We’ve all seen ‘that’ video. It’s quite possibly the video of 2015 and we’ve only just started. That video (at the bottom of the page) is Ducati’s teaser snippet of the forthcoming 1299 Panigale being spanked around Imola by the factory’s official test rider, Alessandro Valia.
Alessandro isn’t limited to skids and wheelies, or heroic Scandinavian flicks on the entry into Imola’s scariest corners. As you may have guessed, this guy is bringing some unbelievable tekkers and concrete lap times into the public domain onboard the fresh-faced 1299 Panigale.
Ducati were very quick to reveal that Mr Valia set a time of 1m55.3s at Mugello on the Panigale S model during a recent test, and rightly so. Like any over-excited stat guru, we rushed to the MotoGP website to unearth the track record, which is held by Dani Pedrosa in 2013 with a 1m47.1s. More relevantly, the fastest Italian SBK time was a 1m52.1s by Matteo Baiocco. And even more relevantly, the fastest Superstock time of 2014 was a 1m53.8s by Alessio Corradi on an Aprilia – 1.5s off a race-prepped stocker on a road bike? “It’s a really incredible time for a production bike – with lights, turn signals, and mirrors,” said Valia.
We tracked down Alessandro in a bid to try and understand a) how the bloody hell you ride like that, and b) get some dubplate gossip on the 1299 itself. The Panigale is being launched next week for the world’s press event at Portimao.
Valia started working with Ducati in 2003 when he joined the factory SBK test team and developing Neil Hodgson’s bike, before transferring to the production bike test team. He’s worked on various projects like the Desmosedici RR, 1198 and Diavel.
“You need a racing experience to be a Ducati tester but not only racing. I started when I was 14 in the Italian championship (CIV) and I keep on racing till now. I won several Ducati Desmo Challenge but my best score was in the 2002 when I won the Italian SSTK championship. In the same year I raced as wild card in the Italian rounds of the WSBK. However to be a good tester you need to have good feeling to improve new devices and you have to be continuously update on new technologies.”
You make riding the 1299 look so easy in that video. It looks much easier to ride than the 1199.
“The new 1299 Panigale is much easier to ride thanks first of all to the increased midrange torque. Then the reduced rake angle that makes the bike oversteer much more than the 1199 Panigale. Last but not least the electronic features like anti-wheelie device and down-shift make the riding experience easier and funnier.”
Just talk us through the drifting and Scandinavian flicks. How?! “Drifting into the corners is a combination of braking, load transfer and down shifting… and a lot of practice!”
Interestingly, Valia set the time on the Panigale S, which features all-new Öhlins semi-active suspension, working alongside the Bosch inertial platform – the must-have box of tricks for 2015, which allows total electronic control of various rider aids. The system dynamically responds to how the bike is ridden and adapts the suspension’s in real-time to various riding events. For example, under braking it stiffens the front fork’s damping, then softens it as the bike accelerates. Very clever.
With its new big-bore 1285cc Superquadro motor making a claimed 205bhp (more on that here), some chassis tweaks and a feast of electronic gizmos, we’re pretty certain not all of us could ride the 1299 Panigale like Alessandro. 44Teeth will be present at the launch at Portimao next week. Got any questions or queries? Send ‘em over. In the meantime, here’s that vid…