A track star is born

The Ducati Panigale V4 S is a track star that encourages newbies to exploit its capabilities without being intimidated by its 214bhp and 124Nm of torque. But at $81,000, it would be a hard pill to swallow for most.
The 1,100cc Ducati Panigale V4 S steers quickly and reacts to almost all situations a rider would face on a track, such as controlling slides, braking hard into bends and accelerating as fast as possible using its quick-shifter.
The 1,100cc Ducati Panigale V4 S steers quickly and reacts to almost all situations a rider would face on a track, such as controlling slides, braking hard into bends and accelerating as fast as possible using its quick-shifter.PHOTO: DUCATI

Ducati's new Panigale V4 S is a stellar race bike which puts any rider in the limelight

Like most race venues, the Ricardo Tormo Circuit - a 4km, 14-turn MotoGP track - can be unforgiving.

But with a bike like the 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 S, even a non-professional rider like myself can feel like a hero on it.

The bike is the first production Ducati equipped with a 1,100cc four-cylinder engine. It looks compact, even though at 195kg, it is some 5kg heavier than the preceding 1299 Panigale S. But with 214bhp on tap, it has an enviable power-to-weight ratio of 1.1bhp to 1kg.

The all-new ride-by-wire superbike features a 16-litre aluminium fuel tank, partly tucked under the seat to keep its centre of gravity low. Its electronics are found in a cavity in front of the fuel tank.

Its "fairing-in-a-fairing" design, which aids in cooling and aerodynamics, will be hard for aftermarket companies to replicate. Its pincer-like brake lights give it a devilish streak.

As I leave the pit lane, its riding posture feels immediately similar to the 1299's - narrow at the girth where the seat meets the fuel tank, with slightly raised footpegs.

The V4 S' sweet spot starts from about 8,000rpm. By the time you near its 14,500rpm redline, the soundtrack is a full-on MotoGP wail.

  • SPECS / DUCATI PANIGALE V4 S

  • Price: $81,000 with COE, without insurance

  • Engine: 1,103cc 16-valve V4 water-cooled

  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, chain-driven

  • Power: 214bhp at 13,000rpm

  • Torque: 124Nm at 10,000rpm

  • 0-100kmh: Under 3.3 seconds (est)

  • Top speed: More than 280kmh

  • Fuel consumption6.9 litres/100km

  • Agent: Ducati Singapore

Power delivery is linear - clearly a blessing for track newbies like me who occasionally overshoot corners. It has an arsenal of customisable electronic aids - riding modes, traction, wheelie and launch controls and cornering anti-lock braking system.

These work in concert by taking inputs from a six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit without making interventions too obvious.

After my second session, I find my rhythm and increase my pace. A push on the handlebar is all that is needed to tip the V4 S into turns.

The bike does not protest when given quick steering inputs, and it feels composed under its fully adjustable electronic Ohlins front and rear suspension.

Turns 12 and 13 - a right-hander followed by a quick flick of the bike into a long, high-speed, off-camber left turn over a crest - give me goosebumps.

With the V4 S leaned over and holding faithfully to its chosen line, I feel proud seeing 170kmh on the "track display" instrumentation. But the next moment, I am humbled by a rider who passes me on the outside while keeping a ridiculously low lean and sliding the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 200 rear tyre. Clearly, Ducati's Slide Control and Traction Control Evo are at work.

The V4 S' explosive acceleration and seamless transmissions are evident on the straights. As the second gear begins to fade and a red bar lights up on the dashboard, I kick into the third using the quickshifter. My eyes open a little wider when I feel the handlebar go light and see the front end lifting. Every full-throttle upshift comes with a strong hit.

I reach a top speed of 265kmh - obviously lower than the 285kmh clocked at the circuit by Ducati test-rider Alessandro Valia, but enough to make me feel like a MotoGP rider on a charge.

Aching shoulders and thighs at the end of the day are worth it. Scuffed toe and knee sliders are a small price to pay.

And for those who can stomach its $81,000 price tag, the V4 S is a dream bike to own.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2018, with the headline 'A track star is born'. Print Edition | Subscribe