IT doesn't take a genius to see the way Ducati's model range tends to evolve and so the fact that a smaller version of the new Panigale – effectively a replacement for the 848 – is the latest machine to be grinding through the internet rumour mill is barely a surprise.
You only have to look at the development record of the last few iterations of Ducati superbike engine to see where the firm's new Superquadro motor is likely go in future. Both the 851/916 Desmoquattro and then the Testastretta and Testrastretta Evo filtered down from the superbikes they first appeared in to eventually power naked bikes (Monster and Streetfighter), smaller bikes (748, 749 and 848) and other random machines like the ST4, Multistrada and Diavel. So despite its incredible 195bhp claims and radical race-inspired architecture, there's little reason to believe that the Superquadro will remain exclusive to the 1199 Panigale. And of all the bikes in the 2012 Ducati range, with the 1198 gone it's the 848 that's looking like the odd man out at the moment. A Panigale-based replacement would simplify production by sharing components with the bigger bike as well as addressing the fact that in comparison with the Panigale, the existing 848 looks a little old-hat.
The intriguing aspect of the latest rumours is the suggestion that the mini-Panigale will actually use a smaller engine than the current 848, dropping back to 750cc (despite a typically-confusing 799 name) to re-open the possibility of the bike entering competition against 600cc four-cylinder supersports machines and the new crop of 675cc triples on track.
Will it happen? Our bet is that yes, a smaller Panigale is inevitable, probably within the next year or so. The smaller motor makes sense, too, provided Ducati can get Panigale-matching power levels from it. If the 1199cc version manages 195bhp, that puts a 750cc model at 122bhp – close enough to rival 600s and 675s, particularly when the extra torque of a 750cc twin is added to the equation. The only problem would be that with a 100cc capacity disadvantage it might struggle to beat the performance of the existing 848Evo, which has a claimed 140bhp (although that's really only around 118bhp at the wheel).