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R-model Ducatis have traditionally been the
flagships in Ducati's range. And they've carried the
price tags to match. The previous-generation,
$30,000 999R was one of our favorite motorcycles,
with tractability, suspension, and steering precision
that let it rival much more powerful four-cylinder
literbikes. The $40,000 1098R doesn't just rival

R-model Ducatis have traditionally been the
flagships in Ducati's range. And they've carried the
price tags to match. The previous-generation,
$30,000 999R was one of our favorite motorcycles,
with tractability, suspension, and steering precision
that let it rival much more powerful four-cylinder
literbikes. The $40,000 1098R doesn't just rival
them; it leaves them for dead.
Of course, for that much money, it had better.
Raising the price of the R-model by $10K seems like
heresy, Ducati rubbing our noses in it, but the
increased performance more than justifies it. And
there's been no shortage of well-heeled buyers lining
up to own one.
The impetus for creating the 1098R was the change in
World Superbike regulations allowing 1200cc twins
to compete alongside 1000cc fours. (The AMA
dragged its heels but finally acquiesced.) This may
sound unfair to those who are new on the scene, but
throughout the 750cc Superbike, era twins were
allowed 1000cc-plus a weight break. It's testimony to
Ducati Corse's efforts and Troy Bayliss dogged
determination that they managed to win a world title
after the fours were allowed 1000cc as well.
But Ducati claimed its 1000cc Superbikes were too
close to their mechanical limits, running what was
described as a MotoGP state of tune. Take that to
mean the engines didn't last long. That's costly, and
with the small Italian manufacturer also competing in
MotoGP, its resources were stretched too thin. The
company petitioned the SBK organizers to raise the
displacement limit for twins, and after much debate,
the change went through. There were, however, a
few stipulations: Twins would have to retain their
stock valves and connecting rods, run 50mm intake
air restrictors and carry an additional 6 kilograms
(13.2 pounds). Furthermore, these numbers could
be adjusted throughout the season depending on
race results.
To take the 1098cc Testastretta Evoluzione engine
to 1198cc, the bore was increased from 104 to
106mm and the stroke from 64.7 to 67.9mm. That
bigger bore allowed 2mm larger intake and exhaust
valves at 44.3 and 36.2mm, respectively, while new
alloy three-ring pistons with double-ribbed
undercrowns bump compression from 12.5:1 to
12.8:1. Superfinished rocker arms and a deep gas-
nitrided crank increase strength and reduce friction.
Numerous weight-saving measures such as sand-
cast cylinder heads and cases, titanium connecting
rods, valves and retainers, an intricately machined
crankshaft and carbon-fiber cambelt covers shave
4.8 lbs. compared to the standard 1098 engine and
12.3 lbs. compared to the 999R. Impressively, the
service interval is 12,000 kilometers (approximately
7500 miles), same as all other current Ducatis.

The fuel-injection system was upgraded, too, the
elliptical throttle bodies growing from 60 to 63.9mm.
A twin-injector setup sees the main central injector
provide a set amount of fuel for each cycle, while the
secondary injector is called in whenever more fuel
than that is required. Owing to another change in the
SBK rules, the R-model finally gets a slipper clutch
this year, plus third through sixth gear ratios.
Most noteworthy of all, however, is the addition of
Ducati Traction Control, said to be identical to that
employed on the MotoGP and World Superbike
racers. Inactive until the included racing CPU is
installed, there are eight positions available, level 1
being the least intrusive and level 8 the most. (It can
also be shut off, but don't go there.) In simple terms,
the system compares the speeds of the front and
rear wheels, factors in other parameters such as rpm
and throttle position, and adjusts fuel and spark to
limit torque whenever it senses the rear tire is
spinning-or about to. Saved by technology!
Chassis-wise, the R-model retains the standard
1098's geometry but boasts uprated Ohlins
suspension and steering damper, the shock the
latest TTX (for Twin Tube) design. This is effectively
a tube within a tube-a solid piston pushing damping
oil from one tube through the applicable shim stack
to the other. The advantages of this setup are
positive pressure buildup in both directions, much
lower gas pressure for reduced cavitation and
friction and the compression and rebound adjusters
don't affect one another. Additionally, the shim
stacks are located in the reservoir, meaning they can
be removed and changed without dismantling the
shock-a real boon for race mechanics.
Owing to the aforementioned engine changes plus
some carbon-fiber body parts, an alloy subframe for
the solo seat, a Ti muffler and forged Marchesini
wheels, the R-model weighs considerably less than
a standard 1098, tipping the scales at 422 lbs. wet
and 397 lbs. dry.
I was fortunate to attend both the 1098R's world
press introduction at Jerez, Spain, and the U.S. intro
at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham,
Alabama, after which Motorcyclist exclusively
received a testbike to ride on the street. First stop
was the dyno, where the stock machine pumped out
an impressive 155.6 bhp and 87.2 lb.-ft. of torque at
the rear wheel. U.S.-model 1098Rs will be sold with
full 70mm race pipes and a dedicated CPU, but
those weren't yet available, so our testbike came
with the slip-ons the rest of the world will get. So
equipped, it churned out an astounding 163 bhp and
90.3 lb.-ft. Forget torque and tractability, the 1098R's
peak power is right there with the liter-class fours!

You feel that power as soon as you let out the clutch
lever-this Ducati pulls with the urgency of a built
Harley. (Those of you who have never ridden a built
Harley are likely laughing at this remark, but trust me
here.) Wheelies aren't a matter of if, but when, and
in fact you have to work to keep the front end down.
Best turn that right wrist slowly, get your foot over
the brake pedal, and it wouldn't hurt to hunch down
over the front, either. On the street you find yourself
dialing in almost no throttle and slipping the clutch
from stoplights-and you're still accelerating like
gangbusters. This thing really is ferocious, so it's
probably a good thing that the high price will keep
young, inexperienced riders away.
Jump on the freeway en route to the local mountains
and you promptly discover the 1098R is a rack, with
a bum-high, stretched-out riding position. In stock
trim, the suspension is set so firm the bike rattles
your teeth over bumps and expansion joints. Of
course it does-what did you expect? Fuel mileage
and range are abysmal, the low-fuel light illuminating
in as little as 85 miles. You'll forget all this as soon
as you point the bike down a twisty mountain road.
Hold on tight-the standard 1098 is plenty fast and
wheelie-happy, and the R-model makes a mockery
of it. Barely crack open the throttle and the bike

rockets from corner to corner, wheelying everywhere
and making the straightaways feel very short indeed.
And with the strong radial-mount Brembo Monobloc
calipers actuated by a radial master cylinder, seldom
are both wheels on the ground. Handling is superb,
with precise steering and incredible feedback from
both ends. The only glitch is a somewhat high center
of gravity that makes the bike fall into corners and
stand up slightly on the brakes. You need to ride it
like you stole it-which isn't a bad idea, actually.
You can't begin to use all that power on the street,
so it's on the racetrack where the 1098R comes into
its own. As does the traction control. At both tracks
we started with the DTC at level 4, and at first
thought we were hitting the rev limiter early and
often. Only after we got up to speed, and especially
after the tires began to wear, did we notice how the
system really worked. Accelerating off the low-gear
hairpins in particular, the bike would stutter and pop
and then wheelie, limiting wheelspin but actually
making it harder to hold on to. Though DTC doesn't
use any sort of bank angle, there must be some
sophisticated algorithms going on because when
you pick the bike up off a corner, the traction control
backs off noticeably. Probably the system is sensing
the change in rpm due to the different circumference
of the tire from leaned over to straight up and down.
Raising DTC to level 8 was laughable, as it cut in
way too often-though it would probably work well in
the wet. And lowering it to level 1 was too far in the
other direction, as the rear end stepped out
uncomfortably far before DTC cut in-at least too far
for my comfort. Level 2 worked best for me at the
racetrack, as it let the rear tire spin just enough to
keep the front end down and allow me to steer with
the rear a bit. (Read Jeremy McWilliams story on
page 86 for a Pro racer's perspective.)
If the 1098R has one shortcoming, it's the same as
all twins before it: a low redline. This gives the bike
what I jokingly refer to as " broad power over a
narrow range " With peak power at 9750 rpm and
the rev limiter cutting in (too abruptly) at 10,500 rpm,
the fours have much more overrev, which lets them
hold a gear longer. On the flipside, the 1098R has so
much low-end grunt you can run it a gear tall almost
everywhere, and it will pull it.
So, nothing but rants and raves-can the 1098R
really be that good? Consider the results from the
first two rounds of the 2008 World Superbike
Championship. Riding a bike that was largely stock
save for two-ring pistons, a re-balanced crank,
lighter flywheel and altered internal gear ratios,
Bayliss has won three of four races. Already the
competition is up in arms, and with KTM poised to
enter the series with its new 1190cc RC8 twin in
2009, the Japanese will surely be asking to raise the
twins; weight limit and/or reduce the size of their air
restrictors. Welcome to NASCAR on two wheels;
what's next, air dams?
We'll leave you with a quote from Ducati PR honcho
Francesco Rapisarda: "The 1098R is a racebike,
pure and simple. It raises the bar and sets the world
standard for sportbikes."
We couldn't agree more.

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