The Portimao circuit plays host to the World Superbike round. The track has a lot of elevation changes and most corners have a blind entry. As I swung my leg over the 1299 S the riding position felt like a racing motorcycle. The moment you push the starter button, the 1,285-cc L-twin bursts into life and settles down to a loud burble. The bike felt very nimble as I exited the pit-lane. The first of the three right-hand corners was taken in the third gear and I kept it in the third through the second right-hander before tapping the gear-shifter down without touching the clutch lever; the bike shifts down to the second with an automatic blip of the throttle. I exited the corner and powered out of the right and short shift into third and flicked it into the blind left-hander and powered out and into the fourth and, as I went over the crest, I had to brake hard into the downhill second-gear left-hander. Since it is a downhill corner, it also has negative camber and one can feel the cornering ABS working.
It is up to the third through the left kink and you ease off the next right before braking hard for the second-gear right-hander before you start accelerating hard and shifting up to the third over the crest and as the road drops away, the front wheel stays in the air before the DWC cuts in and brings the wheel down and the next left-hander is flat-out, going uphill you keep the bike in the centre of the road as you have to chuck the bike blindly into the right-hander then it is back on the gas and up to the fourth through the next left and back to the second for the next left-hander. After the left turn it is a series of right-hand corners where you are cranked over with your knee skimming the tarmac in the fourth gear with the speedo indicating in excess of 200 km/h. The red kerb on the left it is up to the fifth where the road dips and the bike does a wheelie at more than 240 km/h and then it is up to sixth and an indicated 270 km/h on the digital speedometer as you hit the 250-metre marker and hard on the brakes for the third-gear first corner.
The new 1299 Panigale S is very easy to ride with a lot of performance and the extra grunt at the bottom end makes life easy compared to the 1199, making it a better bike on the road and track. Even if you are not in the correct gear, it will still pull away strongly through the corner. The Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC tyres were just fantastic in every way with superb grip and feedback. They made me wish we had tyres like these when we were racing.