New Ducati: less is a whole lot moreComment on this story
New Ducati: less is a whole lot more
When an Italian manufacturer tacks the word 'Superleggera' on to the name of a car or motorcycle it denotes a limited-edition, high performance model that's been lightened as far as possible by using exotic materials, top-drawer components and leaving out unnecessary luxuries such as back seats.
This, then, is the 2014 Ducati 1199 Superleggera, an extraordinary creation of titanium, magnesium and carbon fibre for which the maker claims the highest power-to-weight ratio yet for a street-legal production vehicle.
Rated at 149kW and weighing in at just 155kg dry, it comes tantalisingly close to the magic 1:1 ratio - one kilowatt of power for every kilogram of bike.
Performance is, not surprisingly, breathtaking.
As with previous special-edition Ducati models, only 500 will be made, each with its serial number engraved on the upper triple clamp, and yes, it will be very, very expensive.
Based on the 1199 Panigale 'R' specification with magnesium monocoque frame and forged Marchesini magnesium-alloy wheels, the Superleggera also has a carbon-fibre rear sub-frame, a lithium-ion battery and a titanium exhaust system with stainless-steel headers.
The standard 1198cc Superquadro L-twin already has titanium con-rods and inlet valves.
The Superleggera also gets titanium exhaust valves, and, for the first time on a Ducati streetbike, competition-spec pistons with short skirts and only two rings (compression and oil), dramatically reducing mass and friction, as well as a revised piston crown to increase compression ratio, and a specially lightened crankshaft, precision balanced with tungsten inserts.
Most of the bolts and fasteners on the engine and chassis are machined out of titanium, the rear sprocket is made of Ergal, a high-strength, wear-resistance aerospace aluminium alloy, and the final drive is by lightweight World Superbike-spec 520 chain.
Suspension is by lightweight Öhlins FL916 forks and an Öhlins TTX36 rear monoshock with a titanium spring, while the Brembo M50 monobloc callipers are controlled by a Grand Prix-style MCS 19-21 front master cylinder and remote adjuster .
The superleggera's electronics have been upgraded with a new wheelie control system based on an inertial platform, while upgraded software on the traction control and engine-braking limiter now compensates automatically for variations in rear-tyre size and final-drive ratio.
The bike's built-in telemetry also has a extra sensor and software channel to records and display lean angles - all of which is now controlled by World Superbike-style handlebar buttons so the rider can adjust the electronics 'on the fly' without talking their hands off the 'bars.
The carbon-fibre body panels are moulded to the same slippery shape as the aftermarket 'R'-spec aero-kit and the Superleggera will be finished only in Ducati's signature racing red, set off by the natural dull-gold colour of its forged and machined magnesium-alloy wheels.
Each Superleggera will come with a track-only Race Kit, including a titanium Akrapovic exhaust system comprising free-flow tailpipes (leave us not tempt the gods by calling them silencers) and a 2-into-1 collector, that increases power by 3.7kW and reduces weight by 2.5kg.
Also included are a high racing windscreen, machined covers for the gaps in the body where the mirrors used to be, removal kits for the numberplate holder and side stand (if you simply unplug their wiring the bike's electronics will register a fault and it won't start!) as well as front and rear paddock stands and a tailored dust cover.
Engine: 1198cc liquid-cooled four-stroke L-twin.
Bore x stroke: 112 x 60.8mm.
Compression ratio: 13.2:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four desmodromically actuated overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 149kW at 11 500rpm.
Torque: 134Nm at 10 200rpm.
Induction: Mitsubishi electronic fuel-injection with dual injectors per cylinder and full ride-by-wire elliptical throttle bodies.
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital with electronic advance.
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated wet multiplate clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh transmission with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 43mm Öhlins FL916 inverted forks, adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Rear suspension: Öhlins TTX36 monoshock adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.
Front brake: Dual 330mm semi-floating discs with four-pot opposed piston radial-mount Brembo M50 monobloc callipers and Bosch 9ME ABS.
Rear brake: 245mm disc with Brembo two-piston calliper and Bosch 9ME ABS.
Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 200/55 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 830mm.
Kerb weight: 177kg.
Fuel tank: 17 litres.
Warranty: Two years unlimited distance.