Ducati Performance 1098R Superbike
Curb Weight: 431 lbs.
Horsepower: 172.9 @ 10,100 rpm
Torque: 93.4 lbs-ft @ 8,100 rpm
Quarter Mile: 9.93 @ 145.9 mph
Racetrack Top Speed: 162.7 mph
Best Lap TIme: 1:26.31
Sitting on the opposite side of the spectrum is the Ducati Performance 1098R. Basically as close to a World Superbike as possible for the average consumer, this bike was built by Ducati to showcase just what one can do with an unlimited budget – over $70,000. In fact, it’s so close in looks and external hardware that the bike was used as a Troy Bayliss WSB-replica display bike to travel around with the IMS shows. And since the list of modifications is so long we will focus on the main changes.
The engine remains very close to stock, with the exception of Ducati Performance (DP) cams and intake kit, plus a larger-diameter Termingnoni exhaust and back-torque-limiting clutch. A full Termi system does come with the stock 1098R as an addition, but due to EPA and noise laws it can’t be installed until after purchase and is said to be used for “closed course only.” Right… In our case the system has been updated with bigger 70mm head and mid-pipes for improved flowing of spent gasses. This is mated to a DP chip to properly adjust fuel mapping. And while that rounds out the engine changes, considering how blindingly fast the World Superbike-homologation special is from the factory, the bike hardly needs more power.
The result is an amazing amount of torque, 93.4 lb-ft at 8100 rpm. And this bottom end and mid range of the Ducati allows you to be very relaxed with gear selection. This is shown in the dyno chart, as the bike is already making nearly 80 lb-ft of torque from as low as 4000 rpm, whereas the modified GSX-R makes just over 80 lb-ft at its peak, which isn’t until 10,s00 rpm. On the other hand, the GSX-R’s top end trumps the Ducati by about the same margin – 181.7 hp compared to 172.9 hp. This is why it’s key to fully exploit the Duc’s loads of corner-exit shredding torque to keep pace with the GSX-R.
For the affordable price of $75,000 you too can have a Ducati Superbike (top); A good chunk of that cost is from the to-spec chassis, which includes an Ohlins gas charged fork and Brembo monobloc forged brakes (middle); A Ducati Racing back torque-limiting clutch keeps the rear end in line under heavy braking (bottom),
Want to leave it in third and roll through the corner at 5000 rpm? No worries. Simply twist the throttle early and it pulls like a locomotive, building steam from as low as four-grand. Likewise it allows you to keep it up in the revs, with an amazing tire-spinning top end, especially for a V-Twin.
“The power of the Ducati coming off the corners is just plain awesome!” exclaims Waheed. “It pulls so hard from so low that you can leave it a gear high and still get a ripping drive out of any corner. Heck, you could probably leave it two gears high and still get a good drive – it’s got that much torque. But the crazy thing is that it still pulls hard all the way up top to redline. On yeah, it has to be one of the best sounding bikes on the planet.”
While not quite as potent as the Suzuki, the 1098R is no slouch, as it pulls out of Turn 8 at a healthy 129.5 mph and out of Turn 9 only a tick off the Suzuki at 115.1 mph. That equates to a top speed of 162.7 mph down the front straight, within 5 mph of the Yoshimura-engine Suzuki. But while in the high-speed turns the Ducati trails ever so slightly behind the Suzuki, it excels in the slow speed stuff and pulls everything together to lay down the quickest lap time of the test by nearly a full second. How? The chassis.
And the key to really going fast on the Duc is to find the perfect balance of riding the torque wave just as it leads into top-end pull, as we said, the amazing chassis must be fully exploited to achieve good lap times. That requires extremely high corner speeds and the bike to be at the right rpm mid corner; too high and engine drag holds you back, too low and the drive out is sacrificed.
The chassis is also where the majority of the money was invested with this DP 1098R, aimed to truly turn it into a racetrack weapon. A superbike-spec Ohlins FGR800 gas charged fork graces the front end, while stiffer and larger front triple clamps are needed to keep the massive units in place. An Ohlins TTX rear shock sits out back, mated to a flat-rate linkage, adjustable ride-height bar and massive Ducati Corse World Superbike-developed swingarm, which is far more rigid and allows the use of larger slick tires. The swingarm really is a piece of motorcycle artwork, though at $5,443 I would expect nothing less. Upgraded wheels were also installed, these being of the tasty forged magnesium variety, reducing unsprung mass for improved handling and acceleration.
Editorial Director Hutchison is right at home on the Ducati Superbike as he navigates the uphill side of Willow Springs.
The result is a machine that inspires elbow-draggin levels of confidence. Combined with the fly-paper-sticky Pirelli tires, one could push the Ducati so hard through the center of the corner that I continually scared myself with the roll speeds it is was capable of. Some good 600s would struggle to keep that pace, yet the 1098R continually asked for more.
“I like the Duc as a whole package but where it really shows you who’s boss is mid corner,” adds Waheed. “There is no way 99.9% of riders could come even close to the limits of that motorcycle’s front end. The Ohlins fork was perfectly set-up and the bike’s overall balance was spot on. I just kept pushing it harder and harder and I still wasn’t even close to the bike’s limits. It’s also amazing how quickly it steers, yet is still very stable though Turns 8 and 9.”
Ducati Performance 1098R VBox Data @ Willow Springs
– Although it’s almost 5 mph down on top speed and can’t match the Yosh GSX-R in Turns 8 and 9, superior corner speed throughout the rest of the track equates to a lap time nearly a second quicker.
A glance at mid-corner speeds in the slower sections of the track backs this up, as the Ducati is fastest through the apex of Turn 2 at 91.7 mph and Turn 4 at 57.8 mph. This is mirrored throughout the rest of the track, as it trumps the others through all but the mega-fast Turns 8 and 9, where the ultra-stable Suzuki and its monster motor just edge out the Ducati; though this is as much due to the power as the chassis, as we found the Ducati to be equally as stable in the fast sections as we did in the slow stuff.
Braking is handled by a full top-spec Brembo set-up, making for a serious set of stoppers. Forged monobloc 4-piston calipers sit up front and grab 320mm semi-floating discs, fed by steel-braided lines that connect to a fully adjustable Brembo radial master cylinder. Out back is a two-piston forged Brembo caliper with the stock disc, though nothing more is needed.
This equates to true Superbike-spec brakes. Take a look around the AMA paddock and you will see nearly, if not every factory Superbike with exactly the same setup. Why? Because they are downright amazing. Initial bite will send you straight through the windscreen if you aren’t ready for it, while the lever feel and feedback is like grabbing the discs with your bare hands it’s so good (minus your skin getting burned off, that is). By far some of the best brakes made today.
While we absolutely adore the Ducati and its limitless potential on the track, we don’t doubt the same could be achieved at a far lower cost. But this bike is all about excess and, well, we do still love it!
So was there anything we didn’t adore about the Ducati? Besides the price, only one minor area: Wind protection. The small windscreen and slender race bodywork made getting into a tuck nearly impossible, and at a track as fast as Willow Springs this was not only annoying but fatiguing as well. Quite a simple fix though, as $50 will get you a taller windscreen and the problem will be all but solved.
As you can see, we instantly fell in love with the Ducati Performance 1098R. We loved the stock ‘R’, but with the mods Ducati has added this may now be one of the most fun and rewarding machines we have ever ridden. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that for the money, as they both cost about the same, I would seriously consider this bike over a Desmosedici. Okay, maybe not, but you get the picture. This is truly is pure Italian motorcycling bliss. Just don’t tip it over…