I’m going to let you in a little secret – I love a Panigale. From the original, fire-breathing V-twins to the latest, more user-friendly V4s, I’ve enjoyed thousands of miles of smiles on just about every machine that’s left Bologna over the last 11 years. So much so, I’ve actually owned two in my lifetime – an 899 Panigale and my very own Panigale V2… although they both enjoyed life purely as race bikes.
And even though the V2 might seem like the puppy in a family of monsters, it’s worth remembering that it’s far from it. Just think about how fondly we look back on the GSX-R750, a machine offering a little more than a 600cc in terms of top end go and torque, but without the brutality of wrestling around a 1000cc monster? It’s an appealing thought and is exactly where the V2 sits. But even so, it’s no slowcoach; when the iconic 916 was unleashed to the world it mustered up 109bhp and 88Nm of torque, which is a far cry from the latest Panigale V2’s 155bhp and 104Nm figures. You’ve then got all of Ducati’s electronic goodies that include everything from rider modes that alter the engine characteristics and power, to riding aids that cover everything from ABS and traction control, to wheelie control and adjustable engine braking. Sitting at £16,095 it’s still a big chunk of cash, but it’s still over five grand less than its bigger brother, the standard V4. And with a little less in terms of power and performance, is it actually an easier proposition to not just have more fun on, but go faster on as well?
Sure, over 200bhp can lead to an incredible amount of fun in the right hands, but it’s not always necessary. Sometimes it’s nice to be the boss of the bike, rather than having the bike be the boss of you, and that can be a serious reality where some of our British tracks are concerned, without even thinking about throwing inclement weather into the mix as well. You’ll find a lot of track riders would actually benefit from having less power than they think they do; learning to hone their skills without being able to rely on having a bucketload of power to assist their lap times, while also not having too much that it scares the living daylights at every opportunity. And that is exactly where the V2 performs so well with a beautiful chassis, a plethora of riding aids, some high-spec components and an engine that oozes both an abundance of torque and power, all combined with a dosage of exotica.
Which is exactly why we took the 2022 Panigale V2 on track at one of Ducati’s excellent track days. From the very first outing on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, I instantly felt not just comfortable on the Panigale V2, but the boss of it too. Even though it wasn’t a particularly warm day, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso rubber (although not the highest performance option in the range) got up to temperature quickly and within just a couple of laps I had my knee scraping on the deck with a serious amount of confidence. This is not just because of the excellent chassis and suspension combination, which makes finding apexes a doddle, but because the baby Panigale just seems to effortlessly inspire loads of feeling through the front end especially, being agile and precise at trackday speeds. You’ve also got the power to stop too, with those powerful Brembos giving bucketloads of power and feel through the lever, which ultimately means that you really can keep on pushing your braking markers and indeed your own limits.
This is only helped by the plethora of riding aids in the V2’s arsenal, lifted from the range topping V4s, which cover you all the way into a corner, and out of it too, when the lovely V-twin engine comes into its own. Thanks to the configuration you can usually get away with being a gear higher and experimenting a bit without bogging down too much, and although the 770 metre long Hangar straight does take a little longer than on a full-blooded litre machine, it is by no means boring. If you want to be keeping with the bigger capacity fours, you really have to work for it – which is a seriously rewarding feeling.
Saying that, having raced one of these in the Ducati TriOptions Cup, which was a support series to the British Superbike Championship, there are a few modifications that really will benefit the V2 (and indeed pretty much every other sportsbikes) if heavy track riding really is your thing. A set of track fairings is a good place to start as it will make you feel more comfortable in case the worst was ever to happen, alongside some crash protection, a sticky set of track-focussed tyres, with tyre warmers. Then you can go as far as you like; in an ideal world it would be suspension, a full exhaust system and some better brake pads and oil, alongside a set of rearsets too. But these are all just optional extras; just be warned that when buying a bike for the track, things can get easily addictive!
Overall, there’s no denying that Ducati’s Panigale V2 is a mighty tool, which will look after just about every level of rider. Not only does it look absolutely stunning, but it performs far better than it’s ‘small Panigale’ reputation suggest – it’s still a potent sportsbike, but with slightly softer edges, making it a great proposition for the tighter and twistier tracks we have here in the UK.