DUCATI FIRST RIDE STUNNING 1299 FINAL EDITION
Ducati’s V-twin superbike bows out in style
This, ladies and gentleman, is Ducati’s last-ever V-twin superbike. The £34,995 1299 Panigale R Final Edition is the firm’s final hurrah before next year’s new V4 arrival. Although Ducati never said as much, you might have thought the recentlylaunched, £72,000, limited-edition, carbon-framed Superleggera was the final big Panigale. But those cheeky devils in Bologna had this up their sleeve all along. So if you missed out on a Superleggera, it’s the next best thing.
The Final Edition isn’t an ‘R’ in the WSB homologation special sense (its motor’s too big). It’s more the V-twin superbike’s leaving cake, made with the very best Panigale ingredients.
Electronic rider aids are taken from the current 1299 (DTC EVO was first seen on last year’s Panigale Anniversario). Meanwhile, the adjustable aluminium monocoque frame, swingarm, forged ali wheels, suspension and brakes are from the 1198cc homologation-special Panigale R. The motor is derived from the 209.5bhp 1285cc Superleggera.
It’s not cheap, at almost double the price of the not-exactly-slow 197bhp base 1299 Panigale. But it’s half the cost of the carbon-fibre Superleggera, so it seems better value… well, sort of.
We’ve been granted a few laps on the 3.2-mile Nürburgring GP circuit. It’s raining – but that’s what it does here, and we’re not about to let a bit of water stop us saying goodbye to the ultimate evolution of the ali-framed superbike.
Ducati have swapped the standard Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa SP trackday tyres for Diablo Rain race rubber, and backed off the Öhlins suspension (manually adjustable like the R, not the S-model’s electronic) for more feel and grip in the puddles. We’re in Race mode with its least intrusive traction, wheelie and engine braking control.
Even in the wet there’s no lack of speed, but like all big Panigales you have to keep the motor on the boil and dance through the close-ratio box. Without the Superleggera’s carbon chassis or the Panigale R’s sandcast engine cases, this Final Edition is only half-a-kilo lighter than the 1299 and S, but with all that power it leaps out of corners like a maniac and shortens the straights like they’ve been shrunk in the wash.
During our recent 1000s test, the 1299 Panigale S proved to have the best power-to-weight ratio of any current full-production superbike. The Final Edition’s extra 12bhp takes it a step further with even stronger acceleration and a more demonic induction roar.
At 23kg more than the Superleggera, the new bike doesn’t explode forward with such bombastic alacrity. Without ‘the special one’s’ next-gen electronics, its anti-wheelie, or slide control, isn’t as refined either. But it still has some of the best rider aids on any road bike, which combined with its singleminded, racy chassis and all that power, will make it hard to beat on-track.
The V-twin lacks sandcast crankcases and ali cylinder liners, like the Superleggera, but the rest is the same. That runs from its high-compression superbike-spec pistons, to its high-lift cams, lightweight flywheel and crank with tungsten counterweights, titanium con rods, valves, ported head, lithium battery and sexy, Wsb-style, Euro4-friendly underseat exhausts.
Those titanium Akrapovics are pretty quiet next to the standard Panigale’s underslung pipes, so noise-restricted trackdays won’t be such a problem.
Panigale handling has come a long way from that of the wayward 1199. The 2012 bike wobbled at the slightest throttle, and gave the impression you would set a lap record even when you were seconds off the pace. But with the 1299’s friendlier chassis and refined electronic aids, it’s a different beast. It still feels crazy fast, but now it is fast.
You can’t push it to a fraction of what it’s capable of on a damp track – but then, you’d need the talent of Shakey Byrne to exploit what the race-bred chassis is capable of in the dry anyway.
It still takes a certain riding style to hustle the Ducati quickly around a track, compared to any conventional superbike. It detests big steering, throttle and braking inputs, and still shimmies in protest if you’re rough. Instead, it rewards with devastating corner speed and lightning-quick direction changes when you tickle the controls and caress it from kerb to kerb.
On the brakes, no superbike can scrub off speed with such unfettered, tricep-busting violence, with such stability, as a big Panigale.
Like the best Ducati V-twin Rs and SPS, the Final Edition bristles with specialness, from its forged ali rims, Öhlins and monobloc M50 Brembos, to the carbon mudguard, hugger and heat shield. Inertial Measurement Unit-controlled electronics includes traction, wheelie and engine braking control you can adjust on the move, cornering ABS, three rider modes (Race, Sport, Wet), a quickshifter, autoblipper and datalogger.
Quality and attention to detail are flawless, as you’d expect from a £35k motorcycle, and it’s all topped off with that classy Italian tricolore paintjob.
Although the long- awaited V4 superbike will be here next year, and the rest of the big Panigale range (with the exception of the 959) will be dropped, you’ll still be able to buy the Final Edition. It’s a numbered series, but Ducati will keep making them as long as there’s demand. What are you waiting for… apart from a lottery win?
‘It’s raining – but that’s what it does at the Nürburgring’
Final Edition is the last of the line. Sniff
Tricolore livery is a lovely touch for this icon
A slippery Nürburgring tested nerves and electronics to the max
A classic in the making, R Final Edition is better – and more fun – than money in the bank
The new V4 will have to go some to have mechanical art that matches the Pani
Brembo M50 monoblocs and Öhlins NIX30 forks are pretty sublime, too
TFT dash is still one of the best in the business, even five years down the line
Euro4-spec Akras look like they’d wake the dead, but are actually fairly muted