Right out of the box, Ducati's Desmosedici proved to be a competitive bike, even demonstrating areas of excellence against rivals with more experience, but the coming season promises even more from the Italian marque.

The Desmosedici project capitalised on Ducati Corse's four-stroke competition experience from years of World Superbike success and, guided by the knowledge that lap times are the only sure-fire sign of competitiveness, the team's engineers organised the MotoGP project with the sole aim of creating a prototype that combined that experience with the new possibilities offered by the MotoGP regulations.

The data acquired by the Ducati Marlboro team during the 2003 season - from 16 GPs and over 30 days of testing carried out by Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss, and the development team with Vittoriano Guareschi completing more than 30,000km last year - enabled the engineers to better understand the areas where improvements can be made for the 2004 version.

Many changes have been carried out, and more than 60 per cent of the 915 individual components that make up the new bike are totally different, to the extent that they cannot be interchanged with the previous version.

"The experience we gained in 2003 was fundamental for the creation of the GP4," explains Ducati Corse technical director Filippo Preziosi, "With the aim of improving the bike's overall performance and rider comfort, we intervened in various areas of the chassis and the engine. The result is a major evolution of last year's bike. The project is very young and it is natural that, in this phase, the changes will make the GP4 considerably different to the GP3, albeit remaining faithful to the basic philosophy."

The D16 GP4 has differences in many areas, not least the bodywork which, although outwardly similar to the previous version, has been completely redesigned in order to improve cooling while still maintaining the bike's excellent aerodynamic characteristics. It is also made up of four components instead of two in order to improve access for the mechanics.

The front mudguard is new and enlarged to improve the aerodynamics and increases airflow towards the radiator. The front fork maintains the stiffness of the latest 2003 version, but uses 42mm instead of 50mm forks, which enables weight to be saved.

The exhaust system is now produced in titanium by Termignoni and has been completely redesigned. It sports two 'two-into-one' pipes, with the vertical cylinder head arrangement terminating under the tail unit, like last year - and in the best Ducati tradition. The horizontal cylinder arrangement terminates on the right of the bodywork. The new exhaust lay-out has enabled the fuel tank to be modified and, furthermore, has been designed to improve power delivery.

The fuel tank now extends under the seat to improve a better centre of weight and gravity. It sports an indentation in the front edge, which contains the main electrical components, supplied by Magneti Marelli with new software. The design modification has also been made to centralise weight.

The swing-arm is made from pressed aluminium, and has been completely redesigned to be lighter than the previous version while retaining the same stiffness.

The tubular steel frame, typical of all Ducati production machines, is different around the engine mountings, making it easier to assemble and remove the engine itself. The dimensions remain the same as the 2003 version.

The airbox is larger than the previous version, thus contributing to an increase in power and a difference in the torque curve, while the engine has a new combustion chamber and a number of changes to reduce internal attrition. Further changes have also been made to reduce weight. The result is more power - now said to be in excess of 230bhp at 16,500rpm, an increase of around ten bhp and 500rpm over the 2003 version.

"All the technical partners with whom we are in contact on a daily basis have contributed in a decisive way to the development of the Desmosedici and the increase in performance," commented Preziosi, "To mention just two, Shell Advance, together with whom we develop lubricants capable of improving the performance and reliability of our engine, and Michelin, with whom, amongst other things, we are developing 16.5" front tyres, which have been used successfully for many years by Ducati Corse in Superbike."

The evolution will continue throughout the racing season, both on the Ducati Corse test benches and on computers, guaranteeing not only a continuous improvement in performance, but also a constant increase in Ducati know-how, which will be used for the development of road-bikes, as in the best tradition of the Bologna manufacturer.