Ducati bosses have let slip its V4 MotoGP engines are on the horizon for World Superbikes, but are unlikely to be seen until 2019.
Speaking at the Ducati MotoGP team launch at its factory in Bologna, both Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali and Ducati Corse Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti remained coy on the specifics of the plans.
But while Ciabatti confirmed the existing Ducati 1299 Panigale R model would remain in World Superbikes at least until the end of the 2018 season, Domenicali admitted the V4 Superbike is 'getting much closer'.
“The engine development we have made in MotoGP has been exceptional, we have an engine which is very reliable, very light, compact and has a lot of interesting technology,” Domenicali said. “We are seriously thinking of introducing it to regular customers as it is a masterpiece of engineering.
"Of course, [it must be] translated into something that can be sold to customers at a reasonably, even if premium, price. So it will not be an exotic bike like the Desmosedici, but a high-end sports bike. We cannot say when it will happen... but it is getting closer, much closer."
Asked if such a future V4 Superbike would also be raced in World Superbikes, Domenicali was clear: "Absolutely, yes."
Quizzed about Ducati's potential switch away from its traditional V-Twin in WorldSBK, a surprised Ciabatti was keen to focus on the short term goals and extracting the full potential of the existing Panigale.
"We will race with the Panigale in 2017 and 2018,” Ciabatti said. “Obviously, we keep developing because the target is to keep improving the bike. We improved last year in the second part of the season with Chaz. We can be title contenders.
“We want to win with Chaz this year and to do so we are still working on the Panigale in order to improve in a few areas, so still development will go on."
The factory Aruba.it Racing Ducati squad is set to launch its 2017 World Superbike outfit next month having already confirmed its rider line-up of Chaz Davies and the returning Marco Melandri.
Ducati unveiled the first look at its MotoGP racing livery for 2017 as well as new signing Jorge Lorenzo alongside Andrea Dovizioso in Bologna.