DUCAT I’S MOST SAVAGE SUPER BIKE YET!
You’ve read exotica tests like these a dozen times before, so you know how it goes: a new fabulously expensive, limited- edition Italian superbike is released and it’s lighter and faster than ever. Job done.
We almost didn’t need to go to Mugello to ride the new £72,000, 215bhp 1299 Superleggera to discover these most obvious of revelations.
Sure, it’s the most powerful production Panigale ever built, this side of a £116,000 RS customer-spec race bike (like Shakey’s), or a money-can’t-buy factory superbike (like Chaz’s). With its carbon fibre chassis it weighs just 156kg dry, so it’s lighter than a fullblown superbike, too. And exclusivity is guaranteed, because only 500 will be built and, as you’re asking, they’re unfortunately already sold-out.
Our test bike is fitted with the ‘Track Kit’ (included in the cost), which gives you another 5bhp to scare yourself with and a bigger screen to hide under when you’re aiming for the first turn at over 180mph.
But we’re glad Ducati gifted us 10 laps of god’s own racetrack to ride their new ‘superlight’ because it really is a little bit special.
It’s the sheer force of acceleration that really hits you and this is what separates the booming 1285cc L-twin machine from any production superbike. And the electronics are the key.
With its new Ducati Corse-developed Bosch Imu-controlled rider aids, the 1299 Superleggera has the most effective wheelie, slide and traction control you’ll find this side of a world championship race paddock.
What all these noughts and ones do, as well as wind up those who are convinced electronics are the devil’s work, is let you accelerate sooner through a corner in a silicon-controlled drift and harder on the way out, without having to back off for the normally imminent wheeile.
Now, you’ve got a full 215bhp to push you forward rather than sideways or up. It’s a gateway to the kind of acceleration only the lucky few World Superbike and Motogp racers will have ever experienced – and it’s brutal.
The power to move you
In third gear the 1299 Superleggera launches itself out of Mugello’s final turn with such violence that it’s hard to find the strength to move my left foot around on the footpeg. Getting from my toes to a position where I can change up to fourth almost makes me want to shut off so I can pause the violence for a second.
The Tuscan track is made up of a series of fast third and fourth gear chicanes, which the lightweight Ducati dances through with precision and speed, but firing on to each little straight is a fist fight. The acceleration pushes you back so hard into the carbon fibre seat unit that it’s near-impossible to actually get the throttle fully open. You really want to, but physics have got other ideas.
Any other bike with this much power and such a deep, pulverising wave of mid-range grunt would be tying itself up in knots at this point, leaving you no choice but to back off a bit. Not this lumo orange beast: it’s a thunderous, heat-seeking maniac of a missile and serves up as much thrust as a human can handle.
Road-going superbikes are so easy to ride now they make you feel like a hero, but when you jump on something like the 1299 Superleggera – a machine so close to a factory race bike – you realise you’re absolutely not.
‘It has the most effective wheelie, slide, and traction control this side of a race paddock’
Ducati insiders reckon the new machine is only around 10bhp down on their WSB bike and, in a recent test, Superleggera test rider Alessandro Valia kept up with Melandri’s factory racer along Mugello’s fearsome start/ finish straight. He did the same with Shakey along Portimao’s main drag during winter testing, until the BSB champ outbroke him at the end and inched off into the distance.
The weighting game
But the 1299 Superleggera isn’t all brutish engine and crazed acceleration, it weighs about the same as a supermodel. The monocoque chassis, subframe, wheels, swingarm and bodywork are all carbon and the engine is a riot of magnesium, titanium and lightweight aluminium. Measure every part, and the crankshaft is actually the single
weightiest part of the entire machine.
Ducati claim just 156kg dry, but it’s actually 167kg semi-wet (with no fuel) and 178kg with its 17-litre tank full to the brim. To make that figure come alive for you, a Yamaha MT-07 weighs 4kg more… and makes 146bhp less.
You feel that complete lack of weight, a hollowness that defies belief on a near-1300cc superbike every inch of the way, and even as speeds build that sense of airy lightness never goes away. It takes little effort to flick this wondrous, thunderous motorcycle from side to side through the high-speed Casanova, Scarperia and Biondetti sections. It carves with complete precision in San Donato and around the
CONTINUED OVER Under the Superleggera’s skin