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Old 12-11-2015, 07:10 AM   #1
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Ducati 959 Panigale tweaks for track days

Making the 959 Panigale even sharper

Racing in the 848 Challenge

899 Cup bikes

DUCATI'S 959 Panigale is already a superb bit of kit straight out of the box but if you're anything like me, you always want more.

I raced in the 848 Challenge and over the course of two seasons I went from lining up on the grid on a 118hp ex-Ducati press bike with nothing but a pair of slip-on exhausts to a 135hp fully-sorted corner-botherer. Alright, so the 848 differs massively from the 899 and thus 959 but these changes will sharpen up your 959 to superbike-slaying status.

Of course, these tweaks will cost money (most 899 Cup bikes have had £10,000 thrown at them) but you can pick 'n mix from the selection below.


First up, the engine. If you're going to abuse your 959 on track, then I'd take a look inside the engine and get some stronger con-rods. A few of the 899s suffered in this area and it's worth sorting if you plan on frequently bouncing into the limiter. It'll benefit from having the cam-timing sorted too.

A full system makes sense if you want to capitalise on any other work. At £3,600 they are pricey but they will transform the bike, from its throttle response to mid-range and peak power, not to mention weight. Talk to JHP in Coventry or BSD in Peterborough - both are familiar with 848 Challenge and 899 Cup bikes and carry out excellent work.

A fully sorted 899 Cup bike will make 150hp at the back wheel, up from around 130hp as standard.


A full Öhlins (NIX30 / TTX) or K-Tech (DDS) set-up front and rear will make the 959 the best handling bike you're ever likely to ride - but prepare to shell out three grand, possibly more. The stock suspension is very good and fully adjustable. A proper set-up, dialling out the static sag, would be the best bet to keep costs down. But if you want to find that last second, prepare to get your wallet out.

This is personal preference but I'd also junk the stock damper and fit an adjustable one so I could stiffen it up.

The Brembo monobloc brakes are good but the standard pads aren't amazing. For track work I'd opt for Brembo Z04 pads. Sure, at £250 a set they're not cheap but they are staggeringly good. I would also fit braided brake lines to improve feel and power. If you want a bit more feel you could also fit a new front brake master cylinder. Although I never changed the one on my 848, many do.

The 848 Challenge and 899 Cup bikes run Pirelli SC2 tyres. I can't claim to have ridden on every manufacturer's stickiest track tyres but the SC2s are golden, if a little expensive. I wouldn't want to try and squeeze every last drop out of the 959 on the showroom-spec rubber. Definitely fit the best you can afford.

I fitted wider clip-ons to my 848 and set them further forward. If you want to keep your 959 as standard as possible, then consider adjusting their span a touch further outwards to improve leverage and allow you to freely move around the bike.

The riding position of the 959 is great but my 848 was fitted with a Ducati Superpole seat, which sets you higher, meaning you feel like you're on the bike not in it. It makes a big difference to the effort required to get the bike over. I don’t think a 959-specific seat is out yet but do some digging and I’m sure a 1299 or 899 one will fit.

The 959's standard foot-pegs are great but aren't adjustable, so for slightly more ground clearance, go for some adjustable aftermarket ones.

Lastly, I'd definitely fit crash protection, engine casing covers as a minimum and crash bungs if you can justify them. Mine are GB Racing engine covers and R&G frame-mounted bungs and have meant I can get out again after low-speed spills. Some tank grips will also help you brake as hard as possible and climb around the bike with less effort.

Obviously the modification list is endless and you could fit full track-spec fairings, flip-up levers, lightweight wheels, etc. But the info above gives you an idea of how the 848 and 899 can be transformed into dialled-in racing-bikes, rather than carbon-clad look-at-me trinkets.

If I could only make one change it would be the brake pads. I know they're the least sexy, least adrenaline-inducing things to modify but they make a huge difference.

If budget was a limiting factor, I'd change: brake pads and lines, fit stickier tyres, set up the suspension and set the bars as wide as possible.

So now you're set to sharpen up your already well-sorted 959. Get stuck in and enjoy!
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