Jerez De In Frontare , Spain
Sitting in the UFO-like hospitality suite situated just above the start/finish line at the Circuito de Jerez, a select few of the world's moto-journalists (yours truly among them) were listening to Andrea Forni, technical vehicle director for Ducati, explain the finer details of the road-going version of the company's newest World Superbike contender: the 1098R. With the allowance of 1200cc V-twins in the World Superbike series at a drastically reduced state of tune than last year's 1000s, Ducati could now build a competitive bike for much less money without resorting to unobtainium bits and pieces. The result is a production engine that, as Forni put it, "has never been so similar to the racing version." Most in attendance knew we would be in for something special-1200cc of V-twin grunt, Ohlins suspension and traction control were all at our disposal. Yeah, something special indeed.
Meanwhile in the garage area, final preparations to the machines we were about to pilot were being tended to. Tire pressures checked, fasteners tightened and fluids topped, the assemblage of 10 immaculate 1098Rs were then wheeled out to pit lane, where they were left to glimmer in the early-morning sun.
Back in the suite anticipation grew quickly as Forni's presentation drew to a close. And then it happened. One by one all the bikes beneath us were fired up. Twenty Termignoni silencers were anything but. The revs started to climb and the room started to rumble. Presentation over. It was time to rock and roll.
Though it appears similar to the standard version, Ducati's homologation special 1098R takes that already-popular platform and makes it even more track-focused-meaning lighter, stronger and faster. The biggest difference between the two obviously lies in the engine. In order to exploit the rule change allowing V-twins a displacement of 1200cc (a rule the company instigated) the 1098R boasts an 1198cc engine. To achieve this the cylinder heads and crankcases are sand-cast, with bore and stroke increasing to 106 x 67.9mm (from 104 x 64.7mm). Along with being larger, all four valves are now titanium, as are the connecting rods. The compression ratio is up to 12.8:1 (from 12.5:1), and intake cam profiles now provide 16 percent more lift than the standard 1098. The oval throttle bodies are also larger, up to an equivalent diameter of 63.9mm compared with 60.9, and employ twin injectors, a first for a production Ducati (for a more detailed look at the engine enhancements see the accompanying sidebar on page 52). Ducati claims this latest version of the Testastretta engine pumps out 180 horsepower and 99.1 ft-lb of torque at 9750 and 7750 rpm, respectively, all while maintaining a service interval of 12,000 kilometers (7500 miles)-the same as Ducati's other production models.
Because of the increased power the gearing had to be adjusted accordingly. While first, second and fifth gear ratios remain the same, third, fourth and sixth gears now have higher ratios.
Here you can see the hlins...
Here you can see the hlins front suspension, carbon-fiber front fender, Brembo monobloc calipers, huge 330mm rotors, Pirelli Supercorsa tires and an incredibly lightweight Marchesini forged wheel. Look closely and you'll also be able to spot the front wheelspeed sensor.
The customary trellis frame we're used to seeing on all Ducatis is mated to a magnesium-alloy front subframe and an aluminum-alloy rear "monoposto" subframe (racebikes don't have passengers, remember?). Suspension duties are handled by a fully adjustable 43mm hlins fork up front and the Swedish company's latest TTX shock in the rear-the latter's inclusion a first for any production motorcycle, not just Ducati. In short the TTX is an all-new take on shock technology. Instead of forcing oil in both directions through a single damping circuit, the TTX shock uses a solid main piston that pushes oil in only one direction through two separate circuits for compression and rebound by way of a twin-walled shock body. This reduces cavitation and leaves the piston with constant (and consistent) pressure during both strokes.
Bringing the beast to a halt are Brembo monobloc four-piston calipers clamping down on massive 330mm discs. Steel braided lines and a Brembo master cylinder respond with all the feedback you need-and then some.
Finishing touches to the weight department include forged Marchesini wheels and carbon-fiber trim pieces throughout. When all is said and done the 1098R tips the scales at a claimed 364 pounds (dry). That's almost five pounds less than the standard model and more than 12 pounds lighter than the 999R.
Included with each 1098R is...
Included with each 1098R is this race kit containing a racing ECU, Termignoni silencers and an air filter (not shown). With the installation of the pipes and ECU, traction control is in your hands. Too bad the racetrack is the only place you'll legally be able to take advantage of it.
Undoubtedly the hot topic surrounding this bike is the DTC (Ducati Traction Control). The system, which Ducati claims uses the same algorithms as on its World Superbike and MotoGP machines, utilizes speed sensors on each wheel that determine rear-wheel speed in relation to the front wheel. Depending on which of the eight different settings you choose (1 allowing the most wheelspin, 8 the least), when the system detects the rear wheel spinning beyond the given parameters, power is then limited to the rear wheel via delayed spark (retarded ignition timing) or no spark at all for a given combustion cycle. Which leads to this next point-out of the crate the 1098R is not wired for traction control because the stock ECU isn't programmed for it and the standard silencers are equipped with Euro III-compliant catalysts . . . catalysts that would be destroyed by the igniting of the unused fuel from the skipped cycle. The wheelspeed sensors are still installed, however, and included with the purchase of each 1098R is a race-kit ECU with proper TC programming and Termignoni exhausts. These items are approved for off-road use only (read: the racetrack), saving the catalysts in the stock pipes as well as the legal department at Ducati. Bolting these items on results in a bike with traction control but also puts you on the wrong side of Johnny Law. Caveat emptor.
Now I have a confession to make. In the weeks leading up to our time in Jerez it occurred to me that I had never ridden any iteration of the 1098-giving me nothing to compare the R model with. Obviously not good. Thankfully we were able to round one up, and our friends at Take it 2 the Track (www.ti2tt.com) showed pity to the cause and let me ride around with them at one of their well-run track days.