Starting to gain some serious confidence, all things considered at least, I was set to twist the grip on Joe Kopp’s Lloyd Brothers Ducati. With a win under its belt at the very track we were riding earlier in the season, a win that broke Harley’s 17-year undefeated streak, the red Italian machine features an air-cooled 1100cc V-Twin (from the new Hypermotard EVO) housed in a custom fabricated chassis.
Featuring a seat-height right in the middle of the pack, though very thin between the legs and light feeling, the Ducati tips in with ease and is extremely agile side-to-side. From the very first corner out of the pits we felt the lighthearted nature of the 1100. The bike also stays firmly planted mid-corner, not wanting to naturally stand up like some of its heavier competition. This requires the rider to use a bit of energy on corner-exit to get it stood up when getting up to speed. But pick up the pace and start twisting the right grip while still leaned over and the power does the work for you, most of the time pitched sideways a fair bit as the Duc likes to be hung out 15 or 20 degrees before it really bites in and drives forward.
The Lloyd Brothers team originally started with a modified 900SS chassis and engine combination in their first Ducati-based racer several seasons back, this then progressed to a fully custom frame for the 900SS engine. That was then replaced for 2009 with a Hypermotard 1100 engine and another incarnation of their hand-made frame. This on-going development has landed squarely on the shoulders of the East Coast-based privateer team, receiving some support from Ducati but doing nearly all the R&D in-house over the past few seasons. The Ducati crew have run a limited schedule with several different riders, including road racer Larry Pegram and Flat Track regular Henry Wiles in ’09, with Joe Kopp this past season – his last full season prior to retirement this off-season. Through their hard work the team has transformed the Duc into an American Iron giant-beater, taking down mighty Harley earlier this season. Much of the credit for that win belongs to the Ducati’s amazing chassis.
The Ducati’s 1100cc Hypermotard engine’s fuel delivery produces a tractable power that compliments the flickable chassis in a supremely ego-stroking manner. There’s an initial snap that the fuel injection provides compared to the other carbureted machines. This can get the back end kicked sideways quickly if not careful, but once sliding it allows you to control changes in pitch and speed with absolute precision. After the slightly lackadaisical manner of the carb-fitted machines, this took a lap or two to get used to, but once acclimated equated to faster lap times.
Quickly whittling its way into my heart, there was something about the Ducati that simply fit my size, weight and road racing-bred riding style. So much so that I was instantly two seconds a lap quicker than on any of the other machines within two laps, continuing to drop my times almost another full second per lap as the six-lap session progressed. Considering lap times are on average only 30-40 seconds per revolution, that’s an impressive drop in time. There’s a good reason Kopp and the brothers Lloyd were able to topple a giant and end the longest running professional win-streak in modern motorcycle racing history – because the package they have created with the Ducati around high-speed Miles is downright astonishing. It still may not be as versatile as the Harley when factoring in smaller-length tracks, but my lap times around the Arizona Mile speaks volumes about the American-Italian combination.