General, “is best expressed as total integration between engine, chassis and rider. This basic concept has been our philosophy from the very moment that we decided to tackle this new challenge. The bike represents an important evolution over the Ducati Superbike and is the result of new design techniques that have allowed us to integrate ‘virtual’ modelling and analysis with our considerable racing experience. This has speeded up design and development time and enabled us to immediately obtain surprising results. Ducati is fully committed to this project, which has allowed us to grow quickly and transfer new technology to our streetbike product range, which as a result has become increasingly reliable, thrilling and high-performance.”
At first, Ducati’s MotoGP technicians (a group of passionate engineers with an average age of 28) had considered the possibility of creating a MotoGP ‘super-twin’, a latest-generation V-Twin prototype, taking advantage of the regulations that give twin-cylinder machines a considerable weight reduction over four, five or six-cylinder bikes. However, detailed analysis, including numerous computer simulations, indicated that a twin-cylinder engine would just not have been able to produce the required amount of power (more than 230 HP), without excessively increasing the number of revs. A Twin would have had to rev at over 17,000 rpm, but this would require a very short stroke and a very large bore, as a result producing possible combustion problems.
Ducati therefore opted for a brand-new V4 engine, which continued the traditional layout of its 90° L-Twin engines, together with desmodromic valve control. This marriage of tradition and innovation proved to be the path to follow. The engine was called Desmosedici because its 16 valves were controlled by the desmo valve train system, a key factor in Ducati’s numerous successes on the track.
The tried and tested V-90° layout offers a number of advantages that have contributed to Ducati’s success on the track and allowed the Desmosedici project to achieve major results. The layout of the cylinders guarantees perfect primary engine balance, an important characteristic for an engine that is required to rev up to 17,000 rpm with minimum vibration, thus improving mechanical efficiency and reliability.
The desmodromic system, designed for Ducati by the legendary engineer Fabio Taglioni, uses rockers both to close and open the valves, and this allows the engine to function with extraordinary precision at all rpm.
For the first tests, Ducati Corse produced two versions of the Desmosedici engine, one with a regular firing order, and the other with paired cylinders firing simultaneously (Twin pulse). It soon became clear that the latter version put the engine components through excessive strain, so it was decided to use the first configuration. Subsequently, starting from the 2004 Dutch TT at Assen, thanks to the evolution of the engine, the irregular firing Twin pulse version was used which gave better driveability.
Ducati has also always aimed at excellence in performance through courageous and innovative choices, such as the chassis of its bikes. While other manufacturers race with different versions of an aluminium box frame, the Desmosedici has a tubular steel trellis structure, similar to the one used with great success in World Superbike.
During the May 2004 WDW (World Ducati Week, the massive rally held every two years that attracts Ducatisti from all over the world), the much-awaited announcement was made that Ducati would develop a Desmosedici Racing Replica!
A road version of the all-Italian MotoGP bike from Bologna would soon be available and on sale throughout the world.
For this new project, Ducati decided to transfer the Desmosedici RR the developments and advancements of the Desmosedici over the past two years in order to offer the general public the closest thing possible to the GP6.