Part 1: Bolognese Punk
First reviews of the mighty Panigale are in, and they’re all based on runs round the ultra-exclusive Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, courtesy of the official Ducati launch. I just wrote 1000 words on it, and have deleted them in favour of this marvellous piece of high-end production values from MCN:
All last week I’ve been wondering why the hell Ducati chose this place to debut the Panigale. If I was in charge of Ducati’s Press Office, I would have arranged for the carabinieri to close off the old Targa Florio route in the mountains of Sicily. All 44 miles of it. A road steeped in Italian motor racing heritage. A few bribes here and there would do it, as it has always been done. Then I would have sanctioned one lap with various Panigale in the hands of all these journos, then seen just how good it really is. In fact let’s bribe the Isle of Man government too so they’ll let us have the Island for a day. Would a EuroMillions jackpot cover that sort of thing? Renting the Island for a day…?
[digression] I would love to say that during one of those lottery-winner press conferences: “What will you do with the money?”, “I want to rent the Isle of Man TT Course for a day so me and a few mates can do the ultimate rideout.” Every government has its price. [digression ends]
The Panigale is so extreme that the only place where you can explore it is on a circuit, so I’m beginning to think that with the Panigale (and the Diavel), Ducati have listened to what Sid Vicious said when asked whether he makes his music for the man in the street:
“Nah. I’ve met the man in the street, and he’s a cunt.”
Like Sid, Ducati haven’t made this bike for the man in the street. They’ve made it for themselves; if the man in the street happens to like it, so be it. If not, he can fuck off…
Part 2: Alternate Reality
Here’s the best of the on-board stuff so far. It’s the even-more-exotic Panigale S, in the hands of none other than Troy Bayliss:
Having read MCN’s superb dissertation on it this week, courtesy of Michael Neeves and Neil Hodgson, it is clear that the Panigale is a miraculous achievement. Ducati have built a bike that sets a new standard in superbikes by being even better than the BMW S1K, better than anything they’ve made before, and better than anything else out there. It will win all the upcoming group tests. It has none of the brutality of its predecessor, the 1198, yet it is faster and carries all the adjustability and technology and stratospheric performance of a World Superbike racer. In fact that’s exactly what it is: a road-going racer, like the Desmo.
The Panigale appears to have arrived from the future, because it embodies other-worldly levels of tech. There must be a top-secret basement laboratory in Bologna where there is a portal to the future version of Ducati, where this bike has come from. Look at those cables running from the fork-tops. They’re like something out of The Matrix. The only thing missing are the rider’s cybernetic implants. The ones where you will control engine maps and suspension settings by thought. Clearly the future version of Ducati did not consider us ready for them yet…
Part 3: Pragmatic
I still want to see a road test in the real world against all its principal competition – the 1000cc class – using Welsh B-roads, Yorkshire A-roads and filtering through Knightsbridge in rush hour (because that’s where you’re likely to find it). I’m not all that interested in whether it is 2/10ths faster around Brands Hatch, unless it’s being ridden by somebody like Kevin Schwantz or Mick Doohan. Their comparison with the brutal, untameable 500cc GP racers of their day would be essential reading, because then you would get a true indication of how far we have come.
In answer to the question posed at the beginning of this thread, I wonder if the launch being conducted in Abu Dhabi is tacit acknowledgement of two things:
- the only kind of demographic that will buy the Panigale: the glass case set, that will never use any of that awesome capability, but won’t hesitate to tell you all about it.
- the likelihood of Middle-Eastern hedge-fund money being courted as a potential buyer/investor for Ducati itself.
I believe the Panigale will, in due course, be regarded as the equivalent of the Bugatti Veyron in terms of being an unsurpassable technological tour de force, and because a future world will not allow something like it to exist ever again. What we are seeing is the high water mark of superbikes. In a few more years it will all be about fuel cells and electricity.
For more Panigale-fetishism, look no further than Asphalt & Rubber’s collection of galleries here.