AMA Pro Racing’s latest interpretation of motorcycle displacements has resulted in a Daytona SportBike field that is, in one word, diverse. Filling today’s SportBike grid is your typical onslaught of Japanese four-cylinders, but sprinkled throughout is a handful of teams who’ve chosen the less traveled path — the European route. Immediate standouts include Triumph’s Daytona 675R and Ducati’s 848 EVO, both of which have found their way to the Daytona 200 podium in one of the last two years.
We tested Triumph’s 675R twice in 2011, once during our first-ride review (“R is For Ready,” July ’11) and once during our 2011 middleweight comparison (“Return Engagement,” August ’11), where it went head-to-head with the Big Four’s 600cc entrants. Ducati’s 848 EVO was similarly tested (“Stealth Bomber,” January ’11), but had yet to go against the Triumph in any comparison test. For 2012, we’ve all but forced the manufacturers to cross paths, this time in an all-out brawl between the 675R and the new 848 EVO Corse SE, two middleweights that are just a cut above their standard counterpart.
The duo’s track-oriented design brief led us first to the Streets of Willow in Rosamond, California, where the bikes were fitted with our Racepak G2X data acquisition system and shod with Pirelli Supercorsa SC race tires courtesy of CT Racing (www.ctracetires.com). With the hope of discovering how the two bikes would handle in the real world — and with the understanding that they’ll likely see more canyon roads than racetrack apexes — we then headed to our favorite Southern California canyon roads and continued the note taking.
Multiple sessions on the track and several weeks of commuting later, one bike emerged as a standout in nearly every category. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves however, let’s first take a look at what sets these two bikes so far apart from their standard equivalent — and more importantly — from each other.
Ducati 848 EVO Corse SE
2012 marks the second year in a row that Ducati’s middleweight lineup has received some attention, this time in the form of a special edition model designated the 848 EVO Corse SE. The latest edition to the 848 Superbike family features larger brakes, upgraded suspension and a healthier dose of Ducati electronics, making it every bit the bike we’d been hoping to pit against the up-spec 675R.
The addition of the letters “SE” to the end of the 848 EVO’s model name brings the usual swap from middle-of-the-road suspension to higher-end Öhlins componentry out back. The Showa 43mm front fork surprisingly goes untouched, but is complemented by 10mm larger (330mm) front brake rotors clamped by Brembo monobloc calipers. Ducati’s eight-level traction control system and quickshifter unit are included in the slew of upgrades; that in addition to the Corse red/white/black paint scheme that completes the package.
The 848 EVO Corse SE runs...
The 848 EVO Corse SE runs typical Ducati footpegs that offer little grip, plus requires that rebound adjustments to the shock are made through a tiny sight hole in the swingarm. We quickly got frustrated with each aspect. The Öhlins shock is at least an improvement over the Showa unit.
Despite running an untouched Testastretta Evoluzione engine, the 848 Corse SE proved no slouch on our SuperFlow dyno. Last updated in 2011 with reshaped pistons and a redesigned combustion chamber, the 849cc engine pumped out a V-twin-impressive 118 horsepower at 10,500 rpm and 62 foot-pounds of torque at 9600 rpm — that leaves the Ducati 12 horsepower stronger than the Triumph and gives it a staggering 14 foot-pounds torque advantage in this comparison. What gains the Ducati makes on the dyno, it unfortunately loses on the scale; with a wet weight of 437 pounds, the Ducati is more than just a Jenny Craig diet away from competing with the svelte 421 pound Triumph.
The 848’s ergonomics are typical Ducati and go unchanged for 2012. Wide, far-forward clip-ons place an unwieldy amount of pressure on your wrists and make any ride over 20 miles a chore. Matched to those clip-ons is a thin seat that’s — you guessed it — on the firm side. Kent and Bradley’s commute to and from the office was affected by other traits typical of a Ducati, including buzzy mirrors that leave you guessing what’s behind you and a poorly shielded undertail exhaust that toasts your goodies in a matter of minutes. A more amiable footpeg-to-seat distance makes up for these shortcomings, but it goes without saying the 848 EVO is no Cadillac.
The wet clutch that’s replaced Ducati’s traditional dry setup is much appreciated, especially in stoplight-to-stoplight riding. Feel at the lever is a bit on the firm side, but leaving from the light requires much less finesse than in years past once the tachometer surpasses the 2500 rpm mark, where the Ducati sputters just slightly.
No Öhlins here; Ducati’s left...
No Öhlins here; Ducati’s left the Showa front fork status quo. Larger, 330mm front rotors provide a noticeable amount more stopping power. Accessing that power requires some strength in your right hand, but needless to say, it’s there.
The middleweight Duc feels much more at home in the canyons, where its stiffer suspension and aggressive riding position feel immediately more efficient. The excess weight the Ducati carries over the Triumph makes the Corse SE a bit more difficult to hustle through the tight stuff, but the Brembo monobloc calipers coupled with the larger brake rotors definitely get the Ducati slowed down quicker than the 675R.
The characteristics that hinder the Ducati on the street don’t necessarily play in its favor on the track. The bike is a bit more difficult to transition through a tight right-left-right complex like the turn four-through-six section at the Streets of Willow. Feel from the Showa front fork is adequate, although feedback was not always as intuitive as Kento or Bradley would have liked. The biggest difference was in turn three, where both riders found the front to be vague just at the point where they’d like to get back on the throttle.
Narrow, buzzy mirrors make...
Narrow, buzzy mirrors make discerning what’s behind you a chore, but traction control adjustments via the switch on the left clip-on are a breeze. The Ducati’s digital display isn’t the easiest to read at a glance, but it takes the cake when compared to the Triumph’s unit.
The impressive numbers our test mule spit out on the dyno were immediately apparent on the track, and the Corse SE is much stronger up top than the pre-Evoluzione model. Bottom-end grunt is impressive as well, and makes up for what the Duc lacks in midrange power. Thanks to its flat torque curve the 848 EVO requires very few shifts throughout the course of a lap, and when shifts are warranted, an aggressive knock to the quickshifter is all it takes to keep the bike out of its propulsion-halting 10,750 rpm rev limiter.
The SE doesn’t initially feel quick to spin the rear wheel, but moving the traction control settings from level one to off revealed that the system was indeed keeping the tire from sliding — Bradley ended up going quicker with the TC off, noting that he had less feel from the rear with the system set to a higher setting.
At $14,995, the 848 EVO Corse SE costs about $1000 more than the standard EVO Dark model we tested last year. For Ducatisti, track-day participants and serious canyon junkies, that small jump in price is well worth the addition of traction control alone.