Very few riders will ever get to experience a MotoGP bike. The very pinnacle of two-wheeled short circuit motorsport, it’s a privilege reserved for the elite; athletes capable of extracting every last morsel from the 200mph+ rocket ships beneath them.
Although the majority of us can only ever dream of taming such a machine, you can enjoy the next best thing, with a pillion ride on a specially-modified Ducati Desmosidici GP12, courtesy of Mission Winnow Ducati.
Normally reserved for paying customers and VIPs at most MotoGP rounds, rides on these bikes are available at the Silverstone round in August, through the charity Two Wheels for Life, who auction the slots to help supply vital aid to communities in Africa, via motorcycle.
Alongside the MotoGP paddock, the team will also be performing pillion runs this weekend up the famous hill climb at the 2019 Festival of Speed. MCN grabbed a seat for the first of the weekend’s runs to find out what all the fuss is about.
Exploring the bike
Known as the MotoX2, the 250bhp, 160kg machines are based on Ducati's 2012 GP machine and ridden by 57-time grand prix podium finisher, Randy Mamola, and former MotoGP racer and Ducati test rider; Franco Battaini.
Using the same engine, forks and shock as the original bike – complete with a stiffer rear spring – pillions are catered for using two grab handles on the tank and an additional seat draped over the deafening Termignoni twin-exit exhausts, which pump out a goosebump-inducing V4 howl.
Riding the Goodwood hillclimb
Cut out of an aluminium block for strength, the grab handles force the passenger into an aggressive stance that hugs the rider in front of you. This is coupled with specially-developed carbon fibre seat unit bolted onto the original rear subframe, complete with set-back fixed pegs.
It’s a focussing stance that puts you directly in the action and although you aren’t controlling the machine, it’s every bit as special. This stance is important because beneath that elongated rear, this is a factory MotoGP bike, as ridden by former world champions Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi.
Standing in the collection area, clad in the latest in Alpinestars leathers supplied as part of the experience, I’m transported back to my childhood, when I wanted nothing more than to be a professional motorcycle racer.
Flashforward to present day and I’m realising that childhood dream. Although I wasn’t riding, in front of me were mechanics actually preparing a prototype grand prix bike for me! Not only that, it would be piloted by Franco Battaini; former 250cc GP podium finisher and the man responsible for the bike’s development.
Weak at the knees
With a blow of the whistle, the starter is applied. There’s a pause of around a second before the 1000cc angry Italian fires into life. With Battaini in place, I am called over to take my place on board for the run.
After a quick ride down to the start line, it’s time for the ride up the hill and despite my past motorcycling experience, my stomach is in knots with a mixture of sheer terror and excitement. Looking and sounding like no bike I have ever experienced, I’m reduced to babbling mess as I lower myself onto the small seat.
At least 70bhp more powerful than any superbike I have ever ridden, we blip our way to the start line. My eyes are on stalks as I grip the grab rails with every ounce of strength I have available. I’m not thinking about anything except the next 1.16 miles of tarmac that stretches past spectators, walls and countless priceless racing machines on both two and four wheels.
With a nod of the head from the marshal, we’re off. Setting off last, Battaini bangs through the gears seamlessly to a sea of petrolheads basking in the West Sussex sunshine. Riding on what is effectively the Duke of Richmond’s driveway and using wet tyres (for optimum grip at low temperatures), we short-shift through the box to keep the savage prototype under control.
With 250bhp to play with though, 40% throttle still feels incredibly fast on the narrow band of track and I have to constantly remind myself of my rider’s credentials to reassure myself that we would reach the top.
Alongside straight line prowess, the brakes are like nothing I have ever experience before and I am forced off the seat into every turn. This is despite the team running steel brakes rather than carbon, and the restricted throttle application on every straight.
Out of the corner, the monstrous power of the Duke means wheelies are effortless and on the final run to the finish line I am treated to a final fourth gear, crossed-up minger, before a quick squirt of the throttle to the collection area.
The entire run has lasted no more than a couple of minutes, but I am reduced to childish giggles, as my brain attempts to download what’s just happened.
We've only just scratched the surface of what the bike is capable of and I struggle to comprehend what it would be like around a full GP track. In fact, along Silverstone's longest straight, the bike will eclipse 300kmh two-up!
Not only is the bike faster and sharper than anything else I have ever been on, I’ve also achieved a childhood ambition of becoming a factory MotoGP rider – even if it was only for a matter of minutes. Can I have another go, please?!
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