It's funny – there are really very few analogs for the Lamborghinis, McLarens and Ferraris of the world in the motorcycle scene. The top-of-the-line 180-mph performance superbikes are all pretty much within just about any clown's budget. You've got to go way overboard to produce something people can't afford.
Of course, people do. Ducati has never been shy when it comes to releasing this kind of ridiculous exotica, hero bikes to fan the desires of drooling Ducatisti. You'll recall the US$70,000 Desmosedici RR, which at the time of its release was the honest-to-god closest thing you could buy to a factory MotoGP bike.
Well, the company is at it again. For the opening of EICMA 2016, Ducati has just pulled the covers off the 1299 Superleggera, and it's absolutely bonkers.
At 215 hp and 108 lb-ft of torque, this is the most powerful streetbike Ducati has ever made. Built almost entirely from unobtanium, it weighs a preposterous 343.9 lb (156 kg) dry, and 368.2 lb (167 kg) wet, meaning that it's several kilos too light (as well as 100cc over capacity) to legally take the grid in a World Superbike race. Let that sink in for a minute.
Thanks to liberal sprinklings of titanium, tungsten and aluminium, the core of the twin-cylinder engine (crankshaft, conrods, pistons, cylinder liners and flywheel) is a whopping 5.3 lb (2.4 kg) lighter than the standard, wildly quick 1299 Panigale it's derived from, allowing everything to spin up much faster and offering even less gyroscopic resistance to your steering inputs.
Weight is saved everywhere, from the tiny lithium battery to the titanium springs in the shock absorber – but the big ticket item is the use of carbon fiber. The entire monocoque frame, the single-sided swingarm, the subframe and the rims are all carbon, using aerospace-level inspection techniques to verify the quality and integrity of each piece.
Suspension is Ohlins, brakes are handled by Brembo, with everything being top shelf. If you can't live with the full titanium Akrapovic exhaust system, which is road homologated, you can switch it for a track kit that drops an extra 5 kg (11 lb) from the bike's already ludicrous weight figure, and boosts the total power output to 220 hp. I can't think of a single reason why you wouldn't.
The 1299 Superleggera also takes several strides forward in electrickery, packing a six-axis Bosch IMU (inertial control unit) and making full use of it. Lean-angle sensitive traction control (DTC EVO) and a new Slide Control system make this bike one of the safest machines ever to get sideways on.
Wheelie control is now paired with launch control, the first such system to be fitted to a Panigale, and there's lean angle-sensitive Cornering ABS, engine brake control to complement the slipper clutch, and a full onboard data acquisition and analysis system that's got a built-in GPS so you don't even need a transponder to track your lap times.
For such an extreme beast, it's impressive to see Ducati's thrown a full two year warranty at it, as well as giving it 7,500 mi (12,000 km) service intervals.
If a US$80,000 pricetag seems a bit high, maybe just tell your buddies you didn't get on the list in time, and all 500 of this short-run monster have sold out. Because they will, quick smart. Ducati has made something very special here, a machine as sharply performance focused as it is exotic and exclusive. We hope those 500 bikes go to people who can really use them, unlike what typically happens with high end sports cars.