Million-dollar performance for $72,500This time I'll do it, I really will. Each time the Desmosedici RR thunders down the long pit straight, I'm muttering to myself inside my helmet, willing myself to hold the throttle open for just a bit longer before braking for the following corner. On a bike with stoppers as powerful as the Ducati's I'm sure I can do it-but I can't quite find the courage. Instead, I find myself sitting up and squeezing the lever, shedding speed with stunning ferocity as I tread down through the gearbox, once again knowing I could have braked later.
That's the one drawback of life aboard the majestic Desmosedici RR: the inevitable feeling that your riding isn't living up to the bike's near-MotoGP level of performance. Then again, it's probably best not to be too brave when you've been allocated just five laps of a half-remembered circuit aboard a bike that costs a cool $72,500. Especially given that the Ducati was already doing over 185 mph and still accelerating hard when you hit the anchors.
Of course you don't have to ride the D16RR blindingly fast all the time, let alone with the skill of a Casey Stoner or Loris Capirossi, but the pressure is definitely on. Especially here: The opportunity to ride this uniquely faithful race replica, the street-legal version of Ducati's mighty, 990cc MotoGP weapon, was always going to be a huge thrill. But doing so at Mugello made it extra-special.
The picturesque Tuscan circuit is the spiritual home of the "Desmo Sixteen." Not just because the track is a short ride over the Apennine Mountains from Ducati's home base in Bologna, but because the brutally powerful V4 racebike has always excelled on that long straight. One of the most memorable sights of Ducati's debut 2003 MotoGP season was Capirossi's Desmosedici motoring past the Hondas of Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi, clocking an all-time record of 206.7 mph en route to a podium finish.
During its four-year life the 990cc Desmosedici won seven races, signing off with Troy Bayliss's win at Valencia in the final round last season. Meanwhile, Ducati had announced a street-legal Race Replica version and unveiled a near-production-ready version. Worldwide orders for the street-legal machine have now topped 1000-300 of which are bound for America-despite the fact that it costs roughly three times as much as the 1098S it deposes as Ducati's flagship.
As the D16RR sat malevolently in a Mugello pit garage in its tire-warmers, it was easy to see what all the fuss has been about: This supposed streetbike looked utterly at home here. Its road-going necessities such as the narrow headlights and mirrors/turn signals barely detract from the race-ready image generated by its sleek red-and-white bodywork, multi-adjustable hlins fork and racer-style digital instrument panel complete with incongruous flashing immobilizer light.
Ducati had brought only two D16RRs to this most exclusive of bike launches. Each took turns sitting in a pit garage while the other was ridden. With my ride scheduled for early afternoon, that left plenty of time to examine the host of impossibly classy details that help elevate this bike from exotic to truly exceptional. That hlins FG353P fork, for example, is unique for a streetbike in that it features reservoirs that allow pressurized damping for improved performance. The tube running across from the front brake master cylinder is a remote adjuster that can be used while riding-another MotoGP touch. So, too, is the self-supporting tailpiece, made from carbon fiber apart from its black ceramic top section, which is designed to resist the intense heat of the high-level single muffler. Equally authentic but less high-tech is the thin piece of black foam that provides the only cushioning for a rider not expected to be sitting still for long.