Mugello, Italy - He knew it was going to be good - after all, he'd been involved in the Superquadro project from its inception - but even Ducati test rider Alessandro Valia wasn't ready for just how good the new-for-2015 1299 Panigale S was, the first time he got it out on his favourite circuit.

That's him in the lead picture aboard the factory test bike at Mugello, in full street trim other than mirrors (Grand Prix circuits have very strict rules about that) with his elbow hard down, on his way to a best lap of 1min55.3s on his first day of track testing.

"I expected an improvement in performance over the previous 1199 Panigale," he said, "but this was way more than those expectations. This was not a seat-of-the-pants impression; the stopwatch doesn't lie - it'sa really incredible time for a production bike!"

To put it in perspective, his time was just 7.6 seconds outside the MotoGP lap record for the circuit, set by a certain Mr Marquez during the 2014 Italian Grand Prix.

A lot of that performance comes from the new 1285cc short-stroke Superquadro engine; with a 116mm bore and stroke of only 60.8mm, giving it a bore/stroke ratio of 1.91, it's the most oversquare V-twin engine ever put into series production - and the most powerful, rated for 150.8kW at a hair-raising 10 500 revs and 144.6Nm at 8750rpm.

SMART SUSPENSION

But just as fundamental to a 1:55 lap are the changes to the frame; the steering head angle has been reduced by half a degree to 24 degrees quicker response on tunr-in, while the swing-arm pivot point has been relocated to improve stability in long sweepers - especially with the power hard on coming out, as you can see in the third picture!

But this is not a track day special, insists Valia.

"The new Ohlins suspension includes a very useful electronic steering damper, enabling the bike to move seamlessly from flat-out performance on the track to comfortable road riding," he explained.

“The ride back from Mugello to the factory in Bologna was a pleasure, even over the very bumpy Giogo and Futa passes.”

The 1299 Panigale S has semi-active Ohlins Smart EC suspension, which interfaces with the Bosch inertial platform to dynamically respond to how the bike is ridden, adjusting the suspension in real time as the loads change; for example, under braking it stiffens the forks' damping to minimise front end dive, then softens it as the bike accelerates to maintain stability as the front wheel kisses the road in the inevitable power wheelies.

The 1299 Panigale is due for SA release around mid-year; prices, as always, when they get here.

FACTS

Ducati 1299 Panigale S

Engine: 1285cc liquid-cooled four-stroke V-twin.

Bore x stroke: 116 x 60.8mm.

Compression ratio: 12.6:1.

Valvegear: DOHC with four desmodromic overhead valves per cylinder.

Power: 150.8kW at 10 500rpm.

Torque: 144.6Nm at 8750rpm.

Induction: Mitsubishi fly-by-wire electronic fuel-injection with two elliptical throttle bodies and dual injectors per cylinder.

Ignition: Digital electronic.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Self-servo hydraulically-actuated multiplate wet slipper clutch.

Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with electronic quick-shifter and final drive by chain.

Front Suspension: Ohlins NIX30 43mm fully adjustable inverted cartridge forks with electronic adjustment for compression and rebound damping in semi-acticve mode.

Rear Suspension: Single-sided aluminium swing-arm with two-position adjustable linkage and Ohlins TTX36 gas-charged monoshock with electronic adjustment for compression and rebound damping in semi-acticve mode.

Front brakes: Dual 330mm discs with Brembo Evo M50 four-piston radial-mount monobloc callipers, traction control and Bosch 9.1MP cornering ABS.

Rear brake: 245mm disc with dual-piston calliper and Bosch 9.1MP cornering ABS.

Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.

Rear tyre: 200/70 - 17 tubeless.

Wheelbase: 1426mm.

Seat height: 830mm.

Kerb weight: 190.5kg.

Fuel tank: 17.0 litres.