Motorcycle categories have gotten a bit widespread, haven’t they? Companies like Ducati aren’t making things any easier when they call its 955cc Panigale V2 – an update from the 959 Panigale – a “Super-Mid.” Ironic, especially considering Ducati’s iconic 916 was formerly the cream of the sportbike crop. I think the proper way of looking at the current nomenclature is to consider the machine’s performance. With 1100cc V4s skewing the definitions of what a Superbike is, it seems natural for the Panigale V2 to follow along and break the middleweight rules, too. Because, looking at it from a performance aspect, this is the new level of middleweight performance. Time marches on, everyone, and technology just gets better and better.
This one should go some way in comforting the bereaved mourning the passing of the Panigale 1299. Though this smaller L-Twin is but a measly 955cc, the 2018 Ducati 959 Panigale Corse arrives rated at 150 hp @ 10,500 rpm and 75 pound-feet of torque @ 9,000 rpm. Which is really quite a bit more than enough for most people, all in a package Ducati says weighs 435 pounds (wet, with a 90% fuel load). This special Corse model also gets suspension by Öhlins, some street-legal Ducati Performance Akrapovič titanium silencers, a lightweight lithium-ion battery, and a MotoGP-inspired matte paint scheme. Ducati says the 959 Panigale Corse is ready to race, (Isn’t that KTM‘s line?) but the valve clearances still only need to be checked every 15,000 miles.
The idea of a Panigale with 330cc less engine initially didn’t seem especially exciting. Like all good Americans, I largely subscribe to the more-is-more theory of excellence. Turns out, though, that riding Ducati’s sleek 959 Panigale at the Ricardo Tormo MotoGP circuit in Valencia, Spain, was considerably more exciting than I had anticipated.
Increasing the 899 Panigale’s stroke from 57.2 to 60.8mm, while retaining its 100mm bore (3.94 inches), in addition to a bunch more changes, brings us to the 2016 Ducati 959 Panigale. The crankshaft was redesigned to support a brand-new crank journal lubrication system and completely new connecting rods, while compression remains the same 12.5:1.