When Ducati said they would invite us to their track day and we could ride a few of their 2017 range, who was I to say no, especially when a 1299 Panigale was up for a few sessions.
It may have been around for a couple of years now, but the Ducati 1299 Panigale isn’t just any other bike. It’s a savage 205bhp pure bred road-going motorcycle that doesn’t suffer fools gladly, even with its immense range of electronic safety aids to keep things under control. Ultimately, even with the best suite of electronics fitted to a mainstream production motorcycle, you still need your wits about you.
I’ve ridden one of these bikes for most of last year, did the launch of the 1299 at Portimao race track in Portugal back in 2015, and have ridden one a lot on different UK tracks, but nothing can prepare you for a full acceleration on the Hoonigale when you’ve been away from one for a while.
I spent the morning building up to riding the Ducati 1299, with a session on the Ducati Monster 1200R, and a couple of sessions on the Ducati SuperSport S. With my eye in already, you’d think I’d be ready for the explosive power of the 1299. You’d be wrong.
Okay, so on the dyno most 1299s I’ve seen make in the region of ‘only 189bhp’ instead of the claimed max power of 205bhp, but that’s still a hell of a lot of grunt, combined with the 1299’s torque and broad spread of power.
It pulls so hard down the straight you have to physically use every sinew in your arms and legs to hang on, dig your heels in to the footrests and make the most of the race-bred fairing and screen to tuck behind. It’s easy to see 150mph + down the back straight at Donington Park.
The electronics are first class, thankfully, and in race mode on the traction control setting it comes with, they allow just enough slip to have some fun with while still getting maximum drive off the corner.
There’s wheelie control and traction control so all you know is that there’s an orange light blinking on the dash when it does come in. Of course, everything can be adjusted on the dash to your own preferences, or just flick between the three different riding modes.
Personally, if you’re a really fast track day rider or wannabe racer, I’d turn the ABS off on a track day as you can feel it cutting in ever so subtly. But for most of us, and on the road, you’d always leave it on. The Brembo M50 calipers offer fierce stopping power that’s about as good as it gets for production road bikes right now.
The standard 1299 Panigale we tested it comes with Ohlins forks and a Sachs rear shock, instead of the Ohlins semi-active electronic suspension of the more expensive £21,999 Ducati 1299 S Panigale.
Either bike is a lot of money though with the standard bike coming in at £17,995, it’s quite a saving compared to the S. As well as the semi-active suspension, the 1299 Panigale S also comes with on the fly adjustable traction control buttons on the left handlebar, a carbon fibre mudguard, LED headlights and lightweight forged wheels.
The semi-active suspension works well, though some people prefer the feeling of a traditional fork as the electronic system doesn’t dive as much as a regular fork. But over the last couple of years I’ve got used to the lack of dive and squat on the electronic forks and shock now so I’d opt for that, if I could afford the extra. It’s all personal choice, and for some people they want the extra bling the S version delivers. Let’s face it, we all probably would, if we could.
Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tyres mean that if you can unstick them on track in the dry then you’re a hero. They give so much feedback when cranked over and loads of mid-corner stability.
Off the track the 1299 Panigale can be a handful on the road, the exhausts are well known for acting as a bum warmer, it’s not that comfortable (even though it’s more comfortable than the older 1199), and it’s pretty rigid. But, you can do miles on one, I’ve taken one away for a week to the North West 200 in Ireland with a set of bags on the back, no problem, and as long as you get off every 80-miles or so it’s more than bearable.
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