It only comes in red, the Ducati rep tells us. Well, is there any other colour that suits a Ducati? As far as I know there has always been a red Ducati in their lineup. Other colours are just options.
But arguing about colour choice is not why we’re here for. Naza assembled Malaysia’s press at Sepang to track test the new CKD 899 Panigale. At RM89,888 it is cheap(er) than the previous CBU unit by RM19,000, it loses nothing to the CBU unit at all. In fact, only in comparison to big brother 1199 Panigale does the 899 lose out.
The gist; a steel subframe instead of cast alloy, Showa BPF forks and Sachs shock instead of Marzocchis, a steel tank instead of aluminium and a black and white LCD display instead of full colour. Then there’s the double sided swingarm and magnesium engine parts on 1199, of course.
The Superquadro engine is identical to the CBU unit as are the engine management doodads. ABS, quickshifter, traction control are all present and accounted for. The same rip-roaring 148 horses (and 73 ft.lbs of torque) are in the stables as well.
Riding out onto the track, we gingerly warm the Corsas up, riding harmoniously in single file behind the designated lead rider. Well, that was the plan, anyhow. While we were under express instructions not to overtake the leader, there were no instructions about NOT planting the sexy Panigale headlight into the equally sexy rear end of the lead riders’ Panigale.
Predictably, a sane test pace quickly degenerated into a fast trackday free for all. All the better to test the 899 Panigale, I guess. The 899 Superquadro needs you to keep the throttle pinned as much as you dare and as quickly as you dare to make the most of it.
She likes to rev high and hard to be happy. That’s not to say it is slow in the lower range as there’s plenty to keep anyone happy but this engine was designed such that it simply loves revs. Oh, keep those gears coming as you eyeball the shift lights.
The sprockets were not changed for the track so 2nd was too low for the slower corners while 3rd was too high. Oh well, you can’t have it all. Handling was fine. Take a sweeping line or square off the corner, the 899 Panigale can do it all.
A bit more set up time will cure a tendency to understeer while hard on the power. And that’s about it. Otherwise, climb the kerbs like Marquez or lean it over like Lorenzo, it does not seem too choosy.
Both ends were supple and compliant but no bottoming was evident under hard braking or bumps. The Diablo Corsas surprised by staying calm and gripping hard even after 10 hard laps. Top marks for a 50/50 road/track tyre. And I must admit to pushing the front a bit too hard going into some corners.
Cheap and cheerful? No way. This may be a CKD bike but it ain’t nobody’s fool. Just as good as the CBU and in the end, the buyer is the winner.