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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

2012 Ducati 1198 Superbike Concept & Pictures


Dozens of red Ducati flags whip in the wind along the front straight of the Autodromo Internacional Algarve circuit as a row of pristine 2009 Ducati 1198S superbikes glisten in the morning light below them. This is Portimao, a region near the southern edge of Portugal, and this is a big day for Ducati. It’s the international press launch for the new 1198, the latest in an ever-growing line of Italian superbikes that has taken the world by storm. Only two years removed from the arrival of the brilliant 1098, the 1198 is thoroughly redesigned and this is the first opportunity for the press to sample the goods. In brief, the new 1198 feels like its predecessor with a confident front-end and serious stability, but this bike is more powerful, faster and gnarlier than ever before. 

At the heart of this new motorcycle is a stroked version of the Testastretta Evoluzione engine. It revs quicker, makes ten-more horsepower and is lighter and more durable than its predecessor. The S-version we will be testing is equipped with top-shelf suspension and wheels, as well as the latest Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and Ducati Data Acquisition (DDA) systems. This Ducati Corse racing technology has again spilled-over and sprinkled us with its scientific splendor. 

2012 Ducati 1198 Bike
2012 Ducati 1198 Bike
2012 Ducati 1198 Bike
We’ve long been fans of the way Ducati L-Twins accelerate and as their traits have evolved over the years, so too has our taste for Italian power. This year the 1198 connects corners even faster and with less effort than before. It revs quicker, so the 10,500 rpm redline arrives sooner. Fortunately, the 6-speed transmission is slick and precise because keeping this baby in the right gear to take full advantage of the heaps of torque it churns out is a recipe for success. Internally, gears three through six are physically thicker than the 1098 to counter stresses from the extra hp and torque. Gear ratios are now identical to the 1098R. The dry clutch proved durable and effort at the lever is still quite light. There is no slipper clutch to be found. 

Row through a few gears on Algarve’s smooth surface and you’re hauling serious ass when the brake markers arrive (They start at 100 meters here, so there’s not much warning). The bike howls proudly under acceleration, it pulls linearly, always building power quickly until the mandatory cut-off after 10 grand. The 1198S and 1198 feature 1198.4cc of displacement, up 99cc over last year, and the same 106mm bore and 67.9mm stroke dimensions as the R model. Weight savings start with the use of a vacural-casting process, first seen on the Ducati 848, which shaves 4 lbs (2kg) off the crank cases alone. The 1198S/1198 engines are essentially 1098R engines without the expensive top-shelf internals. There are no Titanium connecting rods or valves on the 1198 models, among other R-specific internal mods that push it to the 180-hp range. 

2012 Ducati 1198 Bike
2012 Ducati 1198 Bike
2012 Ducati 1198 Bike
Make no mistake the engine is the soul of the 1198. Power is simply fantastic and the combination of this and the DTC seems to increase confidence, allowing the rider to focus more on entry speed and lines to dial in lap times. Add into the mix the really trick Ducati Data Acquisition (DDA) and you learn exactly where the DTC comes into play, how fast you are in each turn, where the throttle is, what rpm you are at – it’s a technophile’s wet dream. You can mine data until you are sick of looking at it but beware – there’s no bullshitting the computer and everyone who sees the data will know exactly how fast you were going and how you got there.

Chassis remains a constant of the Ducati Superbike family. No significant changes to the geometry ensure the 1198S is as stable as the 1098. Toss this bike into a corner and the first thing you notice is that it seems to turn-in with less effort. Having recently ridden an 848 to bone-up on my Ducati turning traits it seems the Ducati 1198, with its forged 7-spoke GP-replica wheels, 43mm Ohlins fork, Ohlins shock and four-lb weight reduction, reacts quicker to rider input than the sum of its parts would suggest. Imagine a 1098 that turns-in ‘better’. 

2012 Ducati 1198 Bike
2012 Ducati 1198 Bike
2012 Ducati 1198 Bike
2012 Ducati 1198 Bike



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