Motorbike

Ducati Panigale 959 Donington Track Test

Visordown attends the Ducati only trackday at Donington Park Race Circiut.

Details
Manufacturer:
Ducati
Category:
Sportsbikes
Price:
£ 13095
Overall
4
Very nimble handling
Is quite skinny (not great for taller riders)

For years I’ve dreamt about riding the 959, ever since mounting a display bike at a Brands Hatch BSB round. Just my luck, it’s 18 degrees, the skies are blue with not a cloud in sight, and I’m standing in the pit lane of Donington Park surrounded by California Superbike School Ducatis… Suddenly, I spot a lone Panigale 959 giving me the eye, and from there the rest is history.

Preface

To be real, I’m not the kind of guy that chases tenths and pushes to the absolute limit on a track day, I’m mainly there to have fun. So, this isn't a full on the edge review, instead, it’s my opinion on the 959, and how it responded to being thrashed around by a numpty with minimal track day experience.

Like most if not all modern Ducatis the 959 handled beautifully, and in race-mode was a proper lark. Here’s how I got on with it.

Panigale 959 Specs

DISPLACEMENT

955 cc

POWER

110 kW (150 hp) @ 10,500 rpm i

TORQUE

102 Nm (75 lb-ft) @ 9,000 rpm i

DRY WEIGHT

176 kg (387.2 lb)

SEAT HEIGHT

830 mm (32.48 in)

SAFETY EQUIPMENT

ABS, Ducati Traction Control (DTC),Engine Brake Control (EBC), Riding Modes

MAINTENANCE SERVICE INTERVALS

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

First track session   

As to not get sucked into the advance group silliness, I thought it best to go into the intermediate group to learn the track and get used to the bike. Straight off the bat, the Panigale felt slim, nimble and was surprisingly revvy for a V twin, with the 150bhp motor feeling ideal for Donington’s sweeping bends and tight hairpins. However, things were quite cramped (as I’m 6ft 4), and on the brakes, gripping the skinny tank with my legs was difficult (tank grips are a must). Although, by focusing on body position, and being smoother on the anchors', everything started to click by the second session - with no big moments.

Second track session

After poodling around the circuit on the first session, it was time to pick my lines and stick to them, which is key for improving pace throughout the day. Following one of the instructors was mega useful for choosing the correct lines, particularly for Coppice, which is a double-blind right-hander. And with a bit of practice, the two corners almost become one big sweeping right turn. Around Coppice is where the 959 surprised me most, as the rear end grip was awesome, allowing me to pin it onto the back straight - albeit smoothly.

With a little wheelie over the back straight bump and a 145mph on the dash, I jammed on the Brembo M4’s with one finger, and If the ABS was kicking in, I didn't feel it. In race mode, the ABS is set to the lowest level (level 1) which disconnects the rear wheel from the system, allowing for hooligan slides!

Now, we all know how it goes on a track day, as a bloke sometimes you get a little cocky…  and as I barrelled into the tricky off-camber Goddards, carrying way too much speed and trail braking as late as I dared, the only option was to chuck the Panigale in and hope for the best. Next thing I knew I was on the pit straight throttle pinned, no drama. 

Corner exit is also minimal drama, as the TC light was flickering on in my peripheral, but I could hardly notice it working and cutting the fun, which was great in making me feel like a track hero - although I’m certainly not…

Final Thoughts

Are two sessions enough to get a good feel for a bike? Maybe not completely, but the two 30 minute sessions taught me a lot about the 959. Firstly, I learnt how good a package little Panigale is, the 150bhp revvy motor and superb predictable handling made the bike feel way less intimidating then it’s bigger brothers. And it makes you want to crank the throttle just after the apex, instead of tentatively waiting for the safety of a straight. Secondly the subtle protection blanket the 959’s electronics gives the rider is ideal for track days, as you’re less likely to be caught out by a rear end slide, but can still have a laugh.

Did the Panigale 959 live up to my expectations? Ohh yes, but if you want to check one out for yourself get booked on the next California Superbike School track day, and give it a wrist full.

Check em out: https://www.superbikeschool.co.uk/

                

Very nimble handling
Is quite skinny (not great for taller riders)

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