March 29, 2013 by
This probably shold be my 9th post in the “My new 1199 Panigale” series, but I’m making a separate post specifically to report on my track day.
The short version for the impatient:
This has got to be one of the most capable track bikes ever. It’s going to take some suspension setup (stiffer springs) for me to really ride to my potential, plus tires and a few other minor things, but other than that it doesn’t get much better than this. The engine is super-duper fast, it feels like the best engine in a bike ever. I was passing 1000cc 4 cylinder bikes without too much trouble, given that they weren’t on race tires AND ridden by fast riders. There was a minor engine mapping problem I had to deal with, but this probably will eventually get fixed.
Now on to the (really) long version:
Lesson re-learned: Suspension setup is really important if you want to go fast(er)!
With about 2800 miles on the bike, on stock street tires, I decided to do a trackday at Inde Motorsports Ranch on March 23rd. I still have done no modifications to the bike other than adding a battery tender cable! I guess I bought a “comfort” seat, but I didn’t use it at the track so it kind of doesn’t count.
My first session out had me thinking that there was too many things wrong for me to fix in order to have a good time. The 1199 felt like an under sprung and under damped dirt bike or something. It was really bouncing around a lot. This is from a setup which I consider too harsh on the street! It didn’t help that Inde feels a lot bumpier than the last time I rode here just under a year ago… Also, this is a really fast motorcycle to be riding on the stock tires, so I didn’t have a lot of confidence in them. This part turned out to be mostly unfounded.
I reduced tire pressure to 31. I normally wouldn’t change tire pressure on street tires, but this is the racetrack and I know they are going to heat up. My theory is that the hot track temperature should end up being the manufacturer’s recommended cold pressure. It kind of makes sense, you don’t put much heat in the tires on the street, so the cold pressure is about the operating pressure they are going for.
Anyway, I started tweaking on the clickers to add more damping to try to get the bouncing under conrtol. The goal was to make both ends of the bike deflect and return at about the same rates when I bounce on it in the pit.
A few clicks in the harder (slower) direction really started to help things. I noticed that I wasn’t thinking about how much it was bouncing around which allowed me to concentrate better on my lines and throttle control. If you don’t notice something after a change that you noticed before and didn’t like, this is progress. But it still wasn’t perfect.
My next problem was that the traction control light was on any time I was on the throttle in a corner! I was in Race mode which has traction control set to 2. On the street, it’s really hard for me to get it to turn on when set to 3, and I’m trying really hard to do it! I wasn’t even trying that hard yet, but the traction control was very noticeably kicking in. It was most noticeable between turns 7 and 8 where I could get a lot better drive on the 998! I opened the throttle even further but I got nothing for it. The owner’s manual for the 1199 explains that DTC (Ducati Traction Control) setting 2 is default for race mode, and is for “very” expert riders and allows sideways sliding. Hmm, I must be a friggin professional then (which I know isn’t true) because #2 isn’t letting me go very fast. I don’t feel any sliding, but I’m on street tires and maybe I’m not feeling it as much as race tires…
I decided to take a PSI out of the rear tire to put a bit more tire on the road, and this did help things. But not enough, so I changed the DTC to #1. This is for “Pirelli tires with SC2 compound” which is their DOT race tire, not a street tire. This improved things quite a bit. The traction control light was still on at the same places, but it was allowing me to drive a lot harder off of corners on the side of the tire. I didn’t have the guts to set it to 0! This is one of the fastest motorcycles I’ve ever ridden after all…
As I was going faster, I noticed a few more problems: I was running into the limiter in 2nd gear just after the apex at 13, which is much bumpier than it used to be. I was also hitting the limiter going up the hill at the start/finish line. This is really unfortunate, because in both places there is hardly time to shift before I’d have to downshift again back into 2nd. But I’m riding a big twin, why not just short shift it into 3rd?
Because of yet another problem I didn’t foresee: A huge hole in the powerband! Somewhere around 5.5k RPM until about 7 or 7.5k RPM is a big hole. Trying to short shift means you’re either in that zone, or you’re under it which means you need to rev through it. It feels like I’m riding a 600 in that zone. I don’t know what’s causing it. Anyway, you can’t get much acceleration through there, so if you short shift and end up in that zone, you aren’t going quickly.
This was a big problem exiting turn 2 onto the straight. I lost a lot of time here. Exiting in 2nd on the side of the tire, the traction control is on and you’re feeding in throttle. As the bike straightens up, the traction control stops intervening and the bike starts going forward in a big hurry. It’s trying to wheelie from power and the leverage of pulling the bike up onto the larger circumference of the center of the tire. Under ideal conditions, I would just short shift to keep the wheelie down, but I ran into this hole in the powerband again and I was going nowhere. My only option was to stay in 2nd gear and deal with the wheelie. Again, under ideal conditions I could start standing on the pegs and moving my (considerbale) weight forward, but I didn’t trust my boots sticking to the stock footpegs. I’ve had my foot come off too many times with stock pegs, and it isn’t pleasant at all. Especially with a concrete retaining wall on the outside of the corner! My only option was to exercise throttle control and wait to shift to 3rd once I got to about 9.5 or 10k RPM which put me back to about 8k RPM (this is all guessing), but well above the hole in the powerband. From there it’s full throttle, pinned to the stop, and grabbing gears up to 5th and about 145 to 147 MPH into a headwind. I could have braked later and got a few more MPH, but it’s only a trackday… If I didn’t have to deal with the wheelie problem I’m sure I would have seen well over 150 MPH.
It’s time to talk about Power (with a capital P) a bit now. The 1199 is really fast. I noticed that I’m not able to keep up with the 1098 and 1198′s midrange power right at the point that you’re really rolling the throttle on exiting a corner (for maybe the first 20 or 30 feet of acceleration), but those guys are toast once the RPM is up and the throttle is wide open! I was passing GSX-R1000s and R1s down the straightaway without any problem. This is a huge change from the 998 where I had to work really hard to keep 600s behind me on the straight, and 1000s passed me like I was standing still. This might be the best engine ever. I just wish they had the mapping figured out better…
Unfortunately this wasn’t the end of my problems. I noticed that the bike was still moving around a little bit, so I went up a click on all dampers (front and rear) to see what happened…
I should say that by the afternoon I was pushing really hard, as hard as I thought I could on street tires, and the only people passing me were racers and fast guys on race tires. Race tires are a big improvement over street tires, so I was feeling really good about myself at this point. I was getting more lean angle, the suspension was working a lot better, everything was going pretty good. A guy who was flying on a 1098S with Michelin race slicks was not getting away from me anymore, and I even managed to catch and pass him, then keep him behind me. Admittedly, while I was catching him he ran into the dirt and probably slowed down a notch, but I was definitely catching him before that! This felt really, really good after the feelings I had in the morning.
So anyway, I tried to keep the bouncing under control by increasing damping yet again. This is a total band-aid fix when your springs are not correct, and in my case they are too soft. I’m guessing that the forks need maybe half a KG up, and the shock needs 2 steps up or so. The result was I could push even harder, but 3 laps into the session the rear tire just gave up. It wouldn’t stick anymore on the left side, and it gave me a warning or two on the right as well. I backed off the pace thinking that maybe I made a suspension change that wasn’t sustainable, but the tire still wouldn’t stick. I think either I faded the rear shock (because it started pumping a lot more after a few laps) and that cooked the tire, or the tire was just finished anyway. I also had a big front end slide in a place where I think some fluid didn’t get cleaned up. It was close to the end of the day at this point which is a good time to count your blessings and go home in one piece.
The brakes were excellent. They might have faded just a little bit toward the end of the day, but it was subtle. They only needed one finger the entire day. Inde doesn’t have really hard braking areas though.
I went from having very little confidence in the 1199 in the morning, then made some adjustments (tire pressure, damping clickers, traction control), and it made all the difference in the world. It’s not perfect, but it’s a motorcycle I have much more confidence in and I can push it pretty hard.
Before I use race tires, I need to get correct springs. I think race tires would load the stock suspension far too much, especially at a bumpy track like Inde. But I had a pretty good time on the stock tires, so I’ll be buying another set of those.
This is a fantastic motorcycle. Once I get the correct springs, I think I will be faster on it than anything else I’ve ever ridden. It steers as good as anything I’ve ridden for sure, and I made no changes to the geometry! The engine has no equal as far as I can tell. It’s fast and confidence inspiring, the perfect combination.
I sure wish it made a better street bike…