Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition (2017) – Road & Track Review

Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition (2017) – Road & Track Review
We bid a fond farewell to Ducati’s V-twin sports bikes with a week on the glorious 1299 Panigale R Final Edition


Produced by Ducati from 1987 to 1992, the non-carbbed 851 was introduced initially as a racing prototype, then officially unveiled as a production road machine, the first of the V-Twin sportsbikes from the Italians, or 90-degree L-Twin as they prefer to call it, the 4-stroke, 8-valve, water-cooled, V-twin 851 set a pattern that lived on for decades.

It was an instant success, too, winning the second-ever WSB race (Donington, Race 2, April 1988, with Marco Luccinelli). Raymond Roche took it to the 1990 WSB title.

Back in the day, the 851 had a power deficit to its four-cylinder race rivals but more than made up for it with its magical ability to find grip and to punch out of a corner faster than the fours.



When new, the 851 road bike had a maximum power figure of 93bhp @ 9600rpm, weighed just 200kg and of course led to the 916 – the bike more usually celebrated as the machine that restored Ducati.

After 30 years of development, the V-twin is now making the power of a 4-cylinder 1000cc but of course Ducati have been racing the Desmosedici – it’s four stroke, V4 prototype machines - in MotoGP for 14 years now, so it isn’t much of a surprise the V4 production machine is set for its debut in 2018 with an 1103cc Panigale said to make “more than 210 horsepower at 13,000 rpm”.

So, this will see an end to Ducati’s V-twin sports bike era, a range that has thrived for 30 years but, to ease the pain, earlier this year the Italians introduced this…the appropriately named 1299 Panigale R Final Edition.




“A tribute to the legendary twin-cylinder engine, the most victorious in Superbike World Championship history” they said. “That’ll be £35,000”, they didn’t then whisper.

But this is more than just a final edition bike with a dedicated colour scheme or with a few parts bin extras thrown on. Oh no, each of these are individually numbered on the top triple clamp, they feature a Panigale R chassis, a handful of race components and a Superquadro 1299 engine – an offshoot from the Superleggera. The claim is 209bhp at 11,000rpm with a dry weight of 179kg, the weight is kept low thanks to the die-cast aluminium monocoque structure uses the Superquadro engine as a stressed member of the frame. It means those figures create a remarkable power-to-weight ratio; the 7th best of all time according to our latest feature.

30 years on and the final Ducati sports V-twin weighs more than 20kg less than the first yet makes over double the power. Let’s see how this thing goes on the road and the track…



This high-class, road-legal, super weapon has been blended with a touch of racing prowess thrown in for good measure to make sure we don’t forget the V-twin sports era in a hurry, and it got me properly excited as it rolls out of the delivery van outside BikeSocial HQ.

I stand gawping at 35-grands’ worth of fine Italian motorcycle glistening in the late summer sunshine with its striking tricalore colour scheme, red wheels and twin high dual, standard fit, Euro-4 compliant Akrapovic silencers replicating those of Davies and Melandri in World Superbike and Byrne and Irwin in BSB. It’s mine for a whole week.

As I clambered onto the Panigale the mind is set to ‘Race’ even if the electronics say ‘Wet’ as I turned the ignition on for the first time. The gorgeous colour TFT display tells me so. The other two modes ‘Sport’ and ‘Race’ offer alternative pre-sets of Wheelie Control (DWC), Engine Brake Control (EBC), Traction Control (DTC) – all of which can be personalised. When on track, they can be quickly adjusted using the thumb and forefinger-operated ‘+’ and ‘-’ buttons on the left bar, similar to those found on the Aprilia RSV4 and Tuono. Unfortunately, the fun buttons are rendered redundant on the road.

The tiny seat is angled as any race-oriented bike should and while the weight is on the wrists there is still plenty of room to pivot around the fuel tank. I notice the carbon fibre shroud surrounding the Öhlins TTX36 unit rubbing against my inner thigh but I don't care. The dash and instrument layout are familiar having spent a bit of time with the 1299 Panigale S last year, so firing the big 1300 Twin into life is as simple as pushing the ignition button that hides behind the master switch. It fires easily and the resulting initial boom and glorious tickover burble catches the attention of the nearby smokers and makes the excitement all worthwhile.

My first ride is the 15-mile commute home (well, it’s normally 10 but I went the long way to, ahem, stretch the Ducati’s legs) and this is not its comfort zone. The harsh reality of a completely sports-focussed suspension set-up designed for official billiard table-smooth race track and not my own unofficial Monday night version becomes clear. The b-roads that weave between farm fields are some of Fenland’s nastiest, wrist-crushing, spine-shaking and wee-inducing, like I said, not exactly home turf for such a refined sports bike. It’s a cool evening but both the backs and insides of my thighs are warm thanks to the pulsating 1285cc, Superquadro, L-twin motor and its twin full titanium Akro’s, which have leg-burn protection via a slightly unclassy smattering of carbon fibre. Not a problem so long as they keep making THAT noise. Mmmm.

The vibey mirrors are next-to-useless because they are mounted directly onto the fairing and can’t be folded but that aside, oh and I didn’t care how crummy the turning circle was, I was on a piece of history and I shall miss the V-twin monster engine with its character and unique charm. I simply wanted to ride and ride.

Booming around the A-roads has rarely been so pleasurable.

Yes, the R FE is more expensive than a CVO Street Glide and while that offers no comparison, what you could do is have a limited-edition Honda Fireblade SP2 and still have enough change for a Yamaha MT-10. But the price tag is not really the point, the R FE is an investment to be ridden. The gorgeous detail, build quality and attention to every nut, bolt and washer.



To the track

Courtesy of a Silverstone Bike Track Day, I was able to check, double check and check once more the raw power, athletic chassis, acronym-laden electronics package, super humanly strong brakes and effortless way the Ducati swallows up laps of the 1m20s International circuit very quickly with minimal rider input. Did I feel like a passenger? Almost.

Standing alone in the pit garages in The Wing just staring at the gleaming bike as my photographer snapped the details, I could feel many pairs of eyes looked my way.  A handful of braver souls came over to ask the immortal question, “so, what’s it like?”

I tend to start with a smile, a short exhale and something along the lines of “how long do you have” or “where do I begin…”



This is the most race-oriented bike I’d ever ridden, it climbs quickly through its rev range and, courtesy of the stunningly advanced, soft-to-touch and quickest of quickshifters, it piles through the miles-per-hours too. I glance at an indicated pre-braking zone 174mph at the end of the Hanger Straight, before unfortunately bringing the achingly glorious bellow to an end…so it was a momentary pull on the brake lever attached to the smart, sharp M50-assisted 330mm twin discs. Pop down three gears and tip her into Stowe. Cornering ABS and the Ducati Traction Control EVO system sets to work interacting with the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) measuring lean angle and calculating the level of intervention required to provide or even discourage rear wheelspin depending on the setting.

Feeding the throttle in as I gradually stand the bike up and the engine booms once again to the top of third gear on the way down into Vale, an ideal overtaking place thanks to the monstrous braking power. The riding position and quality shine here on track. The Panigale has found its spiritual home. Treating the bike with the respect it deserves, I didn’t need to grab big handfuls of throttle, test the ABS in a straight-line or even thrust it over unnecessarily quick towards an apex – it’s a refined gent with oodles of power to lay down in a sophisticated manner. Certainly the Ducati is phenomenally fast, sturdy on the stoppers and predictably calm in the corners, it’s also light as a feather when flicking from side to side through Vale and Club.

The only spectator not to enjoy the sound and sight of the FE was the man with a piece of noise-testing equipment who collared me after session one and wafted his wand around the rear of the bike. It was offering 105dB at 4,500rpm and a whopping 110dB at 7,500rpm which is unlikely to comply with many UK track days.

Aggressive, exotic and full of class-leading engineering magnificence, the 1299 Panigale R Final Edition will leave you feeling like a World Superbike star and even though it takes considerable effort to explore its potential, even cruising around town makes you all smug. It’s a fitting tribute to the V-twin sportsbike era.

If spending money is not an issue then an FE in your garage as not only a piece of history but also a damn good motorbike is a simple way of buying happiness.


Final Edition’s Electronic Genetics

by John Westlake

The FE’s blizzard of electronics can be traced, in a roundabout way, to 1987 when the new 851 appeared with no carburettors. Instead, it had the Weber-Marelli P7 fuel injection system used in Fiats (you can see the connectors are all big lumpy car ones) which was controlled in exactly the same way as the FE’s – an ECU with a fuel map.

This was Ducati’s first ever go at electronic control systems and, though rough around the edges, it worked – the 851 race machine put out a deeply respectable 128bhp. It was by no means perfect though, partly because Ducati decided to point the injectors up into the airbox rather than directly into the cylinders. The idea was that the fuel would atomise and mix better, but it didn’t. Ducati didn’t try that again.

But the potential to accurately fuel a couple of whopping cylinders across the whole rev-range was proved, and the 851 set Ducati on an electronic path. Carbs just could not match that accuracy – they either worked at high revs, or low, but not both.

Electronic fuel injection was good for racing too – Ducati teams soon realised that because the ECU was designed for cars with four cylinders, there was excess memory which could be loaded up with trimming tables to fuel each cylinder differently (the rear one got hotter). That meant more power, more efficiency and more control.

And though the hardware and lots of the expertise came from Weber-Marelli, Ducati were amassing knowledge on how to apply it to fast motorcycles, gradually honing throttle sensitivity and creating a natural, progressive feel. Honda’s problems this year with their race Fireblade electronics highlight just how hard these subjective areas are to crack – and Ducati started doing it in 1985, when 851 development began in earnest. No wonder they’re so adept at it now.

Over the following years the Marelli P7 was replaced with the P8, which again came from cars – it fuelled the Sierra Cosworth among others – and then the 1.6M, 1.5M and 5.9M. Each was faster than the last and the 5.9M had far bigger maps than anything before, allowing even greater accuracy and control.

But they were all doing the same thing – taking information from sensors, cross referencing a table (the map) to see how much fuel to squirt in, and then telling the injectors to get on with it. The next electronic leap came in 2008 with the 1098R which had a race-standard traction control system developed in MotoGP and WSB. Interestingly, this period was one of the few times when Ducati’s race electronics were on a par with the Japanese – they were mostly struggling to keep up. For example, until Dorna introduced the unified ECU rules in 2016, Honda and Yamaha had ‘apex seeking’ software that could tell where the bike was on the track purely by the rider’s inputs and the bike speed, and adjust traction control to suit. The Ducati, by contrast, kept getting lost.  

But on road bikes, Ducati’s electronics were king and the 1098R was the first of a new breed. From here on, progress was fast. By the time the 1199 turned up in 2012, it had a quickshifter, true fly by wire (the Multistrada had it before, but it was cable operated), riding modes, power modes, electronic braking control, wheelie control and an even more sophisticated traction control. From there it’s a short stride to the phenomenal Panigale FE.

By comparison to all this wizardry, the 851 is as sophisticated as a rock. But next time you flick your Multistrada up a power mode or marvel at your Scrambler’s super-light throttle, you might want to give the 851 a small nod of thanks all the same – without its success, it’s unlikely Ducati would be the electronic maestros they are today.



* Thanks to much wisdom from John Burrows of Ducati Coventry and Neil Spalding of Sigma Performance








Superquadro: L-twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled


1,285 cc

Bore X stroke

116 x 60,8 mm

Compression ratio


Power *

209 hp / 154 kW @ 11,000 rpm


142.0 Nm / 104.7 lb-ft @ 9,000 rpm

Fuel injection

Mitsubishi electronic fuel injection system. Twin injectors per cylinder. Full Ride-by-Wire elliptical throttle bodies with aerodynamic valve and optimised trumpets


2-1-2 system, primary tubes in titanium. Twin titanium mufflers. 2 lambda probes and 2 catalytic converters




6 speed with Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down

Primary drive

Straight cut gears; Ratio 1.77:1


1=37/15 2=30/16 3=27/18 4=25/20 5=24/22 6=23/24

Final drive

Chain; Front sprocket 15; Rear sprocket 39


Hydraulically controlled slipper/self-servo wet multiplate clutch




Monocoque aluminium

Front suspension

Öhlins NIX30 43 mm fully adjustable usd fork with TiN treatment

Front wheel

3 spoke W shape forged light alloy 3.50" x 17"

Front tyre

Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 120/70 ZR17

Rear Suspension

Fully adjustable Öhlins TTX36 unit, adjustable linkage: progressive/flat. Aluminium single-sided swingarm

Rear Wheel

3 spoke W shape forged light alloy 6.00" x 17

Rear tyre

Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 200/55 ZR17

Wheel travel (front/rear)

120 mm (4.72 in) - 130 mm (5.12 in)

Front brake

2 x 330mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc M50 - 4 piston callipers with Cornering ABS as standard equipment

Rear brake

245mm disc, 2-piston caliper with Cornering ABS as standard equipment


Colour TFT display

Dimensions and weights


Dry weight

168 kg (370.4 lb)

Wet weight no fuel

179 kg (394.6 lb)

Kerb weight

190 kg (418.9 lb)

Seat height

830 mm (32.48 in)


1,443 mm (56.81 in)



Front wheel trail

96 mm (3.78 in)

Fuel tank capacity

17 litres

Number of seats

Single seat

Standard equipment

Riding Modes, Power Modes, Ducati Safety Pack (Cornering ABS Bosch + DTC EVO), Ducati Quickshift (DQS) up/down, Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO), Ducati Wheelie Control EVO (DWC EVO), Engine Brake Control (EBC), Fully Ride by Wire (RbW), Ducati Data Analyzer (DDA+) with GPS and lean angle acquisition, Auto tyre calibration, Rapid setting DTC, DWC, EBC, Titanium connecting rods and valves, Balanced crankshaft, Lithium-ion battery, Auxiliary adjustment buttons, Forged Marchesini aluminium wheels, Akrapovič homologated full titanium exhaust

Additional equipment

Racing windshield, Machined mirror block-off plates



Warranty (months)

24 months unlimited mileage

Maintenance (km/months)

12,000 km (7,500 mi) / 12 months

Valve clearance adjustment (km)

12,000 km (7,500 mi) - street use




Euro 4

Consumption (claimed)

42.2 mpg



Thanks to

Ducati UK

Ducati Coventry

Silverstone Bike Track Days

Photos: Jason Critchell

Video: Rich Beach @ Beach Media