Ducati 1299 S Panigale
From a black beauty to a red beauty, and the complete opposite end of the performance and behavioural spectrums. If Ducati’s 1299 Panigale S was governed by social services, it’d be labelled with behavioural issues, and tagged past 6pm. How can something so beautiful be so brutal? Its savagery is no bad thing unless a stopwatch is involved. There’s absolutely nothing conventional about the Panigale, which is exactly why we love it, but you simply cannot ride it smoothly on track and, ultimately, it suffers against the stopwatch. In comparison with the others on test, it’s like taking a Bren gun to a library and trying to fire rounds without disruption.
Being the only Euro 3-powered bike is all too obvious on the dyno, around 10bhp more than most other SBOTY entrants. It’s also scant redemption in realtime and similar to having an 18in penis and not being able to use its full potential. The way in which it spins internally and continues to supply heinous power is both seriously arousing and frustrating at the same time. The revs build so quickly, hitting the limiter before the chance to get accustomed to its lunacy, and short gearing doesn’t exactly help the situation.
Feed another gear via the seamless ’box and the Superquadro motor sucks it up, spits it out and administers another dose of raging impetus. Given the violence, corner exit and spending time on the side of the tyre were probably its weakest areas, as opening the throttle became a game of roulette. However, the electronics are epic and didn’t slow the mechanical thrust in any way. It was one of very few bikes whose anti-wheelie was an ally while attacking the crests and rises, and having the luxury of being able to adjust electronics on the fly is a Barry bonus.
You have to recalibrate your brain, reset your senses, before jumping on and going fast. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever ridden, and unlike anything else at Portimao. The combination of its belligerent power and nervy chassis meant the 1299 was way off in terms of lap time, and consistency around the circuit was another concern. Hot laps felt as though the lap record had been smashed. It turns out it was at least two seconds off the main protagonists and proved to be tirelessly hard work in Portugal; a five-lap stint aboard the Panigale felt like a 20 lap session on any other SBOTY contender. Most of the fatigue is instigated by taming ’slappers and very, very little to hold onto under heavy braking.
Its agility and steering are difficult to fault, although you rarely get the chance to exploit its potential. If it isn’t tankslapping (and boy, does it ’slap), the rear end is squirming and pumping under protest.
There isn’t the uncrashable, confidence-inspiring front-end of its rivals either, partly owing to the Öhlins electronic suspension which doesn’t adorn the race-spec Panigale R. You do the math...
Standard set-up is very soft, yet weight transfer is a beautiful thing when it comes to the 1299’s scaffold-stiff monocoque chassis and searching for feedback. The brakes are almost too good for the suspension to cope with. The initial bite and sheer stopping power overawe the front-end. It’s definitely a bike that favours both wheels planted on the deck. Somewhere flatter, more flowing; somewhere other than Portimao’s intense parameters would benefit Panigale owners.
But this doesn’t tell the entire story. On the flipside, the 1299 makes a peachy road bike and responds well to less committed speeds. In fact, it’s a completely different bike on Her Majesty’s highways. And despite its flaws and delinquencies at Portimao, most of us enjoyed saddle time. Enjoyment akin to a beautiful girlfriend with serious attitude; impossible to refute but cancerous at the same time.
Fast fun, but furious...
Maybe the best anti-wheelie of the lot!
The dash is excellent.
The 1299 S makes you work HARD for it...
It’s electronic, don’t ya know?