Wednesday, January 21, 2015

NEW METAL 2015: Ducati 1299 Panigale

Biggest news here is that Ducati officially cracked the 200-hp mark. But before we get to this most extreme Superquadro engine ever, let’s start from the beginning.

When Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali was asked about the internal geometry of the Panigale 1199 engine—with specific reference to the rod length of 110.1mm in relation to its 60.8mm stroke—he affirmed that he wanted the Panigale to be as compact and well balanced as possible. When I heard a larger-displacement Panigale was in the works, with the extra cubes coming from increased stroke (the bore already was a record-setting 112mm), I wondered if Domenicali was ready to compromise with even shorter rods to compensate for the extra stroke.
Biggest news here is that Ducati officially cracked the 200-hp mark. But before we get to this most extreme Superquadro...

Ah, dead wrong! Domenicali went for an even bigger bore: 116mm! Together with an unaltered stroke of 60.8mm, that makes for an actual displacement of 1,285cc. That’s the way, Claudio. Well done! A 116mm bore is Chevrolet Big Block territory, reminiscent of those Reynolds Aluminum V-8s that powered the legendary McLaren Can-Am racers of the 1970s. That memory alone makes my blood churn.

The new Panigale 1299 sets fresh standards in the superbike fraternity, with a claimed 205 hp at 10,500 rpm and a terrific 106.7 pound-feet of torque at 8,750 rpm. Simply put, there is nothing like that on two wheels, with the possible exception of the new supercharged special from Japan. Valve size is the same as that used in the 1199: 46.8mm titanium intakes, 38.2mm steel exhausts. By keeping the same valve and port size of the 1199, Ducati engineers have created a more flexible and torquey power­plant. The higher speed of the intake charge helps disprove the old notion that extremely oversquare engines must have poor torque curves.

For more agile steering response, Ducati has given the Panigale 1299 24 degrees of steering rake, which is a half-degree less than the 1199. Trail is consequently down from 100 to 96mm. Even more meaningful: The swingarm pivot has been lowered 4mm, for better geometry to the front sprocket and superior traction. Also, as before, there are two versions, standard and an S model. The former is fitted with an inverted 50mm Marzocchi fork, a gas-charged unit made of aluminum. The S bumps up the hardware quotient with full LED headlights and Öhlins electronically managed semi-active suspension featuring an inverted 43mm fork. Brakes on both bikes are by Brembo, with M50 calipers acting upon a pair of 330mm front discs. To tame all that power and torque, the electronics suite of these 1299 Panigales is among the most complete in production today.