Ducati's traditional steel-trellis frame is present, paired with a monoposto subframe made from aluminum instead of steel for a 50 percent reduction in weight. Matte-black, Y-spoke Marchesini forged-alloy wheels slash more precious ounces, contributing to the feathery, 364-pound claimed dry weight. The tandem rear-suspension linkage features separate lower pick-up points for the pushrod and shock, saving weight and reducing stress around the linkage for increased compliance. The suspension comes from Öhlins: a 43mm inverted fork up front paired with the spectacular TTX-R twin-tube rear shock, which features separate compression and rebound damping circuits to optimize adjustability and performance.
As we did in '08, we spent the day after this year's Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix at nearby Putnam Park Road Course in Mount Meridian, Indiana, taking part in a track day put on by Ducati Indianapolis and Sportbike Track Time. This year we had the opportunity to play with a Troy Bayliss Edition 1098R and one of the new Nicky Hayden Replica 848s. Like last year, laps on the 1098R were a revelation: Roll out of pit lane and this bike immediately elevates your game, making the outrageous price tag seem justified.
Throw a leg over the saddle and you find the 1098R has a purposeful, no-nonsense riding position. The controls are crisp and responsive, and acceleration is instant and brutal-as expected from a torque-rich twin transmitting in excess of 160 bhp to the rear contact patch. This motor remains one of the most ferocious ever to roll out a showroom door, only it's even easier to control this year thanks to a revised version of the DTC (Ducati Traction Control) system. Unlike last year's system that cut spark only, this year it cuts fuel as well, for even less intrusive engagement. Uploaded with the same software as Noriyuki Haga's and Michel Fabrizio's World Superbikes, this is the ultimate rider-assist.
The most impressive aspect of the 1098R, however, remains the chassis. Ridden back-to-back with the 848, which uses less sophisticated Showa suspension, the R-model felt like it was circling a completely different racetrack. Entering Putnam's super-fast Turn 1 revealed a nasty streak of mid-corner bumps that upset the 848's chassis. Trace the same arc on the 1098R, with its vastly more compliant and reactive Öhlins components, and you could barely detect the ripples. Predictable, perfectly balanced suspension action lets you rail right to the limit of the super-grippy Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC tires, venturing deep into toe-dragging territory with supreme confidence.
If you want to lap a racetrack as quickly as possible and have money to burn, you can't beat the bike Bayliss built. So what if the cost of entry is equal to a middle manager's annual income? You won't have to upgrade anything. Pull the mirrors, tape the lights and you could conceivably win some wood at a local club race. Not that that's likely to happen: Most Bayliss LEs will likely go to collectors and connoisseurs more interested in profiling than podiums. Still, it's nice to know that at least one race replica lives up to its name.