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How wonderful a feeling it is to remember your roots and pay homage to it with your flagship product. That is exactly what Ducati did with the Panigale when they named their superbikes lineup after the Borgo Panigale region in which the Ducati HQ is located. The first in the series was the 1199 which replaced the 1198. The 848 was replaced by the 899 which we rode in China in 2014.
However now it was time to ride the 959 which will replace the 899 Panigale, but this time in Thailand. So the journey starts with bumping into Ravi Avalur, CEO Ducati India at Bangkok Airport:
David James, the man behind a lot of great stuff that happens with Ducati APAC, I personally owe him a lot!
Signing the indemnity bond, in case I crashed and ruined the nice paint job. Actually no, they just wanted me to be safe.
The 959 ride was clubbed with DRE (Ducati Riding Experience) which is a great way to get on a Ducati and learn riding skills from some of the best out there. My trainer was Manuel Poggiali, the man who beat Jorge Lorenzo to take the top spot on the podium as the world champion in 2001 (125CC, now Moto3 on a Gilera) and 2002 (250CC, now Moto2 on an Aprilia)! And he is from a country called San Marino which is in Italy. Other instructors included people like Alessandro Valia who is the lead tester at Ducati.
We were then transferred to a the city of Buriram with a connecting flight and then another bus (phew). Buriram literally means city of happiness. Damn well it was going to be, considering the machines that we were about to ride. I was actually asked by a couple of locals if I was going to Buriram for football. It was then that I did a quick search to find that it is the home of Buriram United Football Club which competes at the Thai national level. The city is also known for the i Mobile stadium. However for us petrolheads the area of interest was the Buriram United International Circuit (BRIC) also known as Chang International Circuit, the construction of which started in March 2013 and it was opened in October 2014.
The track is the first FIA Grade I certified circuit and also the first FIM Grade A circuit in Thailand. It also hosted a Japanese Super GT round in 2014. Other racetracks are being planned, such as a motocross circuit.
On March 22 2015, the first ever Thailand round of the World Superbike Championship was held at the circuit. Both of the Superbike races were won by UK rider Jonathan Rea and the World Supersport race was won by Thai rider Rathapark Wilairot, much to the delight of the Thai spectators.
I should not be stating the obvious. The bike is gorgeous, as all Ducatis are, with the exception of a rare few (most notably the DS1000). Have a look below! The only request I have from my end to Ducati is to have more visual demarcations between the smaller and larger capacity Panigale.
Buriram is a great wide flowing world class track. The 959 Panigale in Sport mode had just the right amount of settings to allow me to get used to the bike and the track. The last two sessions were ridden in Race mode where the rear ABS was disengaged completely and the traction control was intruding less to the extent of letting the bike slip and slide on hard acceleration in the corners. Of course if it was someone like Alessandro Valia he would have made it look classy unlike me which was more to do with correcting the lines.
I am not a fast rider on the track and I take a bit of time to change mode from touring to track mentally. However, I won’t exactly say I am slow either. I gathered that the Panigale can be a very fast bike, much beyond my capabilities. The electronics have improved vastly over the years on the Ducatis, they are almost on a level where you cannot even sometimes tell that they are working in the background. Compensating a hard throttle during a corner could be a good example which could possibly prevent a low side. Talking about corners, one major difference between the ‘entry level’ Panigale 959 and the 1299 as far as safety electronics go is the Cornering ABS, but by no means are the electronics in the Panigale 959 to be taken as ‘inferior’.
The quickshift has to be one of the best features in a bike this and it worked flawlessly. In the hands (or foot) of a seasoned rider it can actually help shave off a precious second or so compared to a non QS equipped motorcycle.
Check out the lineup below of the DRE Instructors. The collective experience and talent is mindblowing! You can probably identify the odd one out.
Getting a certificate for completion the DRE felt sort of nice.
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