‘It continues to push you, test you and excite you...’
WHEN I RODE the Panigale at the TT for PB, I was totally blown away by its engine, and just how strong it is. I’d stepped off my 220bhp superbike and was stunned that a road bike could feel harder and faster, but it did. When I got to Donington Park with it, I have to admit that I went from being in awe of it, to more than a little bit terrified of it in places. It’s the first bike I’ve ever ridden, including race bikes, that made Donington feel too small. But it’s not just about the sheer quantity of power that it produces; it’s how it makes it, and how it combines with the electronics to make it all exploitable. You’ve still got to bring your A-game to it, though; it really is something else. I haven’t ridden any of the modern MotoGP bikes, but I imagine the engine at least in the Panigale can’t be far off what one feels like. It’s amazing how the firing order plays tricks with you. If I didn’t know, I’d never have guessed it was a V4. I’d have probably said it was a V-twin.
I’m not a massive fan of electronic suspension in general, but I have to say that the kit on both bikes is really interesting. I suppose, in the back of my mind, I need to be 100% sure that what I’m feeling isn’t being distorted or interfered with by a suspension ECU, and those last two-tenths always come on manual mode, so I’ll always be sceptical of semi-active suspension. But, equally, it was hardly holding me back – I’d guess a lot of normal trackday riders will gain more from those preset track modes than I get from reverting to conventional adjustment. I feel a bit sorry for Yamaha, and anyone else building a superbike – they’ve made a good bike better, and ridden in isolation it’s a stunning bike. But, over and above the lap times, just the way the Panigale feels makes it my favourite. You feel like you can get the measure of every other litre bike after a while, but the Ducati continues to push you, test you and excite you. The Panigale V4 is the first bike that I’ve felt is probably a bit better than me, which is exactly why it simply has to be my favourite. I like a challenge, and they don’t come bigger than a road bike with more than one horsepower per kilo.
Rutter likes a challenge. The V4 presents one...
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