2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale Preview - Motorcycle.com

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

We’re still a few months away from 2012, but Ducati looks to be taking hold of the title for most anticipated new bike of the year with the successor to the 1198, the company’s flagship superbike.

Rumors had been running rampant as to what the official name of this new machine will be. Everything from Xtreme, Superquadrata (super-square, in reference to the engine’s highly oversquare bore and stroke measurements), to, simply, 1199 have all been thrown on the table. Ducati finally put the rumors to rest after recently unveiling its official name: 1199 Panigale.

For the first time, Ducati’s superbike range will depart from its traditional numerical nomenclature. As in past superbikes, “1199” is in reference to the engine displacement, while “Panigale” pays tribute to Ducati’s hometown of Borgo Panigale in Bologna.

In recognition of the importance of Ducati’s yet-to-be-unveiled 1199 Panigale, we decided to throw what we know about it into a 3-D virtual mixer and have artist Mark Tome spit out what we think it’ll look like.

Apart from its name, details about Ducati’s new flagship are far from official, but we do know the company is putting a massive effort in the creation of this new machine. Here, then, is what we’ve gathered about the new 1199 Panigale.

The main talking point that is garnering so much interest is its frame — or rather lack thereof. Like Ducati’s MotoGP bike, the new, 1199cc V-Twin will sport a semi-monocoque chassis, which does away with a traditional frame and uses the engine as a stressed member to which the suspension is attached. The front fork will bolt to an aluminum casting in the steering-head area, which is then fastened to the engine, while the single-sided swingarm pivots inside the engine’s crankcase. The main benefit here is a significant reduction in weight.

This angle gives a clear view of the nearly-horizontal shock unit, which hinges from the rear cylinder. Swingarm length is also reported to be substantially longer than the 1198. This should provide better stability mid-corner and reduce the tendency to wheelie.

This concept isn’t new, as Britten and Vincent have adopted similar architecture in the past, but Ducati is the first major manufacturer to break from the mold and rest its future on frameless design on a mass-produced motorcycle. The nearly horizontal shock, hinged at the rear cylinder, will be actuated via a pushrod and finger-type rocker arm from the swingarm. In fact, this entire “frameless” design is taken directly from Ducati’s MotoGP program.

Judging from the spy photos we’ve seen, the bike is going to be very compact. We see a rather lengthy swingarm which will likely be longer than the 19.3-inch unit on the 1198. This should aid in traction and cornering stability. Educated estimates put the wheelbase under 56 inches. The lines and bodywork of the 1199 Panigale are said to be the result of countless hours in the wind tunnel.

The front of the 1199 Panigale borrows many styling cues from the 1198, but its bodywork is said to be the result of numerous hours in the wind tunnel, with each crease, bend or opening having a specific purpose in the performance of the machine.

On the engine front, the new 1199 powerplant is, in many ways, a radical departure for Ducati. It’s still a 90-degree V-Twin with desmodromic valve actuation, but that’s where the similarities end. In order for a Twin to stand a fighting chance against the inline-Fours on both the street and the track, it will need a more oversquare bore/stroke ratio. To that end, the cylinder bore is estimated to be a massive 112mm, putting its stroke at a mere 60.9mm, a whole 7mm less than the current 1198. This makes sense, as, given a set displacement, the only way to generate more power is for the engine to spin faster (forced induction excluded, of course). We expect the 1199 Panigale to rev to at least 12,000 rpm on the way to producing nearly 180 horsepower at the crankshaft. This should translate to about 160 horses at its rear wheel, which would come close to matching the peak output from four-cylinder literbikes except BMW’s stupendously powerful S1000RR, which we’ve just learned will be updated for 2012.

In order to maintain a minimal wheelbase, and to prevent the front tire from smacking the front cylinder under heavy braking, the 90-degree Twin will be tilted rearwards 10 degrees, positioning it in more of a “V” fashion rather than the traditional “L” manner with which Ducatisti are familiar.

Spy photos also suggest the 1199 has a large rear tire. A little bird tells us to expect a 200/55-17 from Pirelli.

Inside the engine, plain bearings are said to replace ball bearings upon which the crank journals spin; this results in a stiffer crank that should eliminate crankcase failures due to axial pulsations — something that has plagued Ducati superbikes since the 851, claims Cycle World European Correspondent Bruno de Prato. The Testastretta heads, which incorporate the desmodromic valves, will ditch the belts and instead rely on a combination of chains and gears for activation.

Finally, you’ll notice the traditional under-tail exhaust is gone, replaced instead by underbelly exhausts exiting on each side of the bike. Besides looking cool, the main benefit here is mass centralization. No more toasted butt, either.

Ducati is going completely radical with the new 1199 Panigale, with little consideration to the superbikes that came before it. Case in point is the snubby tail section. The undertail exhaust layout first made famous by the 916 is no more — exhaust gasses now exit via underbelly pipes.

On the electronics side, there’s no reason to believe the 1199 Panigale won’t be on the cutting edge here as well. Much like the 1098R was the first production motorcycle to introduce traction control in 2008, expect to see a more refined version of DTC on the Panigale. We wouldn’t be surprised to see other rider aids like launch control, wheelie control or maybe even electronically-controlled suspension, a la the Multistrada.

So far, prototype testing of the new 1199 Panigale has been conducted at the Autodromo del Mugello with factory test riders, World Superstock rider Danilo Petrucci, and Ducati’s favorite son, Troy Bayliss. Two versions of the machine — a base model and an up-spec (possibly an R or S variant, or even a Superstock-spec race bike) version — are being tested, the latter distinguishable by its Öhlins suspension.

The Ducati 1199 Panigale may not be the first motorcycle to sport a frameless design, but Ducati is definitely the largest manufacturer to put it in full production. Initial testing with prototype models seems positive, with Ducati's favorite son, Troy Bayliss, waxing poetic about it on his Twitter feed.

So far the rumor mill has been extremely positive regarding the lap times set by these prototypes. Petrucci reportedly narrowly missed out in besting Max Biaggi’s World Superbike lap record of 1:50.8. Bayliss, meanwhile, posted a best lap of 1:52.0 and has tweeted ( @TroyBaylisstic) things like, "The bike is a beast and she is on the money."

Bayliss followed up with further testing at Mugello earlier this week, and he allayed concerns about the worthiness of the aluminum monocoque frame by tweeting, “Anyone worried about the new Ducati superbike need not. Matched my best time ever in the arvo (presumably afternoon) when (the) track is a bit slower. Still early, but in street form nothing will come close.” Bayliss finished the Mugello test with a best lap of 1:51.3, a full half-second quicker than he went on the 1198.

As impressive as the new model appears to be on track, it’s no surprise that Ducati is going racing with the new bike right away. The 1199 Panigale will first compete next year in the 2012 FIM World Superstock championship with riders yet to be named (Petrucci seems like a natural choice for one of the seats), but a full assault on the World Superbike stage will have to wait until the following year. This allows the factory an extra year to develop the Panigale for the open rules of Superbike racing, while privateers and other teams currently running the 1198 can still compete with the assistance of Ducati engineers... and save up to buy what is shaping up to be the best thing since sliced ciabatta.

Many more details about the 1199 Panigale will be revealed November 7 during the EICMA trade show in Milan, Italy. Stay tuned for news about the sportbike world’s most exciting new model of 2012.

The 1199’s innovative chassis is expected to result in a weight reduction of some 20 pounds compared to its predecessor. Its wet weight could come as low as 400 pounds.

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Troy Siahaan
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