Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ducati 1098

Ducati’s new 1098 has been one of the most talked about bikes this year. It’s the world’s most powerful twin-cylinder motorcycle with the highest torque-to-weight ratio of any sports bike and I couldn’t wait to ride it. Not only does the beautiful 1098 take giant steps away from the controversial styling of the current 999, it’s expected to snatch the superbike bike crown away from the competition with real conviction. I’d been excited for week.

Well, I have to report that the press launch left me breathless; sadly it also left the Ducati gasping for air. Some numpty decided Kyalami in South Africa would be a good location to let the world’s press ride the new bike. It’s a stunning track – sadly, it’s also 1,800m above sea level, which means the air is thinner, which means less oxygen, which means less power. How such a significant factor could’ve been overlooked is anyone’s guess, but up here the Testastretta Evoluzione V-twin engine loses 20bhp and suddenly Ducati’s ‘super-powerful’ 1098 can’t offer any more power than a 999 at sea level.

And so the suspense lingers on. There’s no question in my mind that the 1098 will eventually prove to be a very serious contender as the best superbike in 2007. And in truth, even in Kyalami, the bike has more than enough power for most bikers but nevertheless, it was stifled and didn’t feel anywhere near as brutal or raw as I’d hoped and expected, despite pulling strongly to the 10,700rpm red line. As well as the standard 1098, I also had the opportunity to ride the plusher S model.