Twenty-five years ago, Ducati began building what would become its most iconic piece of high-octane art: the 916. To celebrate, the company has now brought forth 500 special edition Panigale V4 superbikes, tarted up to look like Tamburini's most famous design and festooned with farkles.
To most of us mortals, Ducati's V4 Panigale is a pretty special beast in its own right, a 226-horsepower eyeball-flattener that's about as beautiful and exotic a motorcycle as you can buy in 2019. There's a reason all the rap guys have Panigales in their video clips; it's swoopy and hot and erotically red in the way a Ferrari Enzo is – and faster in most situations, too – but for about a thirtieth of the price.
But there's always a tier of consumer for whom special is not special enough. In the motorcycling world, that tier seems to be aging fast, and they may not have a whole lot more sportsbike purchases left in them. So Ducati has put together an extra-special Panigale, tweaked to recall the glorious past of the 916, that it's certain "is destined for nothing less than cult status."
Dubbed The 25th Anniversario 916, the bike takes the Panigale V4 S as a starting point. It gets a Ducati Corse-spec front frame, and the bodywork gets splashes of white, Shell logos and #1 plates recalling Carl "Foggy" Fogarty's four World Superbike championships aboard the 916 back in the 90s when the world still made sense.
It also gets an Akrapovic silencer, magnesium forged wheels from Marsechini, a racing screen, carbon mudguards front and rear, a carbon fiber swingarm cover, race-style grips, adjustable rearsets, race-style fuel filler cap, a two-tone seat, and plugs to block up holes where you can take the mirrors and license plate holder off.
All the great Ducatis of the 90s had dry clutches, and this V4 follows in that tradition, complete with an open carbon fiber clutch cover to let you watch the plates spinning and tambourining away. The top triple clamp is machined from solid aluminum and your number out of the 500 available bikes is stamped on there.
That number will not be #5, which Ducati has set aside in honor of Carlin Dunne, who tragically went off the cliff at Pikes Peak a couple of weeks ago, within sight of the finish line and a new record time for America's most storied hillclimb event. As #5 was Dunne's racing number, Ducati plans to auction the bike off, with proceeds going toward a fundraiser aimed at supporting Dunne's mother.
The rest of the 25th Anniversario 916 bikes will hit dealerships in October, with a European price of €41,900, which equates to around US$47,200 – but the price will be country-specific and should be significantly lower than that in the US.
We're not sure if this thing is destined for cult status in the way the original 916 was. After all, that bike has more or less cemented itself right up the top of many "best motorcycles of all time" lists. It shifted the goalposts, not only with its stunning good looks, but with its compact, lightweight design and irrepressible racetrack success. It also didn't cost €40,000. But, whether you frame the 25th anniversary bike as a cynical cash grab at the few remaining boomers and gen Xers who still have the flexibility to ride a sportsbike, or as a genuine, starry-eyed tribute to a brand icon, you can't deny it's a gorgeous bit of kit.
There's a video below showing Foggy getting reacquainted and reminiscing about past glories with the 916. There's also a wonderfully gratuitous set of photos to enjoy in the gallery.
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