Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Latest 2011 Ducati 1198 SP Review

 SP stands for Sport Production, which is nomenclature Ducati has used for decades to designate some of the high-end models in its superbike series. This lineage stretches back to the 851 SP which debuted in 1989.

2011 Ducati 1198 SPThe new 1198 SP elevates the Ducati experience with a slipper clutch, better suspension and a trick aluminum fuel tank.
Added to the potent 1198’s equipment, the SP adds all the bits from the former 1198 S (Ohlins suspension and forged Marchesini wheels), plus a slipper clutch, Ducati Quick Shifter, Ohlins TTX shock (formerly T36PR), and an aluminum fuel tank. It retails for $21,795, just $200 more than the old S version.
So there we were at the historic Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, fresh from a couple of sessions aboard the 848 EVO. With much more power than a 600cc supersport machine and a superb chassis similar to the 1198 SP’s, the 848 hauls considerable butt around a racetrack. 
Although 140 crankshaft horsepower is more than adequate, the 1198 SP brings an extra 30 horses to the party – the SP retains the same engine tuning as in 2010, so the SP should duplicate the 147 hp we saw at the rear wheel of the 1198 S we tested last year. But it’s the mountains of torque that got our attention while pulling out of Imola’s pit lane, as the front wheel is regularly yanked off the deck with some 87 ft-lb of torque thumping to the rear wheel. The 1198’s extra 350cc of grunt over the 848 is impossible to ignore, catapulting viciously from every corner exit and making the 848 seem like a weakling in comparison.  
And while accelerating, you’ll appreciate the new Ducati Quick Shifter. It uses a micro-switch on the shifter that provides a brief interruption in spark/fuel to bang off upshifts at full throttle without dipping the clutch. This is not only convenient for a rider, it also reduces shift time from 230ms to just 80ms, a 65% reduction in duration.  
DQS worked flawlessly under my toe, even if a racer at the event said it’s not quite as good as a Dynojet quick-shifter unit. The shift quality of Ducati gearboxes is one of the few less-than-excellent areas of its motorcycles, which the DQS handily alleviates. The base 1198 also receives this upgrade.  
Also making a welcome debut on the SP is a back-torque-limiting slipper clutch sourced from the previous R version. Banging downshift entering Imola’s many chicanes, the slipper proves to work terrifically. It’s a huge benefit when riding a big Twin like this on a racetrack, as the two big jugs produce a sometimes overwhelming amount of compression braking that can cause the rear tire to hop during downshifts. No such drama on the SP.  
The SP’s handling dynamics are aided by its lightweight forged-aluminum wheels, something not available on the base 1198 or the 848. Forged wheels weigh less than the typical cast-aluminum wheels, and this aids steering quickness and suspension compliance – both valuable enhancements on a sportbike.
The 1198’s braking system carries over unchanged, but the Brembo monobloc calipers and 330mm discs decelerate the Duc as ferociously as any two-wheeled contrivance, and especially so at the high speeds generated on a racetrack. Nothing short of stellar.


Post a Comment