TRACK TEST DUCATI 1299 SUPERLEGGERA | Bike Tests | Latest Tests
Ducati winds up its line of V-twin superbikes with the most powerful, the most exclusive and – in Sir Al’s estimation – the most desirable one yet
It’s become a bit of a cliché to call something a mechanical work of art – but if ever a motorcycle deserved that accolade, this is it. Dripping in carbon fibre, replete with titanium, flaunting endless examples of technological innovation found on nothing else with two wheels and an engine, the whole clothed in bodywork of stunning beauty, the Ducati 1299 Superleggera is the latest testament to Ducati’s ability to combine exquisite looks with a stellar level of racetrack-bred performance. It was launched at the EICMA last November as a limited-edition model of which just 500 examples will be built, costing €80,000 (approx. A$120,000). But even if you do have the money, if you weren’t quick enough on the draw after its Milan Show debut to put a deposit down via the dedicated website, you lost out. All 500 bikes are already spoken for, the Italian manufacturer a cool A$60m of extra revenue, as well as untold kudos for producing what is most assuredly the finest street-legal motorcycle I’ve yet had the privilege of riding.
The 1299 Superleggera also marks a significant landmark in Ducati history, for with the advent next year of Ducati’s first V4 Superbike, this is the last of the line of the Italian firm’s series of desmo V-twin street-legal racebikes, the ultimate evolution of this unique format which has so far garnered 14 World Superbike Rider’s titles and 15 Manufacturer’s crowns. It’s a line which began in 1974 with the debut of the green-frame 750SS, of which just 401 examples were ever made as a pretty close replica of Paul Smart’s Imola 200-winning factory desmo V-twin, just as the new Ducati 1299 Superleggera is to the factory F17 Superbikes being raced this season by Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri at the front of the WSBK field. Actually, it’s even better than them chassis-wise, with a carbon fibre semi-monocoque frame structure that saves 1.7kg in weight over the racer’s heavier aluminium equivalent, and it’s pretty close in engine performance, too, with a claimed 158.1kW on tap at 11,000rpm. The lucky 500 customers in 42 different countries will certainly get their money’s worth, even with the sky high price tag.
Having begun my racing career back in the mists of time as one of the 401 lucky owners of a green-frame 750SS I bought new in 1974, the honour was especially meaningful to be one of the eight journalists from around the world invited to sample the 1299 Superleggera at the Mugello GP circuit just a couple of weeks before this year’s Italian MotoGP was held there. Riding this desmodromic dreambike, which scales a mere 156kg dry, or 178kg ready to roll, was an undoubted thrill. “Created to provide quintessential performance” – that’s Ducati’s proclaimed axiom behind the development of this bike, and after riding it I reckon its engineers have hit the bullseye. That an opinion was perhaps inevitably shared by the firm’s CEO Claudio Domenicali, who rode the Superleggera the day before I did, and pronounced himself proud of what his men had achieved. They don’t come any better than this – nor any more exquisitely engineered.
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