1199 Panigale Track Bike Review
July 14/15 2012 - Mid-America Motorplex
By: Jarel Jensen - General Manager, Ducati Omaha
We got our first chance to get the Panigale out to the track for a proper shakedown and see how it compares to prior generation Ducati Superbikes at the TrackAddix Track day at Mid-America Motorplex on July 14th/15th.
The Bike: We started with a standard 1199 Panigale model without ABS. We wanted to test many of the track-oriented upgrade components already available on the market, so the bike has been upgraded with many Ducati Performance and other aftermarket upgrades. We know our customers rely on us to provide real-world recommendations on what to do to their own bikes, and there's no substitute for experience! The upgrade list includes: Termignoni Full Exhaust with Up-Map, Ducati Performance racing adjustable footpeg kit, Ducati Performance racing seat, Ducati Performance tank protector, Ohlins TTX MKII racing shock absorber, Stomp Grip tank side pads, Ducati Performance quick-release fuel cap, Ducati Performance folding lever kit, Ducati Performance carbon swingarm guard/slider, Ducati Performance carbon rear fender and front fender, Ducati Performance carbon/kevlar clutch and generator covers, R&G Racing carbon tank sliders, R&G Racing front axle sliders, R&G Racing bar end sliders, Catalyst Racing Composites fiberglass race bodywork, Ducati Performance tall windscreen, Ducati Performance DDA+ GPS Lap Timer / Data Acquisition system, and Bridgestone Racing Slicks.
Jarel's Review of the Panigale:
INTRO - This is my personal track bike and so I have it set up how I like it. Having ridden Ducati track bikes for many years now, I know which aftermarket components I like for the track and I tend to upgrade those things straight away to go with what I know works. It doesn't mean I don't think the stock components are any good, it just means I know what I like so I just go with that rather than experiment with other things! I also do a LOT of track days as a TrackAddix Rider Coach, so I need a bike that is reliable and easy to ride. I also like to deck my bikes out with as much crash protection as possible "just in case"!
SUSPENSION - First the OEM Marzocchi forks: After getting them set up properly they're the best OEM forks I've ever ridden on the track with, and feature new gas-pressurized cartridges in them. I had set my sag to 37mm in the front and there was good feel from the front under braking. Very Nice! Second the Ohlins TTX MKII rear shock: Having had a TTX shock on my last 3 track bikes, this was a no-brainer, it simply works better than anything else in the world. The back end of the Panigale is planted and has great feel with this shock, and the tire wear was perfect.
BRAKES - They're really good, stronger even than the prior monobloc setup on the 1198, and not as "grabby" as the original monoblocs on the 1098. I think I'll still end up switching to my favorite racing brake pads (EBC EPFA pads) since I like the feel of those.
ENGINE - Riding around at "break-in" speeds, it doesn't feel particularly strong, but it's smooth and quick-revving and you can tell as soon as you hit 8k rpm it wants to take off. Once you're revving it a little higher, say 9-10k rpm you really feel the powerband coming on strong and the thing is fast. But to get the most out of it, you need to be running it until the shift lights kick on, and then it's REALLY fast. Mid-range torque is present but weaker than prior generation engines, as expected. This is a whole new experience for those of us who have ridden Ducati twins on the track in the past. The short-stroke Superquadro engine is designed to rev to make power, like a Forumula-One engine. You really need to be above 7k rpm on corner exits to get the best drive, you can't lug it out at 5k like you can on an 1198. We'll work with changing the gearing a little to get it gearded short enough for 3rd gear corner exits at the right rpm. Throttle response with the Ride-By-Wire throttle setting in "195 High" is extremely touchy, it takes some practice to get to where you can be smooth with it, even the slightest hint of jittering in your hand will affect the throttle. For example, going over a bumpy section of track if you're holding on tight to the bars it will oscillate the throttle and the bike will buck and stutter. You have to keep a loose grip at all times! The benefit is that you can make extremely small changes to the throttle to modulate your cornering lines or exit drive.
CHASSIS / HANDLING - Wow, that's the best part, this bike handles better than any Ducati I've ever ridden! It just turns so much easier and will run a tighter line than I'm used to running on any prior Superbikes, both 1098/1198's and 848's I've had. Ducati really did their homework on this monocoque chassis deign, and all of the track testing they did, incliuding have Troy Bayliss shaking the bike out at the track, really seems to have paid off! I'd say it's closer to the 749R that I used to have, but feels 100 lbs. lighter. It will dive right into a chicane and flip over to the other side like a 600, something that I've never experienced on a Ducati Superbike before. The rear end feels well sorted also, and it will respond to mid-corner throttle by coming around just a touch to square off the turn and get a good drive. Really a fun bike to ride on the track!
DTC (Ducati Traction Control) - I've found the DTC works pretty well on the stock Panigale's I've ridden, not pushing it as hard as I would push my own track bike, but at reasonable "track day" speeds it does a nice job, and is great on the street. However, if you swap out the Pirelli tires for something else like I did you may find that DTC does not work quite the same and you may need to experiment with the levels or even turn it off if necessary. I tried Level 2, Level 1 and OFF. Level 2 is designed for the OEM street tires, and works great for them, but not designed for race tires. Level 1 is designed for the Pirelli SC2 compound race tires. It probably works great with those tires, I'm not sure since I don't run those. But running the Bridgestone slicks the system was kicking on too often when riding at a fast pace. For riding at a more moderate track pace, it works fine. Switching to OFF there was a noticeable improvement in corner exit drive without DTC kicking in all the time, however the tire spin had to be managed with the throttle, so it took some time to come to grips with. I alternated back between Level 1 and OFF all weekend, and I could get almost a full second faster lap time with it OFF. But again, you have no "safety net" so don't take that as my recommendation on what you should do!
EBC (Engine Brake Control) - I wasn't too sure on the EBC after my first ride when I switched the modes around from 1, 2 and 3 to see how they worked. I've ridden V-twin track bikes for a while now and am used to a lot of engine braking. A slipper clutch and smooth release of the clutch lever always yielded a nice corner entry. But EBC is something Ducati has been developing on the race bikes for a while, so I figured it must be a benefit and I resigned myself to getting used to it to see if it really helped. Well, after a whole weekend running it on Level 3, I'm now sold on it. You have to get used to it, but if you alter your style slightly to use a little more brake and rely less on the engine braking, it does yield smoother and faster corner entries and a really planted rear end feel.
DQS (Ducati Quick-Shift) - It works great! I've had aftermarket quick-shifters on many different track bikes, and the DQS system works right on par with those. It's smooth and consitent and allows equally good performance for short-shifts at lower rpms as well as full-throttle upshifts on the straights.
RIDING POSITION - It's "taller" especially with the racing seat, with a higher seat and higher pegs than I had on prior Superbikes. But it's still somehow "familiar", and still has a similar character to older Superbikes in terms of how you put your input into the bike, how you hang off, etc. Hard to describe, but bottom line is I like it and got comfortable on it very quickly and it felt like a bike I had been riding for a year after just one session on the track.
CONCLUSION - After two days on the track with the new Panigale, I'm extremely impressed with the bike! After all of the hype surrounding the launch of this bike, I'm happy to report that the hype seems justified as the Panigale is simply better on the track than any Ducati Superbike ever made. The 1199 Panigale makes a fabulous track day bike right out of the box, and for those who are inclined to upgrade their track bike with racing-quality components there are a variety of options available from Ducati Performance as well as other aftermarket companies.
Stay tuned for more Panigale track day updates.........
October 28th 2012 - Mid-America Motorplex
By: Jarel Jensen - General Manager, Ducati Omaha
We had our TrackAddix final event of 2012, the "Boo Bash" at MAM on Sunday the 28th, and it was my last time out on the Panigale for the season, so I thought I'd provide an update now that I've had a lot of seat time on the bike with a couple thousand track miles.
I made a few additional suspension and braking modifications to the bike over the course of the season, including Ohlins NIX30 fork cartridges, Brembo P34 Calipers, Brembo 19x20 Racing Master Cyclinder, Brembo T-Drive rotors and AFAM Quick-Change 520 Chain/Sprocket kit. We'll finally be taking the bodywork off to get painted now over the winter as well.
Overall I had a great year on the Panigale, I continued to find small changes to make to the riding position to get it dialed in exactly how I wanted it, including cutting the racing seat down about an inch and adjusting the footpegs down slightly. The bike is incredibly easy to ride, but it does have a LOT of power, so you have to be careful of not getting lulled into a false sense of security that it's just a docile, friendly little bike that you can have your way with. There's the heart of a beast lurking within, and it will get the front end light very quickly when hitting the upper RPM's, even in 4th gear! So coming from the 848, I had to adapt my riding style to use much more fore/aft body position changes to keep the front wheel on the ground while exiting corners. The amount of power this engine makes up top is nothing short of astonishing, reminds me of the Desmosedici 990 V4 more than any prior V-Twin Ducati engine. You definitely have to "retune" your ear if you're used to shifting by the sound at a certain RPM on the 848/1198 bikes, this engine likes to rev all the way to 11,000 rpm to get the best drive.
I continue to say the handling is the best feature of the Panigale compared to all prior Ducati Superbikes, it feels so much lighter than any other Ducati I've had on the track, and it turns and transitions from side to side much easier. It's a very easy bike to ride, and not difficult to get set up. Even for a less experienced track day rider if you keep the RPM's reasonable the power is not overwhelming. An experienced rider who is willing to wring it out to redline will find more power than has ever been on tap from a Ducati Superbike before. This is without a doubt the best "off the showroom floor" track bike that Ducati has ever made, and even though I made a lot of modifications to mine in the name of experimentation, it honestly doesn't need ANYTHING changed to go fast on the track, it's that good already!
Really looking forward to the 2013 track day season and getting a full year logged on the Panigale! I really don't have anything else planned for modifications to the bike, now I'm just going to RIDE and have fun!
Hope to see you out at the track sometime!