The Duke's Guts

Ducati’s flagship sportsbike delivers a viscera rearrangement




1198cc twin, 8v
143kW @ 10,750rpm
132Nm @ 9000rpm
2.9sec (claimed)
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IF DUCATI is the Ferrari of the motorcycle world, then the Ducati Panigale 1199 R ($30,995) is the LaFerrari. Limited in production but not in power, this superbike of superbikes is a cross between a Navy Seal and Usain Bolt. It’s got carbonfibre and titanium for bones, a computer for a brain and a 195-horsepower engine revving to 12,000 rpm for a heart. The Panigale 1199 R may be the fastest production bike available (with nearly the power-to-weight ratio of an F1 car), so, after updating our wills, we took it out to learn first-hand.

Inspired by MotoGP, the 1199 Panigale is a bike wrapped in sexy and stuffed with engineering innovation. The R-spec brings even more performance with a higher revving engine, lighter materials and a Termignoni exhaust. One look at the exclusive Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres, the Ducati Corse-inspired livery and the narrow shape provides a massive pucker factor. Just sitting on it raises your confidence to a dangerous level: remember, this is a race bike that somehow manages to be street legal. That said, the seat and ergonomic design of the body make it surprisingly comfortable in low-speed traffic and at pesky stop lights.

After leaving those stop lights, it’s disturbingly easy to find yourself at 300km/h. To harness the bike’s brutal power, the engineers added ABS, adjustable suspension and adjustable traction control.

The configurable options on the Panigale 1199 R mean you can set up the bike to be raw enough for the likes of MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi or a little safer for your weekend warrior (such as the guy who wishes he was Rossi).

Assisting the engine is the Ducati Quick Shift, an electrical system that helps the gearbox shift while accelerating even without using the clutch. After all that power is created, it’s up to the Termignoni exhaust system, which contributes to the streamlined silhouette of the bike, to broadcast that signature Ducati cry and alert everyone in traffic of your approach.

Haters may say the $43K price tag is ridiculous for a motorcycle, but they miss the point. The Panigale 1199 R was made for either the wealthy enthusiast who wants a beautiful piece of artwork or the track-day hero looking to destroy a wide-open circuit. Anything in between seems pointless — or at least frustrating for both rider and bike.