Well we’ve got a long old day of hooning around like idiots on the new Ducati Panigale 1299, but first impressions are bloody good. Within a couple of laps at ‘I’ve still got a hangover’ pace, the improvements to the midrange torque are obvious. The 1199 Panigale could never be accused of lacking in speed, but the power was tucked pretty high up the rev range and trying to get it to fire out of a turn from the lower echelons of the tacho it could sometimes go all 1980’s two-stroke on us. But with a claimed 15% increase in torque from 5-8,000 rpm, the new bike gets into a sprint much sooner. And once you’re up in the top end of the power curve, the claimed 205bhp shrinks the straights pretty damn quickly.
There’s plenty more testing to do here at the Portimao circuit today, but already the swanky new electronics package is leaning over my shoulder and lending a hand. Over the lumps, bumps and rises, so far the wheelie control system has been faultless, holding stable a bike that, with this much power, just wants to turn itself upside-down. On the other side of the acceleration coin, the auto-blipper downshift system, as launched on the new BMW S1000RR a couple of months back, lets you stomp down the gears without having to trouble the clutch or throttle. Less inputs to think about; more brain capacity to cope with doing skids and trying to look awesome.
We’ll check back in this evening with a full test report, but for now the most unhinged of the 1000cc superbikes just got a little madder and a little easier to handle.