The bike ahead was halfway down Misano's long back straight, but it didn't stay that way for long. As I crouched behind the DB7's windscreen and tap-tapped through the gearbox, the booming V-twin punched forward in a 160-horsepower charge that brought the following bend rushing into view at a scary rate. By the time I'd held my breath, backed off a touch and flicked the DB7 through the 100-mph-plus kink, the gap to the bike ahead had halved. I barely gained through the next two turns, but on the start/finish straight I quickly caught and blasted past a Bimota that turned out to be-as I'd guessed from the speed differential-not an identical liquid-cooled DB7 but its air-cooled predecessor, the DB5.
Overtaking a much slower bike proved little about the DB7, but illustrated why Bimota's latest Ducati-powered model is so important to the reborn Rimini firm. That DB5 was a light, sweet-handling sportbike with a good rider on board. But when you're giving away more than 50 bhp to the opposition, you've got a problem-whether you're riding round the racetrack or trying to sell expensive exotic motorcycles in a showroom.
Bimota boss Roberto Comini knows that all too well. The 92-horsepower DB5 and its naked derivative, the DB6, have done a good job of leading Bimota's revival since the petrochemical millionaire took control of the financially troubled firm four years ago. But the firm needed a flagship with the horsepower to compete on equal terms. The DB7, powered by the 160-bhp, eight-valve, DOHC V-twin from Ducati's latest 1098 Superbike, has been created to do just that.
In looks and layout, the DB7 is clearly related to the DB5. They have a similarly angular appearance, with sharp fairing nose, slender fuel tank and minimalist rear end-although designer Enrico Borghesan's new creation has a conventional exhaust in place of the DB5's underseat system. Both bikes' frames combine steel tubes and aluminum sections, as pioneered by Bimota's HB2 more than a quarter-century ago.
But the DB7 is on a different level than the DB5, due largely to the power advantage provided by the Testastretta Evoluzione engine visible through the gaps in the slinky carbon-fiber fairing. The 1099cc desmo unit is mechanically standard, complete with the elliptical throttle bodies as developed by Ducati in MotoGP, though Bimota has fitted a new injection system that combines Magneti-Marelli 12-hole injectors with a tuneable ECU from Bologna-based specialist Walbro.
Bimota also designed the new exhaust system. It's of similar length to the 1098's but features header pipes of slightly smaller diameter (52mm instead of 54mm), a larger chamber for the catalyzer below the engine and an oval-section titanium silencer mounted diagonally on the right. Peak power output is unchanged, but Bimota claims that its injection and exhaust add 4 to 9 bhp between 5000 and 7000 rpm.
Chassis design is unique and elegant, combining an upper portion of oval-section chromoly steel tubing with side plates machined from billet aluminum. There's no rear subframe, just a self-supporting carbon-fiber seat unit. As with the 1098, the engine is a stressed member. The swingarm uses a similar blend of oval steel tubes and aluminum forgings, and works the vertical shock via a rising-rate linkage.
Other chassis parts are suitably upmarket. Billet-aluminum triple clamps hold 43mm Marzocchi racing forks. The ExtremeTech shock is tuneable for high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping; ride height can be adjusted via an eccentric in the top shock mount. Bimota designed the aluminum mounts for the Brembo Monobloc radial calipers, and also the forged-aluminum wheels that are 2 pounds lighter than their 1098 equivalents. At a claimed 378 lbs. dry, the DB7 is lighter than the 1098 by the same amount-at least on paper.