Ducati Panigale 1199R First Ride

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We’re here at the new Circuit of the Americas MotoGP track in Austin, Texas, riding Ducati’s new £26,550 1199 Panigale R.

Apart from dripping in sexy carbon fibre, a taller racing screen, racing seat, a Ducati Corse paintjob and ABS, race exhaust and a datalogger as standard, this homologation special has engine and chassis tweaks, specifically designed for racing.

During testing last year, Ducati realised the Panigale needed certain tweaks, to be competitive at the highest level and they’ve included them in the R.

It has the same power as the rest of the Panigale range and the same basic chassis spec as the S. But the R has a four-way adjustable swingarm pivot, which stops the Ducati from squatting too much under acceleration with grippy tyres. The engine also has titanium conrods to improve durability in racing conditions – they also add an extra 500rpm at the top of the rev range. A lighter flywheel helps the engine spins up faster, too.

With two extra teeth on the rear sprocket the Ducati has more acceleration out of the corners, but with that extra 500rpm, top speed isn’t affected.

Here at Austin, there’s no lack of acceleration out of any of the 20 fast and slow corners that litter the amazing new, undulating 3.2-mile circuit. The engine is strong as soon as you hit the throttle, anywhere in the revs. 

I tried the R on the standard swingarm pivot setting to begin with, which is the same setting as the standard and Panigale S and it’s hugely capable in the corners, as it always has been – it has much more in its reserves than I’ve got talent to uncover. But, like Panigales we’ve tested before, the steering isn’t the quickest and it’s hard to keep a tight line at speed.

Along the fast straights the R weaves in the higher gears, depending on where I’m sitting in the seat or how hard I hold onto the bars – something I’m not keen on. Again, it’s the same thing we experienced at the Panigale’s launch last year in Abu Dhabi. 

With the swingarm pivot in its highest position the steering is lighter and its easier to hold a tighter line, but and the weaving is still there.

The R is available in dealers now, but won’t be built in limited numbers – so you don’t get a numbered top yoke, as previousl R and SP Ducati homologation specials.

As a piece of exotica, it’s worth every penny, if you’re lucky enough to have the cash – it’s beautiful, exciting and involving. The chassis and engine mods will be a must for top teams in superbike and superstock, too, but the R doesn’t feel different enough to warrant trading up from your Panigale S or Tricolore.

Check out our full report and video in next week’s MCN.

Michael Neeves

By Michael Neeves

MCN Chief Road Tester, club racer, airmiles millionaire.