IS THE PANIGALE V4 R THE BEST SUPERBIKE EVER?

5/28/2019

 According to some, the Panigale V4 R is the best Ducati ever manufactured. In order to lay this doubt to rest, we compared all of the 'Reds' from Borgo Panigale that have raced in the WSBK Championship

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Eleven wins in the first 11 races of the World Superbike Championship: the début of the Ducati Panigale V4 R cut the competition off at the knees, so much that Jonathan Rea, 4-time defending champ with Kawasaki said: "It's like taking a knife to a gunfight." ​

Part of the credit certainly goes to the superior and faultless riding of Álvaro Bautista, which had earned him the 125 class world title in 2006 with Aprilia. The Spaniard managed to adapt quickly to the new category and to the steel Brembo brakes, despite having ridden MotoGP bikes with carbon brakes in the last 8 seasons. ​


The fact that the Panigale V4 R is an uncommon bike was already clear from the braking system on the factory version introduced at EICMA 2017 and equipped with the innovative Brembo Stylema caliper, as highlighted by Paolo Magri (Brembo Motorcycle Business Unit Director) on that occasion. ​


"Stylema is the best OEM brake caliper ever made by Brembo. The advantages it guarantees are so important that we decided to associate them with an excellent supersport bike. We needed a revolutionary bike that will be talked about for years to come. We found just the bike in the Panigale V4 and we are proud to have contributed to its creation."​


 


 

 

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The engineers from Brembo Racing, which has accompanied the wins of the most victorious teams in the highest level global competitions with its braking systems for more than 40 years (from 500 to MotoGP, from World Superbike to Endurance races), did the rest. ​​


All of these wins have unleashed the imagination of the fans, who began to wonder if the Panigale V4 R might be able to aspire to the title of best Ducati Superbike of all times. Right now, its candidacy seems to be justified, but only the results in the coming months (there are still 8 rounds left) will be able to provide us with a definitive answer.​


As we wait to see what happens, however, here are the standings of all the Ducatis that have competed in the World Superbike Championship. The standings are listed in reverse, beginning with the least victorious and finishing with the bike that has won the most World Championship races. And because, since the inception of the championship in 1988, Ducatis have always used Brembo brakes, for each model we will also give you a few specifics about the braking system.​


 

9th place Ducati 1199 (Panigale)​

Although it is the one that has competed in the most editions of the World Championship, 6 in a row from 2013 through 2018, it is also the one that has never won a world title. In all, it took 28 wins, peaking at 11 with Chaz Davies in 2016, but it also went through a dark two-year period (2013-2014) where it was unable to take even one race.​

 

La 1199 (also known as the Panigale) has always used steel discs, alternating diameters, depending on the situation and the rider needs, between 328 mm (lighter) and 336 mm (allowing for harder braking but weighing more) and thicknesses of 5.5 mm 6.5 mm and 7.1 mm. ​ ​

 

Exclusively for World Superbike, Brembo created the Evo caliper, the most futuristic solution since the time of the monobloc caliper: one of its advantages is the use of pads that have a 25% larger surface area compared to a standard caliper. It is available both with the standard bleed screw and in the quick-release version. ​​


 
 

8th place Ducati 851​

It pains our hearts to place the patriarch so low in the standings, because without this thoroughbred, none of the others would exist. However, in the first two-year period, the 851 struggled to be competitive (7 wins in all), redeeming itself in 1990 with 9 wins (and 12 second-place finishes) and the Riders Championship title won by Raymond Roche.​

In 1988, the riders were given ample leeway on brake disc choices: some preferred 320 mm diameter cast iron discs, whereas others, like Giancarlo Falappa, who raced with Ducati from 1990 through 1994, opted for 273 mm diameter carbon discs. ​

The Brembo calipers of that era had 4 varying diameter pistons. They were smaller than the ones used now and had a limited brake pad area. Each caliper was made up of two halves, the only solution that could be made in the late eighties. The pads were also not very high performance when compared to the current ones: sintered pads still did not exist.​


 

7th place Ducati 998​

The 998 also won only one World Championship title, but it was the Manufacturer title. This bike represented the trait d'union between the 996 and the 999: in fact, it was used by the factory team only in 2002, when Troy Bayliss won 14 out of the first 17 races, only missing the Riders title by 11 points. The satellite teams continued to use it for the next two years. ​​

The discs used were similar to the ones that equipped the 996: they were made of steel and had a diameter of 320 mm (although some used the 305 mm) and they were 6 mm thick. Compared to cast iron, steel provides longer duration because it is not subject to wear and it also ensures greater safety. ​

The riders benefited from the 34 mm, radial-mount 4-piston monobloc caliper: compared to the axial calipers, the mount on the fork stiffens both the caliper itself and the entire braking system, significantly improving performance. On the 998, Brembo introduced the Z02 pads that facilitated breaking-in.​


 

6th place Ducati 1098​

Unlike the engine that represents the evolution of the 'Testastretta' mounted on the 999, the chassis architecture of the 1098 was entirely new and the results were immediately clear. It took 2 World Championship titles in 2008 (the Manufacturer and the Rider title with Troy Bayliss), the Manufacturer title in 2009 and both titles in 2011: the Rider title with Carlos Checa.​

Compared to the 999, the ventilated discs disappeared that had been tested and found to be problematic in the break-in phase: although they benefited from a smaller diameter, which meant they weighed less, they tended to heat up too quickly with the risk of warping. The 1098 used 320 mm steel discs that were 6 mm thick.​​

The P4 calipers used from 2008 through 2012 on the 1098 were 34 and 38 mm radial-mounted billet monobloc calipers. However, on this bike they were matched exclusively to the Brembo Z04 sintered brake pads that boasted an extremely high hot friction coefficient, stability and performance that remained consistent throughout the entire race.​


 

5th place Ducati 996​

Following a win-it-all bike like the 916 was no easy task. However, the 996 sent a strong message right away, winning its first 5 races in 1999. That year, it took 16 wins and two titles (the Rider title with Carl Fogarty). After a disappointing year 2000, it was back on the top of the world, dominating (14 wins) with Bayliss, Bostrom and Xaus.​

Contributing to making the chassis architecture of the 996 unbeatable were the new 5-spoke lightweight wheels made by Marchesini (a Brembo group company) and the latest generation braking system, made up of a 320 mm dual front disc and a 220 mm single rear disc, both made of steel.​

The 996 was the first Ducati to use the Brembo radial-mounted monobloc caliper that was developed with Troy Corser: the PFC carbon-metallic pads he used provided less initial bite and a torque curve similar to carbon, ensuring great freedom for the front end, both statically and dynamically.​




 

4th place Ducati 999​

With 63 races won, this is the second most victorious model ever, but the wins are spread out over a 5-year period, which explains why it was left just off the podium. A star performer in 2003 with 20 wins out of 24 races (champion Neil Hodgson), it repeated the performance the following year with 17 wins (James Toseland world title). In 2006, it was another one-two with Bayliss.​

The 999 served as a guinea pig for innovative experimentations on the discs: instead of 320 mm diameter solid discs that were 6 (and sometimes 6.6) mm thick, other teams prefered the 290 mm or 305 mm diameter, 8 mm thick ventilated discs. However, the latter cost more than traditional discs and tended to warp, so they were cast by the wayside.​

Alongside the radial-mounted, 34 mm, 4-piston calipers, Brembo brought the fledgling 38 mm calipers with 4 pistons, but more importantly, 4 brake pads were used for the first time, in other words, one per piston instead of the traditional 2 pads: the Z03 pads are still used today in endurance races because of their low wear.​


 

3rd place Ducati V4 R* ​

An 11-win streak for a bike in its début year is unprecedented: in 2002, the 998 won the first 6 races and the following year, the 999 won the first 9. The total for the V4 R in 13 races is 11 wins and 2 second-place finishes.​

The discs on the Panigale V4 R are still made of steel, but it cannot be compared to the material used 20 years ago: since then, Brembo has experimented with at least 5 or 6 types of steel, managing to improve thermal resistance at high temperatures by at least 20 percent. The current discs have reduced floating.​

The Panigale V4 R uses the Evo2 aluminum calipers, introduced on the market by Brembo a couple of years ago: they are characterized by their quick-release feature, a bleed plug and, unlike the first Evo, a “top secret” technical upgrade that we are not at liberty to disclose. The pads, on the other hand, are the Z04 and they are changed every 250-310 miles.​

​(*) At the time this article was published, despite the 11-win streak in the first 11 races of the season, we feel it is premature to award the Panigale V4 R the title of best Ducati ever. We reserve the right to “update” the position of the V4 R at the end of the season in the standings of all the Ducatis that have raced in the World Superbike Championship, perhaps also revealing some brand new detail about its braking system.​


 

2nd place Ducati 888​

The natural evolution of the 851, the 888 immediately made the difference, thanks to its 13 lbs lighter curb weight than its big sister and its 8 more HP. Twenty-one victories in 1991, twenty in 1992 and 19 in 1993 for a total of 60 in the three-year period out of 78 races ridden. It won 2 Rider Championship titles with Doug Polen and 3 Manufacturer titles.​​

As happened for the 851, on the 888 there were also teams that used carbon discs, but this time 290 mm in diameter (they were 273 mm on the 851), and others that, partly to save money and partly for reasons of feeling, used 320 mm diameter cast iron discs. However, they were all 6 mm thick.​


To compensate for the increased horsepower of the 888 and the reduction in weight, Brembo increased the size of the caliper pistons by 2 mm: one pair were 32 mm and the other 36 mm. Along with this, they launched the Z01 sintered pads (7 and 9 mm thick depending on the use) and the 19x18 brake master cylinder which would remain the standard for 21 years.​


 

1st place Ducati 916​

Springing from Massimo Tamburini's ingenious pencil, the 916 is one of the icons of the manufacturer from Borgo Panigale: its design, the stylistic choices and a super engine won over the hearts of the fans. And on the track it raked in the wins: 65 races, 4 Rider titles (3 with Carl Fogarty, 1 with Troy Corser) and as many Manufacturer Championship titles in 5 years.​

For its first season in the World Championship, the 916 featured 290 diameter carbon discs which, however, were banned starting in 1995 because of the cost containment principle. The best teams switched over to 320 mm steel discs, whereas a very few more affluent teams used 320 mm cast iron discs.​

Along with the rear suspension anchored to the single swingarm, the axial-mounted monobloc caliper made by Brembo made the 916 – a solution that seemed impossible to achieve due to the precision machining of the caliper body – the line of distinction between the old and new supersport street bikes. ​

Coincidentally, the same reasoning that many experts followed when the Panigale V4 R started turning laps on the track: a bike that not only marks the beginning of a new chapter in the glorious history of Ducati, but which is also destined to open up a new era in the field of supersport bikes. And wherever there is a technological revolution, Brembo is always there.​


 

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Brembo S.p.A. | P.IVA 00222620163

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