Former AMA SB racer turned MCUSA contributor, Alex Gobert, evaluates the racing potential of the sexy new Ducati 1098S at the Eastern Creek circuit in Australia.
Ducati's 1098 is going to be one to watch. It looks trick, has all the ingredients on paper to be a winner, and has huge expectations from almost every bike fan from around the globe. This bike might be able to take the Italian company back to the fame and success it once had in the streetbike market when the ground-breaking 916 was first released in 1994.
The 1098's official worldwide launch was held at Kyalami in South Africa back in early December, giving moto-journalists the first opportunity to swing a leg over the Italian work of art. The high altitude of Kyalami zapped the horsepower from the 1099cc Testastretta engine, meaning the test riders on hand couldn't quite get the ultimate feeling for the impressive 160 claimed horsepower that the 1098 releases.
My chance to ride Ducati's 1098 came at an Australian launch held at Eastern Creek Raceway, in Sydney, New South Wales - the venue for the Australian round of the World 500cc Grand Prix Championship back in the mid-1990s.
The model on hand at the Aussie launch was the 1098S, the up-spec version of the 1098. It features high performance 43mm Ohlins fully adjustable FG511 fork, Ohlins fully adjustable 46PRC shock absorber, Ohlins steering damper, lightweight forged and machined Marchesini wheels, a carbon fiber front fender, plus Ducati's all new DDA (Ducati Data Analysis) logging system.
All these features make the S model a very special machine, and Ducati
claims the 1098S is the most powerful and lightest twin-cylinder superbike in history. The engine remains the same as the standard 1098, but the featured add-ons provide you with an unbelievable package on what is already a ground-breaking superbike.
The 1098 has already thrilled loyal Ducatisti with its dramatic unveiling this summer. Seeing it in person, Gobert compares its racing lines to the spectacular, and also thrilling, Desmosedici RR.
The 1098 S is a further 4 lbs lighter than the standard 1098 as it weighs in at a purported 377 lbs, thanks mainly to the forged alloy Marchesini wheels, which feature a red pinstripe to signify their high-tech S-model status. The lightweight wheels help the bike steer easier and quicker on changes of direction, as the lighter wheels equal a lower inertia.
Upon arrival at Eastern Creek, I couldn't take my eyes off the 1098S. The bike looks sharp and small, while also having the racy look - just like the incredible road-going Desmosedici RR MotoGP replica.
For the 1098, Ducati has kind of gone back to the future in a way, as they reintroduce a bunch of features that made the ultra-successful Ducati 916 model so popular in the '90s. These features include the return of a single-sided swingarm and twin under-seat exhausts that sit under a high tail section at the rear of the bike, while the front end of the bike is compact with horizontal twin headlights that look stealth.
The simple, clean lines of the fairings are good looking, while also being efficient for aero purposes. They are drowned with Ducati's famous Italian red colors with just a few simple silver logos indicating the bike's brand and model.
Now's time to climb aboard and try this beauty out for myself as my excitement grows and the bike deeply growls upon start-up. Straight away I feel more comfortable than I ever have on its 999 predecessor. The 'bars have far less reach, allowing me to position my 5'5" height more comfortably on the bike with less strain.
The controls feel excellent, with perfect quality and plenty of adjustment on the front brake lever. The seat is comfortable as it angles you toward the controls while the narrow fuel tank gives plenty of room to help move around on the compact-feeling bike. The position of the 'pegs are also an improvement over the 999, with easy access to the gear-shift and rear brake lever.
The Ducati 1098S is 4 lbs lighter than the regular 1098 in large part because of its wheels. The forged alloy Marchesini units on the S-model sport a red pinstripe to denote the difference.
The Desmosedici-style digital dash is spectacular. Derived from Ducati's new GP7 800cc MotoGP bike, it flashes upon engine start-up and flashes "SBK 1098" across the screen - a sure reminder that this bike has been developed from Ducati Corse's racing experience. The default readout shows rpm and speed, with the rpm displayed in a unique bar graph - much like racing superbikes. It also has the usual features such as warning lights, fuel level, tripmeters, etc.
I complete my first lap and the racing-width (190/55 ZR17) Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa Pro tires - the street version of Pirelli's homologated race tires - heat up quickly and provide almost instant grip on the hot summer day. In fact, the very cool temperature gauge on the dash tells me it's 90 degrees F to be exact! (How's winter going in the USA, guys!?)
As I get a feel of everything, it is very noticeable that the 1098S likes to fall into the corner quickly and precisely, while the L-shaped twin-cylinder engine has a heap of torque to pull out of any situation as I lag it around the track. Both the standard 1098 and the 1098S have the same engine, so the Creek test was a good place to find out what Ducati's new machines have to offer without the altitude of Kyalami.
The 160-hp Testastretta Evoluzione engine is quick, and as I get up to speed the extra 101cc over the 999 is rewarded with extra power - 20 horsepower more than the 999. The steep hills out of Eastern Creek's Turns 5 and 7 are no such trouble for the 1098S as the rear Pirelli begins to squirm under acceleration. The feedback from the tires and chassis are second to none on acceleration in third gear, while the engine is more than capable of doing big things as I shift up gears at around 10,000 rpm.
Gobert appreciated the cornering capabilities of the Ducati superbike, with the 1098's new 1099cc powerplant producing ample torque.
As I come out of the tight right-hand Turn 9 and ease on the power, the front wheel begins to get light, hovering slightly above the asphalt before making my way around to the final corner on to the straightaway, and over a crest where the front wheel again gets light due to the massive torque of the engine. The 1098's power is impressive and is by far the fastest twin-cylinder superbike I have sampled.
The more compact size of the bike also allows me to move my body weight around more than the 999 as I look for every bit of help to get the 1098S around the track in the fastest possible time. Tucking in behind the 1098's windshield is much easier than previous models, and the complete overall comfort outshines the 999 by a long shot for me.
Later on in the afternoon I am up to speed and the impressive chassis can handle all the torture I can give it - almost. The 330mm discs and Brembo Monoblock race-inspired calipers provide brakes that are ultra impressive and require warning from Ducati Australia staff to be very careful when learning. Yep, they are super touchy and impressive to say the least. As I brake hard and deep into the corners, the Ducati 1098S
remains stable and in line, pulling up quickly without much effort as I slam down through the gearbox.
Ducati's have a history of having to trust the front end, but the 1098S gives more feedback than the previous models and is much easier to adjust your line mid-turn - all while the bike is much easier to flick from side to side. The 1098S screams for lean angle, and I find myself with my knee on the deck more often than almost any other bike I have ridden - including various factory-supported racebikes spanning through my racing career.
The 1098 is more compact than its predecessor, the 999, and our test rider found it easier to move his body around in an effort to drop lap times.
The Ohlins forks perform like they are on rails, working perfectly with the Pirelli tires and trellis frame, giving me the feel I have always looked for from a Ducati after witnessing World Superbike champ Troy Bayliss wrestle various Ducatis around so well for many years.
As I accelerate hard out of Eastern Creek's medium-speed Turn 3, the Ohlins rear shock gets a bit unsettled, causing the bike to buck in the windy conditions, providing a bit of a moment as the bike would try to steer wide under acceleration. It felt like the shock would get down in the stroke, while the fork would rise, as I tried to get every last bit of grip out of the Pirelli rear tire. This causes me to be extra cautious on the following laps as I explore the limits of the amazing machine. The guys from Ducati dial in a few changes on the suspension and the bike is improved immediately.
Ducati's on to a winner with this one, and more than likely the 1098 and 1098S will be remembered by all as yet another ground-breaking Ducati. Now, when are the World Superbike rules going to allow the 1098 in to competition? Hopefully soon, because I can't wait to see Bayliss get his hands on one.
Testastretta Evoluzione Engine
The new Testastretta Evoluzione engine is a result of Ducati's development of the L-shaped twin-cylinder engine that has been developed while the marque has dominated World Superbike racing over the past 15 years.The standard 1098 features the very same engine as the S I rode.
The 1099cc capacity stems from an increase in the bore and stroke of the motor, now featuring a big 104mm bore along with a short 64.7mm stroke seen on the top-of-the-line previous 999R model. Ducati has used advanced MotoGP cylinder head induction technology on the completely redesigned cylinder heads, giving the 1098 more power than even the 999R.
The Testastretta Evoluzione engine inside the new Ducati 1098 is the pinnacle of technology which has made the marque a dominant power in WSB. The V-4 Desmosedici RR aside, Ducati's L-shaped Twin is the signature powerplant from the Italian firm.
The Evoluzione has a reduction in the angle between the intake and exhaust valves, allowing straight intake ducts and newly shaped combustion chambers that contain bigger racing-size valves that are now 42mm inlet and 34mm exhaust. They are operated by racing-derived camshafts.
MotoGP-derived elliptical throttle bodies give a 30% increase in airflow over conventional throttle bodies. The new elliptical shape gives an incredible 5 hp claimed increase to the engine. All this is kept cool by a new oil cooler and an advanced coolant radiator.
A total of 11.1lbs (5kg) have been saved in the engine thanks to reducing weight of many components, including transmission gears and the gear selector drum, as well as the oil pump and primary gears.
Ducati has returned to a twin exhaust system, after using a single exhaust on the 999, as it's lighter and features a 2-1-2 layout that releases the famous rumble of a twin-cylinder Ducati.
Ducati's goal with the 1098's chassis was to achieve weight saving while also building strength and rigidity to manage to powerful 1099cc Testastretta engine. The trellis frame was developed in cooperation with Ducati's racing department, Ducati Corse, and has been designed with a simplified tube layout that features a fatter main tube from 28mm in diameter to 32mm, while being reduced in thickness from 2mm to 1.5mm. The end result is a 14% increase in rigidity and a weight saving of 3.3 lbs.
Ducati Data Analyzer (DDA)
Internal changes to the 1098's mill include an increase in both the bore and stroke for its 1099cc displacement, as well as larger inlet and exhaust valves.
The Ducati 1098S comes standard with the new Ducati Data Analyser (DDA) data-logging system, which includes PC software, a USB-ready data retrieval card, and instructions for the DDA that is quite easy to use.
The DDA enables 1098S riders to download information off the bike of up to 3.5 hours and read it on their computer to study their throttle opening, speed, engine rpm, temperature, distance traveled, laps and lap times - all by a simple USB device.
The 1098 S is the first-ever production motorcycle to be released with data logging standard, while standard 1098 owners can purchase the DDA from Ducati Accessories.
1098 vs. 1098S
While the 1098S has a heap of upgraded goodies, the standard 1098 model is very similar and also an amazing package.
Instead of the Ohlins bits on the S, the standard 1098, it comes equipped with 43mm Showa fully adjustable fork, Showa fully adjustable shock, a standard steering damper with no adjustment, and Marchesini cast-aluminum wheels instead of the lighter forged units on the S. The DDA is an option on the 1098, while it comes stock on the S model.
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