Die-hard sports bike fans will tell you that there are some bikes you just don’t mess with. They’re the elite, creme de la creme, groundbreaking machines that make grown men go weak at the knees. Take for instance the 2012-2014 Ducati Panigale 1199 S. This was a Ducati unlike any before it. With a whole new chassis design, a power to weight ratio verging on insane and all the latest tech bells and whistles the Panigale 1199 S was in a league of its own. It was so good in fact that MCN gave the Italian a 5 out of 5 ratings, validating just how special this motorcycle was.
In the custom world, however, everything is fair game. So when a customer rolled up to the French workshop of Ortolani Customs on his 2014 Panigale 1199 S they couldn’t wait to sink their teeth into it.
The bike’s owner brought with him a concept illustration by automotive designer Holographic Hammer. Named the ‘Panigale CR’ the illustration depicted a naked, stripped back version of the 1199S with cafe racer styling and an exposed engine. Not wanting to simply recreate the Holographic design the Ortolani team devised a plan to transform the fully faired motorcycle into an alloy covered racer. “My first reaction when the bike arrived was excitement,” says workshop owner Olivier Ortolani. “Then we disassembled the Ducati and our enthusiasm completely disappeared.” Beneath the Panigales bodywork was a mass of unsightly wiring and electronic gadgetry that would all need to be rerouted for their concept to work. This wasn’t a show stopper though, merely the first of many hurdles they’d need to clear to complete their vision.
In its stock configuration, the Panigale S tips the scales at 188kg and produces an impressive 195bhp. The Ducati was celebrated for its rideability thanks to a plethora electronic gadgetry that allowed riders to modify different aspects of the bike’s performance on the fly (throttle response, engine braking, traction control, power and suspension). As you can well imagine modifying a motorcycle of this calibre requires careful consideration, so, with the bike torn down, a list of performance tweaks were planned in order to extract some additional power from the Superquadro L-Twin.
A combination of larger pistons that increased capacity to 1200cc, a race tuned exhaust system from Akrapovic and a remap resulted in a 210 bhp figure. Improving on the Panigale’s high-tech stock suspension was deemed unnecessary aside from swapping the rear shock spring for a titanium item. To tweak the Brembo brake set up they fit 330mm race spec carbon ceramic discs and also shed some additional weight by replacing the factory wheels with OZ Racing forged rims wrapped in Michelin slicks in preparation for the bikes racetrack debut.
Creating custom bodywork to fit the Panigale proved to be another testing challenge. The stressed member, monocoque design of the frame offered very few mounting points for the bodywork to attach and they still had the challenge of hiding the bikes wiring. After constructing wooden bucks for each part of the bodywork and devising a mounting system work began with a pile of aluminium sheets. Using traditional metal shaping techniques Olivier and his teammates Gilles and Maxime painstakingly beat, rolled and shaped the aluminium over the wooden bucks to form the new bodywork. To keep things clean welds were smoothed and the individual panels mounted within millimeters of one another.
The cafe styled fuel tank with its knee dents and Monza filler cap houses the fuel pump, airbox and relocated electronics beneath its shiny veneer. Side panels with integrated air scoops cover the monocoque frame and channel cool air into the engine. To keep the cast frame completely hidden from sight they also constructed a shroud to cover the neck of the frame. At the very rear of the bike sits a wasp-like tail with an integrated brake light and tastefully upholstered saddle by NMB Designs.
While the Superquadro engine has plenty of visual appeal its cooling system was an eyesore, so Ortolani fabricated a belly pan that houses the radiator and its associated plumbing. Of all the components they fabricated for the Panigale Olivier is most proud of their headlight design. The custom made housing and bracketry is a one off design that allows air to flow freely to the side scoops and features a yellow lens to compliment the bikes gold forks.
The gold theme has been carried across to the engine using a matte metallic coating on the cases. Custom grips made using the same leather as the saddle have been sewn to the clip on handlebars and the rear set footpegs have been chrome plated. While gold is hard to miss on a build it’s the polished alloy that really makes this Panigale pop. Olivier told us that “like a baby” the bike took 9 months to build with countless hours assigned to polishing.
Designed in Italy then reborn in France the Ortonali Panigale 1199 S is a reincarnation we’d definitely like to ride.