Shell Shock

Michael Harnischfeger

Manfred Jarisch

Ducati has crowned the Panigale model range with a special edition limited to just 500 units – in the 1199 Superleggera, more than 200 hp meet just 155 kilograms. The lightweight specialists in Bologna applied their spirit of innovation to create the fastest ever road-legal Ducati.

Lean and Mean
Beneath the tight-fitting CFRP bodywork is concentrated high-end technology.

In October 2013, 300 people traveled to Bologna from all around the world. With heart rates elevated to varying degrees, they climbed into taxis at the airport, traveled the few kilometers to Via Antonio Cavalieri Ducati 3 – and stood there in amazement. These committed motorcycle fans were given the opportunity to meet a true supermodel on two wheels in advance of its world premiere at the Milan Motorcycle Show.

Ducati had piqued their curiosity, perhaps even given one or two of them a few sleepless nights. With the help of its dealerships, the Ducati management had sought out its best and most loyal customers worldwide and directed them to a secure website filled with some very vague insinuations – teaser videos spoke of magnesium, titanium and carbon. Mention was even made of the exotic material tungsten, which is known as an extremely dense heavy metal with the highest melting point of all pure metals.

With great dramatic skill, the potential customer base was carefully primed on the lead-up to this October day in Bologna, to this first encounter with the 1199 Superleggera, this manifest beauty of technology; the first tactile contact with its exquisite components and, ultimately, the question of whether this wonderfully crafted sculpture from the very limits of the technically feasible is actually worth the price of a serious sports car – about 65,000 Euros in total.

Most of these fans – each of whom have more than just one Ducati in their own garage – answered without hesitation with a very resounding yes. A large proportion of the Superleggera’s 500 units, which will be built by hand in true Ducati fashion, were therefore already sold by the show premiere in November. All 500 contracts have now long been signed and production is scheduled to commence at the start of 2014.

According to Ducati, several hundred more contracts could have been sealed, but, despite the tempting demand, the rules of engagement remain unchanged. First come, first served – the exclusivity of the lean supermodel is cast in stone at 500. And it comes with an absolute explosion of technology, materials and aesthetics that continue to present new facets the more intensely you look at this motorcycle.

When Ducati presented the 1199 Panigale R, CEO Claudio Domenicali answered the question of what could possibly come next with a wink and a smile, “We have a few ideas, just you wait and see.” The Panigale R is itself a mind-blowing dream machine with a dry weight of just 165 kilograms, an output of 143 kW (195 hp) and a top speed well over the 300 km/h mark, as of which the speedometer shows just flashing lines due to a gentlemen’s agreement with other manufacturers.

Racing Technology for the Road
The Superleggera is even lighter than the works superbike.

Marco Sairu
and his team pushed the twin-cylinder over the 200 hp mark.

Sporty Design and Outstanding Precision
The Superleggera’s alloy wheels come from motorsport supplier Marchesini.

Marco Sairu, Engine Project Manager, sees the pistons as the technical highlight of the Superleggera’s drive. These are the first pistons in a road- going 4-strike motorcycle to run with just two rings. “Dispensing with the third oil-scraper ring allows a shorter piston skirt with a corresponding restructuring of the whole piston. This reduces weight from 600 to 500 grams, which, in turn, allows for lighter piston pins,” says Sairu. In add i-ti on, more power output comes from increased compression and a redesigned piston crown that optimizes the form of the combustion chamber.

Domenicali and his engineers kept their word. Marco Sairu, Engine Project Manager, and his colleague Cristian Gasparri, who drove the Superleggera project as Vehicle Project Manager Sportsbike, report that the Superleggera was already fixed in their minds when work began on the new Panigale range. It was launched in 2011 and revolutionized the way superbikes are built the world over, with a whole new level of refinement in lightweight design and functional integration, as illustrated by its new kind of monocoque frame and the short stubs of its exhaust system.

Once development of the 1199 Panigale R was complete, the time came for attention to turn toward the project with the cryptic name of RSM. This was the internal acronym for Racing Special Magnesium and means nothing more than turning the screw of light-weight design a little further, through the application of lightweight materials and technologies used in the World Superbike & MotoGP Championship.

One route was in the more extensive use of carbon-fiber reinforced polymer, or CFRP for short. On the 1199 Panigale R, the hi-tech material is already used in guards for the swing arm, clutch cover and heels, covers for the ignition lock and dampers, plus the fenders. The Superleggera, however, features CFRP in far larger areas, as well as in structural applications. Magnesium and titanium are also used to a greater extent, while the 2.7-kilogram battery in the series-production models makes way for a 700-gram lithium-ion unit.

Even items one might consider secondary did not escape scrutiny, from the forged footrests to the radiator plug. According to Cristian Gasparri, the original intention was to carry this over from the series-production model. However, if you make it from aluminum, you save another six grams!

The engine designers took a similarly systematic approach. Thus, in the Superquadro twin-cylinder, not only are the intake valves made from titanium, but the exhaust valves, too, are made from this exceptionally light and robust material. In the L-twin’s crank-shaft, on the other hand, a large proportion of the inertial mass is made up of tungsten inserts. The engine development engineers on Marco Sairu’s team used the high density of this metal to reduce the overall mass of the shaft through careful positioning of the tungsten inserts, while achieving a perfect mass balance. A further contributor to weight and friction reduction is pistons with just two piston rings. This saves almost 17 percent of the weight per piston, which, when combined with other measures, enables an increase in maximum revs from 12,000 (Panigale R) to 12,300 rpm. Together with a compression ratio raised from 12.5 to 13.3, this delivers not only freer high-revving characteristics with even more sensitive throttle response, but also an increase in peak power output from 143 kW to more than 149 kW (200 hp).

Ducati 1199 Superleggera
Stretching the limits of possibility for ultimate performance.

From the radiator plug (minus six grams), through screws and small parts in lightweight materials to the titanium exhaust system (minus 2.5 kilograms) – the weight reduction compared with the already remarkably lean 1199 Panigale R was only possible through a great many individual measures. And 155 instead of 165 kilograms is not even the whole truth: Dry weight is calculated without the battery. On-the-road, the lightweight lithium-ion battery actually makes the Superleggera twelve kilograms lighter than the 1199 Panigale R.

Technical Data
Ducati 1199 Superleggera
Manufacturer: Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A.
Production period: starting early 2014
Class: superbike
Engine data: liquid-cooled, two-cylinder, four-stroke, 90° engine. Four valves per cylinder, electronic injection, regulated catalyst
Displacement: 1,198 cm³
Power: more than 149 kW (> 200 hp)  at 11,500 rpm
Torque: 134 Nm at 10,200 rpm
Transmission: six-speed
Drive: chain
Brakes: two discs at the front,  one disc at the rear, ABS
Wheelbase: 1,437 mm
Dry weight: 155 kg
Top speed: > 270 km/h

Less is more – at the start of the Superleggera, the question was, ‘Where can we save weight with justifiable effort?’ The development engineers analyzed every single com ponent and assembly.

Electronic driving aids help on the road and the raceway – alongside ABS, traction and engine braking control, the Superleggera also has a new kind of Wheelie Control. These systems can be calibrated to suit personal preferences

Rendezvous with the Supermodel
The Ducati 1199 Superleggera in Detail.

The 1199 Superleggera is packed with systematically thought through and masterfully executed technical solutions. Many components feel wonderful to the touch and all are classic examples of the beauty of exquisite technology, underscoring the Ducati motto: “Authentic Italian Performance”.

Monocoque Main Frame
For the 1199 Superleggera, Ducati is producing the monocoque from aluminum-magnesium alloy. This reduces its weight by 1.1 kilograms compared with the aluminum frame of the 1199 Panigale R.

Main Bodywork and Add-On Parts
Not just the main bodywork, but  also other add-on parts like the seat mount and smaller bodywork elements are made from ultra-light-weight and extremely resilient  CFRP, resulting in a weight saving of 1.0 kilograms. The 1199 Superleggera is painted in exclusive Ducati Corse red.

Front Brake
The Superleggera is the first road-going motorcycle to feature a new-generation Brembo front brake system. Not only can the rider adapt the lever travel, he can also modulate braking characteristics to suit his preferences by adjusting the effective piston diameter.

Marchesini, outfitter to many race teams, casts and machines magnesium alloy wheels for the Superleggera sized 3.50 x 17 at the front and 6.00 x 17 at the rear. They are clad in 120/70-ZR 17 and 200/55-ZR 17 tires. The two wheels have a combined weight of just 5.6 kilograms – one kilogram less than the wheels on the 1199 Panigale R.

Many of the screws and fasteners on the cladding and engine are made from titanium.

For friction-optimized power trans-mission, instead of a 525 chain, the Superleggera runs with a 520 chain of the type typical in racing, complete with the associated  front and rear Ergal sprockets. This saves 0.8 kilograms.

Front Forks
The FL916 upside-down fork from Öhlins has some high-end features such as a load-optimized outer tube, titanium-nitrided inner tube and fully forged undersides – technologies transferred from racing for a 1.1 kilogram weight saving. Compression, rebound and compression are all  adjustable. Compression and re-bound are adjustable.

Rear Suspension
The Öhlins TTX36 rear suspension, too, brings racing technology to the road with the first application of a  titanium spring. It weighs 300 grams less than one made from steel.  Compression and rebound are adjustable.

Top Clamp
The motorcycle’s limited edition number is engraved into the upper fork bridge.

Cylinder Head
As usual for Ducati, the valves are precisely opened and closed using desmodromic control – guaranteeing maximum performance combined with low fuel consumption and clean exhaust gases. The maximum engine speed has been increased to 12,300 rpm, compared with 12,000 rpm for the 1199 Panigale R.

The intake valves on the 1199 Panigale R are already made from titanium, and the Superleggera uses this lightweight material for the exhaust valves, too. This delivers a weight reduction of 24 grams per valve.

Also made from titanium are the conrods that connect the pistons to the crankshaft. Here, lightweight design means low rotating and oscillating masses, fast rev response  and incredible power delivery.

This is the first road-going 4-stroke motorcycle to use pistons with just two piston rings. Friction is thus considerably reduced compared with the usual three rings. Plus the piston walls and piston pins can now be thinner, reducing weight from 600 to 500 grams – not insignificant at more than 12,000 rpm.

The crankshaft is made from forged steel and is finely balanced with tungsten inserts. This means that the masses necessary to ensure optimum concentricity and smooth running can be so perfectly positioned that the overall mass of the crankshaft can be reduced. Expressed in figures, the conventionally structured crank-shaft in the 1199 Panigale R weighs 4,800 grams, while the one in the Superleggera weighs just 4,400 grams – marking a highly effective  reduction in rotating masses and, as a side note, a better figure than for even the Ducati superbikes. In accordance with regulations, their crank-shafts must be series-production and therefore weigh 4,700 grams.

Rear Subframe
On the Superleggera, the rear subframe, too, is made from CFRP, instead of the aluminum used in the 1199 Panigale R. This means just 900 grams compared with 2.1 kilograms.

The finely tuned clutch is equipped with reinforced racing springs. This raises the operating forces a little, but guarantees functionality even under extreme race track conditions.

Exhaust System
The short exhaust system, including the manifolds, is made entirely from titanium. The road-legal system weighs a total of just 6.2 kilograms, making it 2.5 kilograms lighter than the system in the 1199 Panigale R.

Cristian Gasparri
and his colleagues have been pondering the Superleggera ideas for years.

Ducati 1199 Superleggera
A gem that would be wasted in a collector’s garage.

For Cristian Gasparri, Vehicle Poject Manager Sportsbike, the monocoque main frame is his personal highlight in the 1199 Superleggera. The use of a particularly stiff yet lightweight and vibration-absorbing aluminum-magnesium alloy reduces its weight by 1.1 kilograms com-pared with the aluminum component in the 1199 Panigale R. “And don’t forget, the aluminum monocoque in the series-production Panigale is already a five-kilogram weight saving compared with our classic trellis frame design. That’s a real milestone,” says Gasparri.

Should the customer make use of the race kit delivered as standard equipment, the engine power rises by a further five hp due to the less dampened exhaust system from Akropovič, and the weight of the Superleggera drops by a further 2.5 kilograms – due in part to machined covers for the mirror recesses and kits for the removal of the license plate holder and side stand. Also part of the race kit are paddock stands for front and rear and a higher race fairing.

This project involved a great deal of work and enormous attention to the tiniest detail. But how many Superleggeras will ever leave their place of honor in the living room or collector’s garage? Gasparri laughs, “More than we thought. Many of our customer stress that they want to ride their Superleggeras. Also and especially on the race track.” This is where, assisted by the adjustable Ducati Wheelie Control, adjustable eight-stage traction control and the Ducati Quick Shift for changing gear on full throttle without using the clutch, they can ride like the professionals in the superbike series. And in the pits, the DDA+ data measuring system with GPS and lean-angle sensors enables precise analysis of their riding style. The first Superleggeras are scheduled for delivery in spring 2014. Leaving just a little time for eager anticipation.

A weight saving of 10
kilograms is an amazing technical feat when the starting point is just 165 kilograms. In a package with increased engine output, it gives the Super leggera a power-to- weight ratio of 0.77 kg/hp.