Ducati, the brand that rewrote motorbike racing history with its epic V-twin sports bikes, is to stop making them altogether.
Having reached the limits of performance with its twin-cylinder engines, enlarging and improving them over time until they were producing a completely bonkers 200bhp or more, the Italian exponents of two-wheeled speed are moving to V4s derived directly from their MotoGP programme.
To officially bring an end to a family line that harks right back to the legendary and revolutionary 916 of 1994 is huge news for the bike world. For me it feels like a bit of a personal loss, having grown up watching the 916, 996, 998 and 999 thrashing around the world’s tracks.
To ease the pain, Ducati has announced a Final Edition of the 1299 Panigale R; a £34,995 send-off whose specification falls short of the outrageous 1299 Superleggera’s, but that adds an undeniably fetching colour scheme and the kudos of being the very last.
The Final Edition isn’t limited in number but each bike will be individually numbered anyway. At that price, you can’t imagine too many people will be able to simply get their cheque books out. Apart from the special colours, the Final Edition uses a detuned 206bhp, 105lb ft development of the Superleggera’s 215bhp engine. For context with the car world, its 1285cc engine makes 160bhp per litre. With no forced induction…
It doesn’t get the £72,000 Superleggera’s carbon frame, wheels or swingarm, and nor does it get the clever semi-active suspension, but it does get the lightened crankshaft, larger titanium valves, revised air intake system and titanium con-rods. The exhaust is an Akrapovic World Superbike-style setup, there’s a slipper clutch (of course) and a steering damper above passive Ohlins suspension at both ends.
Ducati boss Claudio Domenicali, who in his younger days co-designed the Ducati Supermono the year before the 916 first emerged, had this to say:
“Maybe no other motorcycle manufacturer has bound its name so tightly to an engine as Ducati has to its sports twin-cylinder. Today, we’re here to celebrate its history, just as we stand on the cusp of a new era in which our desmodromic system will be used on a new generation of V4 engines derived from extensive experience in MotoGP.
“But that’s the future. Today, we want to pay homage to a twin-cylinder engine that – thanks to incredible torque and compactness – has seen Ducati win races in every SBK championship it has ever participated in. In short, it’s the engine that has written World Superbike history.”
To all Ducati’s V-twin sports bikes from the 916 to the 1299 Panigale R Final Edition: we salute you.