“The time has come to share with you a preview of our new extraordinary project. In Italian we speak of a concept we call ‘quintessence’ – it means the perfect manifestation of a thing; the highest development and purest expression of its soul.
“Our engineers have once again created a motorcycle that redefines the boundaries of what is possible, turning a dream into reality. The quintessence of Ducati. All aspects of this motorcycle are taken to the maximum expression of what is technically possible today. Unequalled technology and passion in a limited edition for true enthusiasts.”
So says Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati, in his welcome letter on the invite-only, password-protected website teasing the firm’s supremely exclusive new Superleggera – which is currently referred to as ‘Project 1408.’
Set, we believe, to be unveiled at next week’s Milan show, the spec looks likely to redefine what manufacturers see as a flagship superbike. And one word dominates the ethos of this bike: superlight. Actually, there’s another word: expensive. The new Superleggera is expected to cost around £70,000.
Carbon-fibre is lavished upon almost every component that can be fabricated from the wonderful weave, complimented by aluminium, titanium and magnesium for pretty much everything else except the tyres and lighting.
And while the tantalisingly teasing website continues to reveal a few new details each week, MCN’s spy snappers have also captured the 1408 on the public road in Italy – twice. The first was back in June, the second just a week ago, looking far more production-ready.
While it might not look too different at a quick glance, a lot of staring at the detail reveals this is indeed the next-generation Superleggera. The black gloss fairings and lack of gold on the Öhlins makes it look like a base model, but those wheels are the carbon-fibre ones seen on the Project 1408 website, the fairings are one-piece, as is the seat unit, and the suspension is also identical to that revealed on the microsite. It may be disguised with plainness and missing many of its carbon trinkets, but this is the new Superleggera – set to be phenomenally lightweight and devastatingly effective on track. And we know quite a bit about it...
One of the few places where there’s no carbon, but the new tank is fabricated from aluminium, meaning it’s both light and durable.
The frame game
The monocoque frame is – yes, you guessed it – constructed using high-strength carbon-fibre with 7075 aluminium alloy inserts laminated into the carbon structure. Overall weight saving compared to the frame of the 1299 Panigale is 1.6kg, or 38% less. The subframe plays the same game, shaving 1.3kg off the total compared to the 1299 Panigale’s aluminium unit.
Carbon wheels are matched to aluminium hubs. Less unsprung mass and lower inertia have a tangible effect on acceleration, braking, and direction changes. The weight reduction is 1.4kg for a pair, compared to their forged aluminium counterparts, with a claimed reduction in rolling inertia of 26% front and 58% rear.
The rise and fall
The fork is a fully adjustable 43mm Öhlins FL936 unit with TiN treatment, lightweight billet fork bottoms and lightweight stress-optimised outer tubes. In the quest for maximum lightness, lightweight springs are also used. At the rear nestles a fully adjustable Öhlins TTX36 shock with a lightweight titanium spring, and an adjustable linkage connecting it to the carbon-fibre single-sided swingarm.
Set to stun
While much of the spec is still educated guesswork, the facts are now coming thick and fast, too. The big visual difference between the two bikes we’ve seen testing is the switch from high-level exhausts to more conventional underbelly silencers on this test mule. But MCN’s sources suggest that the WSB-style high-level Akrapovic version will actually find its way onto the production bike – not just the official options list.
Still a twin
Persistent rumours of a V4 certainly have no relevance here. The new Superleggera is very clearly a conventional Ducati L-Twin, and Domenicali confirms this in his missive, saying: “At its heart is a unique twin-cylinder engine that is destined to make history.” The existing Superleggera is a 1198cc 8v V-twin that develops an extraordinary 200bhp and 99ftlb torque, but the rhetoric suggests this new bike will be 1285cc and over 210bhp.
The light fantastic
“Lightness defines the performance of a motorcycle,” say Ducati. “Never before has a production motorcycle been endowed with exotic materials to such an extent.”
Ducati certainly seem to be taking weight loss seriously. As well as the carbon wheels, the 1408 gets a carbon monocoque frame, subframe, tail, seat and fairings. The pursuit of lightness means that all fixings are also made exclusively from titanium or aluminium.
The carbon-fibre single-sided swingarm was developed with Ducati Corse to get the ultimate balance of rigidity for a wide range of riding conditions. The swingarm employs the same technology as the monocoque frame: high-strength carbon-fibre and a high-temperature-resistant resin system with 7075 aluminium alloy inserts, co-laminated into the carbon-fibre structure. It’s claimed to be a significant 900g, or 18%, lighter than the 1299 Panigale’s aluminium version.
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