Greg McDaniel on the Panigale

The rider/writer of this article is a weekend warrior, winning 6-10 track day events a year and has done so for the past 4-5 years.  This is only his(my) second time at Barber and still has much to learn about the track and riding in general.  He has not raced as of this writing and is not sponsored by any other entity beyond the goodwill of a very understanding wife.  He (I) am also an avid street rider enjoying over 10,000 miles this past year on a Multi-Strada and StreetFighter and has more to learn about touring too.  Having said all that, put me on two wheels and I am in my element – experiencing total peace and clarity.  Prior to the 959 I have had an 848 and a SF1098 as my track weapon of choice.

This is not a how to ride or a guide to ride Barber – but rather notes and opinions from a guy.  I still have much to learn.

The Track – Barber

Barber is one of those special gifts in America that showcase all that is good and right in the world.  I liken the facility to being the Pinehurst or Augusta National of Motorsports.  Everything is so well cared for and the people are amongst the most welcoming you will find.  Also sidebar – the friendships you develop over the years at track days and within the motorcycling community are some of the tightest bonds you will have outside of family – enjoy them and take the time to have them.

1369280Barber’s 15-turn, 2.38 mile track does not disappoint.  You enter the track and after the blend line immediately go into a long sweeping right hand turn 2 that initially climbs a hill and descends toward the apex (turn 3) where it bottoms out and immediately starts a hill climb toward a kink labeled turn 4.  This elevation shift at lean does to your stomach what mortals experience on a roller coaster.  As you follow riders up the hill toward turn 4 kink – they begin to disappear in the distance before you too – crest the hill in a right hand lean to make the kink and head down the next straight before grabbing a whole lot of brake for the slowest corner.   Turn 5a,b and c is known as Charlotte’s Web and can be seen as the turn that is watched over by a giant steel spider sculpture.  Roll on the gas and stay middle track through turn 6 kink heading to turns 7-8 known as the Museum Turn.  (The first time I was told it was named Museum turn I asked why.  The coach stared at me and said, “didn’t you see the big, giant museum on your left going through that section housing a collection of over 1,500 motorcycles and Lotus race cars?”  Admittedly I did not…)  Anyway, go through it, give it the beans, upshift, upshift go through the Chicane that is turns 9 and 10 – gas the back straight, more rollercoaster experience ahead for turns 11, 12, 13, 14 while flicking it hard left through 15 opening up the gas for the 1595’ front straight.  Don’t brake too early into 1, it’s faster than you think and do it all over again!!

The Bike – 959 Panigale

First off – hello quick shifter!!  Where have you been my whole life?  More about that later but dang.  The 959 is an incredible balance of flickable steering and Ducati twin power!  The first thing I had to retrain my brain for was how easy and quick it dove into a turn.  I did not need to muscle this bike at all which meant I could brake later than ever before and the bike would hold the line I put it on without a fight.  This came in handy as I screamed down the front straight almost running over a liter bike who broke early and hard.  In this instance, I had to take turn 1 from the middle of the track.  (something I had not done before) and the Panigale dove in and held the line faster and with more stability than I ever experienced before.  In fact it did not push me to the exit rumble strips which means I can give it more gas next year – it was awesome!!

1368312The turn in and the power worked in tandem with me which translated to a power delivery system where we hit the power band coming out of 15 and was able to motor past guys on the front straight and still out braking them into turn 1.

The GP Shift Quick Shifter also allowed me some freedom I have not experienced before.  The electronics that keep the bike stable, allowing me to pop up gears with extreme smoothness meant I could go up through the gears right before I crested the hill at kink 4 and I did not run out of acceleration from Museum turn going from 2nd to 3rd to fourth gear heading into the chicane of 9 and 10 keeping the throttle open heading down the 1251’ back straight.
Also, speaking of electronics, the traction control set at level 4 did it’s job and prevented what could have been a high side for me at the bottom of turn 2 and 3 as I got on the gas a little too aggressively.  The TC is not overbearing and other than that instance where the back wheel broke very loose, I did not notice it watching over me.

All in all – I am very happy with how this bike turned out and I can’t wait for the 2017 track season to begin!!  Thanks to Bill and Matt and the team at Indy Ducati for helping me put together the weapon for the track I always wanted.  (also Tracy, spending extra time and effort on mounting the armor bodies paid off.  Very solid body work and the bored out front scoops look a lot meaner than standard!!!).

On The Bike

Article written by Greg McDaniel – iDesmo President