The shape of the carbon-fiber fairing is pure Desmosedici racer, and so is the layout of the 90-degree, DOHC V4 behind it. In standard form, with a catalyzer and Euro3-compliant exhaust that curves up and down through the hefty black-aluminum swingarm, the Ducati produces a claimed 188 horsepower at 13,800 rpm. Both testbikes were fitted with the included non-street-legal accessory muffler which, in combination with a new ECU, lifts peak output to 200 bhp.
That figure is almost identical to the output-in the lower gears, at least-of Bayliss's Valencia-winning Desmosedici racebike I rode at the end of last season, detuned by 20 percent for the press. One significant difference became obvious when the mechanics removed the tire warmers and started the D16RR: Instead of the motor requiring tire rollers to turn it over, it fired instantly with a simple press of the starter button on the right clip-on. It came to life with a gloriously loud, raw V4 bark, albeit slightly less deafening than the MotoGP bike's.
Handling is even better than that of the racer, thanks to settings befitting a real-world
From the fairly low seat the feeling was very much of being on a racebike, though the riding position seemed typical of a hypersport Ducati. The LCD rev bar flicked across the dial with startling speed as I blipped the light-action throttle. After pulling in the light-action clutch and treading into first gear with a slight clonk, I accelerated up pit lane, the bike pulling sweetly from low revs but feeling firmer and racier than a normal supersport.
It was a surreal feeling to exit the pit lane and find myself alone on the Mugello circuit, and a delight to find the bike so supremely taut and controllable that I could tip it into the San Donato hairpin for the first time with total confidence. At a claimed 376 pounds dry, the RR is light but not dramatically so by modern superbike standards, having only a few pounds' advantage over the 1098. But it has a wonderfully precise, scalpel-sharp steering response-and its response to the throttle being wound open was equally immediate and even more breathtaking.
Given that 200-bhp peak output, I'd expected the Desmosedici to feel fast, but even so it was a shock to twist the loud handle and feel the bike storm up the hill toward the left/right Luco chicane, the controlled violence of its acceleration memorably matched by the harsh, barely silenced shriek of its motor. Above the tach was a trio of warning lights that flashed red as the revs approached the 14,200-rpm limit. The Ducati ripped through its close-set gears so rapidly I rarely had time to glance down, hitting the rev limiter a couple times before I learned to shift mainly by sound-and to keep my left boot almost permanently poised under the lever in readiness.
For such a highly tuned near-racebike, the Desmosedici has an impressively wide spread of torque. In conjunction with the superbly crisp throttle response from the Magneti Marelli fuel-injection system, this made it happy to grunt out of turns at a ferocious pace even when I found myself exiting a gear too high. I'm sure it has all the midrange stomp anyone would require for effortlessly overtaking dawdling traffic on the road, though with such limited time on the bike there was no way I was slowing down to evaluate its top-gear roll-ons. I forgot to check the view in the mirrors, too, though I doubt they're any more useful than the 1098's.
The Desmosedici RR felt thrillingly fast everywhere around Mugello, but most of all on that long straight. It was a fantastic feeling to tuck in tight, snick up through the gears and feel the V4 stretch its legs as it stormed to a speed that the onboard Ducati Data Analyzer later showed as 188 mph. That's faster than I managed aboard the factory racer on Valencia's much shorter straight-and there was more to come, to a top speed that would be very close to 200 mph.