We talk to racer and superbike expert Hussain AlKooheji about the new Ducati 1299 Panigale S
Superbike riders are a greedy bunch. Always wanting more, pushing and pushing for more power, technology, more comfort, better handling, the list goes on. As always Ducati attempts to deliver on all fronts and with the flagship 1299 Panigale S, Hussain believes it has ticked all the boxes... even the unimaginable ones. We sat down with him to have a real technical chat about how revolutionary this superbike is.
Ok so first of all tell us why this bike?
The beautiful thing about this bike is that it has an electronic suspension, and it's fully adjustable. You can adjust each and every aspect of it in the dynamic mode or in the static mode. With static mode you can go specifically into the compression, the rebound, the preload setup and the damping setup. You input the number that best suits your riding style and it gives you what you want. With the dynamic mode you can go five levels on each compression, damping and rebound, both front and rear. You can set it up for example so that its soft when you go on the roads, and then you can switch it to a hard set up when you go on track. The dynamic setup takes the rider input and adjusts it accordingly. So if you brake hard it will increase the compression and if you leave it all of a sudden, it will increase the rebound. It reacts depending on your input, no matter what you are doing wether its braking, using the throttle, manoeuvring or taking a corner. You can set up the bike and personalise it to whatever suits you.
How does the 1299 differ from its predecessor?
Upon first glance you might mistake it for its predecessor, as it looks like the same bike shape wise. They look almost identical with the single side swing arm and other such components. However, the engine is totally different. The previous model had a 1200cc engine which delivered around 195 HP, the new engine has a 1300cc engine and straight out of the showroom it delivers around 205hp. If you change the exhaust system you can reach up to an astonishing 220hp. The character of the bike is also different, the specification of the rake, chassis, and the geometry of the bike differs from its predecessor and you can instantly feel it in handling. The power that you get from the 1299 is amazing, you can feel a significant difference in the behaviour of the bike.
What makes this bike stand out from the rest of the range?
First of all, it is ahead of the range because it is positioned as a premium level bike. It is priced higher then the others because of the components which come as standard. For example, we are talking about Brembo Monobloc brakes, which are specifically designed for racing. The brake lines and the suspension are top notch, and as mentioned it comes with an electronic suspension. This bike has a 1300cc, two cylinder, one litre engine and it delivers 205 HP. The amazing thing about it, is that it weighs only 180kg, so the power to weight ratio is insane. Many other manufacturers usually make their bikes V4 or have an inline four cylinder engine which makes the over all bike a bit bulky. However if you look at this bike, it is really thin and skinny, which makes it easy to flick around corners. It feels so light and it also comes with all the electronics you would expect to see in a bike of this stature, the wheel control, traction control, ABS, engine breaking control... you can set them all up and customise the ride to suit your needs. You can even switch them all off if you want to.
Now we’ve got the facts and figures out of the way, talk to us about the drive?
It has three different modes for you to switch between whilst on the go, or you can pre-set them. For example, this morning when I first started driving, it was raining so I instantly, whilst riding I switched the bike into wet mode. That reduces power, increases traction and also softens up the suspension. Then by the time I got here is was dryer, so I just flicked the button again and changed it to race mode, which gives the bike a lot more power and less traction. It really offers you superbike performance straight from the track.
Is is a Comfortable ride?
It’s a race bred bike so comfort is a question that needs to be determined by the riders themselves. It depends on what are they looking for. If they are looking for a bike to cruise around in, then a cruiser style bike will obviously offer a much higher comfort level then this bike. But as a race bike it is very comfortable. It is designed to be on the race track, if you do really need to get more comfort out of the bike, you can always change the seat to a comfort seat, which is available to buy as an accessory to the bike.
Let’s talk exterior?
In my personal opinion I think it’s the sexiest bike out there. Not only does the single side swing arm at the rear make it unique but the actual chassis of the bike is the engine. What that means is the whole bike is built around the engine. Other manufacturers they build the chassis and then fit the engine in. With this bike if you remove the engine, you end up dismantling the whole bike. It has also got an underbelly exhaust system which maintains the centre weight of gravity, enhancing the handling of the bike. Another nice feature is that the indicators are in the side-mirrors, so you don’t have any extra mounts hanging off the side. When you want to go racing, you can flick it to race mode instantly by just removing the mirrors, putting them into block-off plates, and your'e ready to hit the track. It's fitted with a TFT coloured screen which works more like a computer allowing you to work through all the different modes.
Someone interested in buying this bike, would they just buy it to race it?
Not necessarily, I mean a lot of Ferrari owners don’t just buy a Ferrari to race it and this is the Ferrari of the bike world. It is made to be a daily bike with a racing edge offering power to perform on a race track.
I only tired it out this weekend on the Bahrain International Circuit and on the straight I clocked 310kph.
Well I’ve owned many bikes, from many different manufacturers... all top level bikes! And I’ve also tested the original model of this bike which is the 1199, I’ve ridden them for a while both on track and off track. But lets put it this way, when the 1299S came out, all I did was three laps and I immediately bought one. I mean I’ve tested world superbike spec bikes, these are proper race bikes which have around 230 HP, and the only bike that gave me a similar feeling to those is the 1299S.
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