Ten years ago, il Duko travelled to Italy to bring us news of the Ducati 1198 SP, “a regal and raucous red ride.” That’s SP for Sport Production, nomenclature Ducati has used for decades to designate some of the high-end models in its superbike series. This lineage stretches back to the 851 SP, which debuted in 1989. Exciting!
I popped into Chris Redpath’s shop (MotoGP Werks) yesterday just as he was rolling a customer’s brand-spanking Ducati Superleggera down from the Sprinter van. I may have grown a tad jaded over the years, but what an eyeball-popping motorcycle. This latest Superleggera, as you’ll recall, uses carbon fiber for its not-really-a-frame. All the bodywork is c-f, the wheels are c-f… basically I think everything’s that’s not metal is c-f, and everything that’s metal is titanium or magnesium or something exotic, all in an effort to keep it as superleggera as possible – superlight. Official MO scales say they only lied a little – 370 pounds, but that’s with the 4.5-gallon tank only half full and the full Akrapovic race system, which came in a separate box, bolted up. It’s frighteningly loud, it barks like an underfed Cerberus guarding the gates of Hell. It’s a beautiful, stupid-expensive thing nobody needs but everybody wants. Heck, it scared Don Canet when he rode one around Mugello.
Ducati’s Panigale is one of the most desirable sportbikes on the road today. Even the smallest Panigale, the new 959, is sexy and fast, and there’s plenty more where that comes from in the forms of the monstrously powered 1299 and wickedly exotic 1199R. But what do you do when those levels of sexy and fast and exotic just ain’t enough anymore?
From the unchained environment of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where performance is the sole consideration for victory in our 2015 Six-Way Superbike Track Shootout, we move to the confines of public roadways to determine which superbike renders the best street-legal exhibition. As tight as our track test results were, the street shootout was just as close with a half-percent separating second from first place. If the MO offices were located in Florida, I’d demand a recount.
Rejoice, sportbike fans, as 2015 is bound to go down as the year of the liter-class superbike. After riding this latest crop of superbikes at their individual intros, your respective MO editors all came back gushing, proclaiming the bike they just finished riding is a viable contender for top honors in the class. Of course, with statements like that, pitting them all together and settling the score was the natural thing to do. And here for you now, we bring you the epic showdown you’ve long been waiting for, pitting five all-new or significantly revised superbikes on the racetrack against the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, winner of our 2012 Japanese Literbike Shootout. Stay tuned next week for our street impressions.
The motojournalism game has changed quite a bit during my nearly 20 years in it. Moto-related websites were once greeted with scorn and derision by the traditional players, but Motorcycle.com has been part of the paradigm change and is now firmly entrenched as part of the establishment.
By now, we’ll assume you’ve thoroughly read, digested and formed your own conclusions about the street portion of our Exotic Superbike Shootout featuring the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC ABS SBK SE, BMW HP4 and Ducati 1199 Panigale R. If not, click on the link to get yourself caught up. Simply put, these street-legal superbikes are apex predators, residing at the top of the most exotic, cutting-edge and downright fastest sportbikes on Earth.
Built for the track, ridden on the street. The bikes here represent the bleeding edge of superbike technology and performance from their respective OEMs. No matter the circuit, each model is capable of setting a blazingly fast lap time. Gauging superiority among these three on the street is a much more difficult result to quantify.