By: Dave Abrahams
Milan, Italy - Ducati calls it 'the quintessence of motorcycling'. We call it outrageous. The 1299 Superleggera is the most powerful twin-cylinder production motorcycle ever built for the road, rated for 141.5kW at a howling 11 000rpm. But more importantly, it weighs just 167kg with a full tank of fuel. Only 500 will be built, at a reported cost of €80 000 (R1.2 million) each - but that's immaterial, because they're all sold.
Frame, swing-arm, wheels, mudguards, body panels and even the exhaust heat-shield are made of carbon fibre, impregnated with a specially developed heat-resistant resin and with aluminium-alloy inserts moulded in at stress points.
The 1285cc Superquadro L-twin has been uprated from that of the Panigale with a lightened crankshaft, new titanium con-rods, 116mm pistons with only two segments and machined crowns as per the Ducati Team World Superbike race bikes, and coated aluminium, rather than steel, cylinder liners.
The valves - all titanium - are actually bigger than those used on the World Superbike machines, up from 46.8mm to 48mm for the intake and from 38.2mm to 39.2mm for the exhaust, with higher-lift cams.
Top-drawer running gear
This intense powerhouse breathes in through a larger-surface air filter and elliptical throttle bodies with revised intake trumpets - different for each cylinder - and out through an all-titanium Akrapovic exhaust system with high-mounted tailpipes like the factory World Superbikes.
And each bike comes with a second, track-only, system that’s four kilograms lighter than the street-legal set-up and delivers an extra 3.7kW.
Suspension is by Ohlins - 43mm FL936 upside-downies in front and a TTX36 with a titanium spring at the rear, adjustable for everything except the colour of your girlfriend's panties - and braking by Brembo (M50 Monoblocs on 330mm platters with an MCS 19.21 radial master cylinder and Bosch cornering ABS). No surprises there - although we can't help wondering whether the 1.7kg saved by fitting a lithium-ion battery is worth it in terms of the risk factor.
The 1299 Superleggera uses a six-axis Bosch inertial measurement unit to control a new electronics package that Ducati says is the closest thing on the road to a MotoGP set-up, including traction control (which allows you to accurately modulate just how much wheelspin you are getting as you progress through the corner, while also making allowance for tyre wear), wheelie control, slide control - which measures how far the back wheel is stepped out by comparing where the bike is pointed with where it's actually going, and adjusts throttle position and ignition timing to hold it just like that.
The launch control system hold the revs at optimum until the clutch is fully home and then controls torque delivery to give you the fastest acceleration the rear tyre is capable of, while modulating (note, we didn't say preventing) wheelies and wheelspin. Yes Cyril, the 1299 Superleggera is quite capable of giving both at the same time.
It also limits the number of consecutive launches you can inflict on the clutch - and restarting the bike won't get round it, you have to ride a certain distance before the system will reset itself.
Finally, the data analyser logs throttle opening, vehicle speed, engine revs, gear selection, engine temperature and distance travelled on a USB-ready memory card, with a dedicated channel to record a graph of torque reduction - i.e. when and by how much the electronics are intervening.
It also uses GPS to record laps and lap times - just hit the flash button once, the first time you cross the finish line on any circuit; it'll memorise the co-ordinates and log each lap time as you pass that point. Then, at the end of a ride or a track day, you can download the data and analyse bike and rider performance.