Back in the January 2011 issue, we published our full road test of Ducati’s new 848 EVO Dark. An upgraded version of the standard 848 middleweight that debuted in 2008, the 848 EVO’s engine features new pistons with a stratospheric 13.2:1 compression ratio, a new cylinder head with revised combustion chamber to work with the higher compression, more aggressive cams with higher lift and longer duration, plus larger (elliptical bores equivalent to 60mm versus the previous 56mm equivalent) throttle bodies. In bone stock form, however, the Ducati actually lost some midrange power, and only just eked out a half horsepower over the standard version on our SuperFlow dyno. On the surface, not exactly a big payoff for all that hotrodding work done to the engine…
But we mentioned the fact that the oversize mufflers on the U.S. version of the 848 EVO compared to its European edition signaled that EPA noise standards were likely the cause of the missing performance, and that speed was surely waiting to be unlocked with the usual modifications. We also predicted in both the Ducati test’s introduction and its conclusion that “you might see more Ducatis running up front in the AMA Daytona SportBike class in ’11.”
Well, so far the first three races of the 2011 AMA Pro Daytona Sportbike season have been won by one motorcycle: the Ducati 848 EVO. Granted, they have also been won by a single rider as well; Jason DiSalvo has apparently found his stride with the new Ducati, and after a nail-bitingly close finish at Daytona, the doubleheader races at Infineon Raceway in Northern California were snoozers by comparison. Although briefly challenged by self-sponsored Jake Holden (aboard — you guessed it — another Ducati 848 EVO) in the first half of Saturday’s race, DiSalvo went on to win by 7.622 seconds. And while the winning margin in Sunday’s event was 4.534 seconds, this was in a rain-shortened race that saw DiSalvo quickly slicing his way back up to the front and pulling away after running wide and dropping to fifth in the initial laps.
AMA Pro Racing quickly stepped in to try and re-establish some parity by slapping an additional 10 pounds onto the Ducatis (five more pounds for the twins, and five less pounds for the four-cylinder entrants, making the 848 EVOs 30 pounds heavier than the four-cylinders). Whether this will have the desired effect remains to be seen, but if the World Superbike situation between twins and fours is any indication, it most likely won’t (in WSBK, the Ducatis are now allowed to weigh the same as the four-cylinder machines — but they also must run 50mm restrictor plates in their intake tracts).
It’s unlikely that 10 additional pounds will slow the faster Ducati 848 EVOs enough to put them within reach of the fours, especially when the AMA series goes to faster tracks like Road America. If the engine is still allowed to make the same power, the only way 10 extra pounds will make any appreciable performance difference is if the circuit has an unusually high percentage of hard braking and slow, stop-and-go corners where acceleration is key. The majority of tracks on the AMA calendar, however — hell, the majority of tracks in the U.S. — don’t fall into this category. Allow the Ducati to maintain momentum, and the song will remain the same, even if it was 50 pounds heavier.
Continually adding weight to the Ducati in an attempt to reach performance parity will also make it harder to ride, and eventually will chase off riders from that bike. Why work harder to go the same speed when they can just switch to a four-cylinder and go as quick with less effort? There is no direct manufacturer involvement anymore, and the purse is the same no matter what bike you’re riding.
From my viewpoint, a better method would be to require Ducatis to either run a 56mm restrictor plate, or use the throttle bodies from the standard 848. Allowing a bike to have an advantage in both torque and horsepower won’t be solved by simply adding weight. Whichever way you look at it though, you can’t blame Ducati for playing by the rules as they were set. sr