MC Test: 2008 Ducati 1098R

Redefining Superbike

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Kevin Wing, Milagro

You can't begin to use all that power on the street, so it's on the racetrack where the 1098R comes into its own. As does the traction control. At both tracks we started with the DTC at level 4, and at first thought we were hitting the rev limiter early and often. Only after we got up to speed, and especially after the tires began to wear, did we notice how the system really worked. Accelerating off the low-gear hairpins in particular, the bike would stutter and pop and then wheelie, limiting wheelspin but actually making it harder to hold on to. Though DTC doesn't use any sort of bank angle, there must be some sophisticated algorithms going on because when you pick the bike up off a corner, the traction control backs off noticeably. Probably the system is sensing the change in rpm due to the different circumference of the tire from leaned over to straight up and down.

Raising DTC to level 8 was laughable, as it cut in way too often-though it would probably work well in the wet. And lowering it to level 1 was too far in the other direction, as the rear end stepped out uncomfortably far before DTC cut in-at least too far for my comfort. Level 2 worked best for me at the racetrack, as it let the rear tire spin just enough to keep the front end down and allow me to steer with the rear a bit. (Read Jeremy McWilliams' story on page 86 for a Pro racer's perspective.)

If the 1098R has one shortcoming, it's the same as all twins before it: a low redline. This gives the bike what I jokingly refer to as "broad power over a narrow range." With peak power at 9750 rpm and the rev limiter cutting in (too abruptly) at 10,500 rpm, the fours have much more overrev, which lets them hold a gear longer. On the flipside, the 1098R has so much low-end grunt you can run it a gear tall almost everywhere, and it will pull it.

So, nothing but rants and raves-can the 1098R really be that good? Consider the results from the first two rounds of the 2008 World Superbike Championship. Riding a bike that was largely stock save for two-ring pistons, a re-balanced crank, lighter flywheel and altered internal gear ratios, Bayliss has won three of four races. Already the competition is up in arms, and with KTM poised to enter the series with its new 1190cc RC8 twin in 2009, the Japanese will surely be asking to raise the twins' weight limit and/or reduce the size of their air restrictors. Welcome to NASCAR on two wheels; what's next, air dams?

We'll leave you with a quote from Ducati PR honcho Francesco Rapisarda: "The 1098R is a racebike, pure and simple. It raises the bar and sets the world standard for sportbikes."

We couldn't agree more.

Jeremy McWilliams on the Ducati 1098R
The former MotoGP phenom rates the world's best production superbike
Even against a slick-shod Michel Fabrizio, who now rides alongside Troy Bayliss for the Xerox Ducati World Superbike team, Jeremy McWilliams showed his competitive spirit and left everyone for dead at the Ducati 1098R's world press introduction at Jerez, Spain. And that was on standard Pirelli Corsa Pros. The 43-year-old from Belfast, Ireland, never ceases to amaze. Here are his impressions:

For my mass, all 154 pounds of it, the fork needed one extra turn of preload for the hard-braking areas. The shock needed more preload and a click or two of compression to hold a line on corner exits. The chassis feels similar to previous R-models. It needs to be taken by the horns like Troy rides his. Brake late, fire it on its side and get it onto the fat part of the tire. It needs to be steered with commitment, but it does little wrong anywhere else.

By Brian Catterson
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