A performance bike equipped with a Termignoni exhaust, taller windscreen and Ducati’s “aero kit,” is even more a performer than the stock Panigale, with improved aerodynamics that increased our top speed down the straights, more midrange power and an even throatier exhaust note.
The TFT screen is crystal clear and by far the most intuitive of any Ducati models. Adjustments to any mode can be made in mere seconds, plus the display provides varying information in order of importance depending on what mode you’re in. In race mode, for instance, the primary display is lap times.
The DES screen (above), makes suspension adjustments a breeze—what screwdriver?
Even in stock trim the Panigale looks like a racebike, mostly because of its sharper tail section and LED headlights that are tucked deep into the front fairing vents.
With the seat pushed 30mm further forward, the reach to the clip-ons is much more pleasant. The overall seating position is best compared to the Aprilia RSV4, although it feels like you sit more in the Panigale rather than on it.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate how important the 1199 Panigale is to Ducati. Not only does the bike represent the Italian manufacturer’s first attempt at a completely reworked superbike, but it also marks the first time Ducati engineers have done away with the time-honored technology that long made its line of superbikes so distinct. As if the pressure wasn’t already on, the release of the 1199 Panigale directly succeeded the very public failure of Ducati’s similarly constructed GP11 MotoGP bike. Put simply, Ducati engineers need the Panigale to work; if not to put the manufacturer at the top of the literbike class, then to at least reassure it that the time and money invested in developing a monocoque chassis was worthwhile.
It’s not just the bike’s monocoque chassis that separates the Panigale from its 1198 predecessor; rather a slew of technological updates and engine revisions — the 1199 is the epitome of a clean-sheet design. The only engineering concepts that have been carried over, for instance, are Ducati’s 90-degree L-twin engine configuration and proven desmodromic valvetrain. We’ve covered the mass of technical updates in previous issues (Late Braking, January ’12 and March ’12), plus you’ve likely already gone cross-eyed from reading the spec sheet elsewhere, so straight to the important part: what it’s like to ride the Panigale. In case you missed both of our tech-based stories of course, the tech sidebar on page 34 will bring you up to speed.
** Important to note is that the 1199 Panigale comes in three versions: a standard model ($17,995), S model ($22,995) and S Tricolore model ($27,995). Differentiating the S model from the standard model is an electronically adjustable 43mm Öhlins front fork, similarly electronic TTX36 shock and forged Marchesini wheels. The S model is also shipped with an “aero kit,” which consists of two front-fairing attachments that increase aerodynamics. The S Tricolore Panigale features all the aforementioned updates, plus comes standard with ABS, Ducati Data Analyzer + (DDA+) and a one-off Italian livery. Depending on the country, it will also be shipped with a titanium racing muffler kit (something tells us U.S. customers won’t be so lucky as to get this, although we haven’t received official word). ABS can be added to either the standard model or S model, but costs an extra $1000.
My first chance to throw a leg over the Panigale came at Ducati’s international press launch, held at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The provided bikes were Bosch ABS-equipped S models. Convenient, especially considering a 25-mph windstorm was simultaneously battering the track as we lapped. Even when covered with a thin layer of sand, the Formula 1 circuit impressed; its 21-turn layout features everything from tight hairpin corners to a .7-mile main straight that put the Panigale deep in sixth gear.
In years past, Ducati superbike models have gained a reputation for being uncomfortable and downright abusive on a rider’s back. Forget everything you thought you knew about Ducati ergonomics however, because the 1199 Panigale feels like none of its predecessors from the helm. The seat has been pushed forward 30mm, resulting in a shorter reach to the clip-ons. And those clip-ons are now 10mm higher, plus very flat and 16mm wider at each end. The seat feels more recessed, meaning you sit in the bike rather than on top of it — this despite an increase in seat height from 32.2 inches to 32.5 inches. The riding position is similar — but more comfortable — to the Aprilia RSV4’s. That’s to say things are a touch on the tight side for riders over the six-foot mark, but comfortable for the average-sized rider.
Even with the centrifugal flyweight on the exhaust cam acting as a compression release, the Superquadro engine fires up on the slow side — a trait all Ducati engines have had since day one. Once the engine finally barks to life, your ears are met with an exhaust note that’s much more gruff, but still very Ducati-esque. Blip the throttle in the pits and you’ll realize the Panigale is much hungrier for revs, a direct result of the outlandish 1.84:1 bore/stroke ratio that puts the Panigale at the pinnacle of V-twin sportbikes.
On the track, the 1199 is even more unlike its predecessor. The biggest difference is that the 195-horsepower Superquadro engine is more about peak power rather than bottom-end grunt. So whereas the 1198 would wheelie out of corners and force you to ride the tight stuff in a gear higher, the Panigale is much more manageable. By no means is the Panigale a slouch out of hairpin corners though; there’s still enough power from 7000 rpm to warrant exceptional drives. Power builds insatiably from 7500 rpm up to the bike’s 11,500 rpm rev limiter. And while I’d like to hold off on making any direct comparisons to the S 1000 RR, I’ll say now that the Panigale feels equally as strong as the BMW up top.
The 22 pounds that Ducati claims to have cut (wet weight is said to be a scant 414.5 pounds) make the 1199 a much more nimble motorcycle at any speed. On the track, the bike goes exactly where you want it to. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a 600cc machine that steers as quickly as the Panigale, which certainly benefits from the taller, wider handlebars. Past turn-in the Panigale feels much more planted than the 1198, a sure result of the bike’s new 52/48 weight distribution numbers that are identical to Carlos Checa’s World Superbike-spec 1198. Feedback from the chassis is sufficient, although the monocoque chassis feels inevitably different than Ducati’s trellis frame. I noticed the most disparity through the Yas Marina circuit’s fast right-hand turn three, where the chassis seemed to twist just slightly off the throttle entering the turn, then realign as I got back hard on the gas. Whether the feeling is just a trait of the chassis or a concern will be determined upon further testing. For now, I’d say it’s not alarming. And by no means do I feel the Panigale will suffer the same fate as Rossi’s GP11.
In terms of suspension the standard Panigale is no slouch, but the extra $5000 spent on the Panigale S model’s electronic Öhlins suspenders (and other upgrades) may be worthwhile. Put simply, the fork and shock work flawlessly. And making changes via the TFT display can be done anywhere, no matter if you have a screwdriver handy or not. Out back, the two-way adjustable shock linkage provides extremely linear action that enables the rider to put the Panigale’s power to the ground in a smooth fashion.
Brembo’s new M50 calipers are 6.5-percent lighter than the 1198’s units and clamp onto identical 330mm semi-floating discs. They’ve been mounted 15mm further out to increase cooling performance and run smaller pistons (30mm vs. 34mm). Hands down, these Brembo binders are the best production brakes I have ever tested, with tons of consistent power and no overwhelming initial bite. Even when clamping hard on the binders, the Panigale remains completely stable, a trait Ducati engineers attribute to the bike’s increased trail (100mm vs. 97mm) and longer wheelbase (1437mm vs. 1430mm). Surprisingly, I never once felt the ABS system activate, even when braking hard for the chicane succeeding the Yas Marina circuit’s 182-mph main straight.
**The Final Piece To The Puzzle
** The Superquadro engine and monocoque chassis may be the headline of the Panigale’s press kit, but the bike’s electronics suite is what really catapults the 1199 into a class of its own. The electronics are on par with the Aprilia’s, for instance, but more intuitive. And they’re loads less interruptive than the BMW’s.
Each of the three riding modes (Race, Sport and Wet) are selected via a switch on the left clip-on that helps you navigate the colorful, easy-to-read TFT (think iPhone) display buried deep in the front fairing. The modes come pre-set with settings for power output, Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES), Ducati Traction Control (DTC), Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) and Engine Brake Control (EBC). You can customize each mode if you’d like, although I didn’t have enough time to do so at the bike’s launch. Instead, I made a few small changes here and there.
The updated DTC comes set at level two in Race mode, and provides seamless interruption. The cut is so seamless in fact, you’ll think it’s not even activating; the only indicator is the flashing yellow light on top of the TFT display. The system is much more controlling in level five, although the ignition cuts are still extremely smooth and there’s no jerk when power is cut then returned. The big difference then is that you aren’t able to drive off the corner with as much speed.
If the DTC were described as good, then the Engine Brake Control (EBC) would be described as excellent. Three levels of adjustment are available, plus the system can be turned off. I personally experimented with levels one and two (one equals more engine braking, two equals less). You wouldn’t think the small change would be discernable, but I noticed an immediate difference in stability under braking. The back of the bike would dance around in level one, for instance, but in level two the bike remained much more in-line and stable. Match the EBC with Ducati’s new wet, slipper-style clutch and you’ve got perhaps the most composed bike in its class on the brakes.
As previously mentioned, I have absolutely no complaints with the DES. What makes the electronic suspension so great is how easy it is to adjust the settings through the TFT display. Ducati’s quickshifter isn’t as user-friendly and admittedly has some quirks. But while I wouldn’t use the word flawless to describe the Panigale’s quickshifter, the unit works well in most situations to provide open-throttle upshifts. If you’re simply not happy with the DQS, you can easily turn it off.
No word on how the Panigale will work on the street or on anything other than putting-green-smooth racetracks. I did notice a bit of heat off the rear header pipe, although it was less eminent than the heat radiating off the 1198’s exhaust. The footrests are on the slippery side too, which may become a nuisance for Panigale owners.
** The 1199 Panigale is, without question, Ducati’s largest undertaking in decades. It’s the first bike to do away with the Italian manufacturer’s iconic trellis frame, and it’s the first bike to feature Ducati’s new Superquadro engine. Although we at first questioned how the MotoGP-inspired machine would work, I’m happy to admit I had few complaints at the press introduction. Put simply, the Panigale is better than its predecessor in every aspect. The next question then, is it the new king? We’re currently gathering the troops in a mad dash to find out. Look for the 2012 literbike comparison in our upcoming issues! **SR
1199 PANIGALE TECH
** “We made a fluid dynamic simulation and tested 108mm- to 116mm-bore pistons,” says Marco Sairu, the Technical Project Manager in charge of developing the 1199 engine. “At the end, 112mm was the best solution, and around that piston we made the rest of the engine.” The rest of the engine is just as innovative; the enormous pistons made room for large 46.8mm (vs. 43.5mm) titanium intake valves and 38.2mm (vs. 34.5mm) exhaust valves. Controlling those large valves is a new chain and gear-drive system that has adjustment for precise cam timing. There are more additions up top, including a centrifugal flyweight on the end of each exhaust cam that acts as a compression release. The mechanism has enabled Ducati engineers to use a smaller battery and starter motor, which reduces weight by a claimed 7.3 pounds. Also for weight purposes, the clutch cover, valve covers and sump are all made from magnesium.
Ducati’s adopted a secondary air system, which takes cool, fresh air from the airbox and injects it into the exhaust port to help burn leftover fuel that gets past the exhaust valve. Other internal changes include wet liners that allow the cylinder heads to be fitted directly to the crankcase, shell main bearings for the crankshaft and techno-polymer gears for the oil and water pump drives. Lastly, the cylinders have been rotated backwards six degrees, enabling the engine to be mounted 32mm further forward for improved front/rear weight distribution.
** Replacing the traditional steel trellis frame is a die-cast aluminum monocoque component that houses the steering head bearings and doubles as the airbox. The piece attaches directly to the cylinder heads and saves a reported 11 pounds. Attaching directly to the rear of the engine is the new die-cast aluminum single-sided swingarm, which is 39mm longer and contributes to the 7mm increase in wheelbase. An aluminum rear subframe mounts just above the swingarm. “It was harder to finalize the rear subframe than the monocoque component,” says Cristian Gasparri, the chassis Technical Project Manager. “The monocoque component was good starting from the beginning of the project,” he continues. The standard Panigale rolls on 10-spoke cast alloy wheels, whereas the S and S Tricolore models roll on lighter three-spoke forged and machined Marchesini examples.
** The standard Panigale and S models vary heavily in terms of suspension. The S models come equipped with an electronically adjustable Öhlins NIX30 front fork that separates compression and rebound damping. The rear shock is a similarly adjustable Öhlins TTX36 unit that uses a stepper motor to make rebound and compression damping adjustments. The standard model’s suspenders are just as impressive, however; the Marzocchi pressurized fork uses 50mm hard-anodized aluminum sliders and weighs 2.2 pounds less than the 1198’s fork. Out back is a capable Sachs shock that mounts via the same two-way adjustable linkage — you can adjust the link to be progressive (when riding with a passenger) or flat.
** The switch from Marelli to Mitsubishi has allowed Ducati to incorporate a fully independent ride-by-wire system acting on two injectors per cylinder. This change has brought about three distinct riding modes, Race, Sport and Wet, each of which incorporate ABS, Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES), Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) and Engine Brake Control (EBC). Adjustments for each system are made through the all-new Thin Film Transistor (TFT) screen, a full-color display that changes layouts according to which ride mode is selected.
** “The main request from Ducati was weight reduction,” claims Roberto Lavezzi, the Motorcycle Business Unit Technical Director at Brembo. The M50 calipers Brembo delivered Ducati certainly met that request and are a told 6.5-percent lighter. The biggest difference between the M50 caliper and older calipers are its smaller pistons (30mm vs. 34mm). The pads are the same shape and material, but a rib on the middle of the piston is said to provide increased rigidity. The changes to the caliper were matched by changes to the master cylinder, which runs a smaller piston as well. ABS is a $1000 option on the standard or S model, but is more advanced than ever, using a 9ME Bosch processor and four sensors. The Panigale also makes use of a combined brake system (front to rear) and rear lift-up detection. As with the other electronics, the pre-determined settings vary depending on the riding mode.
2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S
** Type: Liquid-cooled L-Twin cylinder four-stroke, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 112 x 60.8mm
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Induction: Mitsubishi EFI, elliptical throttle bodies with 67.5mm equivalent dia., dual injectors/cyl.
Chassis Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
Rear tire: 200/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
Rake/trail: 24.5 degrees/3.9 in. (100mm)
Wheelbase: 56.6 in. (1437mm)
Seat height: 32.5 in. (825mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal. (17L)
Claimed wet weight: 414.5 lb. (188kg)