The first spy shot of Ducati's 1198-replacing new superbike confirms the firm is a lot less sentimental about traditional Ducati characteristics than many fans. The result is the most extreme V-twin ever, but with its RSV4-alike tail, Kawasaki-style side-mounted shock and Buell-pattern belly-mounted exhaust it's without question less distinctively Ducati.
But the fact is the firm can't afford to care. Ducati knows it must be associated with performance more than any particular means of achieving it, and this picture confirms their new flagship is a machine conceived almost entirely by head, not heart.
Gone is the steel trellis, underseat exhausts, vertical shock. The single-sided swingarm and desmodromic L-twin architecture (still 90 degrees but canted a few degrees back) are the last remaining shreds of Ducati DNA, and both of those have been pushed to their limits. Insiders have told MCN the bore/stroke is so wildly oversquare (bore is likely to be up around half a centimetre on the 1198) that the only way to keep growing power would be to add more cylinders, finally leaving the core Ducati superbike characteristic behind.
Thankfully for the firm, the test – only the second track outing for the new bike – was positive enough to confirm there will be no back-pedaling on the monocoque chassis design, which like the GP bike joins forks to engine with a rigid 'stressed airbox'. Coupled with the advances made with Rossi's more rider-friendly GP12 - with which it was sharing test time - the 1199's second outing was a major relief to Ducati, whose heart has been in its mouth since it decided to listen more to its head.