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Jul 25, 2012 05:25 PM IST | Source: Overdrive

2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S first ride

2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S first ride

2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S first ride

Barrelling down the straight at Cadwell Park, this race track is way too narrow for the missile of a motorcycle I'm riding. It oozes power from every nut and bolt, with a snarl so fierce from the exhaust - it's racebike loud - it won't pass any of the noise limits from the other UK tracks. Ducati's Panigale is insane! Ducati is renowned for launching state of the art motorcycles. Its 916 is still hailed as one of the most iconic and groundbreakingsuperbikes of all time. Well for 2012 it's done it again with its stunning 1199 Panigale packed with technology.

The Panigale is new from the ground up, with four years of research and development poured into creating the most extreme, powerful, lightest and most technologically advanced production superbike in existence, which breaks tradition with the Ducati norm.

This is most visible in the all-new aluminium monocoque chassis that replaces the traditional steel trellis frame, with the airbox and engine acting as stressed parts of the chassis. The beast is powered by an 1198cc engine called a Superquadro'. In Italian this means oversquare, which it is - more so than any otherproduction engine. This is to allow it to use huge titanium valves for the massive amounts of gas flow needed to generate all that power, and without desmodromics to control them - another break with Ducati tradition.

It has cam chains instead of belts, titanium valves, oval twin-injector throttle bodies, magnesium parts, aluminium racing pistons among many other wonders. And if this doesn't mean much to you, then consider that it's insanely powerful at 196PS with brutal acceleration, which if too fierce for the conditions can be toned down using the riding modes switch that will also adjust the level of traction control and ABS, the electronic engine braking control, the suspension settings, determine whether the dash displays road or track information and whether to switch on the quickshifter. Awesome!

The Ducati Quickshifter (DQS) is more compact than the one found on the 1198SP, while the Engine Brake Control (EBC) - adjustable by three levels - is the latest technology to filter through to road from MotoGP. Sensors monitor the throttle position, what gear is selected and the rate of engine deceleration, and uses tiny throttle openings to prevent the rear wheel from locking.

As you'll have gathered by now, the high-quality Ohlins suspension is electronically adjustable to pre-set riding modes on the S and S Tricolore versions. The 43mm Ohlins NIX30 forks are adjustable for compression and rebound damping using a switch on the left handlebar, while spring pre-load remains manually adjustable. The rear sees an Ohlins TTX36 with the same twin tube damping adjustment found at the very top echelons of racing. Compression and rebound damping are electronically adjustable with preload manually adjustable. The shock looks stunning mounted on the side - although it does look extremely vulnerable in the event of a crash. I wonder whether this will become an issue.

The Ducati riding modes consist of Race and this will give you unrestricted power, track-ready suspension set-up on the S, optimised EBC and DTC, front-only ABS with reduced anti-rear lift-up, a race-mode dashboard readout that includes a lap timer, and the DQS is switched on. Sport has maximum power but a smoother throttle response, more compliant road set-up for the suspension on the S, increased traction control and EBC, ABS front and rear with higher degree of lift-up, and activated DQS. Wet reduces power to 120PS (although you can increase this manually via the dash), further smoothed out throttle action, adjusted DTC and EBC, the DQS is switched off, optimised ABS and DES for poor grip conditions. Have you got all that? Oh, and of course you can opt for the Ducati Data Analyser with inbuilt GPS to download all the riding data to analyse your performance and the bike's.

Then there's the brakes that are the highest-specification Brembo monoblocs available - you won't be seeing these Brembo M50s on any other bike either as Ducati has signed an exclusive deal with the Italian firm - and it runs the latest generation Bosch ABS. This meansusing the front brake will also activate the rear slightly for stability. It also has rear wheel lift detection, and as we've seen the level of ABS depends on the mode selected by the rider to best suit conditions and use.

And to cope with all the power,the Panigalecomes shod with a 200-section Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa SP rear tyre - the first superbike to come with anything more than a 190 rear section. There are two versions of wheels available on the Panigale. The standard 1199 features a new design of 10-spoke with a 3.5-inch wide front and 6-inch wide rear wheel. Each wheel is 500g lighter than previous designs. Meanwhile the S and S Tricolore versions have forged aluminium triple three spoke wheels which save a further 400g.

The chassis's frameless' design, where the engine acts as a stressed member and the single-sided swingarm and subrame are bolted straight on to the back of the engine, is inspired by Ducati's MotoGP bike and it looks stunning.The whole bike is so gorgeous it's hard to do it justice with words - it'ssharp, with subtle swoops and curveswhilethesleek bodywork keeps on display enough glorious metal to have you gawp open-mouthed at its splendour. Rear lights are LED, and for the first time on a production bike so are the front headlights. Although the Panigale looks tiny, it's actually pretty spacious even for taller riders, with a more natural feeling than any previous Ducati superbike.

Ride it andexperience the mindbogglingperformance. You don't always get a true sense of speed from a Ducati because of its relatively lazy revving V-twin engine. But not so on the Panigale. The super-short stroke engine punches as hard as a fully-tuned race motor. Power peaks at 10,750rpm, although it continues to rev towards the 12,500rpm redline as fast as you'd expect a screaming four-stroke cylinder engine to.

Slowing down from those high speeds is quite something. Squeeze the brakes and the deceleration is fierce, the slipper clutch and electronic engine brake controlworking seemlessly tokeep the bike in check, making for a smooth corner entry. Mid-corner stability is unrivalled, and the Panigale will change direction on a whim, or stick to a tight line like it's on rails.

If you own this bike you're going to want to ride it on track or it'd be wasted. But as we mentioned at the start, there'sa catch. While it looks and rides like a true racebike, it also sounds like one - which makes it too noisy for trackdays, at least UK ones that must enforce strict noise regulations. So unless you travel abroad for your track riding fix, you'll have to stick to the roads where you're sure to get plenty of admiring attention!

As well as this S' version that costs Rs 17 lakh here in the UK, there's a Rs 13 lakh base model (or Rs 13.6 lakh with ABS), and the Rs 20 lakh 1199 Panigale S Tricolore that comes with a red, white and green painjob, titanium Ducati performance exhaust and a GPS datalogger.

And in case you were wondering, the name comes from Borgo Panigale, the area of Bologna where Ducati's factory is based.

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