Superquadrata - Ducati's 2012 WSB return?

Ducati pull out of WSB. Rumours say it's to pay Rossi's salary. Is that just a smokescreen?

RUMOURS THAT Ducati's decision to quit World Superbike racing represents a hiatus rather than an end are gathering pace with increasing numbers suggesting the firm is already well advanced with the development of a new superbike to challenge for the title.

The rumours of a Ducati “Superquadrata” (which means over-square – a reference to the new machine's supposed big-bore and short stroke) have been gathering pace since the summer, but the firm's decision to ditch WSB,  instead concentrating on MotoGP and its new acquisition, Valentino Rossi, cast doubt over the plans for a new WSB-ready superbike.

Here's what's been said so far; the new machine is reckoned to be a V-twin, like the firm's existing superbikes, but with an entirely new engine featuring a massively over-square bore and stroke ratio to give incredibly high revs and power. The motor is said to be planted in a chassis-less bike, using a stressed airbox to link the headstock and cylinder heads, with a second stressed element fixed to the crankcases and providing the swingarm pivot. In short, it's the same chassis concept as the Desmosedici GP9 and GP10 machines. Both carbon fibre (for a homologation-spec “SP” or “R” version) and aluminium for the base model are being trialled as materials for the new chassis; the steel trellis is gone.

Unlike the GP bike, the new road and WSB model is reckoned to be keeping the firm's trademark single-sided swingarm.

The engine itself – according to the rumours – is a development of a stillborn project developed by Ducati before it entered MotoGP. Back then, the firm originally hoped to run a V-twin, only eventually plumping for a four-cylinder motor when it realised it couldn't achieve the power it needed without adding more cylinders.

Those are the rumours, but how much is fact?

The truth is that we don't know. Leaving WSB for just one year seems odd, but with a new bike on the way, spending more money developing the old 1198 with little prospect of regaining the title, would have been a fruitless project, so it could just make sense. Could the firm return in 2012? It's a possibility if Ducati believes its new bike has the potential to win.

Leaving the new machine's launch until next year makes sense, too. Sure, Ducati could have tried to rush the project through, perhaps homologating the machine in time to race a year before it reaches production – as BMW did – but that would be throwing away a huge marketing opportunity. By keeping the bike a secret until late 2011, Ducati will be in a position to milk its Valentino Rossi connections; this could be the “developed by Rossi” Ducati road bike which several insiders close to the Rossi-Ducati deal have suggested is an inevitable part of the plan. Even if, in reality, it's development was already well underway before Vale swung a leg over a Desmosedici.

Whether Ducati returns to WSB or not, it is sure to be developing a new superbike; the Diavel may suggest a change of direction at the firm but it's not about to desert it's core market by leaving its superbike range unimproved for long. Is the next bike really going to be a frameless, MotoGP-derived, Rossi-tested technological wonder? The rumour mill says so. It's been wrong before, of course, but the evidence for this one is starting to stack up.