Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - MICHAEL NEEVES CHIEF ROAD TESTER michael.neeves@mo­tor­cy­cle­

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

No elec­tron­ics here – just pure Swedish me­chan­i­cal hard­ware Mo­togp-ap­ing Akrapovic ex­hausts are a ti­ta­nium work of art

So sexy that Du­cati should pro­vide tis­sues with ev­ery bike

The in­nocu­ously fa­mil­iar en­gine cas­ings hide a race-spec mill

In­stantly recog­nis­able de­sign – formed in pure car­bon fi­bre

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