Ducati’s new £72,000 1299 Superleggera is the world's most powerful production twin-cylinder. The 215bhp carbon fibre beast weighs just 156kg dry, giving it the power-to-weight ratio of a WSB bike. But with its new Ducati Corse-developed Bosch IMU-controlled electronics, including 'slide control' for the first time, all that power can be used to propel you forward, rather than wheelying and spinning sideways.
The result is acceleration so relentless it’s actually hard to hang on and get the throttle completely to the stop. Road-going superbikes are so easy to ride now, they make you feel like a hero, but when you jump on something like this – a machine so close in performance to a factory race bike, you realise you’re absolutely not.
But the 1299 Superleggera isn’t all brutish engine and crazed acceleration, it weighs about the same as a supermodel. The monocoque chassis, subframe, wheels, swingarm and bodywork are all carbon and the engine is a riot of magnesium, titanium and lightweight aluminium. The crankshaft is actually the single weightiest part of the entire machine.
Ducati claims 156kg dry, but it’s actually 167kg wet, with no fuel and 178kg with its 17-litre tank full to the brim. To make that figure come alive for you, a Yamaha MT-07 weighs 4kg more…and makes 146bhp less.
You feel that complete lack of weight and a hollowness that defies belief on a 1300cc superbike every inch of the way. It will shake and wobbles in protest, if you grab it by the scruff of the neck - that's what Panigales do, but caress it, walk on eggshells and ride it with the lightest touch and it delivers breathtaking corner entry speed and huge lean angles.
You don’t feel any of the clumsy stiffness you'd imagine a carbon chassis would yield. The 1299 Superleggera still has feel and is even easier to ride quickly than its Panigale sisters thanks to its lightness. But it’s not completely perfect: it weaves a little in a straight line accelerating hard through third and fourth, but sorts itself out again flat in the top two gears.
That aside the 1299 Superleggera is ridiculously stable at full lean while you’re pretending to be Chaz Davies and under the relentless force of race-grade Brembos at full squeeze. Ducati’s brilliant new electronics make the job of riding easier and safer still.
And of course, riding aside, the 1299 Superleggera is a piece of tough, muscular art. Attention to detail, from the quality of the carbon, the left bar-mounted front brake span adjuster, to the plaque on the airbox with the signature of the engineer who timed-up the motor, is a relentless assault on the senses. You could sit and drink in the detail for hours.
Only 500 will be built and of you're asking, they're already sold out.
Read the full test including technical details and interviews in MCN on Wednesday.
Ducati Superleggera specifications
Engine: 1285cc 8v L-twin
Frame: Carbon fibre monocoque chassis
Seat height: 830mm
Suspension: Fully adjustable 43mm Ohlins FL939 forks and single Ohlins TTX36 shock with a titanium spring.
Front brake: 2 x 330mm discs. Brembo M50 Evo four-piston radial caliper.
Colours: Red (Ducati Corse)
Kerb weight: 167kg (156kg dry)
Tank capacity: 17-litres
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