2008 Ducati Desmosedici First Ride

MotorcycleUSA Staff | September 2, 2008
We get by with a little help from our friends at MCN  who tested the performance claims of Ducati s lust-worthy MotoGP replica - the Desmosedici.
We get by with a little help from our friends at MCN, who tested the performance claims of Ducati’s lust-worthy MotoGP replica – the Desmosedici.

Elvington Airfield near York has a runway sufficiently long to be designated a possible NASA Shuttle emergency landing location, which also means it’s one of the few locations in Britain sufficiently long to max out what’s possibly the world’s fastest production motorcycle. With a usable length of 1.9 miles, this strip of Yorkshire concrete topped with grippy tarmac is ideal for putting Ducati’s gorgeous Desmosedici RR through its paces. The question is: Just how fast is the Italian MotoGP replica? No one’s done it before. Today is that day.

With brilliant sunshine warming dark clothes and a 23-mph three-quarter rear tailwind, Lady Luck is with us. She wasn’t a few days earlier when we first tried to performance test ‘Big Des’ and discovered the brand new rear Bridgestone tire had been pierced by a steel roofing screw just moments before the top speed test. Gulp! Instead, today’s moment of worry came with the appearance of a sound meter.

Part of Desmosedici RR ownership includes the optional race silencer and a new ECU to suit the fuelling differences made by the unrestricted silencer. It’s called a ‘silencer’ but in practice has all the noise-deadening properties of fresh air. And with an angry 989cc V4 bolted to the other end of the stainless steel pipework the blood-pumping exhaust note could be deemed noisy, naughty and not allowed, in that order. The meter’s needle flickers to say we’re good to go.

We have one, perhaps two, top speed runs to get the results we’re after – not just absolute speed, but also time and distance to maximum speed, plus standing quarter-mile times, acceleration times versus speed and, of course, braking figures. And all this before we head off for the ‘Big Des’s’ date with a dynamometer to discover its true power output.

Pre-run estimates as to what the Des should achieve are tricky. We all know it should hit the manufacturers’ agreed limit of 186 mph and more, hopefully. But then there are gearing issues – and not just final drive, the close-ratio gearbox can be changed for myriad of ratios with Ducati’s help. But the standard box ratios will have been selected for a happy medium of fast road work, drive-by emissions testing and usability. In other words, there’s a very good chance the engine will rev-out to hit the rev limiter far too early.

Our first run is short and not so sweet. The Des does indeed run out of revs well short of the proposed breaking marker. Our 2D datalogger says it peaked at 187.4 mph. Bugger. We were secretly hoping for at least 190mph to make it the fastest standard production bike MCN has tested – a derestricted ZZ-R1400 (that’s the ZX-14 for us Yanks) holds that honor with 189.2mph. Never mind. We’ve one more go, but this time we’ll keep the throttle open when the rev limiter cuts in to see if the on-off stutter can cajole one or two extra mph…

2008 Ducati Desmosedici
Based off the 2006 MotoGP rides of Loris Capirossi and Sete Gibernau the production Desmosedici is very close to the real thing – a true replica.

The Run

Wheelspin from the rear tire with fresh air under the front tire – launches don’t get any better than this. In a blur of exhaust noise and heat haze, Big Des is quarter way down the runway and feeling marginally quicker. You can’t tell for sure because, firstly, I wasn’t looking too intently at the speedo because the way ahead is a disorientating narrow strip of runway and, secondly, the speedo display flat lines when 185 mph is breached.

There’s a harsh, tinkling sensation of spinning metals below the tank. Wind rush is only just masking the exhaust note despite it being ejected at 14,000 rpm. Approximately 300 rpm further on the rev limiter chimes in, then off, then in again. A few seconds more should do the trick.

The stability of the Des at this speed is simply perfect. It probably wasn’t worth the extra four stiffening clicks of the Ohlins damper. Braking effect is similar to braking at 70 mph (instant) for the first half second. Heat then gets involved so the front pads and discs work to their maximum. Big Des scrubs off speed in a similar way it adds it with the throttle wrapped open, except in reverse, obviously. These are serious brakes when leathered bottom starts to lift off the seat. A touch of rear brake keeps the bike straight in every plane except for the last ten yards when it’d be rude not to pull a stoppie. Awesome.


 The hard drive clicks and whirrs before the laptop computer’s screen flickers up the results. 190.78mph: the fastest production road bike in MCN’s book. Not bad for a machine with a full tank of fuel and its mirrors still in place. And there’s more to come. Lots. Ducati‘s Desmosedici RR hits this speed without any effort. You can almost hear/feel that V4 begging for a smaller rear sprocket. Also, is it just me or is the nose cone/headlight assembly of Big Des wearing a very smug look?

On the Dyno

Nothing remarkable to see on the dyno. Ducati has managed to provide a good mix of torque and outright power from the D16RR engine while making it totally usable despite a hellishly-tall first gear. So where is the 200 hp so readily bandied about by the factory? You’d have to look at the main crankshaft for this power, because this is where the factory bases its claimed power figure. Actually, if you allow for an 11% loss of power (178 hp total) through the gearbox, chain drive etc, which is normal for most makes, the Desmosedici RR’s measured rear wheel power figure of 177 hp is spot on. Funnily enough Kawasaki claims it 2008 ZX-10R makes the same crankshaft power as the Desmosedici RR.

Taking into account the power loss transfer to the rear wheel  the 177 horsepower dyno reading is right in line with Ducati s claims of 200 hp at the crank.
Taking into account the power loss transfer to the rear wheel, the 177 horsepower dyno reading is right in line with Ducati’s claims of 200 hp at the crank.

Performance Test: Ducati Desmosedici

Top Speed: 190.78 mph
Distance covered: 1606.85 meters (0.998 miles)
Time taken: 25.40 seconds
Standing start quarter-mile: 10.26 seconds @ 146.87 mph

Speed (mph), Time (seconds), Distance (meters)
30 1.54 9.98
60 2.96 38.62
70 3.41 51.80
100 5.53 133.34
140 8.99 321.84
180 16.59 874.03

Brake test 70-0mph
Speed (mph) Time (seconds) Distance (meters)
10 0.54 1.10
20 1.00 4.19
30 1.45 9.24
40 1.92 16.46
50 2.37 25.67
60 2.83 36.83
70 3.27 49.74

Top gear roll on: 40-120 mph
12.70 seconds over 461.95 meters

It certainly looks the part  but does the MotoGP-based Desmosedici live up to its high-performance claims
It certainly looks the part, but does the MotoGP-based Desmosedici live up to its high-performance claims?

How Close to the Real Deal?

Ducati‘s Desmosedici RR is based on the 2006 factory GP6 MotoGP machines of Loris Capirossi and Sete Gibernau. But how close is Desmosedici RR to the real deal, bearing in mind the road bike’s D16RR engine will have been detuned for emissions and reliability reasons and gearing altered for road use? The simple truth is it is a lot closer than we first thought.

In 2006, at Mugello, Sete Gibernau managed to cover from a race start 450 meters (0.28 of a mile, just over a quarter of a mile) before decelerating. He did this in 10.25 seconds and hit 176.36 mph. The road-going Desmosedici RR covered the same distance in 11.15 seconds to reach max speed of 153.22 mph. What’s a second between family?

At the Polini Grand prix of China, 2006, qualifying practice saw Gibernau hit a top speed of 212.26 mph. Unfortunately his corner exit speed and the distance taken to reach this speed aren’t available. But we wouldn’t be surprised if the Desmosedici RR ended up not that far behind in the same conditions.

The best top speed for the race bike was during the 2004 IRTA test at Barcelona of 215.8 mph in the hands of Loris Capirossi. Now how much are those final drive sprockets?

The Competition

Two other bikes that have impressed with their performance were a 2006 speed de-restricted Kawasaki ZZ-R1400 and a MV Agusta F4 1000, both powerful lumps and fast with it. Here’s a quick comparison against the Desmosedici RR:

MV Agusta
Top speed: 187.53 mph
Distance to top speed: 1338.88 meters
Time to top speed: 22.60 seconds
SS quarter-mile: 10.39 seconds @ 146.88mph
0-180mph: 19.29 seconds
Power: n/a

Top speed: 189.2mph
Distance to top speed: n/a
Time to top speed: n/a
SS quarter-mile: 10.25 seconds @ 142.03mph
0-180mph: n/a
Power: 168.37 hp

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MotorcycleUSA Staff