First thing one notices of the factory Xerox Ducati is the utterly fantastic chassis which holds a torque-laden V-Twin lump.
Xerox Ducati 1098F09
Let’s just say it’s a really, really good thing I didn’t have to learn the track first on Michel Fabrizio’s factory Ducati 1098F09. It wouldn’t have been a good way to start the day, as the Italian’s unorthodox set-up took nearly all my brain power to get used to, at least for the first couple laps, let alone be able figure out where I was going. Much of this is the product of an extremely aggressive riding position and quite tall gearing – not to mention spot-on throttle response.
Utterly slim in size between one’s legs with a hair-trigger throttle, the Ducati was quickly an eye-opener. A result of his tall final-drive-gearing preference and very precise fuel injection mapping meant that the slightest dap of the right grip saw Fabrizio’s Duc lurching forward with haste, catching me off guard somewhat early on. This took half of my 15-minute session to get used to, though when on pace and holding more corner speed it was far more manageable. This then also showed the true shining quality of the 1098F09 – its ability to inspire heaps of confidence when leaned on its side.
Through the fast downhill Turn 8 the Ducati taunted me to push harder and harder, eventually accelerating though it in fourth gear, excess of 100 mph, pulling my elbow in so as not to catch it on the curbing. The F09 was that good when on the skinny part of the tire – especially in the faster corners. At max lean there really is no better machine in the production-based world than this Xerox Ducati SBK.
For Portimao the bike was also setup very rider-forward, with the forks raised in the triple clamps quite high and the overall feel of the machine much lower than the standard 1098R. Designed to get it to steer quickly through the twisty, elevation-laden Portuguese circuit, surprisingly in no way did the aggressive setup adversely affect mid-corner handling or even corner-exit drive.
The higher end-sprocket gearing also meant running a cog up on nearly every other bike in most corners around the track, with the exception of the two first-gear hairpins, yet the torque-laden Ducati Corsa lump makes power so freely throughout the rev range and right up to the massive 12,500 rpm redline. But it’s truly in the low-end were the Italian rocket jumps off the corners like none of its competition.
(From left) Rules permit a 1200cc V-Twin in WSBK; Brembo brakes stop the Ducati with ease and grace; Hard to argue with its looks.
There is no bike in the field that can touch the prowess of the Ducati mid-corner. It’s a thing of beauty!
Pick it up and dial in a mere eighth turn of the right grip and you’re well out of the previous corner and already thinking about braking for the following one, despite the length of the short-shoot ahead. This machine eats pavement for breakfast – rattling, clanking and rumbling the entire way. Actually, it sounds like it’s eating the road as well.
Braking, like the majority of the bikes here, was absolutely spot-on, as the Brembos give truly one-finger power combined with same amount of feedback one would get by actually grabbing the rotors with their hands, minus the burns that is.
TC was nearly perfect as well, allowing the bike to be slid 10-15 degrees before kicking in, giving one the ability to still square the corner up with the rear tire when needed before electronic aids jump in to stop things. Ducati left everything exactly the way Fabrizio rode it to the final race win of the season, and there’s no question this bike still intimidates mere morals as in no way is it tame to ride – much like the Yamaha. And it’s absolutely beautiful for it.