Stand-alone tests of European exotica, while important, can usually be summed up in a handful of words along the lines of "Wow, it's fantastic! Wow, it's expensive!" followed by an insightful comment relating the outrageous cost to the equally outrageous performance. Wishing to avoid a similar fate in these pages for Ducati's latest R model, we hatched a plot during the long drive back from HPCC one day to pit the exotic and expensive 1098R with one of Japan's best: the '08 Honda CBR1000RR. And because the 1098R is delivered with a set of Termignoni carbon/titanium slip-ons and an ECU that unlocks that bike's traction-control system for track use, we equipped the Honda with an aftermarket exhaust and a traction-control system to match. Beyond those forced similarities, however, the contrasts are many: Italy versus Japan; V-twin versus inline-four; "real" traction control versus pseudo-TC, and valve springs versus desmodromics. Why the Honda and not the Kawasaki ZX-10R that won our recent literbike comparison test ("Turn It Up to 11," June '08) and represents perhaps the pinnacle of Japan's offerings? We could argue that the CBR turned the quickest lap time in that earlier test by a comfortable margin and that this test is more about track capability and lap times than all-around performance on both street and track. But we really picked the Honda because, like the 1098R, it's red. We like red.
The 1098R is, in typical Ducati R-model fashion, a racebike with a few bits of hardware tacked on to meet homologation and DOT requirements. Associate Editor Siahaan reported from the bike's Jerez press intro a few issues back ("Superbike for the Masses," May '08), but the executive summary is this: Compared with the base 1098, the R model's mill is hotted up with 100cc more displacement, lumpier cams, more compression, bigger titanium valves, titanium rods and the addition of a slipper clutch and secondary shower-style fuel injectors. On the chassis side, the R benefits from the Ohlins front fork and forged magnesium hoops of the S model and goes a step further with an Ohlins TTX shock (in place of the S-bike's standard Ohlins) and a smattering of carbon fiber. The end result is a package that weighs 21 pounds less than the garden-variety 1098 and packs an astounding 20 more peak horsepower.
Each 1098R is shipped with...
Each 1098R is shipped with an included race kit consisting of these carbon-fiber Termignoni slip-ons and the matching ECU that also activates the bike's traction-control system.
The 1098R's traction control...
The 1098R's traction control is adjusted using the mode switch on the left handlebar. Changing between the eight settings (or switching the DTC off) requires scrolling through the menu options, making it almost impossible to experiment on the track.
While the 1098R is sold with an EPA-friendly ECU and exhaust system, included are the Termignoni slip-ons and a matching ECU that bump peak horsepower to 163 (from 157.4 horsepower, now 27 more than the standard 1098). As mentioned, the new black box activates the Ducati Traction Control system, which compares front and rear wheel speeds. Should the rear wheel start turning faster than the front, indicating wheelspin or a wheelie, the ignition is retarded-or cut completely-to restore traction. The setup can be adjusted using the left-handlebar switch to one of eight profiles, with profile 1 offering the least electronic intervention, profile 8 the most.
We're well familiar with the new-for-'08 CBR1000RR; all the technical details were covered in Senior Editor Trevitt's first-ride piece in the May '08 issue ("Light Makes Right"), and the Honda finished a fighting second in our literbike comparison test. The bike's highlights include stomping midrange power and the lowest weight in the class, and those facets combine to make the liter-sized CBR a terror on the racetrack. Big Red doesn't offer an R model of the CBR (well, that you can buy at a local dealer, anyway) and there were no slip-ons or ECU delivered with our bike. No matter; the aftermarket is already up to speed with bolt-on goodies. We snagged the first Leo Vince Corsa exhaust in the country for the CBR, and for a traction-control system we turned to Ammar Bazzaz and his company's Z-Fi setup, which is a piggyback system incorporating fuel-injection mapping, a quickshifter and rate-of-change traction control all in one unit. (See the sidebar on page 40 for more details on the Bazzaz Performance Z-Fi system.) While the unit can be programmed with an extensive map of traction sensitivity and cut parameters, the 12-position switch attached to the left handlebar allows trimming the entire TC map to be more or less aggressive (or the system to be turned off).
So that the Honda didn't feel...
So that the Honda didn't feel left out, we mounted up this beautiful Leo Vince full exhaust, a titanium and carbon masterpiece. The Bazzaz Performance Z-Fi system remaps the stock EFI to match.
The 12-position dial on the...
The 12-position dial on the Honda allows the overall sensitivity of the Bazzaz Performance traction control to be increased or decreased on the fly. The system can also be turned off. The toggle switch can be used to alternate between two fuel or traction maps in the Z-Fi unit.