SoupTest: Ducati's New 1199 Panigale R Italy's Fastest Twin Receives A Titanium Treatment And More Adjustability by dan coe
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
SuperbikePlanet reunited this year with Ducati's latest 1199 Panigale, the official "R" version, during an event held at the model's world-press introduction at the Circuit Of The Americas in Austin, Texas. The COTA invitation was our true chance to ride the successor to the kitted 1199S we only sampled last year, and what we experienced in mid-March was nothing short of spectacular: Ducati's latest R and America's latest F1 circuit are a combination almost beyond belief.
The last time Soup officially tested Ducati's Panigale, we were circulating Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. It was there that we actually rode our first Panigale, an "S" model with non-active, but electronically controlled, Ohlins suspension. Also while there, Soup was given a single session aboard a kitted 1199S, complete with race mapping, performance exhaust, taller windscreen, and just over 200 peak horsepower. That amazing experience left us with a lasting impression of the new superbike, one that still remains today as perhaps the most exhilarating and memorable Ducati we've ever ridden.
And, while Soup's past impressions of the 2012 production Panigale "S" remain impressive and Soup's Yas Marina ride aboard the kitted 1199 still stands out as being particularly special, at COTA, we were once again invited to experience Ducati's latest development in superbike hardware, the 2013 1199R Panigale, this in another near-perfect motorcycling environment.
The creation of Ducati's fastest new Panigale, an "R"-spec version for this year, was driven in part by the FIM's current WSBK racing homologation requirements, namely that a twin-cylinder motorcycle destined for competition must retain identical engine components with those fit on their street-going counterpart, at least as current rules pertain to "twin-cylinder" motorcycles. Yes, it would seem a penalty of sorts, as this same set of rules still permit all four-cylinder production machines to substitute key parts like connecting rods with exotic materials like titanium, whereas this same allowance is not permitted with twins unless the like components arrive as "stock" equipment in production trim on, or within, the machine. As a result, Ducati enthusiasts will now be purchasing the same base Panigale R motorcycle that the factory fields in the WSBK championship.
Some other related facts, with additional weight penalties and intake restrictions also imposed on the current Ducati in WSBK competition, Ducati revealed that last year's 1199S had two significant deficits when compared to their top competition; one being the absence of 20 horsepower, the other being down in top speed, some cases as much as 9 miles per hour (14 km/h) below the factory Aprilia four. This year, at the opening WSBK round in Australia, the newest 1199 Panigale R did show more promise, as the factory Panigale closed the RSV speed gap to 5 miles per hour (8.3 km/h), while Mr. Checa still displayed the Ducati's prowess by earning his 10th career WSBK pole position. In reviewing what, on the outside, appear to be sanctions against the formidable twins, perhaps the FIM should instead be targeting Bologna's selected riders past and present, as riders like Fogarty, Bayliss, Checa, and others made, and continue to make, the red twin-cylinder motorcycles shine above their competition.
Detailing The New "R" Chassis
For 2013, Cristian Gasparri's unique and multi-functional chassis design that is the Panigale remains almost unchanged for this year with one major exception. For 2013, the cast-aluminum monocoque chassis with its single-sided swingarm adapts a new four-position adjustable swingarm pivot, the first such adjustability for a production Ducati. Now, with the use of a special Ducati tool, the Panigale rider can select between a 2mm higher pivot position (increasing the arm's angle) for less squat and greater cornering agility, the other three options being to remain in Ducati's neutral position with zero offset, or choose between the two remaining lower positions (-2mm or -4mm), which each lessen arm angle and improve rear grip should less favorable surface conditions warrant the change. Aside from this added adjustability, the only other chassis changes for '13 are almost minor by comparison, including a taller windscreen; substitute machined mirror-removal plates; an assortment of true carbon fiber bits, fenders, and swingarm covers; a re-textured seat; and additional heat shielding between its exhaust headers and the rider's OE components.
Not that the information above is indicative of all the Panigale's adjustability because, in addition to its newly added alternative pivot positioning, this motorcycle continues to offer its rider the 52%/48% weight bias, while the previous chassis tuning options, including two choices in the rear suspension's rising rates (progressive or flat), choices still offered via the linkage position. Two different options remain available for rear height changes, as well. The Ohlins TTX 36 shock is adjustable for length, in addition to the rear suspension's link arm. On the surface, having all of this adjustability might seem excessive, but any changes in final drive gearing or even chain adjustment will reposition the eccentric rear axle and alter rear height, while having the capability of making small or large rear-height corrections quickly and returning to desired setup numbers following changes in external gearing and tire choice are critical, especially in the demanding environs of racing. As for on-road applications, this adjustability would also be of use to discerning street riders.
Up front, as well as in the rear, the "R" continues the use of fully electronic damping control selection through the Panigale's compact TFT dash display. The 43mm Ohlins NIX fork with TiN Titanium-coated steel sliders offers 31 positions for rebound adjustment and 32 choices for compression. Selecting a lower number when using the e-suspension selection mode increases damping rates, the opposite being true for reducing damping forces when moving to higher numbers. Front or rear spring preload changes still require spanners. For overall travel, the NIX 43 Ohlins has 120mm (4.72") of travel, the rear TTX36 Ohlins will bottom at 130mm, or once 5.1 inches of travel has been used.
Attached to the Ohlins suspension, the Panigale continues its non-compromising mantra using the best rolling components and most powerful braking hardware available today. Forged Marchesini three (triple-spoke) 3.50" and 6.00" wheels and ABS-controlled Brembo M50 radial-mount calipers are matched with floating Brembo 330mm discs in front. Rear braking control features a dual-piston Brembo caliper working a fixed 245mm rotor and all ABS modes are available, including linked-rear ABS in sport mode, non-linked ABS in race mode, or "ABS off" entirely.
Panigale R Electronics: Three Ride Modes, DES, DTC, DDA, DQS, EBC, ABS, CBS, RbW, and TFT
Electronics obviously play a huge role in performance, especially with the Panigale, which is still the most electronically advanced production superbike on the market today. This year, the "R" gains GPS, previously only included on last year's Tri-Color 1199S, with all acquired data representing another line on Ducati's DDA downloadable data program, this for auto lap times and circuit mapping. Well-concealed, the GPS receiver has been flush-mounted behind the lowermost frontal point of the windscreen. Now, the only missing parts needed to complete a full-blown onboard data analysis capability system with this Ducati is the fitment of suspension movement potentiometers, these readily available and, as per Ducati, also compatible with the 1199R's DDA program.
GPS, however, is only the start of the Panigale's impressive E-package. Three riding modes (Race, Sport, and Wet), each with specific preprogrammed and pre-selected settings, are key to the Panigale's power outputs and electronic capabilities. DTC (Ducati Traction Control), DES (Ducati Electronic Suspension), EBC (Engine Braking Control), DQS (Ducati Quick Shifter), and ABS with selectable linked CBS (Combined Braking) are all present on the 1199R and accessible through the TFT variable-display dashboard. Quickly accessing the DDA's information for downloads is simply done by retrieving the USB located under the seat.
The Latest 1199 Superquadro R
Moving to the hard parts, Ducati has directed the majority of its latest updates at the Superquadro, its internals, electronics, and exhausts. Engine design, of course, remains Ducati's proven 90 degree L-twin with liquid cooling, Desmodromic valve operation, and 67.5mm elliptical throttle bodies supplied by Mitsubishi's dual fuel injectors. Ducati claims that the newest mill produces the same terminal output as last year195 horsepower at 10,750 rpm through 98.1 lb. ft. of peak torque, this delivered at 9,000 rpm. What's new and makes this output now more accessible starts at the twist grip, where the electronic RbW and TPS control receive updated mapping resulting in a new movement ratio for a more direct throttle response at low and midrange engine speeds. The change has the greatest effect between 3,000 rpm and 7,000 rpm, with this same RbW update mapping also being retroactive and applicable on all previous 2012 Panigale models. The new throttle curve increases actual throttle openings at what would previously be the '12's same amount of rotational twist grip movement, the result improving torque output in relation to smaller throttle openings. The change now increases engine response starting at very low engine speeds by adding initial grunt at partial throttle openings.
The oversquare mill displaces 1198cc through forged 112mm slipper pistons (4.41") and a 60.8mm (2.39") stroke, the combination producing a stroke ratio of 46.736mm (1.84"). As with the previous 1199, the Panigale's top-end features aluminum cylinder sleeves with Nikasil plating, the cylinders stabilized from heat with 360 degree grooved circumferential water passages that serve as wet liners quenched by its coolant bath. Also improving heat dissipation and bore dimension stability, the Superquadro's cylinders are trapped by directly contacting the crankcase below for improved pressure sealing and heat transfer.
The Superquadro does retain its current and very large valve sizing, the titanium intakes measuring 48mm (1.84") and the steel exhausts are 38.2mm (1.5"). Cam timing and the engine's 12.5:1 compression ratio also remain unchanged, but new differences found in the top-end include a low-friction DLC treatment on the rockers while, just below, the biggest updates were made with a new set of titanium connecting rods and a corresponding rebalance of the crankshaft, which mandated lighter flywheels. All told, the weight savings here are critical, dropping an impressive 630 grams (22.5 ounces) from the rods and another 700 grams (25 ounces) from the crankshaft flywheels. The substantial removal of this weight allows the engine to easily spin another 500 rpm at peak and safely raises the engine's ceiling to 12,000 rpm. With the increase in peak rpms, Ducati could also shorten the final drive ratio, so the "R's" gearing moves lower, from last year's 15/39 now to 15/41. As a result, the "R's" higher-rpm ceiling helps generate greater terminal speeds yet, with shorter gearing, the combination of lighter reciprocal internals and lower overall gear ratios help to improve engine performance and acceleration everywhere. Graphed measurement charts provided by Ducati also support this claim and indicate a 10% increase in torque output in the lower gears while, at full throttle, as much as 18% more torque at the rear tire is produced when WFO in the Panigale's final gear.
Also helping to keep the 1199R's weight down to its amazing 364-pound dry weight, Ducati continues the use of composite techno-polymer driving gears for its water and dual oil pump arrangements. In the lower-end, oiling and lubrication joins one conventional and one vacuum-scavenging pump, with the vacuum also minimizing power losses associated with crankcase pressures by reducing pumping resistance generated when the very large pistons move in their downward stroke. The secondary pump also assists oil returning to the engine's deep magnesium sump and, again, through the Superquadro's dual oil pumps.
The engine's lightweight pumps, driving gears, perforated shift drum, minimalistic electric starter, cast-magnesium covers over the valves, timing chains, clutch, and extended oil sump are all designed to keep engine weight to a minimum.
Remaining engine parts that carry over from the previous 1199 are the hydraulically operated and self-servo-assisted full oil-bathed slipper clutch and the Panigale's special decompression system that allows for the engine's very compact starter motor, this paired with a much smaller 12-volt battery. Now, all Panigale models start with minimal resistance even with their huge 12.5:1 compression-ratio pistons, this due to an ancillary mechanical arrangement on the top-end affixed to each exhaust cam that slightly opens exhaust valves, but only at the extremely low engine starting speeds generated by the small starter. At very low rotational engine speeds, a centrifugal tick-over system engages and momentarily opens both exhaust valves, reducing compression and easily cycling the huge twin. By adopting the entire automatic compression release system, Ducati was able to save 7.3 pounds from the battery and starting system alone. And, perhaps long-forgotten but also absent on all of the Panigale models are Ducati's iconic belt-driven cams, which are replaced with chain-and-gear driven operation on the Superquadro. Extended service intervals are now set at 15,000 miles, and with far fewer external parts and pieces. On a related note and another consideration, while the Superquadro's service intervals have been increased, Soup understands that the expense of each service has also been increased. But, by what percentage, we don't know.
Two Exhaust Systems, Plus A Third New Option
When the first Panigale was introduced last year, the sum of its hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emission levels was also increased. These gaseous by-products of the 1199's energy generation were then mitigated by incorporating a secondary air bypass system using a one-way reed valve directing clean air into each cylinder head. With the latest 1199R, the same system remains, with the reed introducing air directly from the airbox into the exhaust ports just aft of the exhaust valve when the engine's ECU senses excessive conditions from the exhaust-mounted Lambda probes. The results are higher exhaust temperatures and cleaner burning without the elevation of actual combustion temperatures, while engineers were able to supply the 1199 with an enriched air/fuel ratio for maximum power followed by cleaner-burning residual gasses and fewer overall emissions.
One new difference between the "R" and the standard 1199 is in exhaust systems. The 1199R will come equipped with a standard 64mm-tube OE exhaust, along with a second race-spec full Termignoni system using a "Racing EVO" part designation. The EVO (as we tested), with 70mm tubing and non-catalyzed mufflers, is included with the purchase of each Panigale R, while the factory also makes available a third exhaust option, this called the "Race Pro." The "Pro" features 160mm- (4.10") longer 70mm header sections for both front and rear cylinders. If looking at all three systems on a graphed power output sheet overlay, the EVO system improves things over the smaller-tube OE exhaust starting with power increases early in the rev range and adds about 10 horsepower through the 1199R's entire power curve. The optional "Pro" exhaust system must be purchased through Ducati's Performance Catalog and must be matched with dedicated mapping, the map already loaded onboard in the ECU. The lengthened system clearly produces the best power of the three, however, it starts improving outputs slightly later, from 6,700 rpm, then tails off along with the others once past 11,000 rpm. We suspect that the OE exhaust remains the best solution for the street, if you're in favor of lower sound levels and reduced emissions. However, if you wish to really wake everything up (including your neighbors) and extract a healthy dose more output from the "R," just fit the big-diameter, fully open Termignoni system already in the crate.
Dollars Versus Sense And Bottom Lines
An interesting fact is that, while looking at the present numbers for 2013, the 1199 Panigale R does come at a price, but a glimpse of the past reflects that any of the previous "R" models have always been considered almost prohibitively expensive and aimed primarily at racing, perhaps the most extreme example being the 1098R Bayliss edition that required a $42,000 investment. In retrospect, the latest 1199 Panigale R is tagged with a $29,995 MSRP, the sum indeed an impressive value considering its vast improvements in technologies, top-level performance, minimal weight, and overall reliability, all for only $2K above last year's price.
Still in the 1199 model lineup is the standard Panigale ($17,995) with its lightweight, non-electronic adjusting suspension damping and optional ABS and DDA capabilities. Next, there is the "1199S" ($22,995), offering the same full-electronic options as the pricier "Tri-Color" (27,995). But, looking at the 1199 Panigale R as a $30K investment, this latest Ducati far outweighs its three other siblings in technology and performance. Titanium connecting rods, lighter crankshaft flywheels, two exhaust systems, miscellaneous carbon fiber pieces, the adjustable swingarm pivot placement and enhanced e-capabilities, all tightly packed together and composing the fastest, lightest, and most advanced production motorcycle Ducati has ever made. Hard to imagine the future getting much better, but leave it up to Ducati. We at Soup share the faith!
Soup's test of the new 1199 Panigale R took place at Circuit Of The Americas, the $400 million motorsports facility built on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. As America's newest track and the host for the second round of the FIM's MotoGP World Championship, it was not without coincidence that Ducati elected COTA to intro their latest superbike. What better place or opportunity to expose their factory racers to a new circuit which, up until that point, had only been seen by a handful of other racers, all of which are Ducati's competitors in MotoGP. And, while both Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies were not given the chance to circulate COTA aboard their MotoGP mounts, a full day shaking down the Panigale R test bikes prior to our following day's ride surely wouldn't hurt, especially when those initial Friday-morning sighting laps awaited them for what would be their second time on the track.
Having seen and now ridden COTA, the clockwise-run track is long, wide (at some points 52-feet wide) and, at the full 3.4-mile length, comprises 20 corners. A description of its features includes some pretty dramatic changes in elevation during the first third of each lap, combined totaling a 133-foot variance. What goes up for Turn 1 must go down, and from Turn 2, the track opens up, eventually sweeping into fast esses, then climbing again gradually and culminating through a wide, but slightly off-camber right (Turn 8), this followed up into another left crest at the apex of Turn 9. Here, and with barely enough time for a short up-shift at the exit, a rider sees only the track's surface dropping away and into another blind descending left that's quite quick as you accelerate down the final hill. During a welcome conference, Nicky noted that this section (Turn 10) was his favorite part of the track. For us, also, this was very entertaining, and we agree with the Champ, as when fit together well, this portion of COTA is both fast and seriously fun. Although the remainder of COTA does have more elevation, once past Turn 10, the track opens and changes seem subtle by comparison, ending what we might call "section one."
The beginning of section two enters what proved to be a 200-mph back straight on a MotoGP machine. This straight ends with a hairpin that requires some of the heaviest braking we've experienced anywhere, while from the back straight--Turn 12 to Turn 18--a series of decreasing-radius rights, both long and difficult corners at best, keep the rider busy steering with the throttle well past their apexes. Still, the outside edges of the track arrive quickly, and it may be here that front grip is taxed the most. The remainder of the lap beyond Turn 18 only has two more turns, both very fast lefts. Turn 19's apex is almost blind, as well, appearing only after you start your turn-in. Our best result here (as strange as it might sound) came by letting the apex come to us, as we really couldn't force the Panigale R to turn much harder at the expense of front grip and, once we established a decent reference on the outside for turning, the corner was easier to grasp. The final turn at COTA is a fast left that, for me, required a downshift and light touch of the brakes while still going straight. When we did this correctly, the entry onto the front straight was fast and almost wheelie-free with stronger drives up the front straight. In review, at least for this tester, the first 10 corners took the most time and mental patience to overcome, yet once the first third of the lap was behind us, things begin to straighten out and, eventually, the track really became fun. In that meeting, Nicky warned us that COTA wouldn't be the easiest track we've ever ridden, and he was correct. It is, however, the best track this country now has to offer, and without exception.
In addition, COTA's equally quick blind crests, decreasing-radius turns, and straights concluding in hairpins all present numerous challenges, especially for the unfamiliar rider. Adding to the difficulty, a learning curve for the circuit is continuously straightened by waiting another 3.4 miles before improving on that particular curve or section again, so making big improvements while lapping during each session is more timely. Yes, we realize that it's the rider's job to learn new tracks and get up to competitive speeds quickly but, that being said, COTA might not be an easy task for the unfamiliar.
Aboard The Panigale R
Once we were somewhat familiar with "where" the track went, it was on to reading the Panigale R's performance and new improvements.
Even leaving the pits, the 1199R felt stronger just off idle. Gone was the previous light flywheel effect, almost a lean off-idle feeling we experienced in Abu Dhabi when initially releasing the clutch. The next impression came once into the engine's upper rev range, where the big twin easily ran into its rev limiter without straining. In fact, 12,000 rpm came so easily that, if not for the surrounding red dash lights flashing and the limiter's soft intervention, it was as if the Ducati might spin as high and as long as necessary. Indeed, the "R" has an unencumbered engine, regardless of load, and yes, it's been a while since we'd experienced the 1199 on the track, but our prior memory has not escaped entirely, and this new Ducati does feel stronger than ever.
Engine response and performance aside, the Panigale R's solid chassis and amazing 417-pound fully wet weight made all the difference when lapping COTA. Perhaps this fact was most influential when changing directions through the esses at higher speeds, and, here, the bike never actually felt as if it would let you get behind with steering, limitations that a heavier mount could easily do. Instead, the Panigale R would use most of its suspension while under heavy loading, requiring only a slight pressure on the opposite peg and some decent countersteering to promptly change directions.
Braking was intuitive, as well, and it would be safe to say that COTA is a heavy braking track, at least when approaching and exiting the back straight. Here, the Panigale R makes the best use of both its ABS (front-only in "Race" mode) and electronic engine braking control (EBS preset at the maximum #1) and always stopped with ease and stability. The only limit we found during our hardest braking was the upper-body strength of the rider, as with your arms at full resistance and thighs firmly clutching the tank, the Panigale R will stop with a tremendous amount of agility and feel. This feedback also allowed us to continuously move our braking points deeper, until the limits proved to be our resistance strength, and not the motorcycle or the adhesion of its tires. We still can't get over how hard the Panigale R will let you brake. Its performance is amazing!
Prior to our test, Ducati had determined that COTA's track surface was still somewhat green. And, due to the fact that grip can be an issue with open-class sportbikes, the Italians worked closely with Pirelli's engineers, deciding a switch to softer SC-2 compound Diablo Supercorsa rubber would be beneficial. For added precaution, our tires were placed on warmers and set warm with 2.1/1.7 BAR (30.5/24.6psi) respectively. The track-compound rubber did a great job helping the big Ducati get its power down, and as can be seen in some of the action photos, the 200/55 rear tire set with lower pressure offered a wide footprint, this especially helpful when driving off corners.
With DTC, the 1199R's Traction Control detects and limits spin, the system actually doing as much for rear traction as it does for our own RCL (Rider's Confidence Level), improving drives by controlling wheel spin. When on and functioning, the trick system relies on predetermined algorithms to first cut spark advance, since ignition is the fastest way to intervene when spin is detected. And, if more control is still needed, fuel is cut next, should retarding spark advance not be enough. For settings, Soup relied on the DTC levels predetermined by Ducati's technicians, in this case number two (of eight possible). During the test, we found that Ducati's DTC corrective function is so transparent when pushing that it was nearly impossible to tell how much DTC was measuring out our traction. Also, while lapping COTA, our attentions were usually focused well ahead, but an occasional glance at the TFT dash saw yellow indicator lights constantly illuminated, meaning that the Panigale R's electronics were busy keeping us safe. Here, a perfect application would be to download and review the DDA's stored data, as this would show how much wheel spin was occurring and where on the track during each lap it was happening. If serious, having this information could help with everything from gear selection and final-drive gearing, to suspension settings, tire choices, engine performance, and much more, all aimed at fine-tuning the Panigale R and, conceivably, lowering lap times.
Another e-system that we did experiment with was the DQS, or quick shifter system. The last time we rode the Panigale, it was obvious that our left toe spent too much time around the shifter and, as a result, the DQS worked overtime, inadvertently cutting both spark and fuel as programmed. The resulting misfires were not always intended, and the best fix was simply to move further away from the shifter, thus eliminating the problem. But, at this latest intro, we tried the 1199R's DQS again, dedicating an entire session at COTA to testing DQS in the "off" position. Our experience found that it did stop our foot-fumble-induced engine stutter, but also made upshifting under high-rpm engine loading both more difficult and somewhat more time-consuming. For the remainder of our testing, we used DQS and just worked on keeping our foot clear of the shifter when not moving the pedal, giving the best results overall. Still, it's handy that, like all of the Panigale R's e-systems, the rider always has the option of turning off each electronic aid, if desired.
Soup's final impressions ended where the rubber met the road, in the 1199 Panigale R's case with a massive rear footprint thanks to Pirelli's 200/55 series race-compound Diablo Supercorsa rubber. And, even with the large rear tire, the 1199R both turned in and picked back up with amazing ease while, in the fastest corners of the track, the "R's" incredibly light wet weight makes all the difference. All of the Panigales will arrive in dealerships with the same-size Pirellis, but in a standard road compound. This tire choice is best suited for general sporting use, quicker warm ups, and extended numbers of heat cycling.
From Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina with its sand-covered surface, to Hermann Tilke's 25th and newest track (COTA)--which is a fast and wide masterpiece of pavement-Ducati's new 1199 Panigale R has, again, proven that it couldn't have been be more impressive. Just looking at its specs, the "R" remains about as far from a conventional engineering design, or its competitors, as a road-going superbike can be. A compact, 1198cc, liquid-cooled Desmodromic 90¯ V-twin that produces 205 horsepower, with a 12.5:1 compression ratio, titanium connecting rods and valves, lightweight crankshaft, 67.5mm elliptical throttle bodies fed with twin fuel injectors per cylinder, dual oil pumps, slipper clutch, two different exhaust systems, an unequaled onboard electronics package with three riding modes, traction control, EBC, ABS, C-ABS, DES, DQS, TFT dash, and DDA. The monocoque chassis now adds more tuning capability this year with a four-position swingarm pivot, while other attractive features like the massive single-sided swingarm, dual-ratio rear linkage, aluminum fuel tank, fully adjustable Ohlins suspension and steering damper, Brembo brakes, forged Marchesini wheels, Pirelli rubber, carbon fiber, and more all total to place the 1199 Panigale R in a class of its own. With this motorcycle, you get what you pay for. No wonder the FIM's WSBK series continues to try to penalize Ducati's Panigale R down in speed. It's just that good.