In an interview early last year, Ducati Motor Holding General Manager, Claudio Domenicali announced that the company would not immediately homologate its 1199 Panigale for World Superbike competition. “We will homologate the bike for Superstock, because the technical development is much more related to the production, so we are almost ready to go. While the Superbike, it’s far more extreme change in parts and extreme development, so we have taken our time.” In March of this year, I had the opportunity to test the homologation special of the Italian manufacturer’s superbike, the 2013 1199 Panigale R, and will argue that the wait has paid dividends; the Panigale R is a clear-cut evolution of the lineup and among the quickest production bikes to ever sport Ducati badges.
The Panigale R is not the first homologation special to roll off Ducati’s production line (think 888 SP2, 996 R, 1098 R and more), and like those that came before it, this higher-spec model’s sole purpose is to give World Superbike teams like Ducati Alstare a better platform to work off of. For 2013 in particular, that platform has been enhanced by way of titanium connecting rods, a lighter flywheel, revisions to the bike’s ride-by-wire system and an adjustable swingarm pivot. The track-inspired updates extend beyond the bike’s engine and chassis; simpler revisions include a racing seat that provides greater feel, aerodynamic winglets on the front fairing, a taller windscreen, new final drive gearing and carbon fiber components throughout. In essence, the 1199 R narrows down the chasm between the Panigale S and the bike that Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini will race in the 2013 World Superbike Championship.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
World Superbike regulations were the primary reason for the Panigale R’s engine updates. “On a twin, you can’t change the material of the connecting rods,” explained Claudio Domenicali at the R model’s press introduction in Austin, Texas. “Twins must be much more stock than a four cylinder,” which is why Ducati has gone ahead and equipped the 1199 R with titanium connecting rods that are 1.38 pounds lighter than the outgoing components. A 1.54-pound lighter flywheel mounts adjacent to the updated rods and allows the Superquadro engine to spin up at an alarmingly quick rate. The benefits aren’t just reduced rotational forces either; the lighter internals — in addition to new, DLC coated rocker arms — have allowed Ducati engineers to raise the rev limiter from 11,500 rpm to 12,000 rpm, which also enabled Ducati to outfit the R with a two-tooth-larger rear sprocket at no expense to top speed.
The bike’s shorter gearing provides an impressive torque delivery advantage according to supplied dyno charts. At 87 mph in third gear, there is 10 percent more available torque, and at 124 mph in sixth gear there is 18 percent more available torque. Eddi La Marra, who finished second in the Superstock championship aboard an 1199 Panigale S, sums the change up by saying this: “Now I can use more revs, the gear choice is much less difficult than before. I can maintain the same gear for longer in the curve.” The Panigale R is still slated to produce 195 horsepower at 10,750 rpm and 97.3 foot-pounds of torque at 9000 rpm, although if you’ll remember correctly, none of our 2012 model test bikes were able to produce such figures when strapped to our SuperFlow dyno. New ride-by-wire settings in Race and Sport mode improve engine behavior and increase torque between 3000 and 7000 rpm, continues Ducati.
Chassis changes are limited...
Chassis changes are limited to an adjustable swingarm pivot, which allows the rider/crew to raise the swingarm 2mm (for increased agility) or lower it 2mm or 4mm (for increased grip). Settings are dialed in using two user-friendly eccentric adjusters.
Chassis upgrades are limited to an adjustable swingarm pivot that allows the rider/crew to raise the pivot by 2mm or lower it by either 2 or 4mm via two user-friendly eccentric adjusters. In its highest setting, Ducati claims that the primary benefit is decreased squat and increased agility. The lower pivot positions, for comparison, provide increased squat and improved traction in instances where you’re riding on worn tires. During the course of our time with the Panigale R, we never had the opportunity to move the pivot outside its standard position (the same swingarm position as on the S), although Ducati claims that the lower two positions have provided its Superbike riders the ability to better manage their tires over the course of a race. Eddi La Marra drives the point home by saying, “With the pivot at minus-4, I can push much earlier during the exit of the curve. With more grip on the rear I can keep the bike leaned over for longer. I don’t have to pick it up so early to get on the gas.” We’ll be excited to get a test bike further down the road to test each setting.
The R’s diecast aluminum single-sided swingarm mounts directly to the rear of the engine, just as it does on the standard Panigale, and a monocoque component up front mounts to the Superquadro’s cylinder heads. Said piece houses the bike’s steering head bearings, doubles as the airbox and has allowed Ducati to do away with its time-honored steel trellis frame. Interestingly, rigidity is said to be the same between the two “chassis” setups.
That’s old news now, we know, but worth reiterating is the concept’s benefits in regards to weight; at 417 pounds wet (claimed), the Panigale R is lighter than any other literbike on the market (keen readers will also notice that the R is a whopping 19 pounds lighter than the should-be-light Ducati Hypermotard that we tested elsewhere in this issue). Credit here goes also to the R’s lightweight three-spoke forged and machined Marchesini wheels, Brembo M50 calipers, and carbon fiber components, most of which are carryovers for 2013.
Speaking of carbon fiber, the R gets an extra dose of appeal by way of a CF front mudguard, inner fairing panel, ignition switch panel, shock cover, rear tire hugger, heel guard and swingarm cover. Combine the aforementioned panels with the Ducati Corse graphics and brushed aluminum details on the fuel tank and you have arguably one of the most eye-pleasing homologation specials that Ducati has ever sold.