If you're a current owner of the Ducati 1098 and are happy with it, I'd suggest you stop reading here. Otherwise you're just going to get mad reading about Ducati's latest offering. Consider yourself warned. For the rest of you who are interested in how Ducati's involvement in World Superbike has helped improve their road-going models, then the 1198 is for you.
At the start of the year Ducati introduced the 1098R as its entry into the World Superbike arena. This $40,000 machine was full of exotic materials and top shelf components, making it as close to the factory bike that Troy Bayliss piloted to his third WSBK title as one could get.
Back home, however, and the wheels in the Ducati brain trust started spinning over how it could improve the rest of the road-going superbike line. The boys from Bologna were well aware that the 1098 hadn't fared too well in magazine shootouts (including ours), and if there were ever a group that hated losing a competition, it's the ones at Ducati. Armed with motivation (and the engine tooling from the 1098R), the new 1198 was born.
From The Track To The Street
As the name indicates, the new model's engine size is 1198cc. Dimensionally, it and the 1098R share the same bore and stroke figures of 106 and 67.9mm, respectively. The 1198's pistons also utilize double-ribbed undercrowns with minimal piston skirts to reduce piston wall surface area. Compared with its 1098 predecessor, the new model's valves are four percent larger, now measuring 43.5mm on the intake side and 35.5 for the exhaust. The new model also receives new camshafts with 10 percent more lift than those on the 1098. Because of its increased capacity, the engine breathes through elliptical throttle bodies measuring 63.9mm equivalent diameter, the same as the 1098R. However, where the R is fed fuel through dual injectors, the 1198 uses a single injector to meter its premium unleaded. The new model also adopts the same gear ratios as its racing cousin, although the physical teeth on the gears are bigger for added strength.
Other differences on the 1198 include forged steel connecting rods and steel counterbalancing tablets screwed into the crankshaft (as opposed to titanium on the R). A slipper clutch is also absent on the 1198--another method of differentiating the two models and also a means to lower the 1198's price point. All this equates to a claimed 170 horsepower and 97 lb-ft. of torque--ten horsepower and nearly seven more lb.-ft. of torque than the 1098 it replaces.
First seen on the 848, the 1198's crankcases were formed using Ducati's vacuum die-cast process. During this process, a vacuum is continuously pulling out air and other vapors present in the die as the aluminum is being injected. This allows for thermal treatment of the aluminum which wouldn't otherwise be possible under the normal die-casting process because of the vapors expanding and jeopardizing the metal's integrity. What does this mean in simple English? It means that the crankcases can be made with thinner walls without sacrificing strength. And of course, thinner walls mean less weight--always a good thing. Other weight saving measures include the use of magnesium alloy valve and engine covers. The alloy is also used in the front fairing bracket, reducing weight at the point furthest away from the bike's center of gravity.
Suspension duties on the base 1198 are handled by Showa with its fully adjustable 43mm inverted forks coated with a low-friction titanium oxide treatment to reduce friction. A fully adjustable Showa shock with a separate link to adjust ride height sits in the back and handles the bumps. Brembo monoblock four-piston calipers biting on 330mm discs bring the bike to a stop, while a 245mm disk mated to a twin piston caliper settles the rear.
In typical Ducati fashion, a high(er) performance S model is also in the lineup. While mainly identical to the base model except for some carbon fiber bits, Öhlins suspension, different wheels and the formidable S logo on the side of the fairing, its greatest distinguishing feature is its use of road-legal DTC, or Ducati Traction Control. I know what you're thinking, "wasn't DTC available on the 1098R?" Yes it was, but it wasn't approved for road use. Because the system on the 1098R would cut spark in extreme cases, that left unburned fuel to make its way to the catalytic converters--a lethal combination for the life of the stock exhaust system. Like the old system, the new traction control version will retard ignition timing when only minor intervention is needed, but instead of cutting spark in extreme cases the system on the 1198S cuts the fuel--thereby leaving no unburned gas to destroy the catalytic converters. Further refining of the system also makes it harder to detect when the DTC is working.
The S model also benefits from standard DDA, or Ducati's Data Analyzer (optional on the base model). DDA records a number of parameters like throttle opening, vehicle speed, engine speed, engine temperature, number of laps and lap times. But perhaps the neatest feature of the DDA is the addition of an exclusive channel specifically to monitor the traction control. The system can monitor when the DTC is activated, for how long and at what level it is put to use. This addition was included after 1098R customers complained about not knowing when the traction control was being activated. Now after reviewing the data riders can know exactly where they are losing time.
Putting It All To The Test
Essentially, what we have with the 1198 is a cross between the 1098 and the 1098R--a bike that takes the base 1098 and pushes it that much further, but meets its match with its racing homologation cousin. The S model suffers from even more of an identity crisis as it's barely distinguishable from the 1098R, save for some less expensive engine internals and other bits here and there. But it does come with DTC--something you will find on the R model, and a better version of it to boot.
Ducati reserved the Autodromo Internacional Algarve in Portimao, Portugal as our personal testbed (more like playground) to try the bike firsthand. The brand new facility recently played host to the season finale of the World Superbike series in 2008, where now three-time champion Troy Bayliss won both races. To help us get the most out of our time there, Bayliss himself tagged along and helped show whoever could follow the fast way around the track. It should be noted that Ducati brought only S model bikes to the intro, clearly wanting to show off the DTC at a venue where it would come in handy.
Differences between the old and the new start to become more noticeable at speed--the bigger engine makes its presence felt immediately. The increase in horsepower is evident when hurtling down the front straight, but it's the increase in torque that really gets your attention when you twist the throttle. Power comes on from as low as 3,000 revolutions, but the Testastretta Evoluzione engine really hits its stride when the tach passes the six marker. That power continues to be felt until just before redline.
Our Öhlins-equipped S model bikes handled the largely smooth surface of the Algarve track with ease; turn-in was rather easy considering the huge rotating mass between the rider's legs and the 1198 held its line with ease. We were also pleasantly surprised at how well the bike responds to suspension inputs--early on the bike felt like it had a rearward weight bias mid-turn, leaving the front end feeling light. This was especially noticeable during high-speed sweepers. Adding two clicks of compression damping to the shock reduced rear wheel squat mid-turn and gave back some much needed weight bias to the front tire.
The harsh initial bite under braking that some (including SR) have complained about on the 1098 has been remedied on the new model with brake pads of a different compound, making for a drastic improvement. Hurtling down the front straight, the 1198 is teetering on the top of fifth gear. Grab the lever and the braking zone is entirely downhill. No matter, the Brembo's are so strong that they inspire the confidence to extend your braking marker later and later. Feel at the lever is excellent and made for precise trail-braking.
So what about the DTC, you ask? On the 1098R, the DTC was clearly audible when it kicked in--the hard rev-limiter made all kinds of noise as it popped. On the 1198, the DTC is much more transparent. The smooth surface and the sticky rubber may be partially to blame for the DTC being hard to detect, but there were a few indicators that revealed its use. Firstly, the LEDs atop the gauge cluster double as a shift light and as a marker to tell you the level of DTC being applied. I could see the series of lights come on as I got on the throttle, but the more telling signs were the complete moments of silence when the system would cut fuel to the engine--as if someone turned off the bike. Granted, these moments were brief, but the system works in stark contrast to that on the 1098R--it's so smooth you hardly know it's there. Even with it set on the maximum level, the LEDs would flash more often, but the seat-of-the-pants feeling was hard to detect. While racers and track junkies might appreciate the transparency of the new system, the average rider who depends on being able to feel and hear the traction control might be left disappointed. Short of looking at the information from the DDA, the average rider will be hard pressed to gauge for themselves whether or not to dial in more traction control.
Racing Improving The Breed
So do the lessons learned from Ducati's latest superbike championship translate to its road models? Consider this: Troy Bayliss lapped the Portimao track two seconds faster than the quickest World Superstock rider...aboard a bone stock 1198, complete with lights and mirrors! While mere mortals like you and I can only dream of having that kind of talent, the 1198 is no doubt a step up from its 1098 predecessor, and for $16,495, there's plenty of reason to be upset if you currently own the old model. The $21,795 1198S packs a lot of performance and technology bang for the proverbial buck, and while it's just a step behind its racing homologation cousin it also costs half as much. There's no doubt the bike is impressive, but we'll hold off on calling it a winner until we get one stateside to thoroughly put through its paces. The 1198S should be available in early spring with the base model to follow shortly thereafter.
'09 Ducati 1198/1198S
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC L-twin
Bore x Stroke: 106.0 x 67.9 mm
Induction: Marelli EFI, single-valve oval throttle bodies equivalent to 63.9mm dia. Single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP
Rake/trail: 24.3 deg/3.8 in. (97mm)
Wheelbase: 56.3 in. (1430mm)
Claimed dry weight: 377/373lbs
Seat height: 32.2 in. (820mm)
Fuel Capacity: 4.1 gal. (15.5L)