The new 1198 SP elevates the Ducati experience with a slipper clutch, better suspension and a trick aluminum fuel tank.
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 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.