Photos: Costa Mouzouris
Ducati offered up a bit of a smorgasbord of new bikes at the recent EICMA show in Milan, with the previous generation 899 Panigale getting yet another boost in capacity (thanks to a bigger stroke) to put it just shy of a litre bike at 955 cc. Tweaked geometry and bodywork round off the upgrades.
While this effectively leaves a large gap in their middleweight sportbike offerings, it does offer a less brutal experience than its all powerful 1299 Panigale big sister. We sent our resident test guru, Costa Mouzouris to sunny Spain to give us a quickie impression of the new bike – is it a still a civilized option to the 1299?
I’m in Valencia, Spain to ride the newest Ducati Panigale, at the Circuito Ricardo Tormo. Yes, that circuit Ricardo Tormo, where just two weeks ago the MotoGP championship was determined in dramatic style.
I’ll admit, I was more than a little rusty, having been absent from a racetrack for a few too many months, so I was relieved to be told at the pre-ride meeting that the new 959 Panigale — an evolution and capacity bump of the 899 — was designed to be easy to ride. The last Panigale I rode was the 1299S, which was somewhat brutal, physically and mentally taxing to ride, and terrifyingly fast.
To ease everyone up to speed in the first session the bikes were set in Sport mode, which softened throttle response and lowered the traction control and ABS thresholds to allow a civilized warm up. Why any manufacturer would think that journalists would partake in such a sensible intro is beyond me, and within two laps the testosterone was flowing and the race was on, the asphalt still cold below the tires.
While the throttle and traction control proved just fine for this pace, the ABS proved problematic. Actually, like, holy-Jesus problematic. At this setting, it is fine for the street, but seriously detrimental to maintaining a track pace. Trail braking deep into corners triggered the ABS, which stretched out the braking distance, delivering late, sphincter-puckering corner entries.
You’d think that after experiencing this I’d adjust my riding style toute suite and brake sooner, but instead — in an almost comical Groundhog-Day-esque loop — lap after lap I’d roll on the power entering the 900-meter long front straight, tuck in, and watch the speedo flicker its way up to 260 km/h. Pulling hard on the ABS-hampered brakes meant that I entered turn one way hot, relieved to get through it, racing line miraculously intact. The 959 has impressive power (157 hp to be exact), and it pulls in a flat, strong, non-terrorising manner all the way to redline.
All was rectified in the second session, when the bikes were switched to Race mode, where they mercifully remained for the rest of the day. This reduces electronic intervention across the board , fixing the braking moments, though it makes the throttle a bit sensitive, especially in long sweepers.
By the end of my stint it was obvious that the 959 is indeed much easier to ride than the bigger and more brutal 1299, and I’d happily spend a day in its saddle lapping – not something I can say about the concentration-sucking 1299.
I am a little confused about the 959’s placement in the universe, however. Being a direct ancestor of the 748, it was once a considered a middleweight machine. But it has now grown to just a few ccs shy of a litre bike (Ducati calls it a super-mid), which emphasises just how much manufacturers have pushed the open-class envelope, with those machines now producing in excess of 200 hp.
The 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale is nonetheless an excellent track day machine, with a surprisingly robust exhaust note to boot. This may be thanks to the North American bikes being non-Euro 4 emission compliant and come with the 5kg lighter underbelly exhaust as opposed to the clunky twin upswept pipes of the Euro machines.
Perhaps most importantly, it costs a whopping $5,400 less than the 1299. Unless you’re a horsepower junkie, the 959 is a more usable machine and a better choice.
What, no technical details? You can get all that stuff here, or see below for a quick run down of claimed specs.
|Bike||2016 Ducati 959 Panigale|
|Engine type||L-twin, DOHC four, four valves per cylinder, liquid-cooled|
|Power (crank)*||157 hp @ 10,500 rpm|
|Torque*||107.4 Nm (79.2 lb-ft) @ 9,000 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||17 litres|
|Final drive||Chain, 6-speed with quickshifter|
|Brakes, front||2 x 320 mm discs, Brembo Monobloc 4 piston calipers|
|Brakes, rear||1 x 245 mm disc|
|Seat height||810 mm|
|Wet weight*||200 Kg|
|Warranty||24 Months unlimited|
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