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What to Expect from Ducati for 2017
Another year has come and gone and Ducati has unveiled some beautiful and sophisticated machines, but it's rumored that in 2017 the Italian superbike giant will be making some big announcements. Their factory MotoGP team continues to excel, and at the same time they welcome aboard a world championship winning rider in the upcoming season. Upgrades were made to most models, engine displacement was slightly increased on some bikes, the SuperSport model was launched and Ducati's scrambler line-up continued to grow. So taking a look at what moves were made in 2016, combined with speculating on rumors and sales trends, one can confidently make a handful of assumptions about what's to come next from the Borgo Panigale-based manufacturer.
New SuperBike for 2018?
For the past couple of years there's been talk of Ducati replacing its flagship Superquadro engine with a V4 power plant that's been derived from their Desmosedici GP MotoGP bike. The engineers at Ducati are always looking to squeeze more power out of their engines every year, with their current superbikes displacement already being nearly 1,300cc's, it's pretty clear a major change is on the horizon. The Desmosedici is a beast of a bike, being the fastest outright bike in MotoGP (in MPH's, not lap times), it's easy to see why Ducati would opt for a MotoGP derived engine. This would not only help them to get the most out of their MotoGP R&D investments, but allow them to produce the cutting-edge, race-inspired type of bikes that their reputation has been built upon. The one question that remains though, will we see the Panigale get an all new power plant? Or will we see a completely new model with its own new and sure to be gorgeous bodywork? An announcement sometime in 2017 should answer that.
Ducati's Factory MotoGP Team
With Jorge Lorenzo now signed to Ducati for the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP seasons, the Italian factory team has realistically high expectations. Their bike is noticeably faster than the rest on the grid on the long straightaways, when this is in addition to Lorenzo's ability to ride with laser-precision, speed and consistently when out in front, very well may be a championship winning recipe. The latest Desmosedici GP (Ducati's MotoGP bike) could help Lorenzo with getting the hole shot at the start of races, putting him out front where he can really shine, carrying incredible amounts of speed through the corners and doing it all consistently lap after lap. Even though the experts haven't placed him in their top three for 2017 on the MotoGP grid, Ducati's team's management and leadership has been outstanding and this could be the first championship they take home since Casey Stoner, who still works for Ducati as a test rider, consultant and brand ambassador. The new regulations will ban the aerodynamic winglets that Ducati seemed to pioneer, however this hasn't deterred the Italian factory team as they continue to experiment with ideas to give them an aerodynamic advantage. Recently they tried using carbon fiber wheel covers over the bike's rims. (Photo below)
Ducati to keep on Scramblin'
Ducati further expanded on their already successful Scrambler line, releasing the highly anticipated Desert Sled and Cafe Racer models that have garnered a lot of attention already. The Cafe racer looks awesome and the Desert Sled is one of the few true "scramblers" on the market, being capable of some actual off-road riding. Triumph saw a record year in bike sales and while their Scrambler wasn't the only reason for this, it clearly helped. When other manufacturers see that in a time where the majority of companies are having disappointing sales figures, they likely will gravitate towards what's proven to work which right now means more scramblers. This year also saw not only thousands of Instagram famous custom Ducati Scrambler builds, but a limited edition Scrambler was unveiled (sadly only in Thailand in tiny numbers, I think 58) and it's pretty epic. The Hailwood Scrambler or "Scrambler Hailwood as they call it) is an officially licensed Ducati Scrambler, modified to resemble Mike Hailwood's championship and TT winning 900SS and they knocked it out of the park. With the success of the Hailwood and the rest of the collective Scrambler line from Ducati, it's almost a forgone conclusion already that Ducati will be launching some new Scrambler models for 2017. (CLICK HERE to see more awesome photos of the Hailwood Scrambler aka "Scrambler Hailwood")
Talks of a Moto3 Entry
Unlike Moto2, where all the 600cc engines are supplied by Honda, (although there are rumors KTM may takeover that role) Moto3 uses engines from a myriad of different manufacturers. It was rumored last year and then later confirmed that the Borgo Panigale manufacturer has intentions of building, developing and tuning an engine to be used in Moto3. The plan initially was to fevelope the small displacement engine to have it ready for use in Moto3 by 2018, however since this project's inception priorities have changed, placing said project on the back burner. It's no secret that an immense amount of preparation and work have gone into readying for the arrival of Jorge Lorenzo, putting a myriad of other Ducati projects on hold for the time being. Once the team has completed a full season with Lorenzo, it's likely more focus will be placed back on projects such as the Moto3 power plant, so an announcement of such is likely to be made in 2017, meaning we would see these engines debut in Quatar in 2019.
A mid-size Ducati sportbike for 2018?
Many have speculated about the possibility of Ducati producing a roughly 600cc supersport/race replica bike. Even though Yamaha released a new R6 this year, the 600cc race replica category continues sadly to decline. With Ducati increasing its 899 Panigale to a 959, as well as upping the displacement for several other models, its become increasingly clear the direction the company is going in as far as displacement size. Even their newly released "SuperSport" bike is just shy of 1,000cc's. It costs manufacturers nearly the same amount to develope a 600 as it does for them to develope a liter bike, the only major difference being that they're expected to sell the 600 for far less which has made them no longer financially viable for most companies. Building 1,000cc bikes is simply more profitable and less risky with Ducati being no exception. There were talks of building a 750cc supersport a few years ago so Ducati could compete in the FIM World Supersport Championship but those plans appear to have been abandoned. The bike would have gone by the name of 799 Panigale, with the 749 monicker already having been used. There have also been a few cool artists renderings and concept drawings of a Ducati supersport but it appears that's all they will ever be. While this section may have been a bit of a misnomer, don't be expecting a midsize sportbike unveiling anytime soon.
Hope everyone had a warm, crash-free and overall pleasant holiday!