It was called Project 1201, the singular goal being to build the ultimate sportbike at any price. And it’s going into production now as the Ducati 1199 Superleggera. (Did you notice, no Panigale here?) We might even call it “Bugatti” 1199 Superleggera, since, at $65,000, it will be a very rare and exceptional sportbike. The Bugatti connection also comes to mind because the car company is, like Ducati now, a part of the Volkswagen Group.
Leggera means “light” in Italian. You figure out the rest… At a claimed 341.7 lbs. dry (390 pounds curb weight, same as the Panigale dry) the Ducati 1199 Superleggera simply is a work of mechanical art, all of its precious fallout coming from the Panigale racing experience.
The team of engineers and specialists under the guidance of new Chief Project Engineer Andrea Forni revised every single element of the machine, starting at the heart of its already extreme 1198cc V-twin. The crankshaft was significantly reduced in mass and size by completely reworking the large counterweights that now look like slim tomahawk blades decorated by small cylinders of tungsten (which is much heavier than steel) inserted at the sides to achieve the appropriate balancing mass. In this way, the crankshaft is reduced also in terms of cross section, thus decreasing the drag caused by pumping the oil vapors in the crankcase. Further weight savings in the powertrain came from the adoption of titanium valves on the exhaust side, which join the Panigle’s Ti intakes.
Titanium is used also for the complete exhaust system and most bolts used in the construction of the 1199 Superleggera. Given the outstanding elastic module of this metal, a titanium wire of adequate diameter is coiled around the Öhlins TTX36 shock in place of the traditional steel spring. Magnesium replaces aluminum just about anywhere it can, starting with the cast magnesium pyramidal structure that acts as front section of the frame and airbox. Wheels are magnesium forgings by Marchesini.
A lithium ion battery alone saves about five pounds, while carbon fiber was adopted in the construction of every body component, plus the seat-supporting substructure. Öhlins supplies its latest, ultra-light FL916 fork and Brembo its renown monobloc front calipers and MCS 19-21 radial master cylinder. A high-tensile aluminum alloy and a 520-type chain save weight in the final drive.
New two-ring, higher compression pistons were adopted to help push output past the 200-hp mark. And another 5 hp is readily available by installing the racing kit, inclusive of Akrapovic exhaust system, which drops another 5.5 lb.
Ducati 1199 Superleggera is a no-holds-barred project with no equal among regular production bikes today. And while it is quite exotic and extreme for a production machine, Ducati nonetheless maintains a two-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.
It occurred to me that 1199 Superleggera might represent Volkswagen Group boss and motorcycle enthusiast Dr. Ferdinand Piech’s ultimate Ducati, his motorcycling dream and the perfect birthday gift to himself. He is like that, and that is a compliment. The Ducati 1199 Superleggera will be produced in a limited number of 500 units.