Blip the throttle and be thankful you're wearing earplugs, because this is the loudest production streetbike ever-and that's without the $8800 Ducati Performance exhaust. Liberal use of titanium (valves, con-rods) and big-bore/short-stroke cylinders let the 989cc V-4 rev incredibly quickly, and not just at a standstill.
From the saddle, the Desmo doesn't feel much different than the 1098R, though the fuel tank is wider and the windscreen is taller. Heat wasn't an issue at our track day, but you just know it will be on a hot, humid day in the Southeast. Whatever you do, don't touch the ceramic housing where the exhaust comes up through the tail-it's hot!
Snick it into gear, ease out the light-action clutch and ignore all the gaping mouths as you head out onto the racetrack. The Desmo is geared so tall you have to slip the clutch in first to troll through the pits, at which point it produces a beautiful racket. We did a photo shoot on pit lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all of the MotoGP mechanics' heads popped out of their garages like prairie dogs as the Desmo trolled by, wondering what was making that sound. You do 18 races in a season and you get to know the exhaust note of all the engines, and this one definitely sounds different.
Back at our track day at Putnam Park, the Desmo stormed down the front straightaway so fast, I was afraid to look at the speedo. Surely there's not another production motorcycle that can match it. Streetbike or no, the thing goes through the gears as quickly as a racebike, and it likes to be revved in five digits. The 180-horsepower peak arrives at 13,800 rpm and the rev limiter cuts in at 14,200, so you've got to have a quick left foot. In comparison, a Suzuki Hayabusa makes 172 bhp-while weighing nearly 200 pounds more. The Desmo and 1098R are essentially equal on paper, the former making more power but less torque while weighing a few pounds more with its larger fuel tank topped off.
The Desmosedici RR may sell for a jaw-dropping $72,500, but that didn't stop Ducati North
Putnam Park's fast and flowing, 1.8-mile, 10-turn road course suited the Desmo well, letti
The Desmo comes in solid red with a sticker kit that includes the Marlboro-esque white str
Grab a handful of the front Brembo Monoblocs and the Desmo slows with authority. Bang a succession of downshifts with the aid of the slipper clutch, tip it into a corner and you discover that this is a bike that demands to be ridden hard. Between its relatively high center of gravity, stiff chassis and triangulated front tire profile, it likes to be snapped into corners and trail-braked to the apex. Get back on the gas and the back end squirms as the special 16-inch Bridgestone struggles to find grip-surprisingly, the Desmo doesn't have traction control like the 1098R. It also doesn't wheelie like its twin-cylinder sibling, thanks to its extreme forward weight bias and extra-long swingarm. In contrast, the front end tends to come up higher in the rev range, when you're pouring on the coals and reveling in the most glorious music ever to emanate from a production motorcycle. Truthfully, onlookers (and listeners) lined pit wall every time the Desmo hit the track.
Unfortunately, it literally hit the track later in the day (see sidebar, page 54), putting an end to our day. And between that, the fact that our spare tires never showed up and intermittent rain, we were unable to gather the lap-time data we'd hoped to in order to determine which Ducati was quicker around the racetrack. But one particular session effectively answered that question: I was on the Desmo and Aaron Frank on the 1098R, and at first I gapped him and checked out, putting the MotoGP replica's higher performance to good use. As the 20-minute session drew to a close, however, I started to see a headlight in my mirrors. The physical and emotional strain of riding the more demanding, more expensive Desmo had worn me down, whereas the user-friendly 1098R just encouraged Aaron to go faster and faster.
That said, if you're looking for the ultimate collector Ducati to profile on the street, there's only one choice: the Desmosedici RR. But if you live for track days, you'd be better off on the 1098R. Seriously, though, if you've got the kind of coin to even be considering spending this much money on a motorcycle, why not buy one of each?