Going down the long start-finish straight at the Sepang International Circuit, throttle pinned, chin on tank and head tucked behind the fairing, I feel all those sensations that speed brings with it, all but one. Astride the world’s most powerful road legal motorcycle, strangely there is no element of fear. Say hello to the monstrously, no puns intended, powerful Ducati Panigale V4.
“Even the development base is shared with the Desmosedici GP’s engine”
211bhp and 124Nm from the 1103cc 90° V4 engine
Unveiled at the last EICMA in Milan, the V4 sounded the death knell for the L-twin that had characterised Ducati’s superbike portfolio for the longest time ever. The technological leap from the 1299 Panigale to the V4 is absolutely astounding. The 1103cc 90-degree V4 features a counter rotating crankshaft that minimises gyroscopic effects, helps mitigate wheelies and increases refinement. No need for a balancer shaft here. Its 81mm bore is the same as on the GP bike that you see Lorenzo or Dovizioso race on. Even the development base is shared with the Desmosedici GP’s engine. The twin pulse firing order however has been fine tuned to optimise low and mid-range grunt while also creating an unforgettable aural experience. Oh, did I not mention? It makes a staggering 211bhp at a screaming howling 13,000rpm and 124Nm of torque at an equally heady 10,000rpm. All that shove for a bike whose kerb weight is just 195kg. Works out to just under 1100bhp per tonne! Small wonder then that even with my limited skills, with the engine’s counter rotating crankshaft and wheelie control set at maximum, the front tyre was barely skimming the tarmac each time I wrung the throttle open. The sheer ferocity of the acceleration is mind numbing. It’s exhilarating beyond words. Yet, this is not at the cost of tractability because Ducati engineers have worked hard to spread all that grunt nicely over the engine’s rev range.
“On this bike, you can go harder, faster and lower than you’ve ever been with far less effort than you would require on all the other machines”
Then there is its handling
Sweet and sublime would be the understatements of the century. I have ridden Suzuki’s GSX-R1000R, the BMW S 1000 RR and even Ducati’s own 959 Panigale on race tracks before and nothing, I repeat, nothing comes close to this bike’s intuitiveness. And to think, there isn’t even a frame in the conventional sense. Everything is mounted directly on to the engine. The swingarm bolts on to the crankcase and the cast aluminium front frame mounts straight on to the front cylinder head. This is revolution at a different level. On this bike, you can go harder, faster and lower than you’ve ever been with far less effort than you would require on all the other machines. It’s that rider friendly. Hell, this could easily be the friendliest superbike money can buy.
The Ducati Panigale V4 S is friendly enough to make a noob look like a pro
Well, almost because with that kind of power, she can bite like a pit bull too as a member of the Chinese media in our group discovered. But if your head keeps pace with your abilities, for the bike can do much more, this is an intensely rewarding machine. Actually, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t for Ducati having pulled out all plugs to ensure that this is at the cutting edge of the superbike world. The tyres, Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa SP IIIs specially and exclusively developed for this bike, are only a few grooves away from a racing slick. “The grooves are thinner than on the SP II but we had to lengthen them a bit to ensure that they were road legal,” explained Flavia Maffeis, product, trade & consumer marketing manager, APAC, Pirelli. Out on track it grips better than a sheet of Velcro. The only downside is they don’t last very long – 5,000km if you’re exceptionally careful with your riding. Those Brembo Stylema M 4.30 monoblocs that ensure you stop on a dime ten out of ten are new too and exclusive as well. The electronics safety net is so wide and thick that you’d have to be a complete arse to find a way around it.
“It is a road going motorcycle that is just four seconds off the pace of Casey Stoner’s lap record setting Ducati ride in 2009 here at Sepang”
The one that is truly fascinating is that cornering ABS
Can you imagine how difficult it is to get your head wrapped around the idea of staying on the brakes till the apex? But boy it works like the medicine man’s best charm. To be honest I didn’t have the balls to keep braking till the apex, watching Ducati’s test rider Alessandro Valia (the guy you see doing all that spectacular stuff here) brake from as late as the 75m marker from near 300kmph on the main straight was exciting enough, each one of us were braking later than we would have dared otherwise. Did our lap times drop? Don’t know. Don’t even care. All I know is it felt like a billion bucks being able to stay flat out for a fraction longer before hauling on the stoppers. And you can keep doing that for lap after lap, which is exactly what we were up to.
Speed, they say, is addictive and clearly everyone at Ducati is hooked on to it. How else do you explain this machine? A road going motorcycle that is just four seconds off the pace of Casey Stoner’s lap record setting Ducati ride in 2009 here at Sepang. But far beyond the mind boggling numbers, this bike makes every ride special for the sheer number of sensations it can generate without once scaring your tenders into your mouth. Unless you’re daft of course.