Ducati Panigale R in the driving report

Ducati Panigale R in the driving report

Between Superleggera and 1299

The Ducati Panigale R forms the basis for the current world championship superbikes and is the latest creation in this series. Technically and in terms of price, it lies between the exclusive 1199 Superleggera and the 1299 Panigale S. That raises expectations.

Zack, over! Ducati works driver Chaz Davies mercilessly lets the astonished author stand. The Briton doesn’t even hunt around the Imola course with his emergency equipment, but also sits on the street-legal version. Enjoy the ingenious line of the professional in the curve combinations Tamburello and Villeneuve for a short time, then it disappears behind the Tosa curve, never to be seen again. The occasion of the exciting encounter is the presentation of the D.ucati Panigale R. Two days after the two world championship races on the northern Italian circuit, Ducati presented its youngest super sports bike to a handful of journalists, which served as the basis for the lightning-fast factory bikes. And it has a lot to offer. 

Ducati Panigale R in the driving report

Between Superleggera and 1299

Ducati Panigale R almost the same drive as in the extremely expensive and feather-light premium racer 1199 Superleggera: pistons with only two rings and milled bottoms, milled combustion chamber, titanium connecting rods, crankshaft with mini crank webs and counterweights made of super-dense tungsten. In contrast to the Superleggera, the Italians do not use titanium exhaust valves in the R engine. The designers, on the other hand, invested more effort in the valve guides. There they created space for camshafts with more lift. So far, however, these have only been rotating in the WM machines. Also new are the struts on the magnesium covers of the cylinder heads and the clutch. They are supposed to increase the strength. Ducati does not even draw a comparison to the previous R version from 2013: “The differences are generally very large, the current R is a completely different motorcycle, ”explains a spokesman. In order to avoid confusion, the Italians simply omitted the cubic capacity when naming the new one. 

What can the Ducati Panigale R do in practice??

That is 2 HP and 2 Nm more than in the Superleggera. A later test will have to show how many of them actually find their way to the dynamometer. One thing is clear, however: the drive of the Ducati Panigale R also delivers its maximum power at rated speeds of 11,500 rpm, which are unusually high for big-bore two-cylinders. In addition, the highest torque is also very late at 10,250 rpm. As a result, the engine differs significantly from the larger-displacement 1299 Panigale (S), which has only been sweeping the streets since this year, despite the identical peak performance. The other differences between the two motors can be found on one of the following sub-pages. But what can the R do in practice?? 

Press the starter button. Suddenly an angry V2 sound roars through the pit lane. In terms of volume, you’re used to a lot from Bologna Superbikes, but this thunderous echo has its own quality. “The test machines are equipped with racing exhausts,” says Series Manager Cristian Gasparri. "With the appropriate mapping, the engines in the middle are up to 20 percent more powerful, and the peak output also increases by around 6 to 8 hp." For the ride on the racetrack, the technicians have also reversed the shift pattern: first gear up, rest down. The automatic gearshift of the Ducati Panigale R fits perfectly. It allows racing up and downshifts without a clutch.

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The Ducati Panigale R burns wonderfully light-footed around the radii and hits the desired line with millimeter precision.

So equipped, the red diva pushes mightily out of the corners. This even applies to the two narrow chicanes "Alta Variant" and "Bassa Variant", the slowest sections of the route. The second course is enough, and whoosh, the Italian fires up and away. It also masters the sprint through the rev range brilliantly: no noticeable drop, no phase of weakness, just sheer power. Ducati Panigale R with standard exhaust and standard mapping perform equally well? For the time being, she still owes the answer. 

But she’s already showing her talent for cornering today. The Duc burns wonderfully light-footed around the radii and hits the desired line with millimeter precision. In addition, its excellent stability in lean positions enables high cornering speeds. The sensationally low weight certainly has a large part in this performance. Ducati indicates 184 kilograms with a full tank. This means that the Ducati Panigale R is roughly midway between the Superleggera (177 kilos) and the 1299 Panigale S (190 kilos).

With increasing speed, more and more unrest gets into the chassis

A driving style with a lot of hanging-off works best. Nevertheless, as the speed increases, more and more unrest gets into the chassis. Jagged, quilted gear changes with the throttle valve wide open are sufficient to let the Ducati Panigale R stir around its longitudinal axis. The same applies when accelerating over bumps. In extreme cases, only turning off the gas helps. Otherwise the rashes will be too severe. What to do? 

Check setup. When stationary, the fork and shock absorber (both work conventionally) can only be compressed slightly, and the set-up was extremely hard. The further the suspension technicians open the damping, the better the spring elements absorb the impulses introduced and the quieter the Ducati Panigale R. It also helps to close the steering damper a little further. But the Italian cannot be completely reassured. At least not on this route.

Ducati is calling for around 33,000 euros for the Panigale R.

Imola demands the chassis like hardly any other slope because of its many bumps, knolls, uphill and downhill passages. In addition, Ducati’s test rider Alessandro Valia apparently tuned the bike for racing professionals, who demand the chassis more than normal mortals. “The Ducati Panigale R is a thoroughbred racing machine,” confirms the German importer. "The 1299 Panigale and the 1299 Panigale S are definitely the better choice for hobby racers." 

The Ducati Panigale R has adopted the geometry from precisely these. The steering head angle and caster are identical, only the wheelbase has grown by five millimeters. To do this, the technicians moved the steering head bearings a little further forward. Like the 1299s, the monocoque is also made of aluminum, magnesium is reserved for the Superleggera. Nevertheless, the Panigale R is an exclusive motorcycle. The price alone speaks for this. Ducati is calling around 33,000 euros for the R, which is unlimited in number. In this category, too, it lies between the worlds – those of Superleggera and 1299 Panigale S..

Technical data Ducati Panigale R


The price of the Ducati Panigale R is also somewhere between the worlds – those of the Superleggera and the 1299 Panigale S..

Panigale series engines


The photo shows the latest version of the Panigale drive. It fuels the new R version.


The lighter crankshaft of the Superleggera rotates in the engine (far right).

It all started in 2012 with the 1199 Panigale. A completely redesigned engine works in it, which Ducati christened “Superquadro” because of its extreme bore / stroke ratio (112.0 to 60.8 millimeters). On the basis of this drive, the Italians developed the engine of the Superleggera, which appeared last year in a limited editing of 500 copies. The most important differences are already in the main text and are listed again below. The Superleggera engine essentially powers the new Ducati Panigale R. Deviations: no titanium screws, steel exhaust valves, modified valve guides, stabilizing struts on the cylinder head and clutch cover.

But what are the differences between this drive and that of the 1299 Panigale (S), which was also presented this year? In the case of the nominal power, initially none. Both are specified with 205 hp. The most important feature of the 1299 is its larger displacement. Thanks to the 116 bore with the same stroke, it grew from 1198 to 1285 cubic centimeters. Otherwise, the 1299 engine dispenses with the fine ingredients such as light pistons with only two rings, milled piston heads and combustion chambers, titanium connecting rods and crankshafts with small crank webs. The compression is also different: 12.6: 1 for the 1299, 13.2: 1 for the Ducati Panigale R. In addition, the 1299 develops its power earlier, and of course it also delivers more torque: 145 Nm at 8750 rpm to 136 Nm at 10.250 rpm. The peak performance is also available earlier. In the 1299 at 10,500 rpm, in the R at 11,500 rpm (all factory specifications).

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