A monocoque chassis and gear cam drive may not be all that is lurking inside the next generation Ducati 1199 Superbike. It is entirely possible that the radical new Ducati will feature a seamless shifting gearbox not dissimilar to the one in the Ducati GP11.1 raced by Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi.
The motorcycling world took notice from the very beginning of the 2011 MotoGP season when Honda’s RC212V had a very different engine note due to a new and secret gearbox. Initially critics claimed the diminutive racer had a dual clutch DCT transmission like the VFR1200 roadbike but this was clearly not the case since the technology is forbidden by the rules (and DCT is heavy requiring complex hydraulics).
A patent filing revealed that the Honda system was a completely different technology all together. The overall concept is called seamless shifting. In essence the idea is to change gear ratios without interrupting torque to the driveline. The benefits are clear. Compared to a traditional manual and even more sophisticated dual clutch systems, acceleration is quicker with improved fuel consumption. In addition gear changes can even be made in a corner without upsetting the vehicle dynamics. All of this can be achieved without weight increasing and complicated hydraulics.
One company at the forefront of this new technological direction is Zeroshift in England, founded by ex pat New Zealand engineer Bill Martin. They claim that their new transmission can achieve the same acceleration as a manual one with 7% less throttle (see how it works with this animation). The benefits for a road racer or a sportbike that forms the basis of a World Superbike hopeful are obvious.
An article in the July issue of Motorcyclist magazine hinted that Zeroshift may be the technology behind what is in the Honda RC212V and the company did admit that is is working with two motorcycle manufacturers and to expect a big announcement at the end of the year. confidentiality agreements prevented Zeroshift from naming the partners.
“It’s taken five years to develop an operating system, and in the last year we’ve had at least two customers willing to go further,” design engineer Darren Mescall says. “They’re in the late- prototype stages, and certainly by the end of the year we should have a large announcement.”
Although we have no hard evidence, Ducati News Today believes that the second manufacturer could in fact be Ducati and that the rapid appearance of a Ducati counter to the Honda gearbox relates to plans to already incorporate it in their racing program for 2012 in MotoGP and World Superbikes.
Why else would the company go to the trouble of announcing an acronym for the gearbox (DST for ‘Ducati Seamless Transmission’) when it announced that Rossi would race the GP11.1 chassis in Assen last month.
For the GP11.1, the Corse Department prepared an 800cc engine that installs in the chassis that Ducati engineers are developing for 2012. The bike will also use a new gearbox, the “DST- Ducati Seamless Transmission”, the design process for which began in 2010.
Admitting the design process began in 2010 and the fact that the GP12 likely had the transmission in April when the first testing by Valentino Rossi began explains the fact that Ducati could respond so quickly. The company may have been forced to inadvertently give the game away early. Afterall, it was only consistent issues with trying to make the GP11 MotoGP Ducati competitive for Rossi that forced the company to introduce an evolution variant dubbed the GP11.1. This motorcycle is essentially the 2012 prototype and includes the 2012 engine, de-stroked to meet this year’s 800cc capacity limit. This is the reason why the DST has appeared so early. For its part, a video on the Zeroshift site claims that the first use of the new gearbox technology will be in motorcycles.
Ducati of late have been in a love affair with new technology, introducing Ducati Data Analysis (DDA), Ducati Traction Control (DTC), Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) and electronic riding modes along with ABS. Surely the new Ducati 1199 is the ideal platform with which to add Ducati Seamless Transmission (DST) to the list?
And with the public reveal of the Ducati 1199 in November just months away now, it fits very nicely with the Zeroshift claim of a large announcement by years end.
What do you think? Tell us we’re dreaming. Chime in with your views in the comments section below.