And then it was my turn (that's my bike on the end):
I've posted my review of the R several pages back, but now that it's chronological, here it is again:
When I first saw the specs of the R motor during the press launch PowerPoint (the only PowerPoint I've probably ever paid attention to in my life), the differences in weight between the S and the R flywheel and connecting rods were listed in grams. Being a retarded American who has to google “gram to ounce conversion” every time a metric unit of weight is encountered, I dismissed the figures as being measurable by sensitive scales only. One bit of data that I did understand very well was this:
Pole position for the 1199R at Phillip Island: 1:30.795.
Phillip Island Lap Record (set by Hayden on a MotoGP bike): 1:30.059.
Granted, MotoGP hasn't been to the track since the repave, so the record will fall, but the fact a largely undeveloped (for WSB) 1199R, based on a production bike with a base price of $30k, came so close to a MotoGP bike record makes you realize how glorious the Panigale is.
The first hardware details you notice about the R that sets it apart from its more plebeian siblings: aluminum blanks instead of mirrors, a larger, crystal clear, lightly smoked windscreen hiding a tiny GPS sensor under its nose, a full sewer-pipe-diameter Termi System and all sorts of carbon bits. Graphic/design highlights include the “Ducati Corse” graphic on the fairings, which tastefully breaks up the rather expansive demonic red surfaces on either side, the exposed aluminum tank and the perfectly textured new seat cover that grips on the track as well as it looks in the paddock. I’ll admit that the heat shield looks rather obtuse in pictures, but it’s fairly innocuous in person. The lack of rim stripes also gives the bike a more dedicated, singularly purposed appearance, but unfortunately the stark white ‘spider leg’ decals on the nose and fairing detracted from the elegance and simplicity of the rest of the bike. Why sexy and purposeful solid white number plate-graphics were reduced to peripheral traces deducts points from the allure and impact the R versions in the past have had. (The brushed aluminum tank is a nice consolation, though.)
Blindfolded, you’d never know the difference between the R and any other Panigale variant. That is, until you gave the throttle a blip. Those grams that threw me off as being academic during the presentation actually equate to almost 3 lbs less rotating mass, which remarkably changes the responsiveness of the engine. Whereas the base engine builds revs with brutal, explosive, mechanical fervor, the R motor responds with an synaptic, hyper, explosive fluidity.
While sitting on pit row waiting for green-flag-permission to enter the track, I got to enjoy the unapologetic, snarling sounds the engine makes exhaling through the revised Termi exhausts as the journalists launched onto CotA (with no speed limit in the pits). As I hurtled off the line the exhaust note thundered off the pit wall like a THX-optimized version of a solid-fuel space-shuttle launch from afar. The alacrity of the engine, combined with the new gearing made the R feel significantly lighter than the S or Base versions even under partial throttle.
That Ducati doesn't claim any additional HP over the base is the first indication that they might just be sandbagging and have made more changes than they're admitting. Two weeks prior I’d been on the track with my 41T S, so the violent forces associated with full throttle acceleration out of corners and onto the straits were fresh in my mind. The R, despite the standard HP claims, is noticeably more powerful. Granted, my S did dyno lower than the average Panigale, and some of the increased forward momentum could have been a result of the increased rate at which the R’s Superquadro motor revs, but seat-of-the pants is what thrills, and there was no mistaking that the R motor is all R. So much so that the front tire just skims the pavement under full throttle at 150+, causing a ‘weave’ in your line.
The timing required to keep a standard Panigale surging forward through the gears uninterrupted, save for quick stab on the quickshifter, was hopelessly inadequate for the R. Despite an additional 500rpm redline, I hit the limiter before even thinking “shift” several times during the first session. Normally towards the end of the tach stratosphere you can feel a motor begin to struggle. It’s that moment when the engine nears its operating limits and the mechanical precision distorts into aural and tactile mechanical disorganization, causing a simultaneous dip in power. You can feel the change on the Panigale around 10,250 rpm, which cues a snikt on the shift lever. On the R, this second law of mechano-thermo-dynamics-type dissolution near redline simply never happens. In a hypothetical study that I made up just now to prove my point, 10/10 motorcyclists, when asked to estimate at what RPM the R motor was at, underestimated the RPM by 3000-4000 revolutions. And when told that the engine was actually spinning at 12,000, 9/10 people estimated that the redline surely would have to be 15-16,000 rpm, based on how smooth it was. (The other 1 person dropped out due to ‘health’ reasons. We referred to him after that point as “orgasm man.”) Ever hit a false neutral while giving your bike full throttle? That's about how fast the R motor revs when driven in anger.
Similar to my thinking the engine was spinning at far less RPMs than it was, my sensitivity to lean-angle demanded some serious adjustment, too. Flicking the bike (and I do mean flicking, it felt so light) into a corner I found my knee would slap the pavement far before I expected. The engineers had indicated the adj swingarm pivot was set at 0 deg., confounding me to wonder why the bike transitioned from side to side so fluidly. (Wasn't until later that day listening to a conversation between Kevin Duke and the Pirelli rep, that the Supercorsa SPs were a brand new compound, explaining at least part of the mystery.) The rest of the changes I’ll chalk up to the track surface and the overall bad-ass-ness of the 1199.
During the past several months living with the Superquadro, I found it impossible to imagine how Ducati could improve on the Panigale. That they did so soon after launch shows you just how fanatical the engineering team is. The end-result of all the subtle changes made the R feel like it was two versions beyond the standard models. The change in engine characteristics that would definitely be noticeable on the street become more profound on the track--and the extra range of adjustment to the swingarm will make exponential differences on the WSB circuit. The R clearly pushes Ducati forward in the moto-arms-race and provides mere mortals the opportunity to experience World Superbike levels of performance without requiring WSB-like abilities (or budgets).
Motor, motor, motor.
Seat material is so good I will be swapping out for one soon
On/off throttle less abrupt
Slipper clutch works more effectively than mine
Gear selection not as critical as on the base models
Having to recalibrate up-shift points
Shorter throttle pull with a rising rate would help when trying to unleash the wrath of Satan while trying to hold on (that last 10% of the throttle required an awkward wrist extension)
Full-throttle front end wander at 150+ speeds (how much steering can you do when the front wheel is barely skimming the pavement?)
Stock pegs still don’t inspire confidence, but Sidi boots make up for a lot of the deficiency.
Graphics don’t leave you in awe