Ducati has always had racing in its blood. And whenever you think of the term "homologation special" as it applies to motorcycles, the factory from the Borgo Panigale district of Bologna, Italy, always comes to mind-first and foremost. The company has a long history of building limited production versions of its high performance sportbikes whose main purpose is to legalize the usage of certain parts for sanctioned racing.
So when the Desmosedici RR project was officially announced at World Ducati Week at the Misano circuit in '04-and then the final production version of the bike unveiled at press day for the '06 Italian Grand Prix at Mugello-there was plenty of surprise and awe. But beneath all that was almost an element of expectancy; sure, the Japanese could just as easily build a road-going replica of their MotoGP machines...but Ducati is the only manufacturer that would, and make it as close to the real thing as possible. The terms "passion" and "pride" are often a bit over-used in describing Italy's relationship with its motor vehicles, but the Desmosedici RR is the perfect example of why those two words really do apply to the people who work at Ducati.
Desmosedici Myths Debunked
A common belief regarding the Desmosedici RR is that it owes its existence to MotoGP switching to the 800cc format in '07, thus forcing Ducati to build a completely new racebike and making much of the 990cc GP06 Desmosedici MotoGP machine obsolete, eliminating concerns about some proprietary technology becoming "declassified" after appearing in a for-sale-to-the-public production version. Not so, according to the upcoming David Bull Publishing book, "Ducati Desmosedici RR" by Chris Jonnum (see sidebar). In fact, when then-Ducati Corse CEO (now Ducati Product Director) Claudio Domenicali, then-Ducati Corse Technical Director (now Ducati Corse General Manager) Filipo Preziosi, and then-Ducati MotoGP Product Manager Livio Suppo prepared their presentation for entering MotoGP to then-Ducati CEO Carlo Di Biagio back in '01, the business plan included producing a race replica as a way of helping finance the endeavor. The Desmosedici RR engine was already well into the pre-production stage by '04, long before the idea to drop MotoGP to 800cc displacement was even floated.
Another mistaken belief is that the engine in the Desmosedici RR is literally a carbon copy of the powerplant from the GP06 Desmosedici MotoGP machine; just detuned to lengthen the lifespan of its parts and make its performance more accessible to mere mortals, along with an alternator and electric starter grafted on. In reality, however, the only parts shared between the two engines are the cylinder head base bolts. The RR engine and its entire mechanical makeup was designed specifically for its production purpose, and is not just a conglomeration of parts made from the same castings as the MotoGP engine.
Don't misunderstand though-the D16 RR powerplant is indeed a very, very close replica of the GP06 engine, right down to its "Twin Pulse" firing order crankshaft. In fact, when the MotoGP racebike switched to this format in '04, it forced the engineers responsible for the D16RR to drop the standard firing order prototypes they'd already made and follow suit because of Ducati's desire to make it as close to its racing cousin as possible. The D16RR engine has the same architecture (90-degree Vee angle, 86 x 42.56mm bore x stroke, 25-degree included valve angle, gear-driven desmodromic valve actuation, etc.) and many parts using the same materials and vendor; for instance, the titanium rods are made by Pankl, just as with the MotoGP bike, and have the same journal diameters and eye-to-eye length. The sand-cast engine cases split horizontally just like the MotoGP unit, along with an extractable cassette transmission that is faithful in nearly every way to the racebike's-only with beefier gears and shafts to ensure durability on the street.