Superbike Litership: The Fine Art Of Having Enough Gas In The Tank

Kyle Wyman at speed on his Ducati at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. And hoping he doesn’t run out of fuel. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

On average, a MotoAmerica Superbike needs approximately 22 liters of fuel on-board to line up on the grid, do a sighting lap, a warmup lap, and complete a race. Seems fairly simple to just make sure to put around 22 liters of fuel in your bike’s tank before a race.

A stock Ducati Panigale V4R has a 16-liter fuel tank. You don’t have to be a math whiz to realize immediately that you can’t use a stock fuel tank on a Ducati Panigale V4R if you want to race the motorcycle in the EBC Brakes MotoAmerica Superbike class.

Custom-fabricated Ducati Superbike fuel tank 1.0 displayed Wyman’s number 33 nicely, but didn’t yield the needed 22 liters of usable fuel.

KWR Ducati rider Kyle Wyman has faced this scenario before. Prior to this season, Wyman raced a Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike in MotoAmerica. That particular model of motorcycle is a 19-liter fuel tank in stock form. Again, the math immediately tells you that 19 liters of fuel in an R1 Superbike is not going to get you to the finish line.

In transforming their open-class sportbikes into fire-breathing Superbikes, essentially all of the teams competing in MotoAmerica’s premier class have to enlarge the vessels that hold the fuel on their machines. And a whole host of methods have been employed to increase fuel capacity—everything from cutting a hole in the bottom or back of a stock tank and welding on an extension that fills the space under the seat or actually becomes the base of the seat, to fabricating an auxiliary tank that’s connected to the main tank by a common fuel hose, to making the top of the tank more bulbous and voluminous. Anything that results in an on-board, 22-liter container of fuel is the key.

Wyman knew this about his Ducati just as he knew this about his Yamaha. And he also knew the solution couldn’t be the same. The Yamaha R1 has a transverse-mounted, in-line four-cylinder engine while the Ducati Panigale V4R has a V-four engine. The spaces to put extra fuel capacity on each bike are dramatically different.

It’s well-documented that Wyman and his team got their new bike very late in the preseason, and they had to burn the midnight oil to get the bike ready. Part of the preparation was to create a fuel tank that would hold 22 liters of fuel and still fit on the motorcycle properly.

Custom-fabricated Ducati Superbike fuel tank 2.0 with the fuel pump pickup in a better position to do its job.

The solution was to fabricate an entirely new tank with an extension below and further back on the bike. The custom creation actually created an area for Wyman to display his competition number 33 on the sides of the lowermost portion of the vessel.

Last weekend, however, Wyman and his crew discovered a problem. The positioning of the fuel pump on the bottom of the tank made some of the fuel at the very back inaccessible. The bike was running out of gas with quite a bit of fuel still left in it.

As a precaution, the team had planned to have Wyman skip the warm-up lap and sighting lap and line up for the start of the race on pitlane, a strategy intended to reduce the number of laps Wyman would take and therefore conserve enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag.

Careful calculations, however, led to them scrapping that idea and running the race in normal fashion. Thankfully, Wyman had enough usable fuel to make it across the finish line in both Saturday’s and Sunday’s Superbike races.

Meanwhile, Wyman’s fabricator was already hard at work creating an entirely new fuel tank, with the fuel pump mounted at the very bottom and as far bank on the tank extension as possible.

“Will it work?” we asked Wyman as he was setting up on Thursday in the MotoAmerica paddock. “We’ll see,” he said with a hopeful expression on his face.

Yes, we will all see this weekend during the MotoAmerica Championship of Texas at the Circuit of The Americas’