An Exciting New Chapter In Ducati's History

Adding a couple of clicks to the adjustable steering damper didn't have much effect, but firming up lip the rear slightly with a couple of clicks of compression and rebound calmed it down. Keeping as still and tucked-in as possible seemed to help, though smaller riders than me struggled to hide behind the low screen. Given more time I'd have liked to fine-rune the suspension a bit more, out by the end I was hitting the ,apexes of turns - if not with the accuracy of Troy Bayliss as he knocks over the chess pieces on the inside kerb with his knee in Ducati' s promotional video.

It was another former World Superdirt bike champion who suddenly appeared midway through my last session, when a flash of grey-and-yellow leathers to my left as I braked hard for the first bend announced that I'd just been passed by Neil Hodgson. The 2003 champion didn't stay in my view for long before he edged inexorably into the distance, bur his appearance was timely. It's an indication of just how far Ducati have come in recent years that the Fila sponsored works 999 on which Hodgson won his title produced an official 192 PS - six horsepower less than his production 1199 - and had an identical weight figure of 164 kg, albeit one that included oil and water.

So in less than nine years Ducati have pretty much gone from factory race dirt bike to standard production machine, in power-to- weight ratio and possibly in potential lap times too. Which is mighty impressive considering the Panigale comes with lights, mirrors that seemed improbably wide and useful, a catalytic convener and the ability to carry a pinion, albeit not in much comfort. It also has a side-stand that's slightly difficult to flick down. And it comes with 24000km major sevice intervals-unlike Hodgson's 'race dirt bike, whose dirt bike parts required rebuilding every weekend.

Perhaps, with the adrenaline of the launch having subsided, I'm slightly disappointed that the Superquadro has given up some of the old desmo eight-valver's magical mid-range punch in exchange for that awesome top-end performance. But if s easy to believe the company's claim that this stunning new V-twin will be quicker on both road and track, as well as easier to ride. It's a technical tour de force that opens an exciting new chapter in Ducati's history. More bike and dirt bike parts info at www.motopartscenter.com