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It doesn’t take long to be intimidated by the outrageous Desmosedici RR. If the stratospheric $72.5K price tag doesn’t get you, the menacing mechanical cacophony upon start-up will. Observers are sucker-punched straight into the gut, and the beautiful racket portends an experience unlike any production streetbike in the world.
It’s quite incredible that a manufacturer has offered such a repli-racer to the public. The D16RR is literally a MotoGP bike built for the street. And not those scrawny 800cc prototype racers currently on the grids – we’re talking the big-gun near-liter-sized versions. As such, the RR carries a compact 989cc V-Four engine inside a version of Ducati’s trademark tubular-steel trellis frames.
The engine itself is a jewel. It features the same bore and stroke measurements (86.0mm x 42.56mm) as those on Ducati’s 2006 racebike, the D16GP6. It uses the “Twin-Pulse” firing order in which the crankpins are offset by 70 degrees (cylinders fire at 0°, 90°, 290° and 380°) to generate what Ducati terms as “soft pulse timing.”
No soft pulses are felt from the D16’s saddle – this thing snorts and sprints around a racetrack like a rampaging demon, as we found out during a few lapping sessions at Willow Springs Raceway.
Our test unit was equipped with the race ECU and exhaust system included with each Desmosedici, a no-brainer swap for the standard street exhaust. So equipped, it is said to achieve the magic 200-horsepower mark at 13,800 rpm when measured at the crankshaft. As for rear-wheel power numbers, those who have had it on a Dynojet dyno say it’s pushing nearly 180 hp. Peak crankshaft torque of 85.3 ft-lbs arrives way up at 10,500 rpm.
I was anticipating the D16RR to be high-strung, and its rumpity idle and menacing bark when revved did little to assuage those feelings. But then, despite a heavy clutch pull, the 16RR pulled out of pit lane smartly and without frantic revs, despite its light flywheel effect.
Yet this is no pussycat. Get hard on the throttle, and the D16 romps forth like a Gixxer on nitrous! It shows itself to be quite torquey but then comes on with a wicked surge past 10,000 rpm that inhales literbikes on straightaways like they are 600s. Every straight, no matter how short, becomes a passing opportunity. Vibration gets intense at high revs, putting in the mind of the rider a question: “Are you sure you want to use that much throttle?”
Yes we do!
The Desmosedici is like a barely tamed wild animal. It’s highly visceral and with an intensity that threatens to overwhelm a rider’s senses. It sounds downright angry on trailing throttle, as a 13.5:1 compression ratio threatens to skid the rear wheel if not for the racing-style slipper clutch. At neutral throttle it emits a menacing grrrrrr! that would be antithetical to anything from, say, Honda. The throttle response from the 50mm Magneti Marelli throttle bodies with 12-hole 'microjet' above-throttle injectors is a bit snatchy, adding to the brutish impression.
The D16’s handling characteristics are similarly racerish. Its chassis geometry (24.5-degree rake, 3.8 inches of trail and 56.3-inch wheelbase) is said to be identical to the MotoGP racer, but these numbers are fairly conservative in the street-sportbike realm. So, despite the reduced gyroscopic forces from the ultra-lightweight forged-magnesium wheels and a relatively light claimed dry weight of 377 lbs, the D16RR doesn’t flick into corners as quickly as expected.
And, like other racebikes I’ve sampled, the Desmosedici proved to be sprung too stiffly for my minimal weight and talent. The suspension was made more compliant after some adjustments, but its heavy springs remained too unyielding – I could still feel the rear end topping out over bumps. Its pegs are high and very rear-set, making it surprisingly difficult to drag a knee. And the $72K price tag doesn’t encourage pitching it in with abandon! Basically, the supremely capable D16 scoffs at the abilities of mere mortals.
"Never have I ridden a machine more capable of exacerbating my ineptness than this 400-lb pit bull," said senior editor Pete Brissette after a wide-eyed session aboard the Desmo.
The Desmosedici is also unique for its specially developed Bridgestone tire combination. It uses a typical 120/70-17 front, but at the rear is a 16-inch (instead of 17) hoop on which is mounted a 200/55-16 ’Stone. Despite the intended grip enhancement of this oddball size, the D16’s devilish motor proved to be willing and able to spin up the tire exiting Willow’s sweeping Turn 9 and onto the front straight.
'...the most mind-altering aspect of the D16RR is the part when the gloriously wicked V-Four comes on cam and hurls itself into the next corner with a 14,000-rpm wail'
No matter the gear, the Desmo’ pulls ferociously and demands full attention. Shifts from the cassette-type six-speed gearbox are thankfully smooth, as info from the LCD bar-graph tach is impossible to take in during the bike’s banshees-from-hell increase of velocity. The hyper acceleration makes a rider wish for less fore-aft seating room, as there’s no bum stop in the carbon-fiber subframe to prevent a rider’s frightened ass from sliding rearward. A test rider with more skill than I saw a heady 170 mph on the 16RR’s speedometer on Willow’s shortish front straight.
Braking from such considerable speeds is ably handled by a set of Brembos that are reputedly the same as the MotoGP bikes use in wet weather. One-piece monoblock calipers put a firm but not abrupt bite on 330mm steel discs. They actually don’t feel as aggro as the 1098’s sharp front binders but are nonetheless very powerful given a strong squeeze. Corner entries are also aided by an excellent slipper clutch and stiff springs in the gas-charged Ohlins fork.
Like all Ducatis, the Desmosedici is stable when laid over on its side, but a combination of the stiff springs and the possibility of tens of thousands of dollars in damage that a simple crash might entail kept Casey Stoner-esque elbow-dragging thoughts from reaching my hands.
But the most mind-altering aspect of the D16RR is the part when the gloriously wicked V-Four comes on cam and hurls itself into the next corner with a 14,000-rpm wail. Race-prepped R1s easily fall victim to the claimed 200 horsepower on tap like krill to whales.
So, there’s a lot to like about the thrilling Desmosedici, but its big-ticket price tag doesn’t guarantee perfection. Along with the racer-stiff springs, a street rider will also be disappointed in the amount of heat given off by the 102-dB racing exhaust pipes that exit out the upper part of the rear tail constructed from ceramic carbon fiber. And, for as much as this bike costs, we might’ve expected a traction-control system like the potent 1098R’s.
On the plus side, the Desmosedici offers an unparalleled three-year warranty that includes free service. Its first major service is due at 7500 miles – we wonder how long it will take most D16 owners to pile on that many miles! Also, in addition to the race exhaust and ECU, the D16RR is also delivered with a bike cover and a track stand.
The Desmosedici RR we tested was the so-called “Team Version” that mimics the factory’s Marlboro-sponsored Corse GP bikes with its broad white fairing stripe; a team sponsor decal kit is provided with each bike. Also available is another version in the same “Rosso GP” color (a shade lighter than typical Ducati red) and white number plate on the tailsection but without the white stripe.
Sadly for trust-funders, movie stars or hedge-fund managers, all 1500 examples of the Desmosedici RR have been spoken for. If you’re lucky, you might find a potential customer who has backed out of their $5000 deposit. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck on the rollercoaster that is eBay. If you’ve got deep pockets, you won’t want to miss out on this brilliant and humbling machine that looks as good in a living room as it does on a racetrack.
By Kevin Duke
Model: Ducati Desmosedici RR
Rating: 69.6 out of 100.
Engine and transmission
Displacement: 989.00 ccm (60.35 cubic inches)
Engine type: V4
Power: 197.26 HP (144.0 kW)) @ 13800 RPM
Torque: 116.00 Nm (11.8 kgf-m or 85.6 ft.lbs) @ 10500 RPM
Bore x stroke: 86.0 x 42.6 mm (3.4 x 1.7 inches)
Fuel system: Injection
Valves per cylinder: 4
Fuel control: Desmodromic valve control
Cooling system: Liquid
final drive: Chain
Clutch: Dry multi-plate slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated
Dry weight: 171.0 kg (377.0 pounds)
Seat height: 830 mm (32.7 inches) If adjustable, lowest setting.
Wheelbase: 1,430 mm (56.3 inches)
Chassis and dimensions
Frame type: Tubular steel Trellis hybrid
Rake (fork angle): 23.5°
Front suspension: Ohlins FG353P forks 43 mm pressurized, with preload, rebound and compression adjustment, TiN coated sliders
Front suspension travel: 120 mm (4.7 inches)
Rear suspension: Ohlins rear shock, with rebound, low/high speed compression adjustment, and hydraulic preload adjustment. Aluminium swingarm.
Rear suspension travel: 120 mm (4.7 inches)
Front tyre dimensions: 120/70-17
Rear tyre dimensions: 200/55-16
Front brakes: Double disc
Front brakes diameter: 330 mm (13.0 inches)
Rear brakes: Single disc
Rear brakes diameter: 240 mm (9.4 inches)
Exhaust system: ‘4 into 2 into 1’vertical exit exhaust/silencer
Speed and acceleration
Power/weight ratio: 1.1536 HP/kg
Fuel capacity: 15.00 litres (3.96 gallons)
Color options: Rosso GP - GP red - Black, Red with white stripe - GP Red - Black
Comments: Single seat version available.